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San Francisco businesses, residents push back against sober living facility in North Beach

San Francisco North Beach Hotel to no longer be site of sober living facility after pushback
San Francisco North Beach Hotel to no longer be site of sober living facility after pushback 03:40

San Francisco's old, 150-room North Beach Hotel would have been turned into a sober living facility, but locals and business worried the facility would only hurt their chances at bringing people to the area.

It is an iconic corner in San Francisco's Little Italy. Bordering North Beach and Chinatown is Cafe Zoetrope — a charming European style cafe owned by renowned film director Francis Ford Coppola.

The restaurant's manager, Lidia Valledon, said she loves serving the community.

"I really enjoy working in the area, and the sense of community we have," Valledon said.

But that sense of community has dealt with growing danger in recent years, with Valledon herself being assaulted by unhoused individuals nearby who suffer from addiction and mental health issues. 

Still, she does her best to protect the beloved restaurant she manages.

That's why when she heard about a proposal for a sober living project at the nearby North Beach Hotel by Mayor London Breed, safety became another alarming concern for her.

"We have enough people suffering in this neighborhood," Valledon said.  

Ultimately, after community members raised their voices, including those in Chinatown, Mayor London Breed released a statement, deciding to look elsewhere for the sober living site — a reflection of the long-standing community's ability to influence key decisions.

"After meeting with many community members, we have decided to pursue an alternative location for the sober living project that had been proposed at the North Beach hotel," Breed said in a statement. 

But Valledon said she still worries for her team's safety, with unhoused individuals sometimes attacking her own employees.

"My staff, they come here everyday. They have to clean. They have to kick people out. They are tired to be dealing with this all the time," she explained. 

And the business is feeling the hit too. Cafe Zoetrope is a key tourist attraction in the city, but Valledon said that tourism traffic has decreased significantly.

"We have less and less tourists coming. And you can see it. And you can feel it. A lot of businesses are closing around us. So, it is a problem already," she said.

It's a problem that breaks Valledon's heart. She immigrated from Argentina to San Francisco for a better life. She loves the city she serves, but she believes it needs more protection.

"Everybody comes here for something. Because it's a very nice place. So, we have to take care of it a little more," Valledon said.

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