[UPDATED] DPW disregards 28 neighbor complaints, grants sidewalk seating permit to “La Urbana”; neighbors have option to appeal.

Download DPW Permit Ruling PDF: DPW Order_183396 – La Urbana

Here’s a brainteaser for you. A stranger runs up to you on the street and starts giving you a wet willie, then another one, over and over. They won’t stop, until finally, a policeman sees it. But the stranger tells the policeman, “Why are you hassling me? I only want to give this person wet willies for 12 hours a day, then I’ll stop. They’re being totally unreasonable.” QUESTION: Assuming the policeman is always perfectly fair, what does he say to the stranger?
      A.) “Stop giving wet willies to that person immediately.”
       — or —
      B.) “How about this. They don’t want you to give them any wet willies, but you want to give them wet willies for 12 hours a day, so we’ll compromise… you’re allowed to give them wet willies for 6 hours every day, but NOT A MOMENT MORE, you got that?”

If you answered “B”, you just might work for the SF Department of Public Works, because that’s what they just did to the neighbors of La Urbana on Grove Street.

La Urbana has received approval for a permit from DPW to operate 10 tables with 20 outdoor seats along Grove Street every day from 11 AM – 9:30 PM. This is in contrast to their request for 14 tables with 36 seats until 11pm weekdays or 12am weekends. Renewal of the permit is contingent on the number of noise complaints received in the first year. (Neighbors who have attempted to phone in noise complaints about La Urbana are well aware of how uncooperative SFPD is about them, making this plan. See below.)

DPW junior engineer Brent Cohen, when berated via telephone, nervously explained this decision as a “compromise”. In other words: La Urbana only gets to give us wet willies for 10 and a half hours a day.

After 28 neighbors complained in writing about their bar’s noise permeating their homes, this approval gives La Urbana legitimate permission to make even more disruptive noise, from an even more public spot, all day now instead of just in the evenings, every day. Your reluctant neighborhood activist will cop to being freaking furious.

Neighbors can still appeal to have this decision reversed. You must call 415-575-6880 for information on how to appeal. Appeals will be due by March 27. NOPE! UPDATE, Mar. 20, 2015: DPW has clarified that the permit has been approved but not issued. First, La Urbana has to redraw plans that comply with the terms DPW decided on, then pay a filing fee, before the permit can be issued. Once it is issued, neighbors will have 15 days to appeal. At that time, neighbors can call 415-575-6880 for information on appealing, but until then, the appeal period hasn’t even started.

To be notified when the permit is issued and the 15-day appeal period starts, send an email to brent.cohen@sfdpw.org, Lynn.Fong@sfdpw.org, and Rassendyll.Dennis@sfdpw.org asking to be notified when Permit #14TC-0547 at 661 Divisadero Street is issued.

By the way, if you have personal experience with SFPD officers giving you a hard time for trying to make a complaint about La Urbana, the person you want to speak to is desk Sgt. Mayer at SFPD’s Park Station. He handles issues around noise, alcohol, entertainment, etc. You can reach him at the station at (415) 242-3000 most days until about 4pm.

Also, heres a tip: to make more effective complaints, when you call in a noise complaint to SFPD , ask the first dispatcher who answers to let you speak to a “supervisor”. Then tell your complaint to the supervisor, not the dispatcher who answered the phone. Supervisors have more power in SFPD’s dispatch center to get a complaint taken seriously.

Suggested talking points for appeal request:

  • Why was a permit granted when the permit application was illegally posted in an obscured location, in clear violation of San Francisco Public Works Code sec. 176.3? (see Let’s Play FIND THE PUBLIC NOTICE!, 4 Dec 2014)
  • Why, in the permit’s words, does La Urbana’s owner deserve the “use and enjoyment” of his business, but the 28 people who complained about them to DPW don’t deserve the “use and enjoyment” of their own homes, which the bar’s racket permeates regularly?
  • Why, when their bar is clearly already disturbing every neighbor within earshot every evening, are they being given additional permission to intrude on and disrupt our private lives within our own homes every day from morning until night, too?
  • It’s important to note that SFPD has been uncooperative with residents trying to file noise complaints against La Urbana over the last year, going as far to state that they will not report that the complaint occurred. (This obviously leaves the neighbors with no way to voice the complaints that are required to get the permit taken away.)
About Author: GroveResidents.org
A community point of contact for issues & discussions related to the rights of tenants and homeowners on and around Grove Street in the Popeye's Gulch neighborhood of San Francisco, CA