Planners back Mission soup kitchen over neighbor complaints

Planning Commission members gave their unanimous support Thursday¬†to plans to open a soup kitchen in San Francisco’s Mission District, despite fears from neighbors that it would draw long lines of homeless people and crime to the neighborhood.

The commission voted to reject challenges filed by a homeowners association and property owner against the soup kitchen at 1928 Mission St., with commissioners arguing that it provided a necessary service and would, if anything, improve the neighborhood.

The soup kitchen will be operated by nuns with the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth, who currently operate a similar facility at 54 Turk St. in the Tenderloin.

The nuns began searching for a new location last year after they were hit with a steep rent increase. They are being assisted by philanthropist Tony Robbins, who has offered to help buy the Mission Street space.

While neighbors voiced concerns about public safety in the area and the large crowds the kitchen could draw, the project had the backing of a number of community groups including the Mission Economic Development Agency and the Mission Neighborhood Health Center.

Commission members argued that the project would, if anything, improve public safety by increasing the number of “eyes on the street.”¬† Commission President Dennis Richards said he was persuaded by testimony from Tenderloin police that the sisters “run a tight ship.”

Ultimately, Richards said:

“I have hard time seeing the difference between this and all other restaurants where you have a line.”

The sisters currently serve around 250 meals for lunch three days a week at their Turk Street site, bake pastries for sale elsewhere and make dinners that are taken to United Nations Plaza and the Bayview, according to their letter responding to the homeowners. They would like to expand the number of days they serve meals, if feasible, the letter states.