Random header image... Refresh for more!

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Apr-15-2014

Local links: Sand art, McCoppin grant, SFBG plant sale, 911 bravery & more


Inside the art studio of Jay Mercado at 10th & California. Photo by Jay Mercado

Lots of links to catch up on – enjoy! – Sarah B.

  • This Wednesday night is the general membership meeting for the Planning Association for the Richmond, also open to the public. Agenda items include a SFPUC Presentation about a proposed 4-year increase to water and sewer rates, and discussion of the recently released Urban Forest Plan for San Francisco. 7pm-9pm at the Richmond Recreation Center, 251 18th Avenue.
  • Sand art will abound on Saturday morning at Ocean Beach when artist Andres Amador returns to create his masterpieces on the shore. He’s being filmed for a documentary from 7:30am to 9am, so grab a spot on the Cliff House overlook and watch him at work. And if you want to learn his sand art technique, Amador has a workshop class on May 5.
  • Speaking of the Cliff House… The Chronicle took a look back at the “rollicking tale of the first Cliff House – a clapboard structure built by real estate tycoon Charles Butler in 1863.” One of the early visitors was author Mark Twain, who wrote, “The wind was cold and benumbing. It came straight from the ocean, and I think there are icebergs out there somewhere. True, there was not much dust, because the wind blew it all to Oregon in two minutes.”
  • Local art lovers, mark your calendars. The next Cabrillo Art Cave will take place on May 10 & 11 from 11am to 4pm at 925 Cabrillo. The cave is a community art space (read: someone’s garage) that opens occasionally for shows featuring a collective of local artists. Find out whose work will be showcased at cabrilloart.com
  • A new study shows that the median rent in San Francisco in the first quarter of 2014 was $3,200, approximately 8% higher than this time last year. In the Richmond District, we’re below the median at $2,695, but that’s still 14.6% higher than Q1 2013.
  • Frank McCoppin Elementary School (651 6th Avenue) learned in March that they’ll be receiving a $425,000 Kellogg Foundation grant, which is awarded to schools to optimize child development. The money will be used to implement a Balanced Literacy Program for the school, which has 265 students, about half of whom speak Cantonese as their first language.
  • Dirty Trix Saloon at 408 Clement shut down but has already reopened as Side Bar, “a remodeled drinking hole with more of a lounge feel than its previous incarnation. Multiple flat-screen TVs and a revamped sound system are part of the improvements,” says EaterSF.
  • Want to start growing vegetables in your backyard? Attend the free “Growing Vegetables from Seeds” class at the Richmond Branch Library (351 9th Avenue) on Saturday, May 3 from 2:30 to 4pm. Master Gardener Michael Klein will guide attendees through soil and bed preparation, propagation, planting techniques and plant maintenance.
  • In other gardening news, the SF Botanical Garden will have its 47th annual plant sale on Saturday, May 3 from 10am until 2pm, featuring over 20,000 plants. This year’s theme is drought tolerance hundreds of beautiful natives, succulents, and plants perfect for SF’s many micro-climates are for sale. If you’ve got a green thumb, don’t miss it!
  • 10 year old Dante Parker was honored by the city for his bravery while making a 911 call from his Richmond District home earlier this year, when his mother was experiencing severe abdominal pain. His mother made a full recovery from her stomach virus, and Dante said he was just “glad I helped. If I hadn’t helped, who would take care of me?” Aww. You can listen to it below.

11:32 am | Posted under Art, Business, Classes, Events, Green, Ocean Beach, Real Estate, Schools | 1 comment
Apr-15-2014

Green Apple breathes new life into Sunset District’s Le Video; will be co-tenant


Photo by Le Video

If you think bookstores have been feeling the squeeze from the digital publishing world, imagine the challenges that a video store faces in today’s culture of on-demand movies and television shows. While some boomers fondly remember the days of browsing rows of VHS tapes and DVDs for movie night, it’s an activity that is hard to relive in San Francisco – there’s only a handful left.

Despite this, the Sunset District’s Le Video has managed to stay in business, attracting about 120 customers on a weekday. But that’s not enough to keep it afloat, and Le Video founder Catherine Tchen was facing an imminent closure earlier this year after spending nearly $1 million of her own funds in the last four years to keep the doors open at the 34 year old video store.

After posting a Facebook message in March about her financial predicament and impending closure, Tchen received a lifeline from another longtime, neighborhood business – Green Apple Books.

Beginning August 1, Green Apple will open its second location in the ground floor of Le Video, located on 9th Avenue between Lincoln and Irving in the inner Sunset District. Le Video will move its inventory of 100,000 video titles to the second floor.

In addition to Green Apple taking over some of the rent payment, Le Video should benefit from the increased traffic from book shoppers. Green Apple attracts roughly 500 customers daily to its Clement Street location; its second location on 9th Avenue will be roughly one third the size.

Le Video’s not completely out of the red yet. Tchen anticipates that she will need to raise an additional $30,000 to $60,000 simply to prep the new space and make the move. To help, an indiegogo campaign underway.

Green Apple was recently named Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly, and now they can add small business savior to their list of accolades. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy to see Green Apple expand across the park, and help another business at the same time.

Sarah B.

[via SFGate]

5:02 am | Posted under Business | 10 comments
Mar-31-2014

Green Apple named Bookstore of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly


Green Apple owners (L to R) Kevin Hunsanger, Kevin Ryan and Pete Mulvihill with store mascot Mergatroid.
Photo by SFGate

We all love having Green Apple Books in our neighborhood, and it turns out we’re not the only ones who notice what a great store and community they’ve built there in their 47 years of business.

Last week, Publisher’s Weekly awarded Green Apple Bookstore of the Year honors, which waxed peotic about the store’s “labyrinthine” layout and reputation for community involvement with merchants associations, literary events and as the driving force behind this year’s California Bookstore Day.

Green Apple is a model for how to operate an independent, brick and mortar bookstore today, when competition is stiff from online stores and e-readers.

A lot of Green Apple’s success is due to their programming, whether it’s hosting interesting authors and lectures, or carrying out quirky promotions like midnight sales for new releases (final Harry Potter, IQ84), t-shirt design contests, or creating tongue-in-cheek YouTube videos.

The store has even extended beyond its 7,500 square feet on Clement Street by placing “Cafe Green Apple” shelves in cafes around the Bay Area, featuring their used books for sale.

We reached out to Pete Mulvihill, one of the owners of Green Apple to get his reaction to the big award.

“We’re honored, of course. To me, it reflects mostly on the readers of San Francisco. They vote with their wallets every day to keep stores like Green Apple thriving. We’re grateful to the judges, to our many partners (publishers, authors, sales reps), and especially to our staff. They do the hard work day in and day out to keep the place friendly, dynamic, and organized (I swear it’s more organized than you think!),” Pete said.

Congratulations to the team at Green Apple – so well deserved!

Sarah B.

5:05 am | Posted under Business | 10 comments
Mar-11-2014

Safeway responds to effect of chain’s sale to Cerberus on La Playa remodel


Rendering of the new Safeway entrance at La Playa and Fulton

In case you haven’t heard the news, grocery chain Safeway is in the process of selling itself to Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, for $9.4 billion. The deal is currently pending.

We’ve had inquiries from some readers about what this might mean for the upcoming remodel of the La Playa Safeway location.

The remodel, which will expand the store’s footprint from its current 40,000 square feet to nearly 59,000, has been in planning for several years. The project is currently in its environmental review phase, and expects to be in front of the Planning Commission for final approval by the end of 2014.

In addition to a completely new store, the remodel will also include 40-45 residential units on the north end of the property along Cabrillo and La Playa.

On Monday, Safeway Real Estate Manager Natalie Mattei sent out an email to project followers about the potential impact that the Cerebrus sale may have on the planned remodel:

Safeway is continuing with its Northern California projects on a business as usual basis. We remain very committed to San Francisco. Before proceeding with any construction, we always check budgets and evaluate return on investment. New investors in Safeway would become involved in this process, but we are confident that they will continue to consider San Francisco an important place for Safeway to invest.

Translation: We don’t really know yet.

The La Playa Safeway location presents an interesting opportunity for Cerebrus when it comes time to evaluate. That’s because Safeway owns the entire square block of land that the store sits on, which in the current San Francisco real estate market, is a very valuable piece of property that is highly attractive to developers.

Of the roughly 1,300 stores that Safeway operates, mostly on the West coast, they own about 48 percent of those locations and lease the rest, according to its annual filings [SFGate].

For a private equity firm like Cerebrus, whose primary goal is to make money for its investors within five years or so, selling a valuable parcel of SF real estate to a developer may make more sense than remodeling the aging store.

However, the La Playa Safeway also occupies a unique position in the outer Richmond and even outer Sunset as one of the largest grocery stores in the area with plenty of parking.

And with the planned remodel to include selling off the north end of the property to a developer for condominium construction, it may prove to still be an attractive investment to Cerebrus. After all, Safeway is already one of the nation’s top performing supermarket chains. Remodel the store to drive long term profits, and in the meantime, see a short term gain by selling off some valuable SF real estate on the north end.

With the Safeway sale to Cerebrus still pending, it’s a little early for the company to definitively say what will happen to the La Playa location. But given all the work and community input that has gone into the project already, here’s hoping it stays on track and brings a much needed revitalization to an important retailer in the outer Richmond.

Sarah B.

More reading: With Cerberus, Safeway may get revitalized, or lose assets [SFGate]

5:03 am | Posted under Business, Real Estate | 8 comments
Mar-6-2014

Hi-Five Sports Zone moving into former Walgreens space near 18th & Geary

What was once a former Walgreens at 5411 Geary near 18th Avenue is soon to be a Hi-Five Sports Zone, a 5,000 square foot sports facility designed for private events and athletic development.

According to their website, Hi-Five’s “classes, leagues, and camps are designed from Hi-Five’s proprietary curriculums that have been proven and tested for over 20 years”.

The facility, which includes a large basketball court, can also be used for birthday parties, team practices and other athletic events for $100 per hour.

We spoke to Ryan Tuchman, CEO of Hi-Five Sports which started as a family business in Chicago in 1990. The company also offers its programs, designed for kids age 2-10 years, in Menlo Park, Atherton and Scottsdale, AZ.

The Geary location is the first brick-and-mortar location for Hi-Five Sports, which typically relies on venue rentals from schools, Rec & Park or other indoor venues for their programs.

Ryan says that the new location will feature “kid-sized” equipment. The basketball court will be large enough for adults to play on, but hoops will be a bit lower, and it can be covered in turf to accommodate soccer, flag football and tee-ball games.

Hi-Five chose the Richmond District for their first location because “it’s in a residential part of the city where families live, and there is a lack of indoor sports facilities there. And the space was perfect for what we needed.”

The company has hired General Manager Chris Tabarez, a former San Francisco State Gator and professional basketball player in Mexico, a teacher, coach, and athletic Director to run the new facility.

Ryan says construction is already underway inside the space and they anticipate opening in May or June of this year.

The company’s icon is Mascot Murphy, a French bulldog decked out in athletic gear. Ryan said to look for him around the neighborhood and that a possible “Murphy for Supervisor” campaign may be in the works.

It will be great to finally have that space occupied on Geary. Pressure’s on, Alexandria!

Thanks to cub reporter David H. (and other readers) for the tip.

Sarah B.

2:08 pm | Posted under Business, Kids, Sports | 14 comments
Mar-3-2014

A peek at the upcoming $26k parklet on Balboa Street


A rendering of the planned parklet on Balboa Street

Simple Pleasures Cafe at 3434 Balboa near 35th Avenue is the latest merchant in the Richmond District to sponsor a parklet, or mini park, in front of their business. On Monday, the cafe posted a rendering of the parklet on their Facebook page.

Construction began about two weeks ago but was slowed by the recent rains. Scott, a spokesperson for Simple Pleasures, said they expect the parklet to be open in about 15 days (weather permitting).

The Simple Pleasures parklet will eliminate 3 parking spaces on the block, and is the first one in the city to be built on a 1.5 degree incline. Materials include wood and concrete, and the estimated budget for the parklet is $26,000.

“It’s one of the most expensive built yet in San Francisco,” Scott said.

Parklets typically consist of seating and some greenery, and though they are usually subsidized and cared for by a specific business, the parklet space is considered public.

Parklets are part of the San Francisco Planning Department’s Pavement to Parks initiative, designed to “temporarily reclaim unused swathes of land and quickly and inexpensively turn them into new public spaces”.

This will be the second parklet in the Richmond District. The first one debuted on Clement Street near 3rd Avenue in August 2013.

Sarah B.


Construction is underway on the new parklet in front of Simple Pleasures Cafe

2:15 pm | Posted under Business, Parks | 23 comments
Mar-3-2014

Local links: Kumquat closing, new parklet, condos on Clement & more


Kumquat’s storefront

  • After 16 years at 147 Clement, Kumquat Art is closing. Word on the street is that their lease is up and their new rent is higher than they would like. Window signs indicate they’ll be relocating but we don’t know where. In the meantime, all stock is 30% off (35% off if you pay cash) and 50% off INGE Glass Christmas ornaments (55% with cash).
  • Socketsite reports that the condominiums planned for Clement near 32nd Avenue will likely move forward (SF Planning Dept vote is today). The development is the current site of the European Foods market, and consists of a four-story, 40-foot tall building with three, 3-bedroom condos and three, 2-bedroom condos over ground floor retail. Plus parking for six cars and ten bikes. Visit Socketsite for renderings of the project.
  • A new parklet us underway in front of Simple Pleasures Cafe at 3434 Balboa Street. Rain has delayed the construction and we’re awaiting more details and a rendering from the owner. Stay tuned.
  • Expansion! Our artistic Clement Street gallery and boutique Park Life has opened a second location at 3049 22nd Street at Shotwell in the Mission District. The store is open now (11-7 daily, closed Tuesdays) and the official opening party will be on Friday, March 21st from 6-9pm, everyone is welcome. “The new store will occupy nearly 800 sq ft of a corner ground floor space in a turn-of-the century building with 14 foot ceilings and mid-floor to ceiling windows. Much like the original location, the new store will feature contemporary art and design products from all over the world.”
  • There’s a new tenant across from Foggy Notion on 6th Avenue called Save My Seat. Owner Lauren Siegel offers custom upholstery plus handmade pillows and vintage furniture she’s rehabbed. Welcome them to the neighborhood!
  • The Chron’s John King has a penchant for some of Sea Cliff’s quirky architecture. He’ll tell you about it in this video.
10:33 am | Posted under Business, Real Estate | 2 comments
Feb-18-2014

10th anniversary of Alexandria Theater closing. When will the blight end?


The Alexandria Theater at 5400 Geary Boulevard and 18th Avenue. And yes, we 311′d “le poop”.

Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the closing of the Alexandria Theater on the corner of Geary and 18th Avenue. The decade since its closing has been one of ongoing neighborhood blight, with the building slowly deteriorating and suffering from vandalism, as promised development plans never get underway.

The theater was opened in 1923 by Samuel Levin, a movie theater entrepreneur who was in business with his two brothers, Alex and Joseph. It was noteworthy for being the first theater to install a sloped floor for better viewing from every seat.

But the building is best known for its architectural fathers, the well-known Reid Brothers, who designed the movie house with an Egyptian theme, mixing elements of ancient Egypt, Minoan culture, and classical detailing. The brothers designed upwards of twenty movie houses in San Francisco, including the Balboa Theater.

In 1941, the theater underwent extensive remodeling and all that really remained of the original design were the stone pillars on its facade. United Artists then purchased the theater in 1976, converting it from a single screen theater into a 3-screen multiplex.


The Alexandria Theater, 1942


Interior of the theater, 1942

The theater, after struggling financially, closed on February 16, 2004 – one week after being sold to a group of investors, Alexandria Enterprises LLC, which owns it today. [SF Heritage]

Photos of the inside of the Alexandria just before it closed

Since its closing, the theater has been a source of blight for the neighborhood. A favorite for graffiti hounds, the walls along 18th Avenue and the entrance are often tagged.

Trash collected in the entrance to the theater and vagrants sometimes slept out in front of the theater under its protected alcove. Ownership resorted to erecting unsightly cyclone fencing around the front entrance, and throughout the last 10 years, trespassers have broken into the abandoned building and squatted for periods of time, one time causing a small fire.

The exterior of the building has had its share of travails as well. In April 2011, high winds unhinged the blade marquee of the theater. Repairs were made and the sign finally got a much needed, fresh coat of paint. High winds caused more damage two years later.


The decaying entrance alcove to the theater, featuring a peeling, water-damaged ceiling

So what do the Alexandria owners plan to do with the aging building?

For the last few years, plans have been shared with the community for a new development on the property, which would include a 221 seat theater and commercial retail space in the theater building, and a mixed use development on the back parking lot with retail space on the ground floor, residential units above, and underground parking.

The proposed development would preserve original architectural elements of the art deco building, including the domed roof that was part of the original theater before it was sectioned off when it became a multiplex. The ornamental decoration on the facade of the theater building would also remain, including the blade sign (though the 1-2-3 numbers would be removed from the sign, an addition made in 1976).

The plans also indicate that some (or all?) of the original murals inside the building would also be preserved and on view.

The last update we received on the project was in late April 2013, when the city approved the final plans for the development (PDF).

But to this day, no work has started on the property. A quick search of the records at SFDBI shows that no new building, electrical or plumbing permits have been filed since the project approval came through.

“The Planning Commission’s approval is good for three years. Within that period, a building permit needs to be filed and issued. Once a permit is issued, the Department of Building Inspection or Building Department may grant extensions to start work and to complete work if the sponsor needed additional construction time,” Mary Woods of the Planning Department told us last April.


The back lot of the Alexandria Theater on 18th Avenue. The proposed redevelopment includes
building a 4 story residential building on the back lot.

At various times, the property has been for sale to the right developer. This expired listing from Marcus & Millchap Real Estate Investment Services was last updated over a year ago, and references the “Project Near Full Entitlement from City of San Francisco”.

Let’s not forget the illegal drama regarding the building’s plans and permits. In 2010, Jimmy Jen, a formerly licensed civil engineer, was arrested for allegedly forging the signatures and stamps of two licensed engineers on documents related to more than 100 construction projects throughout the city between 1990 and 2007, including those of the Alexandria development project.

Jen was often hired as an “expediter” for projects to move them through city approval channels more quickly. Rather than hiring a licensed engineer to review his clients’ construction projects, he allegedly impersonated unwitting engineers.

Jen’s ex-wife, Nancy Jen, was also reportedly the largest stakeholder in the Alexandria Theater project. [SF Examiner] Jen’s case went to trial in July 2013, but we were unable to find the outcome. But his wrongdoings on the Alexandria development’s paperwork did not hinder the project according to city officials.

At this point, most residents have an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude about the Alexandria Theater redevelopment. After 10 years of neglect, it’s time for this large neighborhood landmark to be rehabilitated and put back into use.

Let’s hope that the owners and developers don’t wait until day 1,094 of their three year permit period to get started. Or worse yet, abandon the project altogether, leaving the Alexandria to continue its decade plus run as a neighborhood eyesore.

Sarah B.

See more photos of blight at the Alexandria Theater


A rendition of the planned development at the Alexandria Theater


The proposed residential apartments that would be built on the lot behind the Alexandria on 18th Avenue

4:30 am | Posted under Business, History | 20 comments
css.php