Zeitgeist, among San Francisco's best known bars and choice few beer gardens, celebrates its 40th anniversary next month, having recently attained Legacy Business status in its wizened, grizzly old age. But just as that event nears, a literal shadow on the horizon could threaten the establishment's crown jewel, that seasonally sun-drenched patio area, and therefore its livelihood as a business, or so general manager Gideon Bush informs SFist.
A development at 198 Valencia Street at the Northwest corner of Valencia and Duboce — currently an oil changing business and its parking lot directly across from Zeitgeist's 199 Valencia address — is nearing approval, and while Bush explains that the project has been in the pipeline for some years, since 2013 according to Socketsite, the bar has recently discovered the effect of shadow that would be cast by the current designs for a five-story condo building with commercial ground floor space.
The realization occurred following shadow analysis performed in accordance with 1984 San Francisco Proposition K, the so-called "Sunlight Ordinance" which restricts buildings that cast shadows on public spaces such as parks. Just north of Zeitgeist and its neighboring business Black Heart Tattoo is a small sliver public space, SoMa West Dog Park, tucked beside the 101. "Through that [review] we realized the shadow cast by this building will a have a significant impact during what we call our busy season, the months of March through about late November, when we get that late summer that sun Francisco is so well known for," Bush told SFist.
Zeitgeist has filed a discretionary review to voice its concerns, as have other nearby businesses with different ones. As Bush Clarifies, "While the building won't completely take away our sunshine, it will have an impact from 4:30 p.m. to about sunset, when people are getting off work and might want to enjoy the last few hours of daylight. That would cease to exist at Zeitgeist if this development goes through as planned."
The 198 Valencia development would provide 28 units of housing and was granted a Market and Octavia Plan-based exemption from a full environmental review this summer. Adamantly, Bush explains that "we don't want to stop this development" and establishes that he and the bar are pro-housing generally. Asked to describe a satisfactory solution to the predicament, then, Bush gestures toward compromise: "Ideally, we and the developers would work to find a fair balance. Obviously they've spent money and invested in the plans and space over there, as we've done over there, and the city does need housing. So we want housing to go over there. But we want to strike a fair balance." That could mean taking a level off the building, or redesigning it, "so that it isn't casting such an aggressive shadow," Bush said.
Zeitgeist, true to its name, "is a space that that offers a view into the fiber of what we are at this time in San Francisco," Bush says. "We get people from all backgrounds: Bike messengers, motorcyclists, restaurant industry folks, people who work in tech and finance. We're proud we provide a space for people like that, it helps develop some of that community. Our concern with this development — and we do want to be clear that we're pro-development, and that housing is an important thing for the city, and important for our area as well — but it needs to take into consideration some of the things that are going on and have been going on for a long time in the community."