June 19, 2013
Beware The Renderings Of Giants
San Francisco’s Planning Commission will decide whether or not to approve Chipotle Mexican Grill’s application to renovate and open in the vacant Upper Market building at 2100 Market Street on Thursday, Chipotle’s rendering for which is presented above. In the words of an observant reader: "I like how the people in the rendering are all about 50% taller than those in the actual photo."
Relative to the actual heights for the poles, signs, and signal lights included in Chipotle’s rendering above, the average rendered person on the street would measure over ten feet tall, the gentleman in the crosswalk over eleven. In the words of our reader again: "The fact that this makes the rendered building look smaller is, I'm sure, just a coincidence."
First Published: June 19, 2013 2:00 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
I'm fine with this not being approved.
This is a classic exercise of a city's power, and one that in the case of SF is generally regarded as a positive. Maybe not in this 'particular' case, but 'overall' the citizens seem to like regulations against formula retail concentration.
Fair to the property owner? Eh, debatable, the fact that he/she can keep it vacant for so long implies something to me.
Posted by: Sam at June 19, 2013 2:13 PM
Lame. Let the free market do it's job. If SFers don't want to support formula retail, then don't support formula retail. Problem is everyone loves Chipotle, and that's one nice looking Chipotle as well.
Posted by: realist at June 19, 2013 2:47 PM
The site is an eyesore and needs development. But come on! We are just about the food capital of the U.S. We can't get something other than a chain burrito joint there? Where are our local restaurant titans to turn this space into something special?
Posted by: OP at June 19, 2013 2:52 PM
Go for it. Anything that may help me wash away memories of HOME and the waiter who preferred not to shower or use deoderant. I am not kidding we left after one drink.
Posted by: SFLooking at June 19, 2013 3:14 PM
Chipotle is lame. Even for the Castro.
Posted by: 49yo hipster at June 19, 2013 3:18 PM
Chipotle is just plain insulting to everyone who appreciates local authentic cuisine.
They (Chipotle) have a banner ad on multiple local websites that says "Howdy Neighbor: we're planning on opening a new restaurant…If you agree that having a Chiptole in the neighborhood would be a delicious idea, please let your voice be heard." And then they have a link to a website where I presume you can sign a counter petition supporting them.
I agree with hipster, Chipotle is lame. The fact that they can put on this astroturf campaign is proof of it.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at June 19, 2013 3:25 PM
@Realist - it's not quite that simple. Chains have economies of scale in regards to employee management, product ordering and suppliers, maintenance, etc which means they can pay significantly more in rent and still make MORE of a profit than a local mom-and-pop or SF restauranteur. So it's not really what residents or citizens would prefer in terms of which one will occupy a desirable storefront, the chain will pay more.
So, if the free market had it's way, a Chipotle would win over a local Mexican restaurant, a Starbucks over a local barista, and a J. Crew over a local boutique every time, because the stores do not start on an equal footing. Formula retail is enacted to protect the diversity and uniqueness that have characterized neighborhoods like North Beach and Hayes.
Now, in dying Castro, I see less of a point for it -- this is not a neighborhood that is succeeding with formula retail, like Hayes is. But in a city that is famous for it's unique and local restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and bars, some degree of formula retail, particularly in thriving commercial corridors (Hayes, Valencia, North Beach, etc), makes plenty of sense.
Posted by: JWS at June 19, 2013 3:25 PM
Although I agree with the notion of keeping it local, and respecting the flavor/urban fabric of our rich city, I think that it should be noted that Chipotle is not as far from SF as some may think.
The founder was originally a SF resident and the inspiration came from the way burritos were wrapped in the mission. Truth. It's a great story about how big things start in SF, and a success story that can be celebrated.
disclosure: I'm a huge fan and probably go to the one on New Montgomery a couple times a week so I'm bias, but good to know the full story.
Burrito on amigos.
Posted by: Mike Brown at June 19, 2013 3:53 PM
I dont support SF's provincial no chains codes. I am able to support or not support a particular location with my wallet, and I dont like the planning commission or the BOS to make that decision for me.
Having said that, I think a one story building on this site is ridiculous, so hopefully something will happen with that.
Posted by: Joe at June 19, 2013 4:13 PM
Chipotle was founded in Colorado. They may have copied SF taquerias, but that doesn't make them an SF institution, or that it started in SF.
Posted by: lyqwyd at June 19, 2013 4:22 PM
Founded in CO, yes. Was merely pointing out the fact that the genesis of the idea came from SF, and that it was something of interest and positive to consider. Representing in part, the influence that the Mission has on the country at large.
Does this merit that they should be able to spread their formulaic chain in SF? Not sure.. But it is an interesting tie to SF that can be considered, in my opinion.
Posted by: Mike Brown at June 19, 2013 4:42 PM
A Futurist agrees with a Realist: yes,let the free market work.
SF Planning and BOS should keep out of this business and just do their job to make our city clean, safe and with WORKING transit.
So much arrogance and attitude here by the locals. People still insisting on everyone must live like them and follow the party line.
What a bunch of bs.
Posted by: Futurist at June 19, 2013 5:12 PM
For the record, not everyone loves Chipotle.
My beef isn't about formula retail going in at this major transit connection. Rather, it's the allowance of a 1-story building to remind us of the strip mall mentality that many of our major commercial corridors suffer from. While the answer may not always be a 4-story replacement of market-priced condos over retail perhaps a 4-story office building over retail could help spread out smaller companies across the city.
Posted by: Mark at June 19, 2013 7:37 PM
The building looks great. Would wayyyy rather eat there than most of the "mom and pop" eateries in the Castro. Sad that one doesn't even have the freedom to do so.
Posted by: grrr at June 19, 2013 7:52 PM
Agree with several others here. This corner needs to be redeveloped, plain and simple. Single-story surface parking is an unfortunate relic of a misguided time.
I don't care what goes in the ground floor as long as it's an active use with at least 3-5 stories of residential above.
Posted by: Lurkavore at June 19, 2013 11:23 PM
While I love a funny rendering comment as much as the next person, it only takes a short time working with a 3D program to realize that the wide angle view tends to produce distortions. That's why there is a much wider field of view in the rendering than in the photo.
Again, whatever the feelings of individual posters are here, for every one pro-development person, there are bound to be 3-4 anti-building anti-residential, anti-everything people coming out of the woodwork if the owner tried to develop the site. Why should he/she have to take on that multi-year fight? Because planners want that risk taken? It's unfair for the city to deny a lease merely because some un-elected planning staff members want something else.
And as for the "unfair advantages" of corporate tenants, that they will reliably pay the rent is of course something for which no one besides the owner ever accounts. The building, the site, the parking is actually not a publicly-owned entity. It used to be a restaurant, it has historically been used as a restaurant and now the owner wants to rent to a restaurant. If the city wants a bigger building, they should go buy it for eminent domain prices and let Ed Lee build it.
[Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that we accounted for changes in perspective and distortions in our calculations of relative object heights.]
Posted by: soccermom at June 20, 2013 8:44 AM
Use eminent domain and build some BMR units there, so we can then enjoy the tears of all the people wishing that it had become a Chipotle instead.
Posted by: Rillion at June 20, 2013 9:51 AM
@Grrr: you have the freedom to get in your car and drive to a Chipotle. I don't complain that there isn't a PJ Changs on Taraval rather than deal with any of the hundreds of "mom and pop" Asian restaurants in my hood.
@soccermom: "it used to be a restaurant, it has historically been used as a restaurant and now the owner wants to rent to a restaurant." The issue should not be whether a restaurant occupies this space. The issue is the owner has a rare opportunity to redevelop a site at a major transit crossroads. If it doesn't happen now it will happen in the next 10 years as this stretch of Market builds up.
Posted by: Mark at June 20, 2013 10:08 AM
So, mark, you are simply saying the owner of the property doesn;t have the freedom to open a business and I don;t have the freedom to enjoy that business (no, I'm forced to drive (drive, really, are you sure that's legal?...and do you really want to promote driving?) to go to a restaurant that's a known quantity. The corner is derelict and will likely stay that way with this anti-free-market, heck, anti-free BS...much like the dozens of other empty storefronts on Market from Castro to Church.
Posted by: grrr at June 20, 2013 10:25 AM
You can get to Chipotle downtown on transit or a bike-- no one is forcing you to drive.
And there aren't "dozens of empty storefronts on Market from Castro to Church."
Posted by: Dan at June 20, 2013 10:58 AM
There are like 20 restaurants within a block of there, including several mexican.
The free market is great, but it's not perfect, the biggest flaw that it promotes monopolies and is therefore self destructive. It also only affects commerce, and takes no consideration for other important aspects of life.
On top of that prop 13 and a number of other laws have already skewed the market, which is a large part of how the property has sat vacant for 2 years.
The Chipotle is being blocked on pre-existing laws. It's not stopping the property owner from leasing to a different restaurant, or better yet developing a proper building for that location.
There have been restrictions on what is allowable to go into a particular space for a very long time, and it's nothing unique to SF.
Sometimes the rules are a pain and stop good things from happening, but in this case they've stopped a bad thing from happening.
So this time I'm quite pleased at the outcome. I wouldn't care in the least if a Chipotle went in after a decent development project happens, but right now that lot is underutilized, and we should definitely not allow formula retail which will keep it underdeveloped for decades.
Posted by: lyqwyd at June 20, 2013 11:15 AM
@Grrr: I could not care less if Chipotle or a 5-star restaurant went into that space as long as the lot is utilized properly for an urban setting. Clearly, you don't like the current dining options in the Castro and would prefer to eat at Chipotle. That is your preference and you have the right to your opinion. However, right now you don't have that option in the Castro so you have to travel to get your Mexican chain restaurant fix. Drive, walk, rollerskate, astral project...the options to get there appear to be endless. Not having a Chipotle in that space is an inconvenience factor, not a freedom issue.
Posted by: Mark at June 20, 2013 11:42 AM
The owner of this space has the same obligation to develop his property into [insert your version of what should be here] that a little old lady living in a 800sf cottage with a detached garage on a 3000sf R-3 lot in Bernal has an obligation to knock down her house and build 3 condos for new money buyers. None.
As for the "It's been vacant for 2 years, so that tells you something..." point, I wonder what it is that we are supposed to intuit. That the owner is some fat cat waiting around until he happens to whip out a contract with Chipotle last week for this application? Or is it that, AYFKM it takes this long to get permission for a burrito shop to open?
But really, it's about formula retail, right? That seeing a Safeway and an Ace Hardware near this Chipotle will send passersby into apopleptic fits of encroaching-suburbia-mania.
Essentially, we're living the plot of Footloose, where the town elders are trying to protect the young from the evils of dancing. But the kids want to dance. And the people want burritos, whatever the town elders (recent architecture student planners) imagine about the sanctity of the little corner of the world.
Don't act like you didn't just sing some Kenny Loggins to yourself.
Posted by: soccermom at June 20, 2013 12:40 PM
DOZENS of empty storefronts in what people consider the Castro -- from Castro (including Castro to 19th) to Church and side streets just off market, including former restaurant spots (Blue, 2223,The Patio etc.), the former Diesel space, the vitamin store next to FitnessSF, the Tower Records space, the card shop space next to that, etc., etc. All awaiting some deluge of mom and pop businesses that will NEVER come.
Posted by: grr at June 20, 2013 1:03 PM
According to the Castro CBD in the last two years the landlord of this space was only approached by one other restaurant group who in the end decided not to go into this space. Apparently he is charging the same rent to Chipolte as he was Home.
Posted by: wc1 at June 20, 2013 2:05 PM
You can make up any conspiracy theory you want, but it's simply a case of the existing rules being applied.
I, and many others, like it... while you, and many others, don't.
We can all come up with whatever justifications we want for our side of the argument, but the reality is that these rules have been around for quite some time, nothing new here, and they are being applied exactly as intended, for good result (in my view) in this case.
This is really a fairly mild tool, other cities have used eminent domain in similar situations to take the property and then resell it to a developer.
Perhaps now the owner will realize they aren't going to get the rent they wanted, and will make a rational decision based on that... either rent at a lower price, sell it, or develop it. They can even leave it vacant for many more years if they so desire. The choice is theirs.
Posted by: lyqwyd at June 20, 2013 2:40 PM
I suppose for the sake of completeness it's worth noting that the Planning Commission rejected Chipotle's proposal yesterday.
Posted by: noodle at June 21, 2013 10:45 AM