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Group That Includes Haight Pizza Spot Hires Trump-Boosting Lawyer To Block Sleeping Space For Homeless Folks

Also: A COVID-19 case at Noe Valley’s Whole Foods, and more news to start your day

The owners of Haight Street’s Escape From New York Pizza are suing San Francisco to block a temporary sleeping spot for homeless people
Escape From New York/Instagram

Escape From New York Pizza is one of the most prominent members of a group that’s suing SF over a plan to allow homeless people to rest at a parking lot

Since 2018, the city of San Francisco has owned the spot at Haight and Stanyan Streets that for years was home to a notoriously-troubled McDonald’s restaurant. The plan, eventually, is to develop the real estate into affordable housing, but last week the city announced that the lot would be temporarily repurposed as a socially-distanced safe sleeping site for homeless people during the coronavirus crisis. Now a newly-formed community group, which counts the area’s Escape From New York Pizza among its most prominent members, is suing the city to block the plan — and they’re using one of the state’s most infamous lawyers to do it.

According to its website, Escape From New York’s Haight location is the original spot in the mini-chain, opened by founders Paul Geffner and Joe Goldmark in 1986. Over the years, Geffner tells Hoodline, it’s been “a longtime supporter of homelessness charities,” but the sleeping spot is apparently the last straw, as he and Goldmark (who is also a managing partner at the Haight’s Amoeba Records) are two of the most prominent members of a new group called “Concerned Citizens of the Haight,” (CCOH) which earlier this week filed a federal lawsuit (you can read it in full here) to block the sleeping area from moving forward, Courthouse News reports.

The lawyer the group hired to sue San Francisco is a name well-known in conservative circles: Harmeet Dhillon, who is characterized by Politico as conservatives’ “go-to legal warrior in the culture wars of the Covid-19 pandemic” and “a loyal Trump booster” who has helped raise $3 million to reelect the president. Her work on behalf of California churches that wish to reopen in the midst of the pandemic, for example, garnered praise from Fox News icon Laura Ingraham, who said Dhillon is “leading the charge to keep Gavin Newsom’s power grabs in check.”

And now, at the request of CCOH, Dhillon is turning her attention away from Newsom and toward San Francisco. “The governor and the mayor told us we can’t go to church, we can’t go to work, we can’t go to school — or do hardly anything. But it’s safe to put a contagion unit in the middle of the street,” Dhillon tells the SF Chronicle, in apparent disbelief.

According to Caroline Parker, a spokesperson for Escape From New York who responded to an Eater SF request for comment after this item’s publication, “Escape from NY joined the group because we felt the proposed homeless camp was a health and safety issue at that location.” Though the only merchants cited in the suit appear to be Geffner and Goldmark, Parker says “We had no idea who the lawyer they hired was, and don’t agree with her politics. Escape had no input picking Dhillon.”

In a subsequent email, Parker worked to distance Escape From New York from Goldmark, who — despite his prominence on the pizza spot’s website — “left more than 2 decades ago to go to Amoeba.” HIs remarks (for example, a suggestion that homeless folks should be placed in “a secluded area of Golden Gate Park”) represent Amoeba, Parker says, not Escape From New York.

Parker says that Escape was “surprised by the news” that Dhillon had been chosen by the group to file the suit. Though the group is called “Concerned Citizens of the Haight,” Parker says that the folks behind the suit are actually “the primary partners at Amoeba,” a three-location retail chain that was founded in Berkeley in 1990. “I am not talking about Joe Goldmark,” Parker says, declining to name names. It’s they who “are leading the lawsuit and hired Dhillon,” Parker says, reiterating that “Escape does not support Dhillon’s politics.”

John Coté, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, says that his office “will review the lawsuit, and we expect to defend the city’s sensible decision to move forward with the safe-sleeping site.” District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, who supports the safe sleeping site, seems similarly confident, telling the San Jose Mercury News that the suit comes from “a handful of folks who have made clear since the day I took office that they oppose any efforts to house homeless people, provide homeless services, navigation centers, any of that in the Haight or Cole Valley...but there’s overwhelming support for safe sleeping sites.”

And in other news...

  • San Mateo County’s bars and restaurants have yet to be cleared to reopen sit-down dining, as officials say the region will need to drop below 25 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people every two weeks (they’re currently more than double that, at 55). But Pacifica Brewery opened its patio for diners Wednesday night, saying that violating the county order is the only way they can stay in business. [NBC Bay Area]
  • Lawyers say that restaurants that do temperatures or health checks for workers could face privacy complaints unless they keep all results confidential and store temperature test information “in a secure location.” [SF Business Times]
  • 7 Mile House Sports Bar & Grill, a 162-year-old restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard, was so slammed when it reopened for takeout that they couldn’t keep up with the demand for their cocktails and renowned ube cheesecake. [SF Weekly]
  • A worker at the Whole Foods in Noe Valley has tested positive for COVID-19, but the store refused to give further details on who else might have been exposed. [Mission Local]
  • Torani Syrups has been planning to move its production facility from South SF to San Leandro for months, but the pandemic made the transition far more difficult. [KQED]
  • The Lower Haight spot last occupied by Mad Dog in the Fog will be the new home to a fifth location of Woods Beer & Wine Co. It’s expected to open for takeout on June 5. [Hoodline]
  • A ballot measure backed by Doordash, Instacart, and Postmates that seeks to deny its delivery drivers employee protections is, so far, the second-most expensive campaign the state has seen since at least 1999. [SF Business Times]
  • Manuel Martinez, a chef known for Redwood City spots La Viga and LV Mar, has opened an upscale Palo Alto spot called San Agus Cocina Urbana & Cocktails, which is serving “crafted urban street bites” for delivery and takeout. [San Jose Mercury News]
  • Tenderloin fried chicken spot Aria Korean Street Food has launched a delivery-only spot called Aria Korean Burrito Joint, which — as the name might suggest — has a menu of burritos, tacos and taquitos with a Korean influence. [SF Chronicle]

Aria Korean Tapas

932 Larkin Street, , CA 94109 (415) 292-6914 Visit Website

Escape From New York Pizza

1737 Haight Street, , CA 94117 (415) 668-5577 Visit Website

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