A cafe with designs to open for "tea, coffee, and snacks" in a Mission Street storefront near 24th Street that's been empty since 2015 is now in the crosshairs of at least one local activist because it could propel the “Valencia-nation” of the corridor. Last fall, Mission Local learned of the plan for a 20-person occupancy business at 2761 Mission Street, previously home to Sapphire Photo which closed in 2015, to be called Tea Art cafe. The business owner, identified as Terry Chan, did not respond to that publication's request for comment.

This week, Socketsite reported that activists had filed a request for Discretionary Review vis-a-vis the project, which would require a conversion of the space from retail to restaurant. From that request:

The “Valencia-nation” of Mission St is currently occurring with negative displacement impacts on the Latino and working-class communities, the elderly, and children. Projects such as this one that convert retail to restaurant would contribute to this negative outcome.

This project will create displacement and gentrification impacts in the Latino Cultural District and is not a “necessary” or “desirable” project for the existing community. This project is in conflict with Priority Policy 1 of the General Plan in that it eliminates neighborhood-serving retail use and replaces it with restaurant use.

There are currently six active restaurant proposals for Mission Street alone right now, and this stable, working-class Latino corridor is on the tipping point of flipping to being a “destination site” for tourists and upscale workers. Once retail use is converted to restaurant use it rarely ever changes back. This is destabilizing to working-class communities. This project would contribute to displacement not only on Mission St but in the entire Mission neighborhood.

Mission Local caught up with Rick Hall, an activist behind the opposition.“All parties should be aware at this point that the Mission community does not wish to see any more restaurant conversions on Mission Street,” he told Mission Local, who characterize Hall as a "frequent opponent of new developments in the Mission." Previously, he's taken issue with development projects like 184 units ofhousing proposed for 1500 15th Street and 157 units proposed for South Van Ness and 26th Street.

Hall identifies himself as part of a group of organizations called United to Save the Mission who have organized against other area retail-to-restaurant conversions. After meeting with some business, such as a proposed falafel shop, they've dropped their opposition. Mission Local adds that "It’s unclear how widespread their support is and whether they can prevent any one business from going forward," and Hall admits he "doesn't know exactly how" to ensure that local businesses open to serve the existing neighborhood. "Throwing a little noise onto the issue like we’re doing with challenging the retail to restaurant conversions may help with that process," he says.

Tommy Woo, the contractor on the Tea Art project, disagrees. “Some people complain about everything,” he tells Mission Local. “You have to utilize [the space], otherwise it’s a waste of space.” Good point.

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