As we noted last month, Taco Bell wants to open a new, upscale concept at 710 Third St. that will sell beer and wine. Now, hundreds of SoMa neighbors have come out as opposed to the project, but not all of their concerns stem from the sale of alcohol: many are worried about the potential for increased noise and trash, while others desire more independent businesses in the area.
More than 200 area residents signed a petition against the Taco Bell, and at least 240 sent official protest forms to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), according to Kimberly Londt, general manager of the Beacon Residential Community Association. Taco Bell would occupy a commercial space on the ground floor of the Beacon building, which has 595 residential units on 16 floors. (Taco Bell was unable to provide a comment by deadline, but promised to keep Hoodline in the loop about future plans.)
"The board as a unified front had directed me to start a petition and publicize it to the entire community," Londt said. Among the listed concerns: Taco Bell advertises opening hours until at least midnight, and that location has outdoor seating (residents are worried about noise); the sale of alcohol would draw more intoxicated people to the area at "all hours of the day and night"; alcohol sales would increase the number of transients, as the low-cost menu will encourage people to "get drunk on the cheap"; and the restaurant's presence will create more trash and littering.
The protest forms were due to the ABC on Tuesday, July 14th. An ABC spokesman says the department will review the protests to see if they are valid, and then the matter could go to a public hearing.
According to the ABC's rules, a protest is valid if granting a liquor license would create a public nuisance, cause or add to crime in the area, or if the proposed licensee is in a high-crime area or an area that has too many licenses and would not serve public convenience or necessity. (Here are more details on the application process.)
Incidentally, District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar also recently requested a hearing to vet the trend of more chain outlets such as Taco Bell and Starbucks applying for beer and wine licenses, according to the Examiner.
Londt contacted other neighborhood groups in the area about the petition, including the South Beach Rincon Mission Bay Neighborhood Association. South Beach resident Gary Pegueros said once the word got out on the organization's Yahoo news group, comments "started percolating here and there." While he thinks some people are specifically opposed to having another bar in the area, "my guess is from what I read is, [the petitioners are] more against having a Taco Bell in that location."
Pegueros said neighbors are in favor of putting a "mom-and-pop" in the proposed Taco Bell location instead. "My preference would be to have an independent, a mom-and-pop shop to give individuals the opportunity to own a business. Rents are so expensive, it would be nice if the city would offer an incentive for independents to open a business and give them a chance.”
The proposed Taco Bell site is directly across Third Street from a McDonald's. Pegueros said some commenters worried that an additional fast-food would attract more homeless people. However, he said some people wrote in favor of the plan. "Someone said, 'What’s the difference between The Melt and a Taco Bell?,'" he said, referring to the space's previous occupant. "'No one objected to Melt; why would they object to Taco Bell?'" Pegueros added, "The ones who spoke in favor said it would be nice to have affordable restaurants [in the area], because we can’t all afford to eat at the expensive ones."