Just How Many Favors Can S.F. Grant to City's Favorite Politically Connected Barkeep?


A fair amount of ink — but not enough — was spilled over how a typo will allow heavy Gavin Newsom donor Gus Murad to build a proposed condo project at the New Mission Theater 20 feet higher than zoning rules allow — and Newsom's veto overrode the Board of Supervisors' attempt to remedy this error.

So, in the hubbub over the American Apparel showdown at Thursday's Planning Commission meeting, it was more or less lost in the shuffle when commission vice president Christina Olague brought this up (you can watch it here at about the 11-minute mark). She further queried whether the rooftop bar at Medjool — also owned by New Mission Theater developer Murad — was legal under the city's zoning laws. It took until Saturday for the Chronicle to report and expand upon what zoning administrator Larry Badiner said at the time: It's not

The Chronicle story, however, glosses over two points that should make anyone uneasy about how sausage gets made in this city.

The rooftop bar isn't just a “top 10 venue” for political happenings as Supervisor Bevan Dufty is quoted as saying. It's a ubiquitous site for political goings-on, be they fund-raisers for out-of-town Congress and Senate candidates or local big-money events for San Francisco politicians of every political leaning.

“This is just crazy to me,” Olague told SF Weekly. “Every politician in town has been up on that roof deck. Dennis Herrera had his fund-raisers up there, even Mark Sanchez, a progressive Green. And, since 2004 [when the rooftop bar opened], it was illegal and no one knew? No one held [Murad] accountable?”

The second discomfiting point — and one barely touched upon by the Chronicle — is the manner that Murad has chosen to remedy the fact the Planning Department feels his bar is illegal (and always has been). Rather than comply with the law, he is, in essence, asking the law to comply with him. But it gets stranger than that. Included in the proposal to make the New Mission Theater a “Special Use District” — allowing exemptions to neighborhood zoning rules — is language about tweaking the rules to accommodate more eateries in neighboring properties — “including rooftops” on adjacent buildings, including Medjool.

Even by San Francisco standards, this seems to be a very odd way to run a railroad. Murad has asked for the city to retroactively greenlight a bar it deemed illegal via a request to bend the rules for a wholly different property

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