by JIM MEKO
The entertainment lobby thought they were too cute by half when they talked Supervisor Jane Kim into wrapping the 11th Street corridor with a zoning proposal (WMUO) designed for the area surrounding the Caltrain depot. The good news, in their opinion, was that nighttime entertainment would become a fully permitted use and housing was no longer allowed. The downside was that it came with a prohibition of new nightclubs within 200 feet of recognized Residential Enclave Districts (REDs).
Contrary to Supervisor Scott Wiener’s protestations that the Western SoMa Plan was “anti-nightlife,” when combined with similar rules for the SALI, the new zoning expands nighttime entertainment opportunities south of Harrison Street to more than a third of the Western SoMa Plan Area.
Existing residents were incredulous. “We get no new neighbors and none of the infrastructure improvements that would come with them, our property values are frozen in place and on top of that we get unlimited bars and nightclubs?” they charged. Therein was born the idea of 200 foot buffer zones.
To provide context, the average SoMa block is 600 x 800 feet.
I pointed out this provision to Kim and entertainment lobbyist Terrance Alan when they announced their intention to impose WMUO on 11th Street. “That’s all right,” Jane Kim replied. “I just don’t want any new housing built near the nightclubs. Housing and entertainment are not compatible.”
Along came Trannyshack producer and noted drag performer Heklina who, after being turned down by the owners of the Paradise Lounge, turned to the long-shuttered Caliente at 11th and Folsom Streets to be her new home. Unfortunately an apartment building built in 1907 came within 200 feet of the former nightclub and it was part of the Kissling Alley RED.
Under the zoning recommended by the Western SoMa Task Force, Caliente would have been grandfathered in. Buffer zones would not apply.
Backing away from her earlier concerns about the incompatibility of housing and entertainment, last week Kim introduced a zoning amendment that would excuse former nightclubs from the buffer zone provision.