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City backs former Tenderloin nuns for Mission soup kitchen

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Yearlong trial after tenderloin eviction comes to an end

The yellow facade of a four story building on Mission Street.
1930 Mission Street, where charitable nuns will soon cater to the homeless despite the complaints of some upstairs neighbors.
Courtesy Downing Company

Hallelujah. Despite the complaints of neighbors, sisters from the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth, an offshoot of the Catholic Church based in France, finally broke out of the purgatory of San Francisco’s planning process Thursday with Planning Commission approval for their new location.

The sisters made headlines in early 2016 when their landlord, SRO-mogul Natverbhai Patel, raised the rent on their Turk Street home.

The holy charity service had been serving out of the 50 Turk Street kitchen since 2008. Although the building and its neighboring hotel and apartments (owned by the same landlord) were constantly receiving warnings from building inspectors, Patel still laid $2,000-plus rent hike on the sisters, raising it to $5,500/month.

Self-improvement guru Tony Robbins swooped in out of the blue to offer them a new place in the Mission, but first the new kitchen had to win over the city, and more importantly their would-be neighbors in the same building.

At Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, residents of 1930 Mission Street repeated previous concerns that the kitchen—which` caters largely to the homeless, although at the Turk Street location some of the clientele were working people who lived in nearby SROs—would blight the neighborhood.

Condos in the nearly 25 year old building sold for over half a million dollars in 2013, and of course could fetch more today. But building residents complained that there are already a lot of homeless people on the block, and alleged harassment and property crimes.

One man took pains to call the kitchen “a noble effort,” but argued that their building “wasn’t right” for it.

But it’s hard to win an argument when your opponents are a trio of smiling, genial, intentionally impoverished, French-accented nuns who bake for the homeless and feed over 200 people daily.

Photo by Wendy Harman

Dozens of boosters, including Tenderloin cops and the Mission’s own affordable housing developer, turned out to support the sisters, and the commission in the end unanimously approved the new use of the ground-floor space.

Commission Vice President Dennis Richards ruled that the soup kitchen is essentially a restaurant, and that the city couldn’t very well discriminate against the Fraternite for catering to the needy rather than to paying customers.