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Broadway corridor controversy: David Chiu’s perspective

the boarded-up shell of Tryst Lounge. © google street view

Over the past several months, I’ve written extensively for the Marina Times about the efforts of Jordan Angle to open a high-end lounge called Tryst in his grandmother’s building located along the struggling Broadway corridor of North Beach, known more for crime and strip clubs than for the family-oriented restaurants that neighborhood groups like the Telegraph Hill Dwellers wish would open in the area’s blighted, empty buildings.

District 3 Supervisor David Chiu, who represents the area, reached out to me in an effort to “set the record straight,” and agreed to answer some questions on the topic. Here is my Q&A session with Supervisor Chiu:

In the case of Tryst Lounge, who are the “stakeholders” you refer to — besides Mr. Angle, his partners, and his grandmother — and what is their “stake”?

For the past six years, we have convened and worked closely with numerous stakeholders along the corridor, including many city departments, elected officials, neighborhood organizations, Broadway residents, and business owners who have been involved in a multi-year intensive effort addressing the problems we have all seen on Broadway.

More specifically, these “stakeholders” have included my office, District Attorney George Gascón’s office, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s office, the Department of Public Works, Central Station, SoTel Neighbors, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, North Beach Business Association, and a majority of the property and business owners in the Community Benefit District, who represent the daytime businesses, restaurants, bars, and other nightlife establishments along Broadway.

Why are Mr. Angle and his partners being held to different standards and much higher scrutiny than other similar businesses that are opening nearby without any interference? (For example, the projects by Future Bars and the Tosca Group.)

Unfortunately, Mr. Angle has repeatedly twisted the facts of our attempts to work with him. He is not being held to any different standard than other business.

Mr. Angle proposed his Tryst business within a two-block area that has significantly greater crime and nightlife-related issues than locations just one or two blocks away. In general, and particularly on weekend evenings, Broadway has a different atmosphere, attitude, venue size, and patron demographic than locations around the corner on Columbus. This is confirmed not only by the experiences of neighborhood residents and businesses, but also by San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) crime data; SFPD reports that Central Station rarely gets calls for service on Columbus, but describes those two blocks of Broadway as “ground zero” for problems.

SFPD Central Station recommended the denial of Tryst’s application to the ABC for a Type 48 liquor license because of the existing saturation of liquor licenses (18 licenses) and crime on those two blocks of Broadway. Mr. Angle’s property does not exist in a vacuum, and license saturation and crime considerations are always important. Moreover, there has been a long-standing and frustrating history of venue operators along that two-block stretch of Broadway who initially promised to be “high-end” establishments, which then morphed into problematic nightclubs. Several previous venues with Type 47 liquor licenses (restaurant with full bar) over time became operated as full-blown nightclubs with related crime, public safety, and quality of life issues. The community of stakeholders described above has been working hard to avoid repeating the past.

As I understand, the key difference between the North Beach community and Mr. Angle appears to be over the level of entertainment intensity and frequency he proposes for Tryst. Mr. Angle has suggested that he will apply for a Type 47 license, which he has not yet done, but is simultaneously demanding that he be granted a full entertainment permit. The community believes a more appropriate approach would be thirty (30) one-night (general) entertainment permits per year (since Mr. Angle has requested two events a month), in addition to an unrestricted Limited Live Performance Permit, given the rich live entertainment history of the neighborhood. SFPD Central Station also prefers this approach so they can know when large events will be happening and plan their staffing levels accordingly. Assuming all goes well with Tryst after some time has passed, the neighborhood and Central Station have expressed openness to reconsider the frequency of entertainment.

Why are you “negotiating” rather than allowing Tryst to go through the normal city processes? (Or, in the case of those other two projects, no processes at all?)

There is nothing preventing Tryst from going through the normal ABC and city processes; however, since Tryst does not have broad community support, as I have done with other controversial projects, I offered to bring the opposing parties together to see if there might be common ground. It has been my hope that Tryst would be able to propose a business plan that would be both financially successful and not create problems for the neighborhood, but Mr. Angle has not been able to do that yet.

Why are “stakeholders” like Stephanie Greenburg — who’s only stake appears to be her condo several blocks away — not concerned about the enormous amount of crime that happens in and around the numerous strip clubs? (In fact, the vast majority of incident reports I read involve the strip clubs.)

Ms. Greenburg is the president of SoTel Neighbors, an organization that has worked hard to help clean up Broadway and improve quality of life for area residents. The neighbors in the area all share the concern about crimes that are taking place along Broadway. In the past, many establishments received permits and operated with very little oversight, leading to the situation in which we find ourselves today. SoTel Neighbors has consistently asked all nighttime venues, including the strip clubs, bars, and dance clubs, to be responsible for their patrons.

Do the stakeholders and your office feel entertainment until 11 p.m. at a high-end restaurant and lounge is more of a concern than what goes on in and around the strip clubs — stabbings, bombings, shootings, drugs, and “adult entertainment” which includes being able to get a lap dance until 6 a.m., not to mention prostitution?

Preventing crimes in and around any nighttime venue — regardless of the type of venue — is the goal of all of the stakeholders working along Broadway. We have asked the bars, nightclubs, and strip clubs all to step up in their responsibility for the corridor. It is my understanding that the stakeholders are not opposed to live entertainment until 11 p.m., and there has already been significant compromise on their parts regarding general hours of operation and meal service.

Why are the stakeholders and your office silent about the problems surrounding the strip clubs? For example, not one word was said about the bombing at Fame connected to the FBI bust that made national headlines, and where the perpetrator was connected to the strip clubs.

No one has been silent about the public safety problems along Broadway, particularly me. SFPD, the DA, the Sheriff’s Department, my office, and many others have been closely focused on the problems on those two blocks of Broadway. All of the currently existing clubs have been cooperating and instituting voluntary security protocols and funding additional security services (through the CBD), among many other actions. I expect SFPD and other law enforcement agencies to deal with crime equally, no matter where it originates.

Do the stakeholders and your office feel it is a conflict of interest for Joe Carouba to “donate” nearly a quarter of a million dollars to fund the CBD which you helped to create and which also employs Ms. Greenburg as its president and Joe Carouba as its vice president?

To the contrary, many of the neighborhood stakeholders thought it was entirely appropriate for the strip clubs to make a significant contribution to help pay for security services for the neighborhood. The voluntary contribution essentially doubles the budget of the CBD and allows for significantly more private security and other services to happen within the CBD. The board of directors determines how all donations are spent.

Regarding the CBD leadership, the board of directors of the Top of Broadway CBD are not compensated, but rather volunteer enormous amounts of their time to re-brand, clean, and improve Broadway. Officers are voted in to their leadership roles. All CBD meetings are open to the public, and anyone can get involved if they want to.

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