While gentrification is an ongoing and controversial topic for many residents of San Francisco, some Divisidero Street merchants are beginning to view its effects on their neighborhood in a more positive light.
“Divisadero used to be the kind of street that you wouldn’t even want to walk down,” said Scott Scharenbroich, one resident of the Western Addition who is in favor of many of the changes that are happening in the neighborhood.
In recent years, many new businesses have emerged on Divisadero as some of the older ones have closed up shop.
The opening of these new stores and restaurants corresponds with the changing demographics of this bustling urban neighborhood, and owners of some of the older businesses are taking note of what types of establishments these new potential customers want to spend their money at.
Patrick Kane, an employee at a restaurant on Divisadero Street, noticed that many of the new businesses are tailored toward affluent people, especially those in the tech industry.
With a younger, trendier demographic becoming the majority of patrons that frequent the shops on Divisadero Street, some established businesses have learned to adjust to suit the needs of the new crowd.
“There have been significant changes just in the past year,” said Randy Nelson, owner of Mojo Bike Café. “The businesses that have adapted better are doing well.”
Nelson, who is also the head of the Divisadero Street Merchants Association, has keenly observed the changes that have happened in the area since his bike-shop-café combo opened up on the street over eight years ago.
He believes these changes have been beneficial to many of the local businesses, including his own.
“For me, it’s been good for business,” said Nelson. “Tourism on this street has developed tremendously.”
Now more than ever, tourists and other groups that wouldn’t have been seen roaming the old Divisadero Street have begun to populate it.
Justin Lew, one of the owners of the bar Tsk/Tsk, open for only seven weeks, was drawn to Divisadero Street as the location for his new business partly because of the demographic changes and more upscale reputation the street is carving out for itself.
“I used to run bars in the Tenderloin and it’s much better here,” said Lew. “The types of people have become much more diverse.”
Though many merchants on Divisadero are able to see some of the immediate benefits of the influx of a more diverse crowd, some recognize the negative impacts that come with it as well.
“There has been more of a hurt to the retail stores than those in the food industry,” said Nelson.
He has also noticed that many of the African American-owned businesses that were once prevalent on Divisadero have begun to disappear.
“Most of the black businesses are just gone,” said Nelson.
But just as the arrival of new types of people brings more business to the shops, another effect of gentrification can pull some stores back down.
“A lot of businesses are closing not because of lost business, but because rent goes up,” explained Nelson.
Though he has lingering concerns, Nelson nonetheless remains confident that the unique and lively identity of Divisadero Street will keep it from dying out.
“If you have a street with a lot of stuff going on, everyone is going to benefit from it.”