Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Man arrested in one of two Castro area robberies

San Francisco police have arrested a man in connection with a Thursday, December 12 robbery in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, and they’re also investigating another robbery that occurred in the area Thursday.

Leroy Carr (Photo: SFPD)

Leroy Carr (Photo: SFPD)

The first incident happened at 3:45 a.m. Thursday at 18th and Castro streets when Leroy Carr, 42, of San Francisco, allegedly entered a store there, grabbed several T-shirts, and left. An employee followed Carr out of the shop and up the block toward Market Street, Officer Albie Esparza, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman, said in an incident summary.

According to Esparza, when the employee, who’s 28, asked Carr to return the shirts, Carr turned around, pulled a knife, and threatened to cut him. Carr allegedly fled but was later arrested on charges of robbery, possession of stolen property, and possession of a switchblade knife with a blade longer than two inches. His booking photo wasn’t immediately available.

Carr, who has a court date set for Monday, December 16,  is expected to be formally charged with robbery, according to Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors will also request that Carr’s probation on a previous case be revoked.

The store involved appears to be the Walgreens at 498 Castro Street, which is open 24 hours, but a store employee said Friday, December 13 that he wasn’t aware of the incident.

The second robbery occurred at 11 p.m. Thursday when a vehicle carrying four suspects drove up to a man standing at Douglass and Carson streets. At least one of the suspects pushed him to the ground. One man held a knife to the 40-year-old victim’s face while two other suspects went through his pockets and took his money, identification, and other property.

The suspects then fled in their vehicle, which in a brief interview Esparza described as an “older” silver vehicle. The license plate number wasn’t available. Police haven’t made any arrests in the incident. The victim was left with a bump on his head and scrapes on his arms and legs.

Esparza described two of the suspects as white men aged 20 to 30, while he said the other two were white women of unknown age.

Anyone with information in the case may contact the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444. People may also text a tip to TIP411. Type SFPD in the subject line. The incident number is 131 046 628.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, December 13, 2013 @ 12:38 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Panel approves See’s Candies new Castro store

The grand opening of a See's Candies in Oklahoma with the company's trademark tile work.

The grand opening of a See’s Candies in Oklahoma with the company’s trademark tile work.

It didn’t come in time to open for the busy holiday shopping season, but See’s Candies did receive an early Christmas gift today when it won approval for a new store in the Castro district.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously 6-0 at its meeting this afternoon (Thursday, December 12) to allow the chocolate chain to open in the Safeway shopping center on upper Market Street at Church Street. It will be its fifth store in San Francisco when it opens in early 2014.

The company’s roots date back to 1920 when its first shop opened in the city but is now owned by Warren Buffett and his company Berkshire Hathaway. See’s is taking over the 1,900 square foot space that had been occupied by Mike’s Cameras, formerly known as Wolf Camera, at 2016 Market Street.

Because the chocolate company is a formula retailer, it triggered the restriction that any chain store seeking to open on upper Market Street that brings the concentration of such businesses within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or more be automatically recommended for disapproval by planning staff.

Even though the sweet shop is replacing a formula retailer and the number of such stores is not changing, the planning staff nonetheless was required to recommend See’s application not be granted due to the chain store stipulation.

The planning commission maintains discretion to reject the staff’s determination and approve the permit request if there is community support for the proposed chain store. See’s was not opposed and had the backing of the Castro Merchants group and the Castro / Upper Market Community Benefits District.

The area’s two residential groups remained neutral, while no one showed up to speak against See’s at today’s hearing.

“I have yet to talk to anyone who says they don’t like See’s,” project architect Ahmad Mohazab, with Tecta Associates, told the commissioners.

Commissioner Gwyneth Borden noted that the project was far different than the proposals by Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill to open in nearby spaces on Market Street. Those stores generated heated opposition and were rejected by the commission.

“There are chocolatiers in San Francisco who are local but there are not a lot of other businesses that compete directly with See’s, other than Safway if you like junk candy in that regard,” said Borden. “This is a perect location for this use. And I am not saying that because I love See’s Candies and live three blocks away.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, December 12, 2013 @ 5:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Santa Skivvies Run to raise money for SF AIDS group

Barely clad Santas run through the Castro during the 2009 AIDS fundraising event. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Barely clad Santas run through the Castro during the 2009 AIDS fundraising event. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Men and women are set to drop their pants and don Santa hats and other holiday wear this weekend for the fourth annual Santa Skivvies Run.

The event, which starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, December 15 at the Lookout, 3600 16th Street, San Francisco, is a benefit for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which provides testing, counseling, and other services.

“It’s hard to think of an event that brings more smiles to people’s faces than Santa Skivvies Run,” Neil Giuliano, the AIDS foundation’s CEO, said in a news release. He added that “it’s a testament to the dedication of our loyal supporters – they will run around in underwear and costumes to make sure our programs remain free and accessible for all of our clients. This truly is the can’t-miss event of the holiday season.”

 Organizers expect to raise more than $50,000 this year, which would break the record set in 2012. Drag queens on Segway scooters will lead the way as runners wind their way through the Castro before returning to  the Lookout.

Registration is $35. All runners will get a Santa hat as a registration gift. Participants can register from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lookout. Onlookers may donate to the AIDS foundation at the event.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, December 5, 2013 @ 4:52 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Developer seeks restaurant, food hall for new Castro building

2175 Market Street picThe developer of a new mixed-use building along Market Street in the city’s Castro district is proposing using its 6,200 square feet of ground-floor retail space for a restaurant and a food hall.

Forest City Development is erecting 88 rental units split between two separate buildings at the corner of 15th and Market Streets. Formerly a gas station, the new building will set aside 20 percent of its apartments as below market rate when it opens in the fall of 2014.

In the meantime the developer is seeking approval from the planning commission to allow a restaurant operator to seek a beer and wine liquor license for the site. The company intends to set aside 2,200 square feet for a locally-owned eatery.

It also needs city approval to lease out the remaining 4,000 square feet to a single operator who would then be tasked with lining up local food producers and a coffee purveyor to sublet portions of the space.

“We really want a mixed-use space. We also wanted restaurant capability if we decided to go ahead and pursue that,” Katie O’Brien, of Forest City Development, told Castro merchants at their meeting this morning (Thursday, December 5). “It is a bit of a chicken and an egg because we don’t have a tenant signed yet.”

Should a restauranteur want to move in, they would then need to acquire a liquor license on their own. It is possible that the owner of the restaurant could also oversee and operate the food hall.

As for the food hall concept, O’Brien likened it to a “small Ferry Building” similar to the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland near the Rockridge BART station. The European-style marketplace is divided between such things as a deli, fishmonger, cheese shop, and a pasta stand.

“It is another great way to bring in smaller services,” said O’Brien, adding that not all of the sub-leases needed to go to food vendors but could include such things as a coffeehouse or a succulent stand.

With such a large space normally only affordable to a chain store, several members of the Castro Merchants, formerly known as the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro, voiced a desire to see language restricting the space from being leased in the future to a formula retailer. With that caveat, the group voted to back Forest City’s proposal before the planning commission.

The Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association has also voiced similar concerns that a chain store could one day move into the building. It has pointed to the example of when the now-closed Tower Records opened in the Market Noe Center up the street it was supposed to be temporary but became a permanent use. The space is now under construction to be a new CVS Pharmacy location.

Under rules adopted this year, any formula retailer that brings the number of chain stores within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or greater would not be recommended for approval. Unless such a store had overwhelming support from the neighborhood, it is unlikely it would be approved by the planning commission.

Nonetheless, DTNA officials have proposed the city include a Notice of Special Restriction on Forest City’s conditional use permit that would require a certain number of tenants be using the store space. It plans to discuss the issue at its meeting this Monday night, December 9.

It has voiced support for the overall concept, writing in the latest DTNA newsletter that “if it all works out, we could be welcoming a new Market Square to our neighborhood. How (unconventionally) hip!”

Speaking before the Castro Merchants group, O’Brien said she was amenable to such restrictive language being added to the permit and would work with city planners and a land use attorney on crafting the appropriate wording.

She also insisted there would be “no formula retail” at the site.

“It’s a special neighborhood to me so it is important we get it right,” said O’Brien, who frequented nearby bars of the site when she was a college student at San Francisco State University.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 4:11 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Castro’s Swedish hall seeks landmark status; new tenants plan major upgrade, changes to Cafe du Nord

Swedish Hall picThe new year will bring major changes to the Castro’s Swedish American Hall and its basement music venue Cafe du Nord. The historic structure will also be seeking local landmark status.

The rental hall, a popular venue for weddings, at 2174 Market Street was built in 1907 and designed by noted Swedish architect August Nordin. According to a history of the building on its website, the San Francisco Swedish Society’s original meeting place had been lost to the fire caused by the earthquake that devastated the city in 1906.

The society’s members rallied to purchase the lot on Market Street and raised the funds to erect the nordic-inspired building. It was dedicated on December 22, 1907.

The society still owns the building and holds its meetings in a fourth floor meeting room, where its archives are also stored in a library and reading space. Apart from a street level cafe that briefly opened in 2009, the sole tenant at the property has been Cafe du Nord, known for its lineup of local, national and international musical acts.

The underground music venue is located in what had been a former speakeasy. Its operators also handle renting out the upstairs ballroom and several halls located in the building.

Earlier this year Dylan MacNiven, the owner of nearby Woodhouse Fish Company, and his business partner Enrique Larda took over the lease for Cafe du Nord, the eatery space, and the rental spaces inside the structure. The Swedish Society remains the owner of the building.

“We have been working for the last six months on this deal,” MacNiven, who also owns the restaurant West of Pecos on Valencia Street, told Castro merchants at their meeting this morning (Thursday, December 5).

They have been working with the society members to bring the property into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are in the process of installing an elevator and upgrading the bathrooms to be ADA compliant.

“It’s had an elevator shaft for 107 years but they never put in an elevator,” said Larda, noting that the society’s effort to do so in 2008 fell through due to the economic crash that year.

Over the next eight months work will commence on the elevator and bathroom upgrades, soundproofing the entire building, and repainting its facade. The landmarking process is expected to begin this spring so the building is designated as having local historic significance by the fall.

“In the fall of 2014 there will be fully accessible rooms on every floor,” said Larda. “We want to open it up back to the community.”

The new tenants plan to scale back on the number of concerts held at Cafe du Nord and are looking at turning it more into a neighborhood bar. According to the club’s online calendar, it will continue to operate through early January.

Thereafter, several shows have been relocated to other venues around town.

“We will have music but not 200 nights a year of music,” said Larda. “We are looking at having broader programming.”

They are reopening the street-side cafe and intend to serve dinner, with plans to use the kitchen in the actual hall building for a culinary lecture series.

“We are not sure on the food. A lot is up in the air until we have concrete answers on what we can do,” said MacNiven, who lives nearby at 17th and Church.

The building will continue to be available for weddings and receptions as well as other community events. They are in the process of seeking approval to extend the club’s liquor license to cover the entire building, which must be signed off by the city’s planning commission.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:17 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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