A small business owner faces red tape and left-wing activists in San Francisco

Joey Mucha’s arcade rental business in San Francisco grew out of his love for Skee-ball. For the last five years, he has been renting Skee-ball and other machines out of a warehouse in the Mission District. Recently, Murcha decided to convert the space into an arcade/restaurant that would be open to anyone. Since the warehouse was already zoned for Urban Mixed Use this should have been a relatively easy process. But local anti-gentrification activists decided to oppose the project on the grounds that it was designed to appeal to “young, affluent professionals.”

“It’s not designed for families, it’s designed to be attractive for young, affluent professionals*,” said Kevin Ortiz, a member of United to Save the Mission and the Cultural Action Network, a direct action group focused on preserving the Mission’s diversity and artistic spaces. Ortiz said he believes Mucha’s plan is disingenuous and will contribute to further gentrification…

Ortiz said he filed a discretionary review application because he believes the arcade won’t be catering to families and Mission residents, as Mucha claims, but to corporate clients and tech companies.

Fortunately, some of Mucha’s neighbors disagree with the activists about what the arcade would bring to the neighborhood. Lilian Marlene Samson who works at a janatorial company next door sees the arcade as a rare family-friendly business in a neighborhood know for homelessness, drug use, and prostitution.

She also supports his business because, she says, his security guards working at events act as a deterrent against sex workers who wait for pick-ups on Shotwell Street.

Mucha also power-washes the sidewalks, which Samson said has contributed to keeping the block clean and free of homeless camps.

But Ortiz, the gentrification activist, is concerned about “bringing more police into communities of color.”

Thanks to time spent networking with his neighbors, Joey Mucha was able to get his permit approved over the objections of the activists. He is now looking for a chef and hopes to open Joey the Cat as a restaurant/arcade in the first half of 2020.

The goal is “wholesome family fun,” Mucha says, something that he says is impossible at San Francisco’s other arcade bars. “I don’t want this to be a place where you just get wasted and play games,” he says, “I want a place for family birthday parties,” with adults and kids eating a meal as they vie for prizes instead of “just having some drinks, playing a game, and going home.”

Last week, Reason made an excellent short video about Joey’s story. As this clip points out, the activist-driven red tape described here is part of the reason it’s so difficult to build anything in San Francisco and contributes to the significant homeless problem for which the Mission District is known.