In a campaign characterized by shameless pandering to the entertainment industry, Mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera has upped the ante by reviving the oft-discredited idea of creating an entertainment zone in South of Market. Twice before in the last thirty years, outsiders have promoted the notion that SoMa should become the party destination for the Bay Area. In the late ’80s, Filipino families, already struggling with the noise and nuisance of the recently arrived nightclubs, shot down the idea when the original South of Market Plan was adopted. Ten years later, Gavin Newsom reintroduced the idea as a panacea for the growing tensions between the clubs and the growing condo population, igniting what came to be known as “the war between neighbors and nightclubs.”
Herrera couched his campaign promise as a job-producing idea but, like all the other proposals, an entertainment zone is really about shutting up the neighbors. Skot Kuiper, a self-styled advocate for the 11th Street corridor, blames “pissed off neighbors who are vocal and well moneyed” who are more concerned with “suburbanizing SoMa and their condo values.” Kuiper dismisses their complaints because “they have proven to not have a comprehensive vision and are myopic in their self interest.”
The first attempt to create an entertainment zone resulted in the loss of a sizable component of affordable housing in the Costco development; Newsom’s proposal ended shortly after a controversial 11th Street condo development burned to the ground.
Herrera’s campaign is flush with cash from the entertainment industry. In an article in last Wednesday’s Examiner, “San Francisco moneymakers shake for Dennis Herrera’s mayoral campaign,” Brent Begin lists contributions from Terrance Alan and the San Francisco Late Night Coalition, Déjà Vu Showgirls, the Gold Club and the Market Street Cinema. State Sen. Leland Yee, another Mayoral candidate, also reported donations from several nightclubs in South of Market, including $500 from the Endup and $500 from the Catclub.
Sean Manchester, president of the influential California Music and Culture Association (CMAC), made it clear that the industry lobbying organization has not taken a position on Herrera’s specific proposal to date – nor on the mayor’s race for that matter. “With that said,” Manchester said, “we do support efficient and cost-effective permitting options for responsible operators as well as enhancement of entertainment and nightlife developed in a community-conscious way.”
The SoMa Leadership Council was founded in the aftermath of the Newsom debacle and has provided a seat at the table for the entertainment industry advocates and their neighbors ever since. No one has ever suggested going through this entertainment zone nonsense again.