Marina residents up in arms over rest­aurant project

Anyone driving or walking down Marina Boulevard in recent months will have noticed the angry red signs posted in many a window that read, “STOP RESTAURANT ON MARINA GREEN.”

The reason for the plethora of all-caps signs? Marina residents are upset over the Recreation and Park Department’s plans to transform an old degaussing station at the edge of the Marina Green that has been empty for more than a decade into a small-scale seafood restaurant.

Publisher of the Marina Times, Earl Adkins, told the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The fear is that this will turn into a Fisherman’s Wharf on the Marina.”

Many opponents share his view that a restaurant with outdoor seating that serves alcohol means more traffic, increased noise and obnoxious boozing. During a January Merchants Association meeting one resident said:

“We don’t want to see Chestnut Street on the Marina Green.”

However, the waterfront restaurant would close by 9 p.m. and wouldn’t be built up or majorly obstruct anyone’s view. And patrons wouldn’t be doing keg stands on Marina Green as the restaurant would only serve beer and wine by the glass, and only along with a food order. It’s owned by the Woodhouse Fish Co. people, who already operate three modest-sized, popular restaurants in The City.

To top it all off, it would bring in an estimated $100,000 for The City.

While the restaurant plans don’t sound horrible, the hysterical opposition and controversy goes beyond the details of this particular project.

If you dig deeper, you find a city department that often proposes controversial development plans that go without notice (sparsely attended community meetings and hearings) until the last minute, when residents and community groups grab the tar and feathers (blaming Rec and Park for failing to properly notify them earlier).

Adkins added:

“People don’t trust Rec and Park. They seem like nice people, but they’re more like real estate developers than guardians of the parks.”

Even the Marina Community Association, a group of about 1,000 residents who now support the restaurant project, said more could have been done. It shouldered much of the community outreach, going door to door with flyers, sending out an email survey to about 400 association members, writing about the project for the neighborhood newspaper, and holding local meetings.

And everyone has their own version of the story. The project’s most vociferous opponent, Art Scampa, commented to the Chronicle on the Association’s hand-delivered flyers:

“Supposedly. Nobody I know saw that letter.”

One Marina resident suggested much of the confusion and hysteria could be mitigated if the Rec and Park development process itself was changed.

The Rec and Park Department doesn’t have even half the hefty to-do list that the Planning Department does. It’s required to send out notices describing a potential project to residents in the area, notify any neighborhood groups and set aside a 30-day period for comment and review.

The Rec and Parks Department has been working on the project with Woodhouse Fish Co. for over a year now. Until the restaurant receives the final green-light, it remains to be seen who will win this particular battle in the saga of Rec and Parks versus City residents.