The San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously yesterday to approve conditional use authorizations for the formula retail operations of three businesses moving into the Castro, including SoulCycle at the old Diesel store location, Hamburger Mary's at the Patio Cafe location, and Philz Coffee, which will be relocating from its 18th Street location to the 500 block of Castro Street.
The commission heard public comment from many members of the community regarding the conditional use authorizations, and some of the most vocal opposition to the approvals came during public comment for the Philz Coffee relocation to 549 Castro St.
During the public comment period, Eureka Cafe and Auto Erotica owner Patrick Batt expressed concern over what he believes is a cannibalization of retail spaces to restaurant use types in the Castro.
"Philz had been a success story, certainly one in San Francisco that many of us could be envious of. What I have issues with is the continued bleeding of retail spaces in the Castro NCD to both formula retail and limited restaurants," said Batt. Batt offered exhibits to the commission showing that 10 retail locations have changed to limited restaurant use and that Castro has a glut of coffee, with a list of 15 coffee shops currently located in or planned for the Castro neighborhood.
Austin Miller with Spikes Coffee and Tea on 19th Street also cited the flood of coffee establishments in the neighborhood, asking the
commission to consider delaying the project until after the dust settles with the recently completed
Castro Streetscape Improvement Project. Another resident also complained to the commission that there were already too many coffee shops and that the commission should carefully consider approval for Philz, though the coffee shop has preexisted in the neighborhood for years.
Commissioners themselves expressed concern about the density of limited restaurant use and coffee shops in the Castro. Commissioner Dennis Richards mentioned that the Planning Commission could really use the forthcoming results of the Castro Retail Strategy survey
currently being undertaken by the Castro Community Benefit District and the Office of Economic Workforce Development to help determine its approvals in the future, but that since Philz would simply be moving within the neighborhood, he would recommend approval.
Hamburger Mary's will still need to go before the Entertainment Commission to receive approval for a live performance permit, as the iconic Hamburger Mary's format includes impromptu drag queen performances between customer orders.
President of the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association Alan Beach-Nelson mentioned in the hearing that in a member vote on approval for the restaurant chain, the neighborhood organization had 60 percent turnout for the vote, triple that of its last election, with nearly three to one voting in favor of approval for Hamburger Mary's.
Expect to see movement for Philz, SoulCycle, and Hamburger Mary's in the coming months. As always, we'll keep you posted.