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In Wake Of 4-Alarm Union Street Fire, North Beach Picks Up The Pieces

Ferocious Blaze Shakes Up Neighborhood On St. Patricks Day

North Beach was hit with a terrible disaster on Saturday, the likes of which we haven’t seen here in decades. A huge fire engulfed the building that faces Union Street between Columbus Avenue and Powell Street, threatening the entire block with flames that soared more than 50 feet into the air above the structure. There are fires and then there are fires, and this was a monster. 

The Saint Patricks Day revelers, well into their celebration by 7:30pm (roughly when the fire began), were dumbfounded. Locals came out of their apartments for blocks, and walked to the scene of the conflagration. Somehow, there were no deaths and only one firefighter injury reported.

This is sobering news for the neighborhood, and particularly sad for the businesses affected (there were no residents in the building’s upper floors). Shadi Zaghayar at Coit Liquor was shut down by fire less than four years ago; he knows exactly how difficult the path ahead is for his family business. Likewise all of the other shops on that strip–Ferry Plaza Seafood, Tuk Tuk Thai, Rogue Brewing and the recently opened Salzburg–are going to be closed for a long time, at the very least.

Sadly, this tragedy happens against the background of an ongoing vacancy crisis on the adjoining block. Right now, on Columbus Avenue between Union and Green Streets, there are eight vacant ground floor parcels. This, on what has historically been one of the busiest blocks in North Beach. 

Not surprisingly, the people who love North Beach the most are upset by all of this. Tempers flared on Saturday, and there were widespread questions about the fire department’s response. Loyalties were questioned, and divisions appeared, where before there were none. 

There’s no time for that. North Beach just took a serious blow. And the hurling of insults–whether they’re directed at the Fire Chief or our Supervisor–is not what this community needs. 

A dozen years ago, this neighborhood was on its knees. Four of North Beach’s biggest restaurant properties were vacant: Original Joe’s, Park Tavern, Washington Square Bar & Grill and Enrico’s down on Broadway. There was also no Tony’s Pizza, no Sotto Mare. No Tacolicious, Chubby Noodle. Steps of Rome was empty, so there was no Il Casaro, either.

The point: in the five years that followed, North Beach rebounded hard. It’s difficult to imagine the neighborhood without all of these great places now. But our neighborhood persevered, and thrived. And as always, from hardship comes new opportunity.

We’ll figure out what happened on Saturday, one way or the other, and we’ll make things right again. There is a lot of work to be done, and in the weeks and months to come, we need to support the businesses affected–and all North Beach businesses. 

North Beach is a strong community, one of the strongest. Together we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep moving forward.


We will be posting here about ways that you can support those businesses affected directly by the fire, so make sure to check back soon.

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A Glimpse Of What SFNBBA Does For North Beach Businesses

In keeping with our history of support and leadership for the commercial district of our neighborhood, the North Beach Business Association has assembled a quick report detailing a few of our organizational accomplishments for 2018. This is a partial list, but it will give readers some idea of the breadth of our efforts for the neighborhood.

North Beach Commercial Vacancies Prompt Action: Enough Is Enough

On Wednesday afternoon, we will join Supervisor Aaron Peskin at 527 Columbus Avenue near Green Street, where commercial units have been kept off the rental market for nearly a decade. The press will be in attendance, and Supervisor Peskin and SFNBBA board members are expected to speak about the need for these commercial landlords to do their part to restore the commercial rental supply in our neighborhood–and the well-being of our commercial district. It’s not complicated: we are simply asking that property owners offer their vacant spaces for rent, and at a reasonable market rate.

Let's Keep It Local: Your North Beach Shopping Guide

A list of eleven of the coolest possible places to do your Christmas shopping–right here in North Beach.

Wintry Weather Brings Holiday Events And More To North Beach

This Friday, December 7th, the neighborhood will once again host the North Beach Wine Walk. If you haven't participated in the event before, it's a great way to meet some of the neighborhood's best retailers; shops like Z Cioccolato, Lola and Cole Hardware will be opening their shops after normal hours, and hosting local vintners to pour samples of their tastiest wines for attendees.

The Beach Never Sleeps: New Offerings Abound

Here in North Beach, it’s been a mighty strange couple of weeks. As much as we’ve tried to focus on our labors, the smoky, toxic air conditions brought by the tragic Camp Fire to our north has admittedly knocked our neighborhood a little bit out of whack. And that’s only natural, in a place where our residents are used to spending so much time outdoors. So we're here to give you a quick review of what's been afoot.

Business Owner Recognized For Heroism; Macchiarini Design Turns Seventy

This weekend, Edson Garcia, the owner of Brioche Bakery and Café on Columbus Avenue, was honored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin and the North Beach Business Association for a remarkable act of courage. 

Washington Square Mitigation Plan Finally In Place; Meanwhile, Ten Trees Gone

If you’ve been reading the blog, you already know Washington Square Park faces temporary closure in the coming months for renovations. Here at the SFNBBA, we’ve been lobbying the city and S.F. Recreation & Park for months.

SFNBBA Wins Neighborhood Protections In Face Of Washington Square Park Closure

The impending closure of Washington Square Park has got the neighborhood stirred up, and the people at the SFNBBA have been on the case. Take a look at this week's post to find out what we've accomplished–and what you should expect for Washington Square.

Empty Spaces: New Report Sheds Light On North Beach Vacancies

The vacancy crisis in North Beach is an ongoing concern, and this month we received some new data on the problem. According to a new report conducted by the San Francisco North Beach Business Association (SFNBBA) in cooperation with Telegraph Hill Dwellers and North Beach Neighbors, the numbers are jarring: over the past three years, the number of vacant ground-floor commercial spaces in the neighborhood has doubled.

It’s Always Sunny In North Beach: North Beach Festival Weekend Is Here

The very first street fair in America, The North Beach Festival has been the blueprint for neighborhood fairs and block parties for decades. And this weekend, we're celebrating the festival for the 64th time. In other news, is there trouble on the horizon for Washington Square Park?

On Eve Of North Beach Festival, Neighborhood Fights Washington Square Park Closure

There is always plenty afoot in North Beach, and this month is no exception: the annual North Beach Festival, due to hit our streets on Saturday and Sunday, June 16th and 17th, is always a monster event. We’re expecting a record turnout for our 64th year.
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Jan 23

Community Action: Resolve The Vacancy Crisis

Community Action: Resolve The Vacancy Crisis Wednesday, January 23rd @ 1:00 PM 527 Columbus Avenue, North Beach, SF (just north of Green St.)