Small-business boom is dawning in Outer Sunset 

click to enlarge Open: Luke Bartels’ Woodshop store is among newcomers to the Outer Sunset. - MIKE KOOZMIN/ S.F. EXAMINER
  • Open: Luke Bartels’ Woodshop store is among newcomers to the Outer Sunset.

Last year, when Luke Bartels and three other independent businessmen were looking for a commercial space that would allow them to build their own homemade goods, they turned to the Outer Sunset.

Bartels said the area is quiet and affordable, and it gave each of them the large work spaces their ventures demanded, as well as storefronts to attract customers. Bartels said he’s noticed growth in the neighborhood in the past few months, and even people peering through his shop’s windows at Noriega Street and 45th Avenue.

“We’re here for the atmosphere,” he said. “A lot of places are starting to open up, and we’re starting to see more interest.”

Businesses similar to Bartels’ Woodshop could start popping up more frequently if amendments are made to the planning code for the Outer Sunset. The changes, which are not drastic, aim to create merchant corridors that allow for future development and give established businesses a say in what comes to the neighborhood, said Supervisor Carmen Chu, who brought the proposed changes to the Planning Commission last month.

“We want thriving commercial areas,” Chu said, “a place where people can linger, shop and go into a coffee shop.”

The amendments would specifically allow for physical changes to retail spaces, including increasing ceiling heights to 10 feet to make spaces more attractive and allow for more manufacturing, catering or wholesale businesses.

But that does not mean a heavy-duty industrial manufacturing company will open in the neighborhood, Chu said.

“We’re not talking heavy equipment,” Chu said. “We want to encourage small businesses still making things in San Francisco to stay in San Francisco.”

The Sunset district as a whole does have several thriving business districts, including Ninth Avenue and Irving Street, Irving from roughly 19th to 22nd avenues, and Judah Street from 44th to 47th avenues. But these changes would focus on commercial clusters along Irving, Judah, Noriega and Taraval streets from 27th Avenue west, in order to entice more businesses to the outer neighborhood, Chu said.

The amendments are expected to be discussed later this month by the Board of Supervisors land-use committee before returning to the Planning Commission.

Commercial real estate agent David Blatteis said as long as the changes do not restrict who can do business in the neighborhood, he supports the idea.

“Expanding potential uses would only help,” he said.

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