Noe Valley Voice December-January 1998-99

Coffee Ban Nears Passage

By Pat Rose

A ban on new takeouts and coffee stores on 24th Street is heading for final approval by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Last month the board's Housing and Neighborhood Services Committee voted in favor of the ordinance, passing it on to the full board.

"I'm glad it was passed, and I hope the full board will go along with it, because we've reached the saturation point of restaurants in Noe Valley. We now have over 30 prepared food outlets along our stretch of 24th Street," said Paul Kantus, of the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club. He and other neighborhood residents have been worried that too many cafes and fast-food outlets will destroy the unique flavor of the strip.

The new law -- the Specialty Grocery and Retail Coffee Stores Ordinance -- is the product of a year of heated discussions among merchants and residents.

"I call it the moratorium compromise," said Dave Monks, a member of Friends of Noe Valley. "It now just affects storefronts on 24th Street between Chatta-nooga and Douglass. You could still have a coffeehouse on Castro, for instance."

Bob Roddick, president of the Noe Valley Merchants Association, also thinks the ordinance is something most people can live with. "Essentially, the prohibition is now really restricted to coffee stores, juice bars, and takeouts. We've protected the grocery stores so they can have deli service [as long as there is no seating]. And any specialty grocery store can open up -- whether it's a produce market, an ethnic grocery store, a butcher shop, or a cheese shop. They just can't have table and chair service, or takeout."

Roddick said his group also won an agreement from City Planning that bench seating outside a store would not be counted as part of its seating capacity.

He added that the latest version of the coffee ban seemed to satisfy even those "laissez-faire" merchants. "When neighborhood organizations start working together, we can come to an understanding that serves the entire community."