North Beach conflict-of-interest zone

North Beach
Thomas Hawk via Flickr

It's been over a year since North Beach's Piazza Market closed its doors – but nothing has come along to take its place. The property, boasting 12,000 square feet at $4 per square foot, has attracted plenty of interest yet still remains empty.

"There's been strong activity on the space – we've had several offers," notes realtor Jeremy Blateis. "If there were less restrictions this place would have been sold already."

According to Blateis, the place has not been leased to prospective renters because of zoning issues. Though the ad for the building says that it's zoned for retail and restaurant use, potential owners would have to go through "lots of red tape" to have it used as a restaurant – which North Beach doesn't have a shortage of.

This is where Claudine Cheng, recently resigned member of the Treasure Island Authority Board, comes in. According to a San Francisco Chronicle report, as a public figure she was paid money to influence decisions of city officers. And a company by the name of 627 Vallejo LLC – the owners of 627 Vallejo – paid Cheng $10,000 in hopes that she would smooth out the zoning situation.

According to the same report, she had been emailing Board of Supervisors President David Chiu seeking amendments to existing legislation in order to change the zoning of the area. Former Board President Aaron Peskin authored that legislation to prevent North Beach retail stores from being transformed into restaurants and chain stores.

Asked whether Chiu would have been open to a possible legislative amendment, legislative aide Judson True responded, "Supervisor Chiu would be open to making legislative changes that have community support," but added that "the issue was whether or not Claudine Cheng was a lobbyist." Judson noted that Chiu “also understands that there are laws that should match particular circumstances in neighborhoods like North Beach."

Peskin, who filed complaints against her with the Ethics Commission and Fair Political Practices Commission, didn’t mince words.

"What she did was illegal," Peskin said of Cheng’s decision to accept the $10,000. "What should fill 627 Vallejo is something that would further serve the community. Not another restaurant."