Fans of the historic Grubstake diner in Polk Gulch were saddened six years ago when new owners of the property announced plans to raze the building in order to build condos on the site. As these things often go, the project hasn't moved very quickly and the beloved diner has remained open despite an earlier plan to close it in 2017. Now, a finalized project has won its approval, and plans are in place for a new Grubstake on the ground floor.
As Hoodline reports, the Planning Commission took up the project at 1525 Pine Street on Thursday, and the vote was 4-2 in favor of approval. Dissenting voices on the commission voiced concerns over the light impacts on the residential tower next door that's risen in recent years, The Austin, but these were not enough to sway the four commissioners who voted to approve.
The project, originally envisioned as a seven-story tower with 28 units, was downsized to 15 units at one point, and then upsized to 21 units and eight stories thanks to the state's density bonus law. The plan all along has been to reserve space for a "railcar themed" diner on the first floor to keep the spirit of the Grubstake alive, and that continues to be the case.
The diner has longstanding ties to the LGBTQ community from back in the days when Polk Street was the center of gay life in San Francisco — and while it's been known as the Grubstake for 45 or more years, the space has been a restaurant since 1919. As Hoodline notes, the railcar theme — which now consists of a partial train car sticking out of the front facade — harkens back to the days of nighttime lunch wagons in the late 1800s. And it's been a favorite late-night haunt of drag queen Juanita MORE! going back three decades — thus she made an appearance at the Planning Commission meeting and spoke in favor of the project, per Hoodline.
"I approve of this current buildout. I spoke with the owners, I’ve seen the plans. I’m very happy with it," MORE said. "When the Austin went up, I found that to be the eyesore. There are pieces of the Grubstake that I believe will be installed into the new building which makes me very happy. It’s been a longtime part of the LGBTQ+ community."
The new building, designed by architects Kerman Morris, features angular bay windows offset from each other and painted in primary colors. The developers are are Jimmy Consos and former Mayes Oyster House partner Nick Pigott.
Planning Commissioner Kathrin Moore, one of the dissenting votes, said of the new project, "While it is a well-designed building, it is still not designed in context."
The Grubstake remains open for now, doing indoor dining as well delivery/takeout — so check out this historic space before it goes away.