I was nearly at a loss for words today when the SF Planning Commission unanimously approved the change of conditional use for the new space that Koko Cocktails wants to move to on Polk Street. As we had covered earlier there were the usual “artisanal” NIMBYists who were opposed to the move purely on the grounds of “bars bad”. But, through the overwhelming support of those who showed up and went on record to defend Koko for being a solid neighborhood-centric operation, it became obvious to the commission that there was indeed neighborhood support for the move of the bar and to not let it close.
While there’s definitely a “rah rah, go Koko!” element in all of this, it had to be the most wonderful experience to actually see a reasonable and efficient section of San Francisco city government. To be concise, the commissioners know their shit–and they know it well. They reflect a pretty broad range of people and ideologies, including those who definitely lean more towards the conservative side of things. But, when presented with a reasonable argument, they could see the logic of it. And it wasn’t just this Koko – Hi-Lo move case, but other cases that we witnessed prior to this one as well. Why our Board of Supervisors (who only respectively cover a small section of the city) can’t be more informed about the happenings of their district is beyond me.
Some of the highlights of the hearing included:
- Gwyneth Borden stating that while many people see bars as a whole to be bad, you still have to weigh each one on an individual basis instead of judging all of them by one or two bad apples. Like with comments about race, she said, you simply can’t make broad generalizations.
- Ron Miguel stated that “not all bars are created equal” and that the last time there was a really good bar on that block was probably… back in the 1960s!
- Michael Antonini stated that it was good to hear from the owner of Tunnel Top who is an example of a good neighborhood bar as it’s a lot safer to walk up the Stockton Tunnel steps once they took over the place and cleaned up the area, in another impressive display of knowing details about a neighborhood.
- Kathrin Moore said she doesn’t go to bars (it doesn’t surprise us), and seemed to be inclined to support NIMBYs in other cases, but she still voted in favor in this case because she said Polk Street has lost a lot of neighborhood business and people need more of those types of businesses.
- The President of the Commission said so many smart things that we can’t remember all of them. But not only does she take Muni (unlike certain supervisors, ahem) but also she’s totally badass.
Needless to say, once the unanimous judgment was reached (after two hours of emotional outpourings of support), the entire room applauded. With the exception of the naysayers of course, who we heard grumbling about the Koko people “just bringing out all their friends” (as well as neighborhood groups, residents, business owners, and City Hall people). Let’s just state that this isn’t over for the owners of Koko’s. They still have to go through the Alcoholic Beverage Control hearing and possibly a Board of Supervisors hearing which will have their naysayers as well, although this hearing was a massive first step.
And for those of you who might be saying, “Yes, that’s all well and good, but this is San Francisco politics. There must have been some crazy, no?” Of course there was! There were two hearings before Koko about new cellphone antennas to be installed at 333 Baker. This bizarre, poshy blond woman showed up with her Chihuahua in tow to try and lodge a complaint after they had already closed public comments on that case. Then she started yelling from the back of the room as she walked out, saying that this was a travesty of justice as she is a property owner and these antennas were going to lower her property’s value because. And she added, “this is going to be so ghetto! The Lower Haight is not the Tenderloin, this is outrageous!” Fun stuff.