Cafe Flore restaurant in jeopardy

Cafe Flore (credit: Eric Nielson)

Inside Cafe Flore (credit: Eric Nielson)

A little-known fact about Cafe Flore (2298 Market Street) is that they operate an off-site kitchen across the street from their Noe and Market location in order to serve a full menu complete with breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’ve done this since the 1980′s when the previous owners used their personal kitchen across the street to prepare some of the food sold at Café Flore. Now the restaurant is at risk of not being able to offer a full menu as they may be forced to shut down the off-site kitchen due to restrictions in the city’s planning code.

In 2012, owner JD Petras started working with the Department of Public Health to bring the off-site kitchen (now located a few doors down from the original owners kitchen) up to code. The DPH is ready to sign off on the upgrades to the kitchen, but not before legislation to amend the planning code to allow for Cafe Flore’s unique situation is passed.

Castro’s District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener has written and championed such an amendment to the city’s planning code specifically in the upper Market / Castro area to permit “food processing” as a supplement to a nearby off-site non-residential use space.

If the amendment to the planning code passes, the Department of Public Health can sign off on the upgrades to the off-site kitchen and Cafe Flore can continue serving a full menu. If it doesn’t pass, Cafe Flore has said it may need to supplement the loss in food sales with increased alcohol sales, which some neighbors may find, undesirable. Frankly, I think Cafe Flore has a good thing going on and our community should support Supervisor Wiener’s legislation. The restaurant has blossomed into an unofficial community center for the LGBT and larger community throughout the Castro. They helped create the Castro Farmers’ Market. They given a lot to us.

Allan Bean-Nelson (left), Pat Tura (right)

Allan Beach-Nelson (left), Pat Tura (right)

However, some are protesting the proposed amendment. Alan Beach-Nelson, President of the Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association and Pat Tura, President of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association argue that Cafe Flore should not receive “special treatment.”

The reality of the situation, however, is that amendments to the planning code are many and are usually in response to the bluntness of its verbiage. Supervisor Wiener states several examples in a letter he penned to Beach-Nelson and Tura in response to their objections, including:

  • Legislation by then-Supervisor Bevan Dufty allowing a small number of bars in the Castro that were effectively operating as places of entertainment, but that were prohibited by the Planning Code from seeking place of entertainment permits, to obtain permits to legalize their operations during a six month window.
  • Legislation by Supervisor Farrell amending the Planning Code to permit a medical-service use on the ground floor of a building on Sacramento Street, where that use had been prohibited. The legislation was spurred by the needs of a particular business.
  • Legislation by Supervisor Campos amending the Planning Code to allow a personal-service use on the third story and higher on Valencia Street, responding to the needs of a specific business that would have been prohibited otherwise.
  • Many special use districts, where specific parcels have their zoning changed to allow for a previously prohibited use, a different height, or some other new attribute.

I don’t believe the Castro will see a glut of new restaurants popup that are ran out of someones home kitchen, which is the only real reason I can piece together that the Presidents of these “Neighborhood Associations” would be opposed to it.

The Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing to discuss the matter this Thursday, February 21st at City Hall,  Room 400. After the Planning Commission hearing, the legislation will be scheduled for a hearing before the Board of Supervisors Land Use & Economic Development Committee which has 3 members: Supervisors Scott Wiener, Jane Kim (District 6) & David Chiu (District 3)​​.

If it passes the Land Use committee, the ordinance will go on to the full Board of Supervisors for passage.

A website has been setup by supporters of Cafe Flore where you can learn more about the issue.

I encourage you to email the President’s of these neighborhood associations to tell them what you think:

Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association
Contact Form
Phone: (415) 295-1530

Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association
Contact Form
Alan Beach-Nelson’s Email Address

Roy McKenzie

Roy has been a Castro resident since 2010 and is passionate about drag queens, bicycling, and food. Follow his babbling on Twitter.

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8 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    Thank you for making me aware of this. As you’ve learned, I’m a visitor to the Castro once a year. Too many of my favorite places have gone due to business issues and forced to close.

    I finally have the opportunity to speak my voice to keep one of the places I enjoy visiting and had a great time with a very dear friend on his first visit to San Francisco, I shall.

    Granted I am a Philadelphia resident, but hopefully my words will count.

    Tom

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  2. Joe says:

    This is yet another power play by EVNA and DTNA. Remember it’s DTNA that prefers an empty Tower Records building then that evil Trader Joe’s providing jobs and quality low cost food to the neighborhood.

    Once again, people who have never owed a business, managed employees, budgets and created wealth are dictating what business people can and can not do. To the determent to the community.

    Cafe Flore is such an asset to this community. Not just as a meeting place, cafe and restaurant, but the owners are VERY generous to the community. Add to the fact, that making money in the restaurant business is close to impossible, why would they want to curtail something that has worked for years? Do they want more empty store fronts? Sure seems like it.

    Shame on you Alan Nelson and Pat Tura.

    Thank you Roy for bring this power play to the community.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

    • Sanchez resident says:

      Be careful, Joe. Waiyde berated me the other day when I wrote a comment about DTNA and EVNA exercising control of businesses allowed to open in the hood. Your comment is most excellent, anyway. Thank you.

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      • Waiyde says:

        Hahahaha! Berated? I thought we were having an exchange of positions, opinions and ideas. Glad it hasn’t stopped you from reading, participating and continuing to share you unique perspectives. Thanks!

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        • Sanchez Resident says:

          Calling me “a dog with a bone” did bother me a little bit. I do enjoy your blog. Do you have any thoughts about DTNA and EVNA opposing the amendment for CF?

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          • Waiyde says:

            I think it’s wrong and I sent them a letter expressing that. And it’s on our blog with links so others can do the same. I think thats pretty clear how we feel.

            No organization gets it right 100% of the time. I believe that DTNA & EVNA often walk a tightrope between trying to support and honor current/past community needs vs. meeting the needs of a expanding and evolving demographic within the neighborhood.

            I am open to standing with and opposing their proposals on an individual perspective based on the merit of the outcome.

            Mess with Cafe Flore?? Disagree
            Keep a 4th Starbucks out of the neighborhood?? Agree

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  3. Tom says:

    Much more eloquently stated than I Joe- thank you. Just to follow up, full coverage coming in this week’s Bay Area Reporter as well in Ray’s Business Briefs and other follow ups.

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  4. The Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District’s voted to support this legislation. This legislation allows for three important zoning changes. It allows for:
    - increased residential density on the 2300 block of Market Street;
    - amends the planning code to support existing small businesses, including allowing for an off-site prep kitchen for use by a popular local restaurant (Café Flore), and expansion of a popular fitness center (Fitness SF), which will also include the addition of 14 units of rental housing with below-market rental apartments on site.

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