San Francisco’s Planning Commission has staved off a Castro restaurant’s attempt to keep a competitor from opening, as last week it declined to hear a discretionary review from one falafel restaurant that had hoped to block a similar spot from opening in the area.
San Francisco’s Castro District has long been plagued by empty storefronts and shuttered restaurants, with many of the typical factors blamed for the issue: inability to staff, the high cost of doing business in San Francisco, and issues with landlords. But none of those problems deterred Assaf Pashut from wanting to open another location of Flying Falafel Vegan Sandwich Bar on 463 Castro Street, in a location most recently occupied by a clothing store.
When Pashut approached the city’s Planning Commission to change the use of the space, he was hit with opposition by Cem Bulutoglu, one of the owners of Gyro Xpress (499 Castro street). In a letter sent to Planning, Bulutoglu argued that “there are three falafel shops on the 400 block of Castro,” and requested a discretionary review of Pashut’s plan, a process that could delay Flying Falafel’s progress for months, or even kill it completely.
Earlier this month, the Bay Area Reporter noted that the Planning Commission did not believe that the Flying Falafel would present “an exceptional or extraordinary circumstance with respect to the compatibility of the proposed use within the neighborhood,” but that Bulutoglu’s complaint could cause them to reconsider.
Last week, however, Planning decided that the Flying Falafel did not need the review, but only narrowly: commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of the discretionary review, but the requirement needed four votes to pass. Speaking to the BAR, Pashut says that he’s unsure when the Castro Flying Falafel will open its doors, saying “We’ll probably have a temporary pop-up until we have more time next year.”