Open Letter to Neighbors re: 661 Divisadero liquor license application

[Letter emailed on Sep. 27, 2017 to previous respondents on Grove Residents’ Rights Resources email list.] 

Dear Neighbors,

Hi everybody, I wanted to send out an update on what’s been going on with the space at 661 Divisadero, formerly La Urbana. The space was recently rented out to a new restauranteur. A few of us have been talking behind the scenes with the city and the new restaurant owners to try to avoid the bad relationship and problems we had with LU. Things are actually looking pretty hopeful, but it’s not completely finalized yet. There’s also a little bit you might be able to do, if you’re concerned about helping prevent another nuisance from occurring in that garage space.

This is being sent to all the people who submitted their email addresses in connection with La Urbana’s outside seating hearing back in 2015. I don’t want to keep spamming people, so if you want to get more detail as things progress, please email back to let me know, and I’ll keep you more informed as things progress, otherwise it’ll just be this one email. Also let me know if you’re not interested and want me to take your address off this list for good.

Ok, let’s get caught up!

WHAT’S HAPPENED:

If anybody still doesn’t know, La Urbana suddenly closed last November, less than two weeks after being ordered by a city Zoning Administrator to hire an acoustical consultant to evaluate noise abatement measures for the garage.

WHAT’S GOING ON NOW:

The former La Urbana building has been rented by the Back Of The House restaurant group, owned by restauranteur Adriano Paganini, who currently operate about 20 restaurants in SF, such as Belga, Beretta, Delarosa, El Techo, Lolinda, Starbelly, Super Duper Burgers, and Uno Dos Tacos. I don’t know much about it, but I’m told they’re more interested in neighborhood-type restaurants, not overpriced, high-end type places.

Paganini and his representatives have already met with some of the nearby neighbors to discuss concerns about how the garage will be used. I didn’t meet with him myself, another neighbor did, so everything I’m telling you is what I heard second hand.

The good news is, Paganini seems very receptive to neighbor concerns. He’s been actively in touch with neighbors several times to discuss concerns and kick ideas back and forth, and has discussed renovating the doors to create a permanent wall or enclosed. Also, the SF Planning Department has taken the history of neighbor complaints very seriously, and has been actively in talks with Paganini about making sure the garage doesn’t become a source of neighborhood problems again.

So, the outlook is cautiously good. Nothing firm has been agreed to yet, but things look about as positive as they can at this point. I’m told Paganini has already been far easier to deal with, and much more concerned with good neighborhood relations, than La Urbana’s management ever was. It looks unlikely that the new restaurant will going to try to operate with the garage doors open, or that the city would let them if they wanted to. However, they may still try to put open windows or other openings in place of the garage doors. Nothing is final yet.

NEXT STEPS, for those interested:

We’ve got a chance to voice concerns with CA Alcoholic Beverage Control before the liquor license gets approved. Unfortunately, we’ve only got a few days, and they make you jump through hoops to do it. Their liquor license application is until 2AM, and includes outside seating. They have said verbally that they won’t be using outside seating, but nothing has been put in writing.

If you’d like to submit your own concerns for ABC to consider before approving the liquor license application, I’ll include all the instructions at bottom, down at bottom in the PS. I don’t want to encourage or discourage you from filing your own response with them, I just wanted to make sure who previously expressed a concern had the information.

At this point, since we don’t have any firm commitments yet, I figure it couldn’t hurt to try for a little bit of extra leverage. So I’m going to submit the application protest form before the deadline, and ask ABC to make sealing and soundproofing the garage doors a requirement for the liquor license to be issued for the new restaurant. (To keep this from getting any longer, I’ll post my letter detailing why I think this is a fair request at http://www.groveresidents.org/abc-letter-september-2017/ ) The long and short of it is: No other restaurant with a full bar serving hard liquor anywhere in this neighborhood operates a barroom wide open to the public street in any way besides just a front entrance and an emergency exit, let alone directly adjacent to residential bedroom windows. I don’t want to interfere with the new tenant’s application process, I just want to ask ABC to ensure that the they’re held to the exact same standards as as every other restaurant with a full bar in the neighborhood.

Either way, things do look potentially promising. If Paganini and the city both follow through on everything they’ve been saying, things will probably fine, and I think overall the chances that we’ll get a good restaurant that doesn’t cause a neighborhood disturbance like the last one are pretty good. But, it’ll be nice when we actually get some real assurance of that.

FYI, this letter will be posted online at http://www.groveresidents.org/2017/09/27/open-letter-to-neighbors-re-661-divisadero-liquor-license-application/.

Your neighbor,
Mike
Reluctant Neighborhood Activist
Grove Residents’ Rights Resource

P.S. OK- here’s what you need to know to file the Alcoholic Beverage Control form to voice concerns, if you want to.

1.) We have until 5PM on Friday, Sep. 29 to get the form to ABC to submit concerns to be considered about the liquor license. Sorry about the short notice – unfortunately, I didn’t find out until just the last day or two that the deadline is that soon, there was a notification mixup with the ABC representative.

2.) Also unfortunately, they don’t make it easy to file a the form. You have to download the form from http://www.abc.ca.gov/FORMS/ABC510A.pdf and fill it out. It needs you to sign it (this can be done on your computer with Preview.app on OS X, but I don’t know how you can do it on Windows. Otherwise, you need to print it out to sign, and then scan it or get a very clear digital photo of the signed form if you want to email it. A paper copy can also be picked up at the ABC office, address following. Or I can get you a paper copy if need be, let me know if you need and we can meet up somewhere around the neighborhood.)

3.) Then the signed form can be either emailed to sheree.simpson@abc.ca.gov, or mailed or delivered by hand to the ABC office at Suite 1230, 33 New Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94105. It has to be received there by the end of business on Friday. I don’t know if postal mail would make it in time at this point, so email or hand delivery would be best. If you email it, they can accept the form as a PDF or JPG.

ABC’s own instructions on filing the form are downloadable as a PDF at http://www.abc.ca.gov/FORMS/ABC510.pdf. Paganini will receive a copy of all comments submitted.

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