Brewpubs Would Be Banned From Serving Hard Liquor In Mission District Under Tightened Testrictions

by Laura Waxmann | SF Examiner

The Planning Commission approved new restrictions on bars and restaurants in the Mission District on Thursday Oct. 18, 2018 (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The San Francisco Planning Commission on Thursday tightened restrictions on new bars and alcohol-serving restaurants vying to set up shop in the Mission District in an effort to curb gentrification and protect small businesses in the area from displacement.

A set of amendments to the City’s Planning Code, sponsored by Mission Supervisor Hillary Ronen and approved unanimously by the commission, will cap the number of eating and drinking establishments at 167 in a specific area stretching roughly from 14th Street to Cesar Chavez Avenue and from Potrero Avenue to Mission Street.

Brewpubs — of which the neighborhood has seen a proliferation in recent years — would be prohibited from receiving a license to serve hard liquor under the proposed amendments.

That change, in particular, did not sit well with some members of the local brewing community.

“I have found that the Mission wouldn’t be what it is without the brewing community that exists there. It has given so much life to many of us,” said a local brewer who gave his name as Antonio, addressing the commission. “It’s given this generation something to look positively at and I would never want to take it from a neighborhood like the Mission.”

But the planning commissioners — and community advocates seeking to preserve the neighborhood’s affordability and historically prominent Latino population — said that recent efforts to closely regulate alcohol-serving establishments needed additional support.

“I think the neighborhood is under constant threat of being undermined [by projects that are] too large or too similar in use to projects that are already there,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore, who added that the proposed legislation “does an incredible balancing act in times of great turmoil.”

The amendments must still head before the Board of Supervisors for approval.

Since 1996, a Mission Alcoholic Beverage Special Use District has prohibited new bars and new offsale liquor establishments —including liquor stores, convenience markets, and supermarkets with specific state alcohol licenses— in a larger area of the Mission stretching into Bernal Heights. Bona fide restaurants, however, were exempt from the alcohol license prohibitions.

Mission community advocate Roberto Hernandez helped spearhead the initial moratorium on new liquor licenses and said on Thursday that what was meant to be a restrictive measure has since been loosened with a slew of exemptions.

“The Mission Bowling Club got an exemption and got to serve alcohol…The rooftop got an exemption. I can go on and on, it’s got to stop. Why put a moratorium if you’re not going to respect it?” said Hernandez. “Alcohol and drugs are a huge problem in our barrio, in our community.”

The proposed amendments grew out of an ongoing program aiming to address issues related to gentrification and displacement in the neighborhood launched in 2015.

Through a close collaboration between city departments and community groups, strategies developed under the Mission Action Plan 2020 in areas such as tenant protections and economic development have resulted in a decrease of evictions and tenant buyouts in the Mission, as well as a decrease in the displacement of the neighborhood’s Latino community, which once made up 50 percent of the population, according to City Planner Claudia Flores.

In January, Mayor London Breed approved interim zoning controls requiring Conditional Use authorization for restaurants and storefront mergers in the Mission. The interim controls are set to expire next April, or once permanent legislation regulating restaurant uses and commercial use sizes is adopted.

“The Mission is historically working class. Despite its rich cultural history and being home to many nonprofits, art organizations, it is absolutely ground zero for displacement at this point,” said Amy Beinart, a legislative aide to Ronen. “This has had devastating consequences for the community.”

The proposed amendments are a “proactive approach” in implementing the goals of MAP 2020, said Beinart.

The amendments approved Thursday also require a Conditional Use authorization from the commission for any new business replacing legacy businesses and for new bars, adding an additional layer of scrutiny for new applicants.

The amendments also seek to encourage a variety of nonprofit and manufacturing uses in the neighborhood with modifications to the Mission Street Neighborhood Commercial Transit District, including allowing light manufacturing uses at all stories in buildings except within first story spaces that front Mission Street.

Philanthropic administrative services will be allowed at the third story and above, and bars will require a CU authorization at the first and second stories while restaurants will require the authorization at the first story.

Commercial space mergers resulting in greater than 1,500 gross square feet will be prohibited, and large projects will be required to provide a ground floor space for a non-residential tenant, among other things.

Providing “more opportunities for nonprofits on the street will be a healthy shift [that] we think that will be useful to keeping a balance to food service,” said Peter Papadopoulos, a policy analyst with the Mission Economic Development Agency.

Previous legislation capping the size of storefront mergers along the Mission’s 24th Street corridor has been “part of the success” of keeping commercial spaces small and in effect affordable to local entrepreneurs and merchants, he said.

This story has been updated to reflect that new brewpubs would be banned from serving liquor in a subarea of the Mission Alcoholic Beverage Special Use District under the proposed amendments.