Kim ponders radical realignment of 11th Street neighbor/nightclub zoning

More nightclubs?

To hear tell, business would be booming and we’d all be dancing in the streets if it were not for “the purple building” and “that lady on Norfolk alley who keeps complaining.” Such is the state of denial the California Music and Culture Association (CMAC) lives in as they plot to foment another war between neighbors and nightclubs in South of Market.

The purple building represents the threat of new development adjacent to existing nightclubs and the Norfolk neighbor has been driving the club owners crazy because she keeps asking the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to enforce the law. 

This option, like nearly all the others, would remove 11th Street from the Mixed-Use General (MUG) zoning district that is the predominant mixed-use zoning north of Harrison Street, and change it to the non-residential light industrial zoning that exists south of Harrison Street.

To that end, CMAC, which has generously spread campaign cash all over city hall, is calling in its chits as the Western SoMa Community Plan moves towards adoption. Supervisor Jane Kim has prepared a series of options that will be presented to the Planning Commission next Thursday that would elevate nighttime entertainment to a fully-permitted status and, in the process, the neighbors along 11th Street would find themselves demoted to legal but non-conforming status.

Kim could conceivably become the first member of the Board of Supervisors to down-zone some of her own constituents.

She has scheduled a meeting on November 15 at 6:00 p.m. in Don Ramon’s upstairs bar at 225 11th Street to discuss her plans. Ironically, the entertainment industry will be holding another of their secret meetings right down the street at BeatBox, 314 11th Street at practically the same time. The neighbors were not invited to the latter.

Ever since nightclubs began to relocate into South of Market back in the ’80s, there have been periods of occasional conflict. On October 10, 1990, an organization called “Concerned Citizens of 11th Street” addressed an open letter to clubs that declared:

“This area is a neighborhood of both homeowners and tenants, many of whom lived here long before the advent of the nightclubs. We are hard working people of modest means who struggle to maintain a decent and safe quality of life for our families. When the nightclubs started coming into our community, we did not protest. We didn’t imagine that there would come a time when we would be living virtually under a state of siege. Our perception is that much of the problems we have stem from the patrons of your nightclubs.”

The 1990 South of Market Plan sought to find common ground. Throughout most of South of Market, housing became an as-of-right, fully-permitted use and the nightclubs were all grandfathered in. An uneasy peace has existed ever since, interrupted on occasion by periodic attempts by the entertainment industry to undo the 1990 compromise. CMACs latest assault on the 11th Street neighbors is being led by some of the same players who brought the nightclubs into SoMa in the first place.

It is extremely rare to reverse an as-of-right designation. Several planners I checked with could not recall the last time such a thing has happened. If it were a conditional use, a future rezoning might shift the zoning one way or another, either to non-permitted status or to as-of-right, but fully-permitted generally means that it’s settled law. The city put out the welcome mat to encourage people to come down to South of Market, to find a place to live or buy property, move in and become part of the future of SoMa. Now, 22 years later, the Planning Commission finds itself in the unusual position of having to say, oops!

What would non-conforming status mean to the neighbors? The family that owns the purple building, also know as 340 11th Street, can forget about their plans to build the 20-unit mixed-use residential project that’s been entitled since 2005. Every other property owner would find that their own future options have been reduced to service and light industrial uses. If you own a condo, your ability to alter the envelope of your building or change its use in any way is limited and your resale value will take a dive. If you contemplate selling, remember that the zoning classification on the real estate listing will change from residential to industrial.

The Western SoMa Plan began with a commitment to do no harm. Everyone started off in the process with a commitment that we wouldn’t take anything away from them and frankly, the entertainment industry has been having it pretty good. Despite all the complaining, Western SoMa has the largest concentration of Place of Entertainment permits in the entire city.

The current venues are not under any threat. They are completely safe and are here to stay. They have the right to expand. The Western SoMa Task Force puts the burden of sound mitigation on any new construction adjacent to the clubs. The task force approved language that would allow existing permits to be carried over into new construction if their original building is demolished, allows Limited Live Performance permits along the Folsom Street neighborhood commercial corridor and, if there is truly a need for more entertainment venues, opens up practically 1/3 of the entire Plan Area, the SALI and WMUO zoning districts south of Harrison Street, to all forms of entertainment.

If any of Jane Kim’s options are adopted, what would the entertainment industry gain? Blight, and that seems to be just fine with some of their advocates. The proposed zoning severely limits development options for the whole street and, contrary to CMAC’s implication, as-of-right status does not allow nightclubs to make more noise and down-zoning the neighbors does not remove their fundamental right to the peaceful and quiet use and enjoyment of their homes.

How arrogant for an industry that we allowed to come into our neighborhood to then turn around and try to drive us out! Chances are, if this new zoning is adopted, the clubs will have blown any hope for greater cooperation with their neighbors and should look forward to many more years of conflict.

Jim Meko, chair
SoMa Leadership Council



Filed under entertainment, meetings, planning, politics, quality of life

7 responses to “Kim ponders radical realignment of 11th Street neighbor/nightclub zoning

  1. Brian Wallace

    Good article and thank you for letting us know what is going on South of Market. Just a few questions:
    1. How far are the owners of 340 11th Street, “the purple building,” along in the process in constructing a residential building there? Are they ready to go? Has the Planning Commission approved the project?
    2. Is there a movement about, stealth or otherwise, to convert 340 11th Street into a night club?
    3. I take it that the first photo in the article is of the old Paradise Lounge at the southwest corner of 11th and Folsom. I hope all those graffiti tags have been painted over. I see the “Available” sign on the outside. Can you furnish us with an update on this property?
    ~ Brian

  2. Go South Big Clubs

    The mega clubs and big entertainment could care less about people living in west SOMA along 11th street and in the adjacent neighborhood enclaves. It’s all about the money. I expect that the clubs will funnel election dollars to Kim if she backs them, or to another candidate if she doesn’t. Complete BS.

    The Western SOMA plan provides plenty of space for the BIG clubs to grow, they don’t need to impact residential use that has been here since before the 1906 earthquake….let them go south and make all the impacts they want.

  3. I received a clarification from Supervisor Kim this evening:

    “Just FYI: the meeting you referred to on Thursday, November 15th at 6pm is organized by a newly formed Washburn/Grace alley neighborhood association. Our office asked the group for an agenda. They did not ask us to speak on the proposed rezoning of 11th street. I am not sure if it is an open meeting to the neighborhood but we certainly did not organize it– we agreed to attend and present on a number of issues ranging from homelessness, parking to cleanliness issues.”

    – Jane Kim

    Brian Wallace had a few questions. Let me try to clarify a few things.

    1. How far are the owners of 340 11th Street, “the purple building,” along in the process in constructing a residential building there? Are they ready to go? Has the Planning Commission approved the project?

    Planning Commission approval is not required (at the moment) because the project is as-of-right. John Goldman, the architect for the project, met with neighbors several times back in 2005 and the most recent iteration of the project changed the design to have only small SRO type units along 11th. The idea was that only single people, probably young people, would buy those units. The larger units are now only at the back, where it is much quieter. The project sponsor received all the approvals necessary but too much time has passed so they would have to start over.

    2. Is there a movement about, stealth or otherwise, to convert 340 11th Street into a night club?

    If housing is banned, the property owner’s options are limited to service and light industrial uses or nighttime entertainment. I doubt entertainment would be a smart investment. There are already two clubs on 11th Street that have been vacant for years.

    3. I take it that the first photo in the article is of the old Paradise Lounge at the southwest corner of 11th and Folsom. I hope all those graffiti tags have been painted over. I see the “Available” sign on the outside. Can you furnish us with an update on this property?

    Bad management. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the graffiti to be removed. Unfortunately nobody has managed to turn the place around since Robin Reichert bailed out years ago.

  4. Matt

    Those clubs make SF worth living in. You guys should move to the suburbs. Every time I read a post like this, I get closer and closer to spending some real money to organize people against all of you so you can know what people really think of you.

    • So yesterday

      Such a tired line….”if you dont like it move to suburbs”. Why don’t you move instead of merely panning the people that live and work int he community here in west SOMA. You completely missed the point. The community based plan set aside plenty of land for clubs, in areas that are going to impact residential land use. Wow are you the dim blub, why not just read what the plan said, what the many community members want, why are you so anti neighborhoods anyway, this is San Francisco with a history of active neighborhoods who demand respect from those that want to make money and then not take responsibility for their impacts and actions.

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