The Bay Citizen's Scott James files the latest in the saga of Ike's Place, messier than the Dirty Sauce-smudged paper hugging a 40 Year Old Virgin. The Planning Department is slapping the Castro sandwich shop with a $250-per-day fine for operating without the proper permit ― a permit Ike's needed on day one of business back in late 2007.
It seems unlikely that the city simply wasn't aware that owners Ike and Huda Shehadeh needed the permit, certainly not by the end of Ike's first year in business. Early last month, we spoke with two of the four tenants who live above Ike's, guys who say they've endured nearly three years of the bad side of Ike's success: smells, noise, dirt, trash. (We're not naming them since their attorney hadn't authorized them to talk with us.) The neighbors repeatedly called city officials to investigate. They contend that, starting in early 2008, they asked Shehadeh to install a hood to trap the cooking smells that would collect in their flat (cooking is something Ike's reportedly doesn't have a permit to do). And they made sure the landlord and the city know just how much cooking was going on without ventilation.
The neighbors say they can't open their windows or use the small deck at the back of their flat. "We feel like we've been pushed back completely inside the apartment," one of the men told us. But who's to blame here?
The neighbors for the NIMBYism they've been denounced for directing at a beloved local success story? The Shehadehs for their failure to show up for mediation? There's one clear villain here ― the city. Only now, after months of legal maneuvers by the building's landlord, the tenants, and the Shehadehs, the Planning Department is insisting that Ike's needs to have the permit it was supposed to have three years ago? That's unconscionable.
Other San Francisco food business owners have been slapped for far less. As one of Ike's neighbors told us last month, "There isn't another restaurant in the Castro that allows its sidewalks to get black with grease, or fails to get its garbage together." If we owned a restaurant in the Castro,even if we were friends of Ike's and approved of the business it drove to the area, we think we'd be righteously pissed that the city has appeared to be so selective about which businesses can operate outside the law.