A little-known fact about Cafe Flore (2298 Market Street) is that they operate an off-site kitchen across the street from their Noe and Market location in order to serve a full menu complete with breakfast, lunch and dinner. They've done this since the 1980's when the previous owners used their personal kitchen across the street to prepare some of the food sold at Café Flore. Now the restaurant is at risk of not being able to offer a full menu as they may be forced to shut down the off-site kitchen due to restrictions in the city's planning code.
In 2012, owner JD Petras started working with the Department of Public Health to bring the off-site kitchen (now located a few doors down from the original owners kitchen) up to code. The DPH is ready to sign off on the upgrades to the kitchen, but not before legislation to amend the planning code to allow for Cafe Flore's unique situation is passed.
Castro's District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener has written and championed such an amendment to the city's planning code specifically in the upper Market / Castro area to permit "food processing" as a supplement to a nearby off-site non-residential use space.
If the amendment to the planning code passes, the Department of Public Health can sign off on the upgrades to the off-site kitchen and Cafe Flore can continue serving a full menu. If it doesn't pass, Cafe Flore has said it may need to supplement the loss in food sales with increased alcohol sales, which some neighbors may find, undesirable. Frankly, I think Cafe Flore has a good thing going on and our community should support Supervisor Wiener's legislation. The restaurant has blossomed into an unofficial community center for the LGBT and larger community throughout the Castro. They helped create the Castro Farmers' Market. They given a lot to us.
However, some are protesting the proposed amendment. Alan Beach-Nelson, President of the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association and Pat Tura, President of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association argue that Cafe Flore should not receive "special treatment."
The reality of the situation, however, is that amendments to the planning code are many and are usually in response to the bluntness of its verbiage. Supervisor Wiener states several examples in a letter he penned to Beach-Nelson and Tura in response to their objections, including:
- Legislation by then-Supervisor Bevan Dufty allowing a small number of bars in the Castro that were effectively operating as places of entertainment, but that were prohibited by the Planning Code from seeking place of entertainment permits, to obtain permits to legalize their operations during a six month window.
- Legislation by Supervisor Farrell amending the Planning Code to permit a medical-service use on the ground floor of a building on Sacramento Street, where that use had been prohibited. The legislation was spurred by the needs of a particular business.
- Legislation by Supervisor Campos amending the Planning Code to allow a personal-service use on the third story and higher on Valencia Street, responding to the needs of a specific business that would have been prohibited otherwise.
- Many special use districts, where specific parcels have their zoning changed to allow for a previously prohibited use, a different height, or some other new attribute.
I don't believe the Castro will see a glut of new restaurants popup that are ran out of someones home kitchen, which is the only real reason I can piece together that the Presidents of these "Neighborhood Associations" would be opposed to it.
The Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing to discuss the matter this Thursday, February 21st at City Hall, Room 400. After the Planning Commission hearing, the legislation will be scheduled for a hearing before the Board of Supervisors Land Use & Economic Development Committee which has 3 members: Supervisors Scott Wiener, Jane Kim (District 6) & David Chiu (District 3).
If it passes the Land Use committee, the ordinance will go on to the full Board of Supervisors for passage.
A website has been setup by supporters of Cafe Flore where you can learn more about the issue.
I encourage you to email the President's of these neighborhood associations to tell them what you think:
Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association
Phone: (415) 295-1530