The owners of the two-story Mission district building at the corner of Valencia and Sycamore which is currently occupied by the Elbo Room have quietly drafted plans to raze the bar and construct a new five-story building in its place.

Early plans for the development include nine (9) residential units, three one-bedrooms and six two-bedrooms, ranging in size from 500 to 1,000 square feet over a 770 square-foot commercial space and parking for six (6) cars on the ground floor.

While the existing building at 645 Valencia Street wasn’t deemed to be historic when reviewed as part of the Inner Mission Historic Resource Survey in 2011, the Planning Department has since “received additional information that suggests that the subject property may have associations with the history of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals in San Francisco.”

As such, the owners will be required to provide a Historic Resource Evaluation (HRE) to determine whether the subject property is a historic resource for the purposes of CEQA in order to move forward with any development.

UPDATE: While some might wish it were, and others seem to be implying that it is, our report isn’t based on rumor or speculation but rather the Preliminary Project Assessment for the development which was submitted to San Francisco’s Planning Department for review. The first page and a quarter of the Planning Department’s response to the application:

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by James

    That would be sad. I’m not a fan of the bar but I love the space. The interior is truly the kind of place they don’t make anymore. Especially with the current trend for recreating old “speakeasies” it’s nice to have a few locations that are still actually that way.

  2. Posted by Build Build Build

    There is an urgent need for housing. This needs to be happening a hundred times more throughout the city.

  3. Posted by OMN

    This is unfortunate. The Elbo Room is one of the better bars in the Mission. However, housing is more important – some other bars will pick up the slack.

  4. Posted by Futurist

    Keep building. If Elbo room and its’ patrons want to keep SF like a little backwater village, then they can build the piece of land and preserve it for all eternity.
    Maybe time to crowd-fund?
    That should go over big.

  5. Posted by outtahere

    Yes, again, this x 100. But Futurist, it’s not fully parked. I thought that was your specialty?

  6. Posted by sfjohn

    Ah now we’re a “little backwater village” – referencing the past a little? We haven’t been a ‘backwater’ in at least 100 years. The pretentious know-it-all comments on here are always a source of amusement

  7. Posted by Sam

    Sad, I’m all for housing but I guess Im a nimby on this one. Without Elbo Room I will literally have no reason to step foot on Valencia anymore, except the occasional Zeitgeist venture to relive my very early 20s I guess.
    Fun bar, fun music venue, will be a big blow to the Mission. Now we have what? Benders, Make-out room, Pops, and way further down El Rio and Knockout? Only a matter of time until those go.
    I guess we can have another $12 chocolate bar store in its place. Honestly I don’t even know what I’m doing in this city anymore. Portland just doesn’t do it for me really, Oakland isn’t really as cool as people want it to be, it’s kind of skipped the hyper cool stage and slipped into wine bar phase.

  8. Posted by S

    This was a lesbian bar called Amelia’s when Valenica hosted that community. I think that’s the LGBTQ history they’re alluding to

  9. Posted by Sam

    Yes, Amelias, Elbo Room makes a reference to it every year during Pride. Really that whole stretch of Valencia was similar

  10. Posted by Sierrajeff

    We desperately need housing, but we also need variety in the streetscape, and quirky historical spaces. Someday when SoMa’s cookie-cutter towers with formula ground-floor retail, from the Embarcadro to 9th Street, you’ll all wonder why it has no charm or character.
    Even midtown Manhattan has its 2 and 3 and 4 story old buildings here and there – often housing great little bars or restaurants that could never afford glass box rent.

  11. Posted by Sam

    Manhattan doesn’t have any bars like this anymore (I’m sure Ill get arguments here). The LES is maybe the closest, but the LES of Manhattan is effectively maybe a slightly less hip version of Polk St in SF.

  12. Posted by Jesse

    This “desperate need for housing” is not going to be greatly reduced by 9 units that you can be sure as shit won’t be “affordable” in any way to the truly desperate.
    I’m all for change and an evolving city but this slash and burn method is really hurting the city as it becomes just another urban blight for the tech* industry.
    * tech now being more and more defined as building platforms to serve ads.

  13. Posted by Frank C.

    Could preserve it for the neighborhood in exchange for an air-rights trade – i.e. you could build that much more higher than otherwise in a different nearby parcel. Happens in NYC.

  14. Posted by moto mayhem

    heres my idea. make it 7 floors and preserve the 2 bottom floors for elbow room.

  15. Posted by noe mom

    When places like this go, it is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Killing the funk will eventually kill Valencia Street values. The social AND the monetary. These owners are just trying to cash in which is only human nature.
    I like the idea to add the seven floors. Kind of like a remodel (that is really a demo). But maybe they will presserve it, in some fashion or other.
    There is always McLaren Park for building all this housing that is apparently so needed.

  16. Posted by Charles

    Again, a building where they could build in the old facade to the new building. I like the air rights idea- that should be used more in the city’s low rise areas. Historical case doesn’t seem all that compelling.

  17. Posted by Rob

    I understand infill and building on underused lots, or razing dilapidated structures, but WTF. This bar still has a crowd, a decent music venue and the only place in the Mission with Galaga.
    Sure, we need more housing, but tearing stuff down for a few more stories seems a bit odd, especially when there are plenty of completely empty lots within a short distance.

  18. Posted by Futurist

    Of course we haven’t been a “backwater village” for over century. Read my sarcasm into that, mainly attacking the Nimby’s who wish to preserve everything.
    Seems the battle cry continues to be build, build, build thinking (wrongly) that it will solve the housing crisis and “affordability” crisis.
    It won’t.
    So build 7 stories or more over the Elbo room, add below grade parking, and put the bar back in place when it’s all done.
    Should make everybody happy. But don’t forget: those new condos will sell for $1m and over.
    Fine with me.

  19. Posted by Tuffy

    Thank goodness everyone is moving to the Mission so we can tear down all the place that attracted these people to the Mission in the first place.

  20. Posted by Ratz

    Yet another great SF institution falls. Valencia is already spoken of with the kind of disdain previously reserved for the Marina. One less reason to go there.
    “100 x over” of ugly market-rate condos won’t bring the cost of housing down. But if you’re in a hurry to turn this fair city (which was NEVER a backwater) into a soulless place like San Diego, then, by all means, tear down all the great places. I bet the lots under the Castro Theater and the Fillmore Auditorium would fetch handsome profits, too.

  21. Posted by Horsepucky

    On our way to a boring city. I hope the future owners of these million dollar condos see people shooting up in the alley every day.

  22. Posted by speculation frustration

    less music, more parking, more unaffordable housing. who needs six parking spaces for a building on one of the best bike routes, most walkable streets, and closest to transit, central neighborhoods in the city?

  23. Posted by Jim

    Gimme a f’n break. Twenty years ago a new generation of hipsters gentrified this place to their taste, and the lesbian bar Amelia’s died, to untold weeping and gnashing of teeth by its habitues. Now another generation of San Franciscans will gentrify the site to their taste. (And if you read Yelp, the Elbo Room gets a decidedly mixed review anyway.) There are plenty of downwardly mobile sites the Elbo Room can move to in the Valencia-Mission corridor. And if they want to stay there forever instead of getting gentrified out in the future the owners can put their profits into purchasing the real estate instead of up their noses.

  24. Posted by Futurist

    Exactly, Jim.
    It’s all the constant whiners here who can’t stand change, thinking THEY are the ones who created this city and it should stay just to their liking.
    The Elbo room is just another fake dive bar and it can move anywhere.

  25. Posted by Sam

    Dont discount San Diego, North Park is actually pretty fun and one can’t rent a one bedroom for literally a grand.

  26. Posted by suburbanoid

    The past no longer exists. You can’t go back there. Drinkers are not being marginalized. This should be permitted and built as soon as possible. Housing is more important.

  27. Posted by Sam

    Maybe it’s time for bars like this to just continue the trek down mission Street, wait for the next down turn with glee

  28. Posted by Jeff Johnson

    Well that’s sad and terrible. Personally I’m tired of this untested argument that the solution to SF’s housing problems is to build more luxury housing. 9 units of $1M+ housing isn’t going to make a dent? Who’s to say it won’t just bring 9 more rich people from Palo Alto / Menlo Park / Mountainview to SF so they can take fancy buses back to their workplaces in Palo Alto / Menlo Park / Mountainview?

  29. Posted by Huffy

    Good lord let’s hope this is a BS article designed to generate web views! SF’s music venues are dropping like flies, especially the smaller venues needed to actually have a “local music scene”. That is a part San Francisco culture, history, and life we can’t afford to let die. ¡¡¡VIVA LA ELBO!!!

  30. Posted by Phengren Oswald

    This is not happening. Not anytime in the near or even distant future.

  31. Posted by Valenchia

    The entire “we need more housing argument” is a bit odd as it is unclear who “we” is and who needs the housing. These new developments will be very expensive and the City can’t afford to subsidize “affordable” housing for everyone who would want to move into the City. So the result seems to be just growth for the sake of making developers richer, not improving the quality of the life of anyone who lives in the City. Maybe the goal is to just keep on building apartments and destroying character until the number of people who find the City an interesting or pleasant place to live diminishes.

  32. Posted by anon

    ^Hint – the “we” is the people moving into the housing.

  33. Posted by SocketSite

    UPDATE: While some might wish it were, and others seem to be implying that it is, our report isn’t based on rumor or speculation but rather the Preliminary Project Assessment for the development as drafted which was submitted to San Francisco’s Planning Department for review.
    The first page and a quarter of the Planning Department’s response to the application has been added above.

  34. Posted by BTinSF

    They turned the Club Baths over to the homeless. There’s nothing of gay San Francisco left worth preserving.

  35. Posted by Not really...

    @Jeff Johnson – Housing in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and the areas of Mountain View with good schools is more expensive than SF real estate. A 3/2 with dated baths/kitchen and no family room will cost you $1.7M in the entry level Menlo Park neighborhood, $1.5M in the Mountain View good areas, and is unreachable in Palo Alto…land with uninhabitable homes (or nothing at all) in Palo Alto is essentially at $1.9M. There was just a tear down on a lot that went $1M over the list price and sold for just shy of $3M. On top of that, many of these cities are difficult to get into for cash reasons. There was a three-month stretch last year where, according to data input in the MLS, over 60% of the closed deals in Palo Alto were all cash. Many of the remaining financed deals were 40% down or more. Buyers with 20% down struggle tremendously in this marketplace, even if they have strong income.
    Those three cities have a major affordability and inventory crisis that in many ways is on par, if not worse, than San Francisco. I know it sounds absurd, but those people are buying in SF because it’s CHEAPER to buy up there.
    They also desperately need to add housing. Mountain View is doing a phenomenal job and as their new units hit the market over the next few years (many of which will also start at around $1M, particularly in the desirable areas), the city will hit a renaissance. Palo Alto and Menlo Park have deeply entrenched NIMBY coalitions who are viciously stopping projects right now. There are two large scale 180+ unit townhouse complexes being proposed for empty plots of land on El Camino Real right now that are being protested by residents who don’t even live close by, and a group of Palo Alto citizens is trying to push a moratorium on ALL new construction, even if it is approved and zoning compliant.
    I personally think the affordability and housing crisis in the mid-Peninsula is worse than San Francisco’s, but they are very similar markets. Many of the techies you are talking about cannot afford the mid-Peninsula communities in their wildest dreams.

  36. Posted by Spencer

    “Who’s to say it won’t just bring 9 more rich people from Palo Alto / Menlo Park / Mountainview to SF so they can take fancy buses back to their workplaces in Palo Alto / Menlo Park / Mountainview?”
    And what is wrong with this? They have as much right to buy it as anyone else. I think you would agree that the 17000 tech workers taking buses to the valley is better than 17000 cars. Most of these people are young and want to live in the city for culture and nightlife. They are also liberal and probably contribute more to the city than the majority of other residents. Why the hate?
    Bye, I’m not in tech and I commute from SF to Marin. I just don’t get the mentality you and the bus protestors have

  37. Posted by Ted

    I am a social worker who had to leave SF and my employment due to my inability to compete with the tech folks for an apartment (I lost mine after 17 years). My job has not been filled and probably won’t be.
    These apartments will be out my price range and the price range of nurses and teachers etc. I worry for SF.

  38. Posted by Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM))

    @Ted: don’t worry, all your patients will be displaced too due to gentrification. Unless the government pays to keep them in the city, the situation will resolve itself. Where did you end up moving to?

  39. Posted by Futurist

    Ted: I’m curious as to how you “lost” your apartment.

  40. Posted by jill

    “These apartments will be out my price range and the price range of nurses and teachers etc. I worry for SF.”
    Whydoes this make you worry? Not sure why every profession needs to livve in the 7×7. And the unnafordable area is probably 5×5.

  41. Posted by Futurist

    @ Jill: I keep saying the same thing; All the complainers about the high cost of renting/owning ONLY want to live in the “pricey and trendy” parts of SF: Upper Market, Castro, Noe, etc.
    The refuse to consider the other less costly (southern)neighborhoods to move to and, over time, improve those areas and make them livable and hip.
    So they just complain and complain, and won’t take responsibility for their choices.

  42. Posted by soccermom

    And we’re back!!!!
    I think of this every time the topic comes up. It’s not my best work, and frankly I could barely touch the bridge. It’s too good.
    If this comment gets pulled, Governor Christie, I am going to be posting Huey Lewis references in protest all week.
    Range Rovers parking And M3’s too
    Bourgeoisie dreamland post collegiate pride
    Some inspired moment, of how scrape the data
    The hobo’s odor strong, but my future’s wide
    Gentrify Me
    Gentrify Me
    I need perfection some twisted code injection
    And while I commute, my bus keeps me alive
    In all that exists, my Instagram is beauty
    I got all the street cred, that my ‘hood provides
    Gentrify Me
    Gentrify Me
    Eternally wild with the power
    To make every moment come alive
    All those stars that shine upon you
    Will kiss the Mission every night
    Range Rovers parking And M3’s too
    Bourgeoisie dreamland post collegiate pride
    Some inspired moment, of how scrape the data
    The hobo’s odor strong, but my future’s wide

  43. Posted by Futurist

    Well, I’m honored. Sort of.
    Should I be?
    No Ranger Rover in my garage.
    Or M3.
    I like my hood.
    It’s pretty good.
    Others too.
    Expand your view.
    Gentrify. Yes.
    Don’t cry. It’s all for the best.

  44. Posted by seriously

    Gentrification is vilifying people for moving to an area that they can afford. I don’t think anyone singlehandedly thinks “Sure feels good pushing those old folks out!”
    Let’s just freeze the city in carbonite so nothing changes and no one gets butthurt.

  45. Posted by Joseph A

    The city needs more housing , BUT , if we were just talking about the lot at 647 I would say sure build it and take it up 5 stories , but since this conversation also includes 645 I need to raise some concern.
    This has a lot less to do with who patronized the Bar at 645 , but rather its more about taking a building that is nearly 100 years old , looks great at least from the street , and proposing to level it for a generic housing project.
    My request would be that if anyone puts forth requests to renovate 645 or 623 Valencia that they be required to maintain the external walls and facades, and that they be given license to build new modern structures that tower above them n a similar manner to what has been done to some building in the SOMA near the Ballpark.

  46. Posted by Futurist

    @ Joseph A: I don’t know if you would call yourself a Nimby or not, but your proposal simply smacks of Nimbyism at its’ best:
    1. The existing building is completely NON historic,and of no historical or architectural heritage. It lacks any distinguishing architectural features and most likely is seismically deficient. “Looking great from the street” is a weak argument without merit for saving it.
    2. The existing bar can be moved anywhere. The patrons will follow.
    3. Saving the existing walls, as you suggest, would only add INCREASED COST and time delays to any project at that location. It would do nothing to solve the cost of housing.
    This is precisely why Nimbyism solves nothing but increasing the cost of new housing in San Francisco.

  47. Posted by diverj

    The Elbo Room is historically significant and therefore should be around for perpetuity. Lot of hookups in that bar.

  48. Posted by Dan

    The Elbo Room isn’t going anywhere. From their Facebook page:
    Elbo Room
    57 minutes ago
    Wow, woke up to see even more blog posts regarding the “Imminent Demise of Elbo Room” and not a single one bothered to check with us or the owners of the building for the real truth. Once again, We Are Not Closing, if we were, I’d be freaking out….the building owners (close friends of ours), submitted a proposal (which has to be public), but are not acting on it at this time. We truly appreciate the kind words…Thanx…now come by and have a drink..see a show!
    -Matt Shapiro Elbo Room Co-Owner and Booker

  49. Posted by poor.ass.millionaire

    Damn those tech busses!

  50. Posted by ty

    Any new building/construction within 5 blocks for the target tenant will garner complaints from said tennants (sound, trash, safety, etc.) Until they shut it all down. That’s the loss. Will it recover in a way they want, or just be vacant expensive high rent soon becoming unrentable blank spaces without character.
    It works now. Don’t destroy it.

  51. Posted by Jym

    ≈ Amelia’s was great, much better history than the current use, but it’s been gone a long time.
    How about zero (0) spaces for cars? Valencia is a green wave street parallel to a transit corridor. More housing is needed but more cars absolutely are not.

  52. Posted by Alai

    There may be practical reasons not to save (parts of) the existing building. But if you’re building a 9200 square foot building on a 2800 sf lot, you can do better than 770 square feet of commercial space–especially when you’re replacing a 5300 square foot space.
    This has happened again and again– it’s a commercial corridor. If you look at the old buildings, including the multistory ones, they fit both apartments and significant & useful commercial spaces. The new ones? They have a token space, enough for some boutique, and that’s it.

  53. Posted by Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM))

    Just offer the developers 1 or 2 more stories so they can get 2 stories of commercial, 1 level of parking and 5 levels of apartments. The commercial could even be zoned “dive bar.”

  54. Posted by mamiel

    I’m pro-housing construction, but I am NIMBY on this proposal. The Elbo Room is not just a “bar” with other bars taking up the slack. They will not simply be able to move. It’s a rare live music venue in a town where caberet licenses are increasingly hard to get. Live music is endangered in San Francisco.

  55. Posted by joh

    Sad if the Elbo Room disappears. Though I haven’t been inside for the better part of a decade, I have some very fond memories of that place. The Elbo Room is unique, moving it to a new location or a new space, as others have suggested, will change it.
    With that said I agree with the need for more housing. I just think there are a lot of better places to build it.

  56. Posted by Futurist

    This is why Nimbyism is so mis-guided:
    1. Why will the Elbo room “not simply be able to move”? Explain. Is the location seriously that sacred? If this project were developed and built, why could the bar not move back into the same corner location, albeit a new building; and probably seismically safe?
    2. Why would simply moving it to a new location, even in the same neighborhood “change” it? If it’s such a great venue for music and socializing, and it may well be won’t the patrons simply follow to the new location?

  57. Posted by Jim

    Alai, have you noticed how much vacant commercial space there is in the Inner Mission, in Union Square, in SF overall, in the US overall? All economic predictions point to a continuing overall declining need for commercial space as more and more shopping is done online. Have you looked at SF zoning requirements that emphasize provision of small spaces, not large? I would not worry about this site providing just one of those smaller new spaces the City requires, or the Elbo Room finding a great new space where the customers will follow them.

  58. Posted by Dan

    I’m not anti-development, but why destroy what makes Valencia Street Valencia Street? Why replace early 20th century commercial buildings, occupied by popular independent retail, restaurants, and bars/clubs with a soulless condo building with a token retail space occupying only a small fraction of the ground floor? What’s next–tearing down those crumbling structures housing bars, restaurants, and shops on Castro Street between 17th and 19th Street? Who needs them now that we have the internet?

  59. Posted by Bob

    The Fillmore Theater in the Western Edition could nicely accommodate three or four talented programmers.

  60. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I had thought that Valencia scene was over when the Epicenter Zone closed. Instead it just evolved. It is different: You’re not going to find the volume of vinyl on that street anymore but there’s other stuff to replace it.

  61. Posted by Ty - Pmheart6

    San Francisco (Culture & Gentrification of a thriving community): I don’t know how, and while I don’t like regulation, they need a subsidy for the average worker. We’re not talking section 8, but living wage workers. A higher minimum wage? Or housing vouchers/credits? They need to keep people in the city. Higher minimum wage, doesn’t keep them in the city (just commute, and thus destroys community & culture) Yes, they need to increase housing units. 9 is not enough, nor is destroying the neighborhood the thing to do. Locals know, but see this week’s Time article (Feb 14) already on the shelves. They had rent control, how about luxury tax for high rent to discourage no fault evictions vs tax breaks for rich in the city. They want to be there because of the culture. Don’t destroy it, make them pay for it.

  62. Posted by Jeff A

    Well, seeing as how I’m 86’ed from the Elbo Room… fuck em. Burn it down

  63. Posted by Exbernaler

    I’m sad that Elbo room may be moving/closing, but things change. As Valencia prices out the cool things that made it desirable, a new cool neighborhood will bubble up somewhere else. The bookstores of Valencia migrated to 24th Street. And so it goes.

  64. Posted by Jill

    Need housing more than the elbo room, but why not both? 2 stories of underground parking ( to ease street congestion and allow B&T elbo room crowd to park)+ 2 stories elbo room + 5 -6stories condos. No reason can’t build 8 stories high here and get in at least 20 condos

  65. Posted by Jill

    Need housing more than the elbo room, but why not both? 2 stories of underground parking ( to ease street congestion and allow B&T elbo room crowd to park)+ 2 stories elbo room + 5 -6stories condos. No reason can’t build 8 stories high here and get in at least 20 condos

  66. Posted by anon

    ^Yes, certainly nothing eases street congestion like encouraging more comes to drive into the area to park. Sweet idea. Next we’ll have diets with more ice cream.

  67. Posted by moto mayhem

    “^Yes, certainly nothing eases street congestion like encouraging more comes to drive into the area to park. Sweet idea. Next we’ll have diets with more ice cream.”
    Much of street congestion is caused by people circling looking for parking spots. When you dont provide a place for people to store their cars when not in use, then you get this congestion problem. Most people who own have cars and most will continue to do so, so either you rpovide storage or you increase street congestion.
    a better analogy is not providing toilets for people who need to shit. If they cant shit at home, then they will shit on the street.

  68. Posted by anon

    Much of street congestion is caused by people circling looking for parking spots.
    And the rest of it is caused by people driving to parking spots. Why do you assume that building more parking will cause a decrease in the first cause of congestion but no increase in the second? Are you suggesting that demand is static? That in this one case we actually can build our way out of congestion? Maybe you should be a traffic engineer, as no traffic engineer has ever successfully built a region out of congestion by adding lanes and parking…

  69. Posted by Boris

    Are you suggesting that demand is static?
    I would definitely assume that’s what he means, since he used the toilets analogy. Everyone has to poop, and roughly the same amount of times regardless of how much they eat. Now obviously, the same is not true for cars and parking, since we see more cars everywhere where more parking exists. Maybe moto can enlighten us as to why SF is unique in that additional parking will not bring in additional cars. Something in the water maybe?

  70. Posted by Joel V

    9 units? Not even worth it. Plus, enough with the parking requirements.

  71. Posted by S

    Valencia is a driver’s hell. if you’re stupid enough to drive there you deserve to spend time looking for parking. PS if you head 1/2 a block past mission you’ll find a spot in no time

  72. Posted by moto mayhem

    “I would definitely assume that’s what he means, since he used the toilets analogy. ”
    Does building more toilets make people want to poop more? no, but it sure does provide a good place to put your waste

  73. Posted by anon

    ^Pooping demand is basically static, that was the point that Boris was making. Parking demand is not.

  74. Posted by Brian M

    People have to eat (and then poop). People do not have to drive in a congested urban neighborhood. They only think they do. Or have the sense of entitlement that demands they be catered to.

  75. Posted by jonas

    Gotta love SF NIMBYism
    Quote: I haven’t been inside the Elbo Room for at least a decade, but there has to be a better place for housing.
    Since when does a bar trump housing? Of course the bar could reoccupy the ground floor of a new bldg.

  76. Posted by 4oceans

    I sure hope they’ll have $4 toast

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