The owner of the Beach Motel on Judah Street in San Francisco's Sunset District is thankful that he will be able to extend the conditional use permit that allows the facility to continue to operate as a guest motel. When This reporter contacted Bobby Patel the day after an official re-hearing, the long-time owner of the 20 unit guest motel said it was a relief.
On June 20, 2012 Patel and his family were required to appear at SF City Hall before the Board of Appeals to present evidence that his establishment is in compliance with current City ordinances and zoning laws. As reported back in April of this year, Patel and his attorney Andrew Zacks of Zacks and Freedman had been struggling with the City for more than 15 years. They were steadfast to prove that the motel was a guest motel prior to 1960 when the zoning laws were changed to residential zoning only.
Much of the contention was due in part to the galvanizing efforts of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic to force Patel to comply. According to Randy Shaw, founder of the THC, the Beach Motel was operating illegally and that some if not all of the 20 units should be available for rent as residential apartments. Patel insists that when he bought the motel in 1983 it was operating as a guest motel and that none of the units were used as residential occupancy.
Shaw and the THC continued in the pursuit to force Patel to comply even after he paid the THC a cash settlement of over $30,000.00. "Mr. Patel paid that so Shaw and the THC would just leave him alone," said Zacks. Yet, THC insisted that the Beach Motel was not in compliance. The complexity of the situation was that the motel was built in 1957 prior to the zoning ordinance change three years later. And as Cynthia Goldstein of the Board of Appeals pointed out, there were "many twists and turns," because over the decades there had been a change in ownership several times before Patel bought the motel.
Steve Collier, who works in the legal department of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic emphasized that there was no malice toward Patel. THC's only goal was to insist that the City abide by and enforce its zoning ordinances. As an advocate for low-income residents and the homeless, THC sees it as their mission to ensure that affordable housing is available to all people in all area's of the City.
Patel has been worried that he would have to convert his establishment into a Single-Resident Occupancy facility (an SRO), something that he told the Sunset Beacon would put him out of business. Yet by the Board of Appeals granting Patel the opportunity to file an extent ion, this he hopes will finally resolve the situation entirely.
"We are grateful," said Zacks. "We will have to go through the process to extend the permit," he said. Zacks also said that they must file within the next 30 days and hopes the permit "will last for another 10 to 20 years," (upon the Planning Commission's approval) he said.
Speaking on behalf of THC, Collier noted that "they will still have to prove their status to the Planning Commission." Zacks said once the extension is filed then Patel will have to appear before the Planning Commission for their final decision. That appearance date has yet to be set, perhaps in the next six months or so, Zacks speculated. He believes all will be favorable. And, at least for now Patel and his family can literally rest easy. Because as he told the Sunset Beacon, "there were so many sleepless nights I worried over this," he said. Patel hopes the community will show their support when he and attorney Zacks appear before the Planning Commission.