Working Groups Envision Future of the Excelsior, Outer Mission

Will Carruthers/Ingleside-Excelsior Light

A long and burdensome permit process for entrepreneurs and insufficient punishment of problem landlords were among the issues raised at one of four meetings in mid August to envision a better future of the Excelsior and Outer Mission neighborhoods.

Four working groups — focused on Land Use and Housing; the Public Realm; Mobility; and Commerce and Business Support — met to discuss their vision for the Mission Street and Geneva Avenue commercial corridors in three, five and ten years as part of the city’s Excelsior & Outer Mission Neighborhood Strategy.

At a meeting of the Commerce and Business subgroup at the Calvary Baptist Church on Wednesday, Aug. 16, eight local business owners, nonprofit employees and residents discussed what kinds of businesses they would like to see in the neighborhood and what would make it easier to start businesses in the neighborhood.

The consensus among the group was that business development efforts on the two-mile corridor should focus on creating thriving clusters of businesses, rather than attempting to improve the entire corridor at once.

Jorge Rivas, a project manager with the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, invited participants to envision the neighborhood in the future.

“A diverse mixture of businesses for all levels of income,” Dark Horse Inn co-owner Andrea Ferrucci said. “Office space, as well. ‘Why aren’t we open for lunch?’ Because there’s no daytime traffic.”

Other desires for the neighborhood included an ice cream shop, more breakfast options and social services. The attendees agreed that a good mixture of office spaces, retail stores, restaurants and artists’ spaces would help the corridor thrive. Most important was a lower number of vacancies on the corridor.

In 2013, the Excelsior corridor had 23 vacant properties — eight percent of the total 297 storefronts — according to a report from OEWD.

The meeting was meant for gathering input, while the next meeting will be focused on strategies to get closer to the vision, Rivas said.

Among the 288 businesses on the Excelsior corridor — Mission Street between Trumbull Street and Geneva Avenue — there are 31 salons, 27 restaurants, 19 delis and 12 dental offices, according to a draft Existing Conditions Report report distributed at the meeting.

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai organized the neighborhood strategy in the first months of his term as part of his campaign promise to rejuvenate the district’s struggling commercial corridors.

Safai has said his final goal is to create a Community Benefits District for the Excelsior corridor.

The Planning Department describes the neighborhood strategy as “a vision for improving and enhancing [the neighborhoods]” but does not explain how the work will be done.

“The Strategy will strive to maximize the benefits of ongoing and future projects, working toward making the area an even better place to live and visit,” the project overview continues.

Since the kick-off meeting in May, Rivas and Rachael Tanner, a planner with the Planning Department, organized four advisory groups consisting of 32 community members, hosted community input meetings in July and issued a neighborhood survey which received 972 responses, 1.5 percent of the neighborhoods’ entire population.

In a report summarizing the community input so far, top concerns included cleanliness, a good mixture of businesses, safety and adequate housing.

Other concerns included “overpoliced [people of color],” “a large population of monolingual residents who are disconnected in times of stress,” and a “lack of support for [the] homeless population.”

Phase one, which will conclude in September, is focused on the Mission and Geneva commercial corridors.

The second phase of the process, to be completed by April 2018, will focus on ways to improve the residential neighborhoods.

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