North Beach conflict-of-interest zone

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North Beach
Thomas Hawk via Flickr

It's been over a year since North Beach's Piazza Market closed its doors – but nothing has come along to take its place. The property, boasting 12,000 square feet at $4 per square foot, has attracted plenty of interest yet still remains empty.

"There's been strong activity on the space – we've had several offers," notes realtor Jeremy Blateis. "If there were less restrictions this place would have been sold already."

According to Blateis, the place has not been leased to prospective renters because of zoning issues. Though the ad for the building says that it's zoned for retail and restaurant use, potential owners would have to go through "lots of red tape" to have it used as a restaurant – which North Beach doesn't have a shortage of.

This is where Claudine Cheng, recently resigned member of the Treasure Island Authority Board, comes in. According to a San Francisco Chronicle report, as a public figure she was paid money to influence decisions of city officers. And a company by the name of 627 Vallejo LLC – the owners of 627 Vallejo – paid Cheng $10,000 in hopes that she would smooth out the zoning situation.

According to the same report, she had been emailing Board of Supervisors President David Chiu seeking amendments to existing legislation in order to change the zoning of the area. Former Board President Aaron Peskin authored that legislation to prevent North Beach retail stores from being transformed into restaurants and chain stores.

Asked whether Chiu would have been open to a possible legislative amendment, legislative aide Judson True responded, "Supervisor Chiu would be open to making legislative changes that have community support," but added that "the issue was whether or not Claudine Cheng was a lobbyist." Judson noted that Chiu “also understands that there are laws that should match particular circumstances in neighborhoods like North Beach."

Peskin, who filed complaints against her with the Ethics Commission and Fair Political Practices Commission, didn’t mince words.

"What she did was illegal," Peskin said of Cheng’s decision to accept the $10,000. "What should fill 627 Vallejo is something that would further serve the community. Not another restaurant."

Comments

parochial zoning constraints take value away from those who take a risk and invest in SF property.

Given that, should we be shocked when people take steps to mitigate their risk? I do not think so.

Let's address these value-sucking rules rather than get all punitive on those who take rational steps to subvert the madness.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

"rational steps to subvert the madness"?

Those are some really stupid ways to describe illegal lobbying, bribery and corruption.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

or corruption. It is what creates prosperity.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:28 am

Who said anything about bribery? Peskin outed an Official who was hiding lobbying funds. Like he said "it's illegal". But that's a separate matter from neighborhood zoning, which is not random.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 9:28 am

disputes and resentment. I've never seen a problem with letting stores flourish or fail by their own efforts to win customers and deliver shopping value.

I won't tell you where you can't shop if you don't tell me where I can't shop.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 9:45 am

Zoning isn't about dictating where consumers shop necessarily. In the case with North Beach, it has to do with protecting the small business and sole proprietor opportunity by controlling large chain operations that swallow them whole.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 9:59 am

If you "protect" the uncompetitive vendors by banning the better ones, we all suffer.

The market is very good at providing choice and the best prices. Meddling with that costs me money and denies me freedoms.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 10:17 am

it is the same for all, to bad that we can not control the situation!

Posted by Steve on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 7:55 am

A small business already existed in the space--a pizzeria. Why shouldn't another small business, such as a pizzeria or another restaurant be allowed to replace it without going through additional hoops?

No one is proposing a "chain" restaurant. But, the existing rules make it very difficult for any restaurant to locate there, even a locally owned small business.

If Aaron Peskin thinks the space should be used to "serve the community," then what does he propose go in the space? Another bank? Another strip club? Another insurance office? Another tech office? Another high end furniture store? I am not sure how any of those uses would serve the community any better than another restaurant.

Posted by Chris on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 7:40 am

This is my opinion, too! Maybe in this way we will see major improvements!
Thank you!

Posted by Alexandra on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 1:43 am

I'm pretty sure you can shop wherever you want, but I don't see how zoning subtracts value from property in a case like the one in NB. What would the attraction be to tourists and SF residents that spend millions there annually if Columbus or Stockton were lined up with Olive Garden, Starbucks, 7-11, or PF Chang?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 10:09 am

deciding which stores can open and which cannot.

And yes, if you ban some tenants from renting my space, then you are hurting my ability to get the best rent.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 10:27 am

Again, the issue is not whether a chain goes in the space, but that people like Aaron Peskin don't seem to want even another locally owned small business restaurant to replace a space that was previously used by a small business locally owned restaurant.

Mr. Peskin apparently thinks there are too many restaurants in North Beach, and so he wants the space used for something else without offering one a signle suggestion as to what that use should be (not that it really is Mr. Peskin's place to give such suggestions about the use, but since he interjected himself into the issue...). Another strip club? Another realtor's office? Another high end hair salon? Another ultra-high end furniture store? How do any of these uses "serve the community" better than another restaurant in a space that was previously used as a restaurant.

Drop the bogeyman of 7-11, Starbucks, etc. When you cannot even open up a locally owned pizzeria in freaking North Beach (the "Italian" neighborhood), then the city truly has a serious problem.

Posted by Chris on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 7:45 am

it is an issue in that area and the authorities should solve it somehow!

Posted by yachtbooker on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 12:19 am

Paraphrasing and quoting a Chron article second-hand.

Cool! Good investigative reporting

Posted by Anon on Aug. 27, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

It's pretty obvious. The Pagoda Theater is coming down, the library is expanding into that triangular parking lot off of Lombard.

Peskin needs a new blight on the neighborhood to ease his insecurities. So that every time he passes by the empty Piazza Market he can feel better that it is an empty storefront rather than a business that he doesn't personally approve of.

Can't he move to Arizona or something?

Isn't he hated enough in this town already?

How many years has he been out of office? And what has he done except horribly mismanage a temporary Progressive takeover of the DCCC?

Why do people indulge him? Pity?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

and admit that you're obsessed and you want to fuck him.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

Your comment sounds like something a snarky fifth-grader might say. Also, the very idea is just foul.

If you want to disagree with the other poster, do it in a manner that is not crass and vulgar.

Posted by Chris on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 7:48 am

I agree Tiny Peskin needs to leave North Beach, what in the world has he done that was in any way useful? I wouldn't give him the name of the "don" as he doesn't deserve it. What can you do with that space anyway??? Let's be sensible, who can afford to pay $48,000.00 per month for rent??? What would a small business sell to make that kind of money (drugs)??? Only a chain or restaurant can afford that spot. The only successful businesses in North Beach are Restaurants and even they struggle. Between the Palace Theater being torn down and wasting tons of money on the stupid library, it's discusting. If people want to live in nice areas with mom and pop stores, move to Walnut Creek, this is San Francisco, a big city not a suburb.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

I agree Tiny Peskin needs to leave North Beach, what in the world has he done that was in any way useful? I wouldn't give him the name of the "don" as he doesn't deserve it. What can you do with that space anyway??? Let's be sensible, who can afford to pay $48,000.00 per month for rent??? What would a small business sell to make that kind of money (drugs)??? Only a chain or restaurant can afford that spot. The only successful businesses in North Beach are Restaurants and even they struggle. Between the Palace Theater being torn down and wasting tons of money on the stupid library, it's discusting. If people want to live in nice areas with mom and pop stores, move to Walnut Creek, this is San Francisco, a big city not a suburb.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 27, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

There is a back story to this that no-one seems to be aware of. The Mamas restaurant family has been involved for over a year with the owner of this property to open a restaurant in this space. One family member came up with a solid plan that would have worked perfectly with the zoning, but was turned down, without negotiation, by the owner. Now , another Mama's family member has partnered with the owner and they are trying to change all the zoning of the property, using Claudine Cheng as their lobbyist at City Hall. There are ongoing legal problems within the family that may prove to delay them from moving forward on this project anytime soon. Aaron Peskin has absolutely no involvement in this situation.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 10:02 am

RE: NB empty stores: Walnut Creek is a suburb filled with chain stores, not the other way around. San Francisco, like Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, or New York are cities made world famous, in part, by their historical neighborhoods and the unique aesthetic of 'mom & pop" shop owners, some that date back to the early 20th Century. Starbucks and Trader Joe's among other chains, when planned correctly, fit certain demographic's purposefully. However, in old neighborhood's like North Beach or the Mission, even the more recently developed Portrero Hill, you lose all continuity of what makes residential and commercial property work in unison, as well as maintenance of value for both. Personally, I'm glad to know that people like Peskin are willing to root out corrupt lobbyists like Cheng, we need more of that at every level. Peskin, Chiu, and True know that the problem with creating new legislation to re-zone commercial property that is previously designated as space useful to a community, is that it opens the door to quid pro quo on every other commercial property that wants to change the landscape of the area to suit their own needs. The Vallejo St property is not 12,000 sq feet, but half of that, and it is suitable for a destination location without re-zoning, only visionaries need apply.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 11:47 am

Actually, NYC is full of chain stores AND mom and pops. They aren't terrified of losing what makes them a city like SF is. Chicago is the same.
You have to get into the "half pint" "big" cities before you start running into city government that chooses where you may or may not shop.

Posted by Rhinna Sante on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

That's why there are three yoghurt shops on my block.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

NYC is big enough to manage the inclusion of chains & mom and pops. NYer's aren't "terrified" of much, but reading the online NY Times I see a very aggressive group is fighting chains and zoning legislation to protect the East Village which is under the same pressure by commercial interests. San Francisco is a small city that depends on tourism to a degree, I would think, that preservation of it's unique neighborhoods has a place in City Planning.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 9:24 am

That's not small, and we're big enough not to need a nanny state telling us which stores we can shop locally at, and which we cannot.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 9:44 am

All society needs governing at various levels. Shop wherever you want, I'm sure no one's stopping you, but City Planning, while not perfect, is essential to managing both growth and preservation especially with major cities on the world map like SF.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 10:16 am

Like Muni?

Like fixing the streets?

SF works best when the government butts out and lets commercial landlords and tenants do business freely.

You are stopping me shopping where I want if the store I want to shop at isn't allowed here.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 10:28 am

Really? Its been empty some 8 out of the last 10 years because for some reason all visionaries have missed the great opportunity the space offers? Only a true visionary can see that the place is not feasible for its current zoning. If Peskin wants a grocer or hardware store he should go put up or shut-up and fund somebody. However, I think he is a bit smarter than to waste his own money on a place visionaries have pass by time and again.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

There was a grocery there for years.

It didn't work.

Meanwhile there is a Trader Joes and a Safeway on North Point and Mason. North Beach is as well served by groceries as any other neighborhood.

There are also hardware stores in Chinatown but then...well...you know.

And trust me, a 3rd grade amoeba is smarter than Peskin.

Posted by Troll on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 8:36 pm
Posted by Matlock on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

If the store closed, then that means that the neighborhood did not want either the grocery store that was located in the space in question, or the hardware store that was located a block away.

If Aaron Peskin wants a hardware store, then he can go to a bank and get a loan secured with his own collateral and open up his own business. He is a wealthy individual who certainly can afford to put his own funds at risk. It is not his place to tell others what businesses they should or should not operate with their money.

Posted by Chris on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 7:52 am

I am so over SF's obsession with preservation of everything that is twee. I have to imagine that the city was not always so overrun with the smallest of small minds. How could we have gotten golden gate park or the ferry building?

People here seem to be more interested in SF being a museum to a certain era in city living than being a dynamic forward looking city

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