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D-Day For Castro Chipotle Nears as Company Launches Final PR Offensive [Update]

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Reps for sustainable-burrito giant Chipotle are heading to the Planning Commission on June 20 to find out whether they will or will not be able to open a new location in the former Home restaurant space at Church and Market. This battle, one of several happening around town relating to formula retail, dates back about a year now, when the company announced its plans to open a first of its kind urban neighborhood location that will serve beer, wine, and margaritas. The location is a prominent one, and nearby merchants and neighbors have been at odds, with both each other and Chipotle, over whether or not the chain should be able to move in to the space?which, we should point out, once upon a time was home to a Boston Market.

As Castro Biscuit notes, the company has done some petition drives on the sidewalk over the past few months, offering chips and guacamole in exchange for signatures of support, but the anti-Chipotle petition has almost twice as many signatures at this point (744 vs. 435 in favor, at least on this online petition).

At least one disgruntled neighbor defaced a public meeting notice posted at the Church and Market location, writing "BULLSHIT!" across the top of it. And Castro Biscuit blogger Roy McKenzie notes that there are two taquerias within throwing distance, and "Some Castro residents would rather see the Castro business plan match the Valencia corridor instead of the Westfield Mall."

Chipotle meanwhile posted the above ad in one of the windows of the building, pointing out that they already have a strong presence in S.F. with 215 employees, and the new location would provide an additional 30 jobs. They also just finished hosting a huge free music and food festival in Golden Gate Park last weekend, and you can bet they will rally a number of supporters to speak on their behalf at the Planning meeting next week.

One argument in favor of allowing Chipotle to move forward is that they could be the lesser of many evils when it comes to interest in that space, at least because they have a sustainable food ethos. Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold was quoted earlier this year as saying that the company had already been approached by a couple of other chains who wouldn't mind taking the lease of their hands. "They're not independent local operators ? they're national or regional concepts or restaurant groups," he said. Also, an issue with the liquor license never having been extended to the restaurant's patio area was part of the reason Home closed in the first place, and a small restaurateur isn't likely to be able to afford to rectify that.

And when it comes to formula retail in the Upper Market corridor, Supervisor Scott Wiener recently worked to revise restrictions governing Planning approval, in large part because of all the prominent ground floor retail spaces coming in the pipeline because of all the new residential construction. Under his the changes approved by the Planning Commision, decisions about formula retail in this district are based on whether a 20-percent concentration of formula retail already exists in a 300-foot radius. [Editors' Note: This has been corrected to show that Wiener has not lessened restrictions on formula retail.]

Stay tuned for more after the June 20 meeting.

Update: The Planning Department has recommended that the Commission reject Chipotle's bid. So it's not looking good. [Bay Area Reporter]

Update 2: Everyone should be aware that if the Planning Commission rejects the conditional use permit for Chipotle, Chipotle can still appeal to the Board of Supervisors.

· Chipotle marketing juggernaut targeting Castro residents [Castro Biscuit]
· Chipotle Working Hard to Win Over the Castro, Move Into Former Home Restaurant [Grub Street]
· Want a Castro Chipotle? You'll Have to Ask For It [~ESF~]


2100 Market Street, San Francisco, CA