When House of Brakes, 3195 24th St., closed last year after owners sold the property, many in the Mission wondered about the fate of the low-rise building at the corner of 24th Street and South Van Ness Avenue. They also wondered about the future of one historic mural above the property, and a newer mural on an east wall facing its driveway.
In San Francisco, the only place to build is up. This could mean trouble for the towering Carnaval and Chata murals painted on the walls of neighboring buildings. House of Brakes, in business since 1968 and run by Daniel Borg until his lease was up in November, 2022, is only one story and set back on its lot, allowing the corner to be encompassed by art.
The 2010 South Mission Historic Survey found the property “ineligible” for listing as a historic building. That was a blow to some in the community, as many love its low stature and, perhaps more important, the lot in front has been used for years by the community for rallies, concerts and traditional Danza Azteca ceremonies.
Locals have been worried that the site and the murals bordering it could be lost. The Carnaval mural was completed by artist Daniel Galvéz in 1983 with funding from the San Francisco Arts Commission and renovated in 2014. The vivid, lifelike dancers and musicians in the multistory mural were drawn from real photos of the city’s first ever Carnaval celebration in 1979.
“It’s a special corner that greets people coming to the Mission,” said Carlos “Kookie” Gonzalez, the artist behind the 2015 La Chata mural, titled “La Rumba No Para,” on the eastern wall on South Van Ness. Micaela “Chata” Gutierrez was an activist and popular KPOO DJ who hosted a Latin music show called “Con Clave.”
“On the weekend, people would have their pop-up tents and dancers and videos in the lot,” he said. “That corner’s seen a lot of changes.”
Gonzalez knows all about change: another mural of his, “Y Tu Y Yo Y Cesar,” at 24th and York streets, was demolished in 2020, along with the building it was on, to make way for new housing.
House of Brakes’ new owner, local mechanic Noe Flores, bought the building last August for $1,395,000 from the Howes family, who owned it for several generations. Flores has no plans to make changes.
“It’s going to continue being a mechanic shop,” said Flores, who founded Avenue Body Shop at 333 South Van Ness Ave. in 1995. He’s looking forward to bringing another shop to the neighborhood. He says the city wants shops out of central areas, so there is a need for more mechanical work in the Mission.
Flores and Borg are good friends. “We met when he was 18 and I was 20, when I came here from El Salvador. Last year, he called me and said, ‘hey, the place is for sale.’ I said, ‘let’s buy it together. Everybody knows you, everybody knows that corner.’ But he’s done.”
It’s too bad, said Noe, who recently turned 68. He was hoping to go into business with his old friend.
Right now, workers are taking up the concrete and redoing the plumbing on the property, which Flores said hasn’t been updated since the building’s construction in 1960. After installing a sliding gate and replacing the shop’s windows, Flores is considering having Precita Eyes paint the exterior to prevent graffiti.
With the building unprotected by historic status, however, the murals are still vulnerable to the encroachment of development. To insure its future, Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced protective measures for the Carnaval mural to the Board of Supervisors on March 21.
Now, it’s in the hands of the Historic Preservation Commission to grant landmark designation to the mural, which would mean any future development near the site would have to maintain its current level of visibility to the street.
The mural “has incredible historical and cultural significance,” said Ronen’s aide, Santiago Lerma. “We’re dedicated to preserving the history.”