SF’s legacy business, Joe’s Ice Cream, is at risk of being demolished

Joe’s Ice Cream has been a San Francisco mainstay for 63 years, but owners of the historic shop are unsure of its future after discovering the building could be developed for housing.

Owners Sean and Alice Kim told SFGATE they were unaware of any development plans until late August, when surveyors spent hours taking measurements of the building at 5420 Geary Blvd. The Kims found the visit from the property experts odd and decided to Google their business address later that day.

They found an article published in June by the nonprofit housing advocacy group SF YIMBY, an acronym for “yes in my backyard,” detailing preliminary plans submitted to the city for a mixed-use building. For the Kims, what stands out the most is the last line: “Demolition will be required for the existing one-story commercial structure.”


“I was very shocked and frustrated because if the demolition of the building is necessary then there is no future for us,” Alice said. “It was very difficult to deal with all the stress.”

A planning application was submitted in April indicating the demolition of 5420-5424 Geary Blvd. would be necessary to make way for a structure of 9 to 18 dwellings. The plans were submitted less than a month later. In addition to Joe’s Ice Cream, Neighboring Business Cards and Comics Central would be affected if plans go ahead. SFGATE reached out to the retail store for comment, but did not hear back by post.

The Kims told the Richmond Review earlier this month they were aware the property went up for sale in February, but they told SFGATE they don’t believe the outcome of the sale will lead to any further plans. of development.

“No one told us about this submitted developer app,” Sean said. “They did a big investigation [of the property]which means they are really serious and have planned intentions… which is why we are really scared.

Another major concern for the couple is that they are unsure if they will be allowed to finish their lease, which ends in 2029, as they fear they could possibly be evicted. Joe’s Ice Cream, which opened in 1959, became a legacy business in San Francisco in 2017. While the legacy program can offer legal assistance and rent stabilization grants, it’s harder to support small businesses in situations where demolition is a risk.

The San Francisco Office of Small Business, which runs the legacy program, confirmed it was working with Joe’s Ice Cream to offer advice and connected them with the nonprofit Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights to help provide legal advice. Joe’s Ice Cream and Cards and Comics Central also applied for an SBA loan in hopes of persuading their landlord to sell the building to them instead, the Kims said.

“Hopefully we get the pre-qualification letter from the lender and then we can tell the landlord that we’re ready to buy the building,” Sean said. “I don’t know if it’s possible, but I hope he can sell it to us.”

SFGATE contacted Gaetani Real Estate, the property management group that owns the building, but did not hear back before publication.



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