SF's Condos vs. Music Venues Problem
We all know the big issue now – too many people want to live in San Francisco, and there isn't enough housing to hold them all. So the solution has been to increase the number of residential units, affordable and otherwise, to fit more people into this compact city of ours. But now that condos are popping up all over the place, they're also threatening the livelihood of nearby music venues – ironically, in some cases, the same venues that helped the spur growth of those very neighborhoods.
SFGate has an interesting piece up today about new development affecting many of the city's new and storied clubs around town – from The Chapel and Bottom of the Hill to The Independent and Brick & Mortar Music Hall. The idea is that when people drop big bucks on fancy apartments, they're not necessarily keen on the clubs that are their neighbors. And it's not even just the monied people complaining; one older example is the legendary neighbor who called the cops on Slim's long after the club spent $259,000 on soundproofing. SFGate also reports on a neighbor of The Chapel, who bought a $1 million dollar unit near the club and then complained about the noise.
But all isn't lost. The story cites developers such as Josh Smith of Walden Development as saying the "project design team, which includes a top acoustical engineer who is very familiar with the acoustics of the area, is being mindful of Bottom of the Hill" and they are "designing the project in a way that takes the neighborhood, including Bottom of the Hill, into account." Community-minded developers are important, as is protecting sections of town (such as parts of SOMA) as zoned for nightlife over residential buildings. These rules come with strict laws about soundproofing clubs, which helps any neighbors who happen to live nearby. And some venues have had victories in standing up for their longevity in a changing neighborhood. Last year The Marsh, a longstanding theater in the Mission, forced hearings about the condos being developed around it.
But this is definitely a situation to keep an eye on. Nightlife is as vital to the culture of San Francisco as affordable places to live – our music scene needs protections in place so it's not crippled by progress in the housing market.
Update: Tricycle Records owner Julie Schuchard emailed me about the California Music and Culture Association, which she says is doing "a ton of work surrounding these issues and needs people to help with the legislative efforts." She's a volunteer there and suggests anyone else who is interested in volunteering check out their Facebook page. Thanks Julie!
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Photo of Scissors for Lefty at Bottom of the Hill by Sean Savage