Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Coffeehouses’ parklet proposal divides Castro merchants

The owners of Reveille Coffee Co. want to install a parklet in two of the parking spaces fronting their business.

The owners of Reveille Coffee Co. on 18th Street want to install a parklet in two of the parking spaces fronting their business.

A proposal by the owners of a coffeehouse in the heart of the Castro has divided business owners in the city’s gay neighborhood.

Brothers Chris and Thomas Newbury have applied with the city to install a parklet in two parking spaces in front of their Reveille Coffee Co. at 4080 18th Street. Their request will be heard by the city’s Department of Public Works at a hearing in late September.

The coffeehouse opened nearly a year ago in a renovated garage space and has become a popular spot to grab a drink and food and sit in the sidewalk-fronting patio. The siblings installed a parklet at their North Beach location, which they say has been positively received by residents and other merchants of that neighborhood, and would like to do the same at their Castro location.

“It turned out to be great. It was voted one of the top five prettiest parklets in San Francisco,” said Chris Newbury of their first parklet. “We have a vision for 18th Street and transforming it into a beautiful place for the neighborhood and people visiting the city.”

A number of their patrons and nearby businesses are in support, and at its meeting this morning, the Castro Merchants business group narrowly voted to endorse the parklet project. But many Castro merchants who attended voiced strong objections to seeing a parklet be installed on 18th Street.

Not only do they object to the removal of the two parking spaces, they also raised concerns that the parklet would be a magnet for homeless people. They noted the ongoing problems the neighborhood has had with bad behavior at the nearby Jane Warner Plaza, a mini pedestrian plaza carved out of a segment of 17th Street.

And they recall the issues that came up when a parklet was installed on the 500 block of Castro Street several years ago that was not properly attended to and eventually removed when the city extended the sidewalks last year along the roadway.

“The reality of the Castro is different than in North Beach,” said Terry Asten Bennett, whose family owns Cliff’s Variety on Castro Street. “Eighteenth Street is already a traffic nightmare with delivery trucks and the Muni buses.”

Thomas Newbury noted that the parklet will be a temporary structure and “can be removed anytime if it is not working.”

They have yet to determine what the parklet would look like, since the city’s permitting process does not require applicants to submit final construction plans prior to receiving approval to install the structures.

“We will design it so homeless people wouldn’t want to sleep there,” Thomas Newbury told the merchant group.

The DPW hearing on their application will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, September 23 in Room 400 at City Hall.

— Matthew S. Bajko, September 3, 2015 @ 3:01 pm PST
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