A Valencia Street Business Owner on Why She Doesn’t Want American Apparel as a Neighbor


The letter below was written by Eileen Hassi, owner of Ritual Roasters, to alert her customers, neighbors, and friends why she doesn’t want American Apparel on Valencia Street, and to inform them what they can do about it.

Hey friends, neighbors, coffee-drinkers,

American Apparel has announced its plans to open at 988 Valencia St, between 20th & 21st.

If you already know this and want to know what you can do, skip to the bottom of this email.

My business, Ritual Coffee Roasters, would likely benefit in the short term from such a popular place opening less than a block away.  And in these more trying economic times (yes, people are drinking less coffee!), it would be maybe easier to cave into the desperate measure of allowing this to happen.

However, I’m extremely opposed to allowing a formula retail (chain) store onto Valencia St.

I frequently have people come to Valencia St to check out Ritual and have a coffee.  Out-of-towners then ask what else they should do while they are in the neighborhood.  I take pride in directing them to the many unique offerings this neighborhood has:  check out the bizarro furniture at X-21, stroll down to Paxton Gate and visit the taxidermied mice, stop into 826 for an eye-patch, cross the street for hand-made books, meander over to Dolores Park etc.  Having an internationally recognizable store in the midst of it would definitely take away from our distinctive neighborhood.

This isn’t an attack on American Apparel.  But as far as City Planning is concerned, once a neighborhood has allowed one formula retail to open, it must allow others.  After the Kentucky Fried Chicken at 22nd St closed its doors, another fast food chain tried to take over the space.  My neighbors here fought  a long, hard battle to make sure that didn’t happen.

We must send a message to City Planning that we want to keep Valencia Street as it is now, a corridor of outstanding independent businesses.

OK, OK, likely if you’re on this list, I don’t actually need to convince you of anything, just tell you what you can do about it:

1.  Come to the planning meeting tonight:
We’ll be having a STOP AMERICAN APPAREL meeting this Thursday, January 22nd, 7pm, at The Makeout Room.

Please come by. We’ll have full color posters for you to take with you as well as petitions and postcards. You can help stop American Apparel from moving in at 988 Valencia (it’s not too late!). If you have any questions we’ll try to answer them. If you have concerns this is the place to raise them.

The meeting is free and the posters and postcards are free. Everybody’s welcome.

2.  Write a letter to the Planner in charge of this case:

Subject: 988 Valencia – Case No. 2008.0720C

M. Pilar LaValley
Preservation Technical Specialist/Planner
City & County of San Francisco Planning Department
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103


3.  Come to the hearing, Thursday February 5th
Case No. 2008.0720C
Call 558-6422 after Monday the 2nd for a more specific hearing time

4.  Join the Google group for email updates:




4 Responses to “A Valencia Street Business Owner on Why She Doesn’t Want American Apparel as a Neighbor”

  1. Karen Says:

    This may be hearsay, but in the comments of this article ( http://sfist.com/2008/11/03/quasicreepy_american_apparel_oozes.php ) zoning laws would prevent AA from opening a store anyway.

    I asked some mark sanchez reps about this when they doorknocked me yesterday and they told me that AA has actually had the lease on that space for years and not been able to move in because the zoning on valencia doesn’t allow franchises. they seemed to think that AA will never be able to open up there due to that, and pointed out how irritating it is that they’ve been paying like 8k a month to hold the space and keep it from other local businesses that the neighbs might actually want.
    Reply | November 3, 2008 5:04 PM
    [ report this ]


  2. D@n S. Says:


  3. Your Reader Says:

    Wow! Thank you very much!
    I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?
    Of course, I will add backlink?

    Regards, Timur I.

  4. mm Says:

    Apparently I was censored on this page earlier, but I’m all for trying again…

    I just want to say that I hate American Apparel and am 1000% against them moving into my neighborhood. Now that’s out of the way. I want to know if this coalition of businesses who have been busting out up and down Valencia street are talking about the larger issue of gentrification. In particular, how the kitsch-y, chic-ish businesses that have sprung up in the last ten years have impacted the larger community (think beyond Valencia Street). While keeping big chain stores out is important, it should be even more important for folks to figure out how to keep rents low. Businesses should be concerned about how to put money back into our neighborhood by raising funds for various organizations, or, better yet, hiring people within the community to staff your stores (and not just in the back room). Businesses should be talking about how the demographic has shifted and what that means for the longevity of the neighborhood. Businesses should be concerned with the people, not just the capital, of the community.

    It seems that people are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that five dollar cups of coffee and eco-condos are as economically devastating as the Gap and American Apparel. In the end, ask yourselves, who gets to drink that five dollar cup of coffee? Who gets to live in the earth friendly houses? Who gets to shop at American Apparel?

    I think, since so many of you are getting together, that now would be a good time to explore these questions, as a group, and see what you come up with.

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