A pair of Spades wins

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A strong showing by small businesses and activists concerned about chain stores and gentrification in the Mission won over a 3-2 majority on the Board of Appeals on Aug. 21, but their appeal of a city ruling that Jack Spade isn't a formula retail business was denied anyway because it needed four votes.

The Valencia Corridor Merchants' Association challenged the Planning Department's June decision to issue a building permit to Jack Spade, a men's clothing chain moving into the old Adobe Bookstore location on 16th Street. Officials ruled that chain has fewer than 11 locations, so it wasn't required to go through the conditional use hearing required of "formula retail" businesses.

Though it indeed has only 10 locations, Jack Spade "has a complete imbalance of power and resources, which is exactly what the formula retail legislation aimed to remedy in the first place," Mission activist Kyle Smeallie told the Guardian. Jack Spade is owned by Fifth & Pacific (aka Liz Claiborne), which also owns the Kate Spade women's clothing chain. "We're going to make the case that, since it's named Spade, it has benefitted from the association with Kate Spade," Smeallie explained. "Legally, we have a case to say a Spade is Spade and they should be considered one and same."

Local business owners fear that an influx of chain stores will drive up commercial rents in the Mission and force them out of business. "I'm strongly opposed because of its potential to destroy the culture of this area," Michael Katz, owner of Katz Bagels across 16th Street from the site, told the Guardian. "If they start allowing chains to come, it will be one chain store after another."

Activists say they're considering their options and not yet ready to give up.

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