Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Selling off the 'hood: formula retail comes to Valencia Corridor

Over on the waterfront, San Francisco has turned over some of its loveliest vistas to Larry Ellison's Americas Cup and its sponsor for the prelims, the haute couture purveyor, Louis Vuitton. Get the picture from SF Mike.

Out here in one of San Francisco's lower rent districts, the Mission-Valencia corridor, there's a pushback building against intrusion by a more downscale, though certainly not cheap, cookie-cutter fashion emporium. About 25 percent of the store fronts on Valencia between 24th and 14th Streets are displaying this sign.

Naturally I was curious. I never heard of Jack Spade but fortunately, there is Google. This seems to be yet another hipster clothing store -- think $75 for what looks like a quite ordinary T-shirt.

The arrival of Jack Spade in the neighborhood is a symptom of the area's new status. You know you are in trouble when USAToday crows:

... today's Mission is heaving with solvent hipsters and the quirky shops which attract them. …

So long as the hipsters stay on Valencia, the influx works okay. The older shops see new customers drawn by the proliferation of new ethnic and locivore restaurants. (Isn't it amazing the mark-ups entrepreneurs can get on good peasant food?) If the hipster newcomers wander a block east to Mission, they may encounter some characters and scenes whose lives are a gritty challenge to theirs. But hey, most of us in the area came from somewhere else at some time.

If my research on the Jack Spade store that has evicted Adobe Books from its location on 16th had been limited to Google, I'd have just thought -- here comes another one. But the stores posting the signs led me to a more complicated story.

Apparently Jack Spade is formula retail -- a Liz Claiborne Inc. brand. San Francisco doesn't want to turn into a quaint shopping mall for national brands, so we have a law that is supposed to limit such incursions by subjecting chain stores to a public hearing process. But this Claiborne brand has exploited a quirk in how the law is written to avoid having to deal with the neighborhood. Hearings are only required when a chain has 10 or more stores in the US. Jack Spade has 10 domestic and 3 international locations -- so no planning process required. Uptown Almanac reports that Jack Spade has refused to meet with neighborhood merchants and organizations.

If you are bothered by the arrival of cookie-cutter retail in the 'hood, you can sign the local merchants' petition here.

UPDATE: Score one for existing neighborhood merchants. The tortuous city appeal process yielded a vote against Jack Spade and the Claiborne company gave up. For now.

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