Fact Check

Local blogs keep saying things like, “The Mission District is gathering its forces in a fight against American Apparel,” and referring to “the movement to keep Dov Charney’s hipster wares out of the hipster hood itself.” Is the former true? Is there such a thing as the latter? Is the whole neighborhood up in arms?

Or is it that one dude claimed to represent the community and some web writers took him at his word?

(I like this coverage though. And I like the discussion here.)

30 Responses to “Fact Check”

  1. johnny0 says:

    Allan, you should set up a poll!

  2. zinzin says:

    well, the one dude seems to be somewhat organized, he’s having a meeting at Make Out Room or whatever.

    that said, looks to me like he’s starting an effort to become an elected official. Stephen Elliot. Watch for him to be the next do-nothing “progressive” blowhard on the Board of Supes.

    he’s basically lying to people, getting “signatures” and “spreading the word” that “a national chain store” is coming to the mission. i wonder if he said who it is? my guess is not.

    that said, he’s out there doing what he thinks is right, even if i think he’s an idiot.

    Oh, and the comments i made on their site…? CENSORED.

  3. zinzin says:

    here they are again… i just can’t help it….

    the notion that AA represents “them” is ridiculous and arcane.

    the notion that the neighborhood “5 years ago” is something for which we should strive reeks of the very worst type of ideologue bullshit.

    the notion that a “precedent” would be set, and that this is a reason to halt development – to forbid a business from setting up in a currently derelict storefront in these trying times – is naive and selfish.

    there is NO GOOD REASON to prevent AA from moving into this small storefront in the neighborhood. NO GOOD REASON.

    if no one likes their stuff…they won’t shop there. but guess what….you all know people DO like their stuff….and THEY WILL SHOP THERE.

    that’s reason enough to call this entire protest a sham. a complete sham.

    here’s another thought for all you closed minded nimby hipsters.

    did you ever consider that – even though you may not like it, and even though it may not ascribe to your narrow minded view of “should” – the neighborhood has changed, and is changing. there’s LOTS more families, and homeowners, and people of all types in the Mission now…

    did you ever think that, even if the people that might shop at AA aren’t as “cool” as you….they might be from out of the neighborhood, or, they might just be a regular-person-grownup that happens to live here (i know that would be REALLY outside your desired demographic), …they might ALSO shop at DEMA or THERAPY?

    is it that only “cool” people are allowed to shop at your stores? you dont want any dirty mommy money or any filthy yuppie money? i mean seriously…in these times…are we REALLY going to say “i’d rather have fewer customers….i dont want anyone different than me shopping on valencia street”?

    lastly, there’s been a few comments about how AA will never employ any local folks (ie brown people). well, firstly, NONE of the hipster businesses i see on Valencia (with DEMA and THERAPY being 2 of the longest standing) employ any local folks (ie brown people) either. maybe i’m wrong there, but that’s what i see. privileged hipsters tend to stick together, xenophobes that they are.

    and also, i can promise that AA WILL employ local people…specifically, local hipsters. there is no question there. as i said, “local” now has many definitions.

    jeez, the more i think about this, the more sad it is. a bunch of over-educated, privileged white folks bitching & moaning about how the neighborhood “should” be….wanting to keep it all for themselves, and haveit forever mirror their own selfish, narrow values.

    honestly, it doesnt sound very much different from any other nimby movement, like rich people in noe valley or aaron peskin in north beach.

    really, it’s pathetic.

  4. meave says:

    I really want more business on Valencia — there are too many empty storefronts on such a bright, busy, beautiful street. If AA can afford it, and people want it, why not let them have the space?

    If every business like AA (or otherwise? I don’t know) requires a public hearing before being allowed to open in the Mission, then where is the danger that a Gap (a broke-ass company anyway, hello) or Starbucks (too much competition for another broke-ass company) or whatever other symbol of EVIL CHAIN-STORE DOMINATION will make it? Is Stephen Elliott going to try to shut down the Game Stop, or the Sketchers, or the McDonald’s, or Ritmo Latino (I saw one in Texas!) next? They’re not independent retailers either. Or how about any of those godawful $1 or 99-cent stores? Certainly the dozen (or however many) of them in as many blocks aren’t exactly shining gems of the neighborhood. The Curiosity Shoppe’s single storefront doesn’t intrinsically increase its value. Look at that stupid bead store, it had prime real estate and of course it closed because it was totally irrelevant to the neighborhood.

    I don’t like Dov Charney: the douche, the legend. I do like the idea of my neighborhood getting more sales tax dollars, and filling one of the too-many empty storefronts, especially with a guaranteed moneymaker like American goddamn Apparel. “Trying to halt ‘THEM’” reminds me way too much of how difficult it is to make improvements on your lovely pre-earthquake Victorian because if you don’t have the proper cornices you are violating about 50 Historic Preservation ordinances, and your neighborhood association will come to kill you in your sleep.

    Sometimes what’s best for the community violates your ideals! Most of us have learned this by our early 20s, or so I thought. But then ha ha San Francisco does allow for much coddling of the unreasonably idealistic.

  5. zinzin says:

    thanks Meave.


    the number on the poster is: 575-9084. The planner’s name is apparently Melissa Pilar LaValley. Her email is melissa.lavalley@sfgov.org. call her, email, her and tell her what you think.

    if you can’t go to the meeting, please do one of the above.

  6. Glenparker says:

    I’ll bet that nine out of ten people who are lobbying to enforce their vision of how the Mission should be (because after all they know what’s best for the neighborhood) were not even born in SF. I call it the Chris Daly Syndrome.

  7. Clapback. says:

    Hipsters don’t even wear American Apparel any more, right? Isn’t the Mission perpetually post-hip, occupied by nothing more than frivolous contrarians who, at one point, could be called hipsters, but are now more akin to hippies, with their headbands and fox tails? I guess my point is, WHO FUCKING CARES? San Francisco, and The Mission in particular, sets a precedent for HIP, and will continue to redefine it every time HIP overtakes The Mainstream. Having an AA will just help us all move on to whatever is next.

    And as far as political ideals go, their couldn’t be a more appropriate ‘big box’ chain to move into The Mission. Let’s not forget that it’s a company that employs hundreds of latino immigrants, teaches them English, and pays them twice the minimum wage. Sounds pretty fit for a community comprised largely of immigrants who, in many cases, aren’t as lucky. So what if some white girl from Orange County got tricked into giving Dov a handjob? Bring on the AA.

  8. zinzin says:

    i agree, who fucking cares. thing is, where the folks clamoring that AA is a “big box” and will “set a precedent”…so can this.

    if AA is forced out of their bid to come to the hood, other folks will be less willing to try. it’s actually already the case – even with local, one door businesses – they dont try to come to the hood for fear that MAC will close them down.

    happened to a restaurant that wanted to take over the derelict building on folsom across from rainbow (used to be a band rehearsal space back in the day – parking out front and zig-zag roof line). they spent millions buying the property…and then tens of thousands on designs & studies…and MAC closed it down at the last minute in a meeting just like the one that’s about to happen. they still own the property…and it’s a fucking blight.

    if a precedent is set here…if it’s deemed OK for folks to censor businesses based upon politics…business will be reticent to come to the hood…and we’ll be stuck with derelict storefronts and blight.

    i guess some poeple like it that way.


    the number on the poster is: 575-9084. The planner’s name is apparently Melissa Pilar LaValley. Her email is melissa.lavalley@sfgov.org. call her, email, her and tell her what you think.

    if you can’t go to the meeting, please do one of the above.

  9. Personally, I don’t want an AA over there. What can I say, I’ll take another half-assedly conceived restuarant or Hipster Paper Products Store, before AA. Their stores are sterile and boring (except for the pedophile picks as ads), and I could care less about their product.

    And Stephen Elliot makes some great events in the Mission; though, like someone above mentions, I do get worried that he may one day run for office. That would be some bad news and great SF Weekly fodder.

  10. C. says:

    Some of these points have been made clearly by zinzin here, and by others on sfist (including ChesterY, Oznog and munidiaries1 – you rule, munidiaries!), but: there is a big difference between a “big box” store and a “big national chain”, and there are also differences between big national chains.

    First, regarding what might be the most important concern, there is a big difference between the economic models and economic impacts of “big box” stores and others. “Big box” stores get their name because they are able to buy mass-market products in super-large quantities from manufacturers and distributors and are able to command high special discounts by doing so. They then sell these mass-market products at super-low prices, and soon fully capture their markets, putting out of business smaller local stores in the same markets that cannot command such quantities and discounts. They also offer lower wages to employees and exert strong pressure on manufactures and distributors for higher special discounts and exclusive agreements.

    Second, not only is AA not a “big box” store in the sense of having such an economic model and economic impact, they are not even a competitor with most local businesses in the Mission. While they are a national chain, they are a manufacturer too, and they appeal to a niche market (so far as brand and style), not a mass market. Further, they are not competitive (so far as price, or brand and style!) with other merchants, for example the clothing shops on Mission St. that sell packaged mass-brand t-shirts and underpants – AA sells at moderate to high prices based on a distinctive brand and style, and those shops at low prices. So even as a national chain or as any type of store, versus a big box store, they won’t have a bad economic impact.

    Third, there seems to be a concern about rent increases (vs. other types of economic impact) being caused by AA. I don’t think it makes sense to attribute this to AA or even to “greedy landlords”, as some have said here or . It is an accompaniment to other, good trends in the Mission, and will continue to be a concern with or without AA. Further, there is no principled legal basis for excluding AA to delay or to deter rent increases. It could actually be considered economically harmful and legally prohibitive against reasonable landlords who are just trying to make a buck while they can.
    If there are important things to be protected (and I don’t think Artists Television Access is one of them! ugh!), this needs to be done in other ways, and for the whole city. Similar things happened in Hayes Valley when it took another step upscale a few years ago; I am acquainted with a few local merchants who had great shops on Hayes for many years and who were driven out by quadrupling of their rents. No one tried to move against La Boulange, Timbuktu or Huf. ;)
    There could instead be initiatives to protect or to support local shops, non-profits, educational and arts organizations. Some distributive justice could be applied – rather than outright banning based on political alignment (thanks for calling this out, zinzin). Taxes or fees could be applied to development, paid by larger merchants and larger landlords, and distributed to support non-profits or to provide loans to small, local merchants.
    The character of the Mission may indeed be changing; this may be the start of Soho-fication. But villifying AA is not the way to deal with it.
    As sfist points out, the worst impact of AA is likely to be “a few Mission women looking even slutier [sic]” – and slutty is the new black. ;)

    Fourth, who else is sick & tired of so-called “activists” who attempt to give cred to their ravings and to distinguish themselves from your everyday crazy haters by rolling your neighborhood into some big spliff of “community” they claim to represent?!
    Perhaps Stephen Elliot isn’t the usual one of these. I like his personal website; he’s a writer. His books seem interesting, although perhaps a bit intense in their portrayal of what seems to have been a real, down-and-out, drug-addicted past. He does seem to have applied significant talent toward becoming a literary artist. Perhaps his concerns about the Mission come from genuine care for unusual and marginalized people as he may have encountered and befriended. Having bios written by friends on his website – instead of the usual “About” page – is also interesting, and I actually read and liked and even was touched by several of these. But as his friend Jenni recounted,
    “I remember the time you tried to wash a toaster by dumping it in a sink full of water. You were intelligent but you were dumb as a stump.” So, uh – is 988 Valencia like a toaster?

  11. SFDoggy says:

    I don’t particularly like AA and doubt I will shop there. but I don’t see why there should be any problem with them moving into the neighborhood. They will certainly be an improvement over the existing, depressing vacant storefront. and I can’t see them taking business away from other business. It seems to me that the opposition to this comes from people with either a very rarified aesthetic sensibility (that they want to oppose on the rest of us) or very perverse notions of social justice.

  12. zinzin says:

    i think C. is rivaling me for longest post on MM. Kudos C!

    all excellent points, and i should say, let’s not bash Stephen Elliot personally. everyone’s entitled to their views, and his effort to organize around his views is laudable.

    except, of course, that he censored my views from his eloquent, literary blog. but whatever. hes got street cred, so he can do whatever the fuck he wants, right? including spinning this issue into a politicized goat rodeo?

    or is it me that’s doing that??

    the number on the poster is: 575-9084. The planner’s name is apparently Melissa Pilar LaValley. Her email is melissa.lavalley@sfgov.org. call her, email her and tell her what you think.

    if you can’t go to the meeting, please do one of the above.

  13. Matthew says:

    I am bit unclear about one of the arguments made. Elliot says that allowing one big chain will invite others, but did the Buffalo Exchange invite others? it is fairly large chain in 10 plus states. Does it not count because it is too far south?

  14. johnny0 says:

    Doesn’t big box = made in China? Did China occupy East L.A. when I wasn’t looking? Oh, wait, we already have cheap stuff from China in the dollar stores.

    Infantile as I find AA’s advertising and CEO, I don’t see it as an issue. (And damn, I wish I had thought of the Sketchers defense!)

    And look to 24th in Noe as to what can happen when you try to control things to much. Yes, it’s food vs retail, but 24th St = booooring.


  15. windy says:

    This is not about censoring AA; don’t be ridiculous. This is simply about not wanting chain stores on Valencia — they are harbingers of boring, cookie cutter streets that are boring and predictable.

    One of the main problems with a chain store opening anywhere is that with ownership of said chain not living and breathing in the neighborhood, said remote owner will be less likely to make good decisions about the neighborhood. And one of the main reasons the Mission is such a desirable neighborhood is because it is truly a neighborhood with businesses owned by people who live here. That’s what makes it great.

    I’m not sure how long the commenters above have lived in this city, but i’ve been here 20 years. SF has a long and colorful history of trying to prevent chain stores from opening up on certain streets. The fact that our city doesn’t look like every other city is one of the main reasons people want to live here.

  16. meave says:

    The city DOES have chain stores, lots of them! Maybe fewer and/or farther between than other places, but come on; there are too many to list. Let me just say, big box: Costco! Has that place ruined the city? NO. No, it has not. And Foods Co. so close to Rainbow? They’re both doing well, as far as I know, and I shop at both of them.

    It would be the best best best if great small independent businesses thrived in the Mission, right? A magical wonderland? Mostly. Who owns the chain stores that are already here — consider the possibility that our neighbors are franchise owners (holders?), and that their prosperity is our neighborhood’s prosperity. As I don’t know how AA stores are run, I don’t know if this point is pertinent to the issue, but it is worth noting.

    I want the depressing, empty spaces on Valencia and Mission filled, with something other than 99-cent stores or stupid doomed-before-they-begin restaurants. Look at how worked up “everyone” — or at least, everyone commenting here — is over this issue; it doesn’t have to be Après American Apparel, le déluge. We can be discriminating. That line of thinking presumes that we’re all going to lose our ability to discriminate between “exclusively profitable” and “profitable + a good fit for the neighborhood.” Give us a chance before you condemn us all as corporate zombies.

    Finally, let me repeat myself to the protesters: Stop using GAP Co. (and its other brands) and Starbucks as your examples of the vipers that will inevitably follow AA once we invite it to our commercial bosom. Those two companies are doing VERY VERY POORLY right now, the Gap has been for some time, and their names don’t evoke the same fear of mall-icizing they once did. If you want to sway the undecided, choose relevant bogeymen. Or not, because you are wrong.

  17. zinzin says:


    a big part of this issue – of every over-politicized issue, especially in SF and ESPECIALLY in the mission – is that no one accepts that there’s gray areas. nuance. something other than rabid adherence to ideological dogma.

    Stephen Elliot is calling this “the struggle”. he’s calling it “the cause”. he’s turning it into a political shenanigan, and he’s dogmatically adhering to the notion of “no formula retail” WITHOUT ANY CONSIDERATION FOR WHAT THE NEIGHBORHOOD ACTUALLY NEEDS.

    like any good “progressive” blow-hard, all he’s interested in is his own narrow, selfish views, and – mark my words – his own political advancement.

    fact is, mom & pop can’t open stores in this economy. so what should we do? just deal with closure after closure in the hood? till all we have left is boarded up storefronts and the associated garbage, graffiti and crime? (i know everyone here likes graffiti).

    is THAT the Mission we want?

    i dont think so. my view….ask yourself “what would Stephen Elliot do there?” and then, fight with all your might for the opposite, because he doesnt give a FUCK about you…all he’s thinking about is himself and how to become a public figure.

  18. zinzin says:

    the number on the poster is: 575-9084. The planner’s name is apparently Melissa Pilar LaValley. Her email is melissa.lavalley@sfgov.org. call her, email her and tell her what you think.

    if you can’t go to the meeting, please do one of the above.

  19. Charles Nibbly says:

    To all of those belly-achers fearing ‘ANY’ business coming into the Mission:

    - don’t shop there

    When a business isn’t patronized and can’t sustain itself, they go. And if the business sticks around and prospers, guess what: you do not represent the people majority.

    - – -

    This is exactly what’s wrong w/ Mission Street right now… belly-achers wanting to control the likes of mall stores, such as what you see over on Chestnut St in the Marina, from setting up shop. Why?

    Oh I know why… because they’re from the organization known as “The People for Glamorizing Filth, Crime & Poverty in the Mission District”. What’s amazing is how quickly they’d defect from that organization the day they buy a house in the Mission and start paying city taxes. And until they do, I say STFU.

    - Chuck

  20. zinzin says:

    sad part is, the many of the “organized” “progressive” folks are less

    “The People for Glamorizing Filth, Crime & Poverty in the Mission District”.

    and more

    “The COTTAGE INDUSTRY BUILT ON THE BACKS OF Filth, Crime & Poverty in the Mission District”.

    there are over 75 “service” oriented NGOs in the Mission. Over 75! who do you think attends the BoS & Planning meetings? Government subsidized employees of these orgs….

    as for the rank & file, i think Nibbly hits it on the head. except that most of them will buy a house OUTSIDE the mission, likely in some white enclave somewhere if they are able, and leave their irresponsible mess behind in a cloud of plaid pants and handlebar mustaches.

  21. valencia valencia says:

    The sad fact of the matter is this: 1) Yes, AmApp is a coal mine canary for eventual retail blandness. Being on the cutting edge hood-wise is something they spend a lot of time on. 2) Eventually there will be other similarly formulaic retail coming in a la SOHO 3) That will result in higher rents (Castro is living proof) 4) There is absolutely nothing you can do about it that is not a “cure worse than the illness.” 5) We will try anyway, with silly zoning restrictions that allow check cashing, pot clubs, filthy 5 & 10 plastic crap stores, etc. AmApp will open anyway 6) AmApp will eventually establish a beach head in another area, and end up displacing Valencia as SF’s hippest destination. Where? Outer Mission? Bayview? Visitation Valley? Only time will tell.

  22. Janet C says:

    By making it harder for “chains” to open and operate by upping the permit requirements and other bureaucratic hoops, it paradoxically makes it harder for the single store small business to open as well. The end result is that then only chains have the resources to open and operate.

    Zinzin, thanks for your spaced repetition message of: the number on the poster is: 575-9084. The planner’s name is apparently Melissa Pilar LaValley. Her email is melissa.lavalley@sfgov.org. call her, email her and tell her what you think.

    I shall contact Ms. Pilar LaValley and let her know my thoughts.

  23. zinzin says:

    whatever your viewpoint, do get involved and speak out.

    even if i disagree with you and you’re crazy.

  24. ct says:

    There are signs all over the inside of Ritual (where I am writing this, because I am a hipster, or a yuppie, or both) about this. They refer to American Apparel as “mega-retail chain”, which seems dubious, and are branded with a slogan: “Our mission, not theirs.” Hmm. Whose, exactly?

    AA often feels like it’s trying to spoonfeed a manufactured culture back to the consumer. Nobody likes that, especially here in San Francisco, where we are all beautiful, delicate, completely unique flowers. And many odious things have been reported about the stores themselves and the clientele they attract.

    But the clothes are made by people in Los Angeles who, by most accounts, get paid decently for the work they do, and this is a cause that people in San Francisco — especially people in “our” Mission — claim to support. But for some reason, it is more important to try to hold an impossible line on retail chains and leave a modest storefront empty. I don’t understand the wisdom of this..

  25. Janet says:

    To the writer -

    Thank you for speaking on behalf of the level headed.


  26. zinzin says:

    funny thing…most folks who would be involved in SUPPORTING responsible, appropriate, reasonable development in the hood have, well, you know, jobs, and, well, can’t really get time off to attend a Planning or BoS meeting in, like, the middle of the day. for the most part. not that they wouldn’t want to. really.

    and it doesnt make them, like, imperialist corporate taskamsters, making their filthy living on the backs of, like, the struggle of the working man, who obviously wants to have as many derelict, garbage attracting storefronts as possible in the hood, or anything. i mean, they’re not, like, destroyers of neighborhoods. eaters of worlds.

    and they’re not lying blow-hard “progressive” wannabe activists using spin tactics to turn something potentially good, and something certainly neutral, into a political shenanigan, a forum for personal advancement and spotlight grabbing, either. like, at the EXPENSE of the people they’re purporting to support, and duping into following their sham of a banner. (yes, i am talking to you, Stephen Elliott).


    the number on the poster is: 575-9084. The planner’s name is apparently Melissa Pilar LaValley. Her email is melissa.lavalley@sfgov.org. call her, email her and tell her what you think.

    if you can’t go to the meeting because you, like, you know, have to go to work (you capitalist pigdog)… PLEASE do one of the above. jsut one click and 3 lines of typing.

  27. [...] not exactly.  After reading several blog posts and comments, I’ve discovered a vocal group that thinks big box franchises will destroy the charm of the [...]

  28. Eric says:

    Zinzin — thanks for the contact info.

    I too would rather see a small clothing store than an empty storefront. And while I don’t like their clothes, it’s better than nothing (or another overpriced douche bar.)

  29. zinzin says:

    i think a business called “Douche Bar” would be an appropriate candidate for one of the other empty spaces. and the protest posters would be humorous.

    also, here’s a longer list of the people to contact if you’re particularly ambitious.

    this is courtesy of mother teresa, i mean, stephen elliott. i don’t really understand why bevan dufty’s on there (i figure this is closer to D6 than D8, and more daly’s area of insanity..uh…interest), but i just did a copy paste. maybe dufty’s on a committee or something.

    and of course, the mayor.

    Pilar LaValley
    San Francisco Planning Department

    Bevan Dufty
    District 8 Supervisor

    David Campos
    District 9 Supervisor

    Christina Olague
    President of the SF Planning Commission

    Lawrence B. Badiner
    Zoning Administrator
    San Francisco Planning Department

    Gavin Newsom
    Mayor of San Francisco

  30. Everybody Put A Sock in It says:

    Wow, this has been a real opportunity for some people to blow off some pithy steam and point fingers at the yuppies, nimbies, mommies with money, fixies, hipsters, filth, and the poor. I am sure i am forgetting many but all really very entertaining.

    If I ever saw anyone actual acting on they’re beliefs and rants as much as enjoying their personal diatribe it would have a little more weight.

    Shut up and go to the meeting. or have someone go in your place or call in sick to your job or whatever it takes. Just do something…. the hot air is killing me.

  31. ryan says:

    Your efforts are in vain. AA is a great company and your pathetic campaign to stop them is a waste of EVERYONE’S time! Get a job and make this country productive, you losers!