Protecting nightlife along 11th Street in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood while also allowing for more residential construction in the area is heating up as a key concern for SOMA residents and entertainment officials.
The block between Folsom and Harrison Streets is home to numerous nightclubs and restaurants. The area has been a late-night party destination for decades and has seen a rejuvenation of late.
The DNA Lounge, long home to gay dance parties, is expanding this year into the adjacent building, which houses a pizza restaurant the club’s owners bought in early 2011 and renamed DNA Pizza. The Planning Commission endorsed the plans Thursday, January 12.
Across the street is the club Beatbox. Opened last summer, it has quickly become a go to place for LGBT party promoters to host events.
But the concentration of venues could be threatened due to SOMA’s rebirth into a residential and technology hub. As developers eye new parcels to construct condos and firms look for space to expand, ideas differ on how to protect 11th Street’s entertainment offerings. Some are calling for the area to be designated an entertainment zone that would restrict new housing from being built there.
“I have absolutely endorsed an entertainment zone for 11th Street,” said gay Entertainment Commissioner Glendon Hyde, also known as drag queen Anna Conda. “It is time to really be loud and proud about our culture and make sure it doesn’t disappear for condos.”
Newly seated gay Entertainment Commissioner Bryant Tan told the Bay Area Reporter this week he needs more information about the issue before he endorses any proposal.
“I am really open to hearing multiple perspectives,” said Tan. “I think there is a healthy way where residents and nightclubs can live side by side.”
The Western SOMA Task Force, which has been working on a rezoning of the area, rejected calls for an entertainment zone for a variety of reasons.
“We didn’t move to designate it an entertainment zone but we do want to preserve the existing clubs,” said Jim Meko, chair of the SOMA Leadership Council who has helped oversee the drafting of the new zoning.
The rezoning proposal, known as the Western SOMA Plan, is expected to go up for a vote later this year or sometime in 2013. It recommends that entertainment be left as a legal, non-conforming use in the mixed-use neighborhoods north of Harrison Street and that zoning south of Harrison Street be changed to make all forms of entertainment a fully permitted use.
It also would, if adopted, grant the non-conforming status that every existing venue holds remain with the property for a reasonable length of time following demolition of the building so that it could be built into new construction. Under the proposed plans, accessory forms of entertainment would be allowed in the Folsom Street Neighborhood Commercial District.
“The question is where do you allow for new clubs,” said Meko, a former entertainment commissioner. “We are proposing that south of Harrison Street be for new clubs with no housing. North of Harrison Street we are calling for an increase in housing.”
City planners would like to see up to 4,000 new housing units be built in western SOMA over the next 20 years, said Meko.
“We want to cluster them around Folsom Street to help jumpstart the business corridor,” he said.
But Hyde and others are concerned that the existing clubs will be forced to relocate as their buildings could be turned into housing.
An entertainment zone is needed, said Hyde, “because housing and clubs don’t mix and you get problems.”
The issue will be the subject of a public meeting the SOMA Leadership Council is hosting next week. Dennis Juarez from Slim’s nightclub and SOMA resident Gayle Rubin will facilitate the discussion on how to address entertainment venues under the new zoning plan.
It will begin at 6 p.m., Wednesday, January 18 in the community room of the Folsom/Dore Apartments, 1346 Folsom Street (between 9th and 10th Streets).