Disunity prompts merchant action 

Longtime vacancies of storefronts along Union Street have spurred a group of merchants to form a new group in the once-vibrant shopping area.

Dubbed the Union Street Enrichment Association, the group says it isn’t just a few rabble rousers looking to stir up trouble. Members say they formed to push back on what they call an irksome trend of new retailers and restaurants meeting a groundswell of resistance in the neighborhood.

The group kicked off with a launch party Monday night, with policymakers and civic leaders who are equally concerned with the up-and-down trend of vacancies along the once-bustling Union Street.

The current Union Street Merchants Association isn’t doing enough to represent the diverse needs of businesses looking to move along Union Street, said Arjun Dhingra, a Cow Hollow resident and co-chair of the Union Street Enrichment Association.

“There have been a lot of NIMBYs that have caused a slew of vacancies and have driven off other businesses that wanted to come here,” Dhingra said. “Enough is enough.”

The Union Street Merchants Association did not return phone calls for comment.

The new Union Street group has already picked its first battle: to win an upcoming hearing over whether Brick Yard Restaurant and Bar can open an outdoor patio, which neighbors say will create safety issues, not to mention significant noise pollution. The patio has already been built, even before the Planning Commission granted approval, which further upset neighbors in the area.

“They want to have everything their way,” said Robert Bardell, president of the Golden Gate Valley Neighbors Association, which represents 100 households near Union Street.

The Brick Yard is only the latest example of the tension that’s brewing on Union Street.

Earlier this year, Giordano Bros. pulled up stakes after eight months of planning for a second sandwich shop located along Union Street. After getting the project approved, the owners had to battle residents about a plan for outdoor seating.

“We would rather be friends with the people around us than fight us,” said Doug Haleran, manager of Giordano Bros.

But Bardell said the neighborhood is only fighting projects that are inappropriate for a commercial district that must cohabitate with residents.

“Golden Gate Valley is not against the development of Union Street, but we want it done appropriately,” Bardell said. “We want good businesses that respect the neighbors, and these guys have not shown us anything in that regard.”

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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Erin Sherbert

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