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

SF planners reject gay-owned burrito chain’s Castro expansion plans

20130326_chipotle2_610x346As expected, San Francisco planners are recommending that the city’s planning commission reject Chipotle Mexican Grill’s plan to expand into the gay Castro district.

The burrito brawl has pit the city’s gay planning director John Rahaim against Steve Ells, the gay former San Francisco chef who founded the Denver-based chain in 1993 and is its chairman and co-CEO.

Ells’ company last year announced plans to open a Chipotle outlet at the former Home restaurant space at the corner of Church and Market Streets. But reaction in the gay neighborhood was overwhelmingly negative.

With a number of chain stores looking to open on prominent intersections along upper Market Street, neighborhood merchants and residents began to voice opposition to what they feared was a suburbanization of one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods. Rahaim also changed his tune regarding formula retail, and in February, announced his own misgivings to seeing prominent storefronts be given over to national retailers rather than locally-owned businesses.

Working with Castro groups, and the blessing of gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, the planning department devised a new regulation where it would recommend for disapproval any chain store seeking to open along Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and Castro Street that brought the concentration of formula retail within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or higher.

The new rule was adopted by the planning commission and led to a recent vote against Starbucks’ proposal to open a new coffeehouse at the corner of Market and Sanchez Streets.

Next Thursday, June 20 Chipotle is scheduled to go beforeĀ  the oversight body. And if the Starbucks vote is any guide, it too will be voted down.

According to the staff report released today (Friday, June 14), a Chipotle at that corner would increase the formula retail commercial frontage to 1154.7 linear feet for a 36 percent concentration of formula retail uses.

In recommending that the planning commissioners reject Chipotle, the staff concluded that, “The project would be detrimental to the neighborhood by occupying a prominent corner lot with
a formula retail use that uses standardized color schemes, decor and signage that will detract
from the distinctive character of the Upper Market Neighborhood which includes primarily local,
independent retail businesses.”

Next Thursday’s Political Notebook in the Bay Area Reporter will have more about the fight over Chipotle as well as other zoning issues confronting the Castro.

— Matthew S. Bajko, June 14, 2013 @ 2:14 pm PST
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