Supervisor Matt Haney announced Thursday that he will introduce a resolution that would give an added layer of protection to nightlife and entertainment venues in Soma.
If passed, this measure would provide interim zoning controls in Western Soma for 18 months to ensure that entertainment venues are not converted to other uses without going in front of the Planning Commission, and if needed, at the full Board of Supervisors.
This resolution has the potential to save the Mezzanine, the largest woman-owned music venue in San Francisco, from closing its doors. While the owners of popular venue believed they had a lease extension until January 2020 (the landlords then planned to convert the venue space into tech-office space with a 600 percent rent increase), the landlords reneged on their extension deal and the Mezzanine found itself facing closure again.
While the situation at the Mezzanine is urgent, Haney said he also believes that this resolution is part of a larger effort to confront the attack on nightlife and entertainment, especially in the SoMa and for the LGBT community.
His resolution is aligned with other efforts to save entertainment venues, including Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s legislation to save the comedy venue Punch Line after unsuccessful lease negotiations.
“This is even bigger than the Mezzanine,” Haney said. “Across SoMa, we have had a long history of nightlife and entertainment that has been the lifeline of this community and has provided tremendous culture, art, and community building to all of San Francisco. And it’s in danger right now.”
Haney added that his resolution would allow an added layer of oversight and accountability and bring questions of public interest and social impact to the forefront. He tied the Mezzanine’s current predicament to the larger patterns of displacement and erasure of important community spaces to development, exorbitant rents, and landlord and property owner profits. Losing these venues would be “bad for San Francisco, bad for SoMa, and a huge loss that would be hard to replace,” Haney said.
Ben Bleiman, president of the Entertainment Commission, said he believes that this resolution has the potential to help small, independent venues compete against giant money. “[This resolution can] force people who are considering displacing venues to change their calculus… and consider things other than just cold, hard cash,” he said.
Mezzanine’s owner, Deborah Jackman, shared that the landlords have reached back out to reopen discussions of extending their lease. “We have not signed a lease yet, but we are hoping by the end of today, we will have our three-month lease extension to stay open through New Year’s 2020,” she said.
While the lease extension is a small win, Jackman said she hopes that Supervisor Haney’s resolution will bring the landlords back to the table to talk about a long-term lease.