Political Notebook: Fight brewing over new Castro Starbucks
by Matthew S. Bajko
A fight is brewing over plans to open a new Starbucks store on upper Market Street. It would be the national coffee chain's third location in the city's gay Castro District.
While officials for the Seattle-based coffeehouse say they need the additional store to meet customer demand, not everyone is so welcoming of the idea. Some nearby business owners have raised objections, as have residents opposed to seeing a prime retail location go to a chain store.
"This is a tough one. Some people want it, some people don't," said Steve Adams, president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro.
Because of the city's formula retail zoning laws, the company needs to receive city approval to open at the corner of 2201 Market Street at Sanchez. The site used to be home to a stereo store until it closed and Industrialists, which sells kitchen furnishings, moved in.
Company officials have begun meeting with Castro groups to discuss their plans for the site and seek community approval. They expect to go before the Planning Commission to obtain a conditional use permit sometime in early 2012, and say the store could be open for business as soon as next fall.
"I am sure many of you are asking why this location? Why this neighborhood? The number one reason is to meet our customers' demands," said Andrew Zall, a store development manager for Starbucks based in its San Francisco regional headquarters, at MUMC's December meeting last week.
Starbucks already operates stores nearby at the Safeway shopping plaza on Market Street and near the corner of Castro and 18th streets. The site in the heart of the gayborhood is nicknamed "Bearbucks" due to its large clientele of hirsute gay men.
Zall said both of those locations are too small and do not provide enough seating indoors or out. The new location would provide up to 60 seats inside and have space outside for three tables.
The current building was built in 1956 and has "a ton of dry rot," said Zall.
Starbucks plans to overhaul the 3,500 square foot building using eco-conscious building practices and materials so it is LEED certified. The store would be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
"Our desire is to return something special for the neighborhood," said Zall, noting the design is being tweaked as the company meets with neighborhood groups.
Kimberly Winston, a senior manager of governmental affairs for Starbucks, said the new store would draw more street traffic to that section of Market Street and be a boost for surrounding businesses.
She also said it would generate up to 20 new jobs that likely would be filled by Castro residents. Of the 1,000 Starbucks employees working in San Francisco, 15 percent live in the gayborhood, she said.
But concerns run the gamut from competition for locally owned stores to traffic congestion. The lot has four parking spots currently, but Starbucks' plans call for just two.
Cafe Flore owner J.D. Petras said he "doesn't like the idea" of seeing the new store open but wants to see more finalized plans before he decides whether to oppose it.
Other business owners told Starbucks they want to see what givebacks the company will make to Castro causes in return for their supporting the new store. Past deals for chain stores in the Castro generated money for such things as a community meeting room and the new LGBT history museum.
"I would like to see a clear, defined commitment on what the store's local giving will be," said Terry Asten Bennett , whose family owns Cliff's Variety.
The company recently donated $5,000 to the Castro Community Benefit District and sponsored this year's Castro Christmas Tree for the first time.
Company representatives said Starbucks is willing to do more and asked for specific funding requests. They also said that each Starbucks store designates local partners based on the staff's interests.
"Starbucks has given $700,000 over the last decade in San Francisco to nonprofits," said Winston.
For more info on the store plans visit http://tinyurl.com/cmvx9as.
Gay man named SF arts director
Arts commissioners and Mayor Ed Lee have hired Thomas DeCaigny , a gay man and arts consultant, to be the city's new cultural affairs director. He will start Monday, January 9 and will make somewhere between $110,000 to $150,000 a year.
DeCaigny, 35, had served for nine years as executive director of the Performing Arts Workshop. Between 2004 and 2006 he served as board co-chair of the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center in the Castro, and in the late 1990s worked as the education manager for the nonprofit overseeing the AIDS quilt.
"I am humbled," DeCaigny said in a phone interview after being hired. "I am really exited to work with communities across San Francisco to make sure everyone is getting high quality access to the arts."
It is the second time that an out gay man will lead the San Francisco Arts Commission. The first was Richard Newirth , who held the position for 12 years until resigning in 2007.
His successor, Luis Cancel, was forced out this summer after news reports detailed his telecommuting from Brazil. It was the start of a series of negative headlines involving the city agency with a $10 million budget and oversight of public funding for the arts.
The agency was recently slammed for doling out contracts to an artist who had killed a dog as part of an artwork in 1977. And an audit released last month found not only low morale and poor management at the agency but also that $477,000 had been incorrectly given to a non-local arts group.
The money came from the Cultural Equity Grant program, which is meant to go to arts groups based in the city. DeCaigny told the B.A.R. he has seen the audit and intends to address the concerns raised in the report.
"I am eager to make sure all grants are competitive," said DeCaigny, who lives in the South of Market area with his partner of 15 years, Seth Goldstein.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 11 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on a fundraiser LGBT leaders held to retire Mayor Ed Lee's campaign debt.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.