Over six months ago, Chipotle signed the lease to the former spot of Home on the corner of Church and Market. The old spot closed over a liquor license violation that did not permit booze service on the back patio. But that was over a year ago, and the space is still empty. Apparently, folks have been tapping the Eater tipline for more details about the Chipotle's opening, and have been busily signing petitions on both sides of the issue.
So what's the hold-up? A few bureaucratic complications have caused the delay. The Castro has long held a ban on fast food, but is that the category Chipotle falls under? The chain straddles a hazy line, dishing out burritos from over 1,400 locations while riding on a mission statement that points to "Food with Integrity." This mission means buying (relatively) local, sourcing organic meat, and supporting small farmers with sustainable farming practices.
Its production volume and philosophy are a rare hybrid that makes Chipotle hard to classify, presenting a lot of questions in the face of S.F. restaurant law -- a system historically unfriendly to chains that wish to expand. Additionally, the spot is outside the edge of Castro proper, next to chains in the Safeway shopping center. Despite the legislative loopholes, culture fit still remains an issue.
Lucky for those of us who haven't sorted out our feelings on this, Chipotle has written a neatly worded petition inviting itself in and articulating our feelings for us, feelings we didn't even know we had. And all you have to do is sign it. The petition is a letter addressed to the San Francisco Planning Commission, and reminds us that Chipotle would be rescuing the neighborhood from the vacated space, an "eyesore in our community," and emphasizes the complete facade remodel, including a public art component that would be "unique" to the neighborhood and created with input from the community. (Though it seems like the lengths you'd have to go to be "unique" in the city's most colorful sector would be far outside the scope of a national chain. Not to say we wouldn't be up for some fajita-themed performance art ... as long as sequins are involved.)
Residents of the area seem to be divided. At this moment, Chipotle reports 176 signatures on the petition, but the comments section is peppered with critiques, calling Chipotle "faux-Mexican," and pointing to San Francisco's already high saturation of local taquerias. One dissenter contends that Chipotle, as a chain, does not "relay the spirit of San Francisco," a "hub of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit." Despite Chipotle's humble origins, born out of such spirit, and inspired by San Francisco's homegrown Mexican food culture, it seems the "chain" thing remains a turn-off for Castro-ites who cherish the quaint weirdness and special feeling of living somewhere that wants to be like nowhere else in the world. Chipotle wouldn't help with that.
To make your feelings known, you can sign the petition, email the restaurant at email@example.com, or just march over there with your pitchfork and make a fuss. To sign a petition against the move in, go over to the counter-petition at Change.org. Otherwise, the planning commission is always a good place to contact.