Despite offering a preliminary recommendation for approval of a proposed food truck court at 701 Valencia Street, SF Planning Commissioners suddenly reversed themselves at the end of a marathon meeting yesterday, unanimously rejecting a conditional use authorization permit to repurpose a typically vacant parking lot at 18th and Valencia.
The 4,800 square foot lot in question is for Cherin’s appliance store, but rarely filled with cars, and on weekends occasionally hosts food trucks like Senor Sisig with a temporary use permit. The rejected proposal, which came from the parking service that operates the lot for Cherin’s, sought to expand that use with semi-permanent tables and more food offerings for a three-year span at least.
During a public comment period at yesterday’s hearing and in written comments beforehand, several neighbors voiced concern over the potential for noise, and the owner of at least one nearby business, taqueria El Buen Sabor, expressed fears that more food businesses on the block would put his restaurant out of business.
Others expressed opposition to the potential for on-site beer or wine sales at the food truck court. Characterizing the project as a beer garden, opponents like Bruce Westland wrote that “residents nearby will not be able to open windows without having to deal with the beer garden customers.”
“Valencia Street has no shortage of beer and food options,” Westland added. “There is no need for another one.”
The news was disappointing to organizer and project sponsor Ryen Motzek. “I felt years of hard work and research... just gone,” the Bay Area native and local entrepreneur said. Motzek operates the parking service Pristine Parking, who Cherin’s hired to operate the lot, as well as a skateboarding shop in San Mateo.
“I’ve felt things out for years, talked to fellow friends who own and work in restaurants, friends with retail spaces on Valencia. There was nothing, but ‘wow, that’s a really good idea for that corner.’”
Because his plans had been met with a preliminary approval recommendation and backed up with letters of support, Motzek faced the meeting alone, telling his wife and other supporters to leave the lengthy proceedings as they ran late.
The project was supported — with letters of recommendation sent to the planning commissioners — by the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, the executive director of Livable City and Sunday Streets, and some neighbors like Christopher Nash, who lives on 18th Street.
“We are looking forward to seeing this parking lot transformed into a community space with food trucks, tables, and planters,” Nash wrote. “We expect the changes to be quite positive for our neighborhood.”
After meeting with opponents of his project, Motzek says he’s made all the concessions he can. “I’ve adjust the timing, the vibe — other than not doing it, I’ve compromised on everything.” As for others who feared loss of business, “I would have said to them, ‘why don’t we offer seating for your customers in our lot.’”
Motzek says he hoped to create space for local businesses like those from nearby food incubator La Cocina, and will consider his options for appealing the decision. La Cocina also registered its support with a letter to the planning department.
Eater SF has reached out to Planning Commissioners for comment and will update accordingly.