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Tenderloin grocery store, frightened NIMBYs, and luxury rentals

Four things to know today

Photo by Louis Raphael

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

The Tenderloin’s “food swamp”

Almost a decade after the promise of a Tenderloin grocery store was dashed by California’s then-struggling economy, the area is still without a venue to buy non-snacky staples, the San Francisco Examiner reminded us this weekend.

Back in 2008, an affordable housing development planned at the corner of Taylor and Eddy Streets would have had a ground-floor retail space perfect for a grocery store, but that plan was dashed when California’s Redevelopment Agencies were shut down, as that spot’s development went with it.

Years later, the development is back on, this time with “a 5,700-square-foot space on the ground floor reserved for a market, kitchen, restaurant or food hall.”

According to the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation’s Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition project, there are about 70 shops that sell food in the Tenderloin. As of 2015, only about 15 of those sold fresh produce, making a grocery store the obvious choice for the space.

But maybe not, as a survey of 700 Tenderloin residents performed by the TNDC this month says that “[w]hile 268 Tenderloin residents were interested in the idea of a market, another 150 wanted a food hall with multiple vendors and communal seating.”

TNDC Executive Director Don Falk says that now they are thinking “a little more broadly about what goes there,” adding, “When we initially envisioned it, we definitely intended it to be a grocery.”

“This is a food swamp,” says Falk. “There’s not a lot of healthy food.”

“The market was the most popular but we’re trying to figure out how to best meet the community needs,” TNDC Community Organizer Ryan Thayer. told the Ex. “It’s a false assumption that just bringing a new food space in the neighborhood is going to meet the needs here of people in the neighborhood.”

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Cat sudoku?

Attention everyone who thinks cats are a low-maintenance pet alternative to dogs: You’re wrong, says the San Francisco SPCA, and your attitude is making your felines miserable.

CBS 5 reports that the SFSPCA is cutting back on feeding cats with those ubiquitous bowls of kibble to force the pets to “tap into their natural ability to forage.” That’s because domestic house cats get “stressed-out” because modern indoor life doesn’t always jibe with their wild-at-heart tendencies.

Before you say “and that’s why I let Fluffy out to play,” you should be aware that most feline specialists urge guardians to keep their cats indoors, as the perils of urban life can significantly shorter their lives. (In fact, if you intend to keep a cat outdoors, most shelters will refuse to adopt to you.)

Outdoor cats are also responsible for the death of a reported one billion plus songbirds a year. Which is to say, if you let your cat hang outside you’re endangering not just your pet but multiple feathered friends.

The SF SPCA has a handy fact sheet on how to transition your outdoor cat to an inside one, but those of us with cats that have been indoors forever should consider their “no bowl system,” which was pioneered by Dr. Liz Bales in an effort to let their inner predator out. Instead of a bowl of Fancy Feast, cats are fed via small amounts of kibble “put in holes found on containers that resemble mice which are placed around a cat’s environment.”

“We’ve been using it for a little over a month and we’re seeing great results especially with cats who need a little extra stimulation in their lives and some of the longer term cats as well,” says an SFSPCA spokesperson.

A researcher who spoke with CBS 5 agrees, saying that dysfunctional house cats who dropped the bowl and turned to what they call food puzzles “lost weight, became more social and less destructive [and] even stopped urinating outside their litter boxes.”

Cow Hollow houses in front of the bay. Photo by Tony Webster

Real estate reporting is risky business

While reporting on any topic can be fraught, reporting on San Francisco’s housing crisis is arguably one of the more contentious jobs out there.

According to reporters Andrew Szeto and Toshio Meronek , an article they penned for the non-profit activist journalism outlet Truthout entitled “YIMBYs: The Darlings of the Real Estate Industry” has left them suffering harassment on a “massive” scale from those who disagreed with their findings.

In an op-ed published by the Examiner Sunday, Szeto and Meronek call out Ex columnist Seung Y. Lee for his take on their report, which Lee says “was intentionally careless journalism seeking to poison the well”

Most pointedly, Lee asked, “How about we not embarrass ourselves by calling the other side of the housing debate alt-right and Nazis?”

Szeto and Meronek countered Lee’s claims by saying that YIMBYs sure act like Nazis, as:

In the aftermath of our article’s publication, we have been the subjects of a mass doxing campaign — a common tact used by the alt-right against leftists. Our personal information has been shared widely over the internet, and our employers and publishers harassed, presumably to have us fired. If YIMBYs are so sure they are not right-wing conservatives, their actions hardly prove otherwise.

Sadly, Ex readers will be denied Lee’s response to Szeto and Meronek’s arguments, as his Monday column is apparently his last. Lee ends today’s piece—headlined “There is no tech bubble in San Francisco. Now what do we do?”—by saying, “Yes, this is my last column...I just hope I didn’t make you feel like I wasted your time. Hope we stay in touch when I am at the Mercury-News. Thanks for reading.”

Photo via Onefinestay

SF’s new short-term rental option emerges

Luxury home rental service Onefinestay has made waves in locations like New York, where rentals like this one in Park Slope as the company “operates within a corner of the market that doesn't violate New York's short term rental laws; the company works mostly with landlords and people who own their own houses,” Curbed New York reported in 2013.

Haute Living reports that the company has now made its way to San Francisco, with (as of publication time) about seven residences available at prices from $329 per night (from this loft in Dogpatch, to $1,129 for one night in a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Cole Valley).

Onefinestay presents themselves as an upscale alternative to Airbnb, as they are “involved in finding (and cleaning) the apartments it rents out, photographing them for listings, and vetting guests,” Curbed New York noted when the company launched there in 2012.

According to Onefinestay CEO Evan Frank, “Our sights have long been set on San Francisco as part of our expansion plans...It’s a premier and dynamic city, world-renowned for business and leisure travel, and a hub of innovation in the real estate and home rental space—a very obvious next step for Onefinestay.”

What Frank doesn’t mention, however, is that San Francisco is also a city that aggressively pursues companies and people who don’t follow our rigid housing and short-term rental rules: See our Airbnb crackdown, which ended with the company folding to city demands that all home “sharers” register with the city and adhere to rules allowing rentals of only 60 days per year for homes at which the resident is not present.

It’s unclear if any of the SF residences on Onefinestay are compliant with local laws, as none we looked at noted a registration number and all seemed amenable to stays longer than the 60-day cap. Sounds like Frank and company might soon learn just how “dynamic” San Francisco can be.