Victory! Jack Spade Abandons its Mission District Plans


We organized, advocated, persevered. And after convincing the Board of Appeals to grant a rehearing on the merits, we got word that Jack Spade is abandoning its plans to open in the Mission District.

From the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

As representatives of the corporation left the hearing, they told a few activists and business owners that they “were done.” And when the Guardian reached 5th and Pacific CEO Bill McComb by email today, he confirmed that the company is giving up on this controversial location, where activists were concerned its deep-pocketed presence would accelerate gentrification of the neighborhood.

“[We’re] not going to war with the neighbors. We like those people and their neighborhood and we are not fighting the issue. There are many a fine location for Jack Spade. Peace to the city!” McComb wrote to us.

We won’t dwell on the fact that McComb’s “Peace to the city!” line is a little misleading, since 5th and Pacific owns eight other stores within city limits (Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, and Lucky Brand are all under the 5&P umbrella). Nor will we harp on the irony of Jack Spade claiming all along to be an “independent business,” but having its parent company’s CEO that announce the pull-out.

No, we think now is the time to reflect on a few aspects of the campaign that we found to be effective. Because we know that, while we sent a message to corporations trying to dodge the public approval process, this likely won’t be the last attempt.

Here are four useful organizing lessons going forward:

  • Use the power of narrative: The world runs on stories; it’s the key to motivating people to act. In this case, we had a story that we felt was naturally sympathetic. A retailer with the resources of a big business displacing a community-focused bookstore. But putting it all together, particularly in a format that is easily digestible by media outlets, was important. (Thanks, Storify!) It helped guide the media framing as more outlets began picking up the story.
  • Build a Coalition: This is the single most important aspect to this campaign’s success. The pushback against Jack Spade began as a group of small business owners who were concerned, mainly, about the effect on the real estate dynamic (among other concerns about the neighborhood). But the effort really took off when the Coalition grew to include advocacy groups like PODER and Calle 24, as well as elected officials who backed the effort. Part of what made this possible was a widening of the narrative–making clear about the implications, not only for small businesses, but for the community-at-large, of a big businesses coming into the neighborhood without first going through the public approval process.
  • Stick to it: When we lost at the Board of Appeals in August, there were some in the coalition who were leaning toward channeling our efforts toward legislative reform, rather than continuing the fight against Jack Spade. But this is one of the unforeseen benefits of building a coalition: when some are ready to throw in the towel, others are ready to keep up the fight. And there’s no doubt it was an uphill battle to convince the Board to essentially reverse its own decision and grant us a rehearing. But this is where the coalition shined. At the hearing this past Wednesday, longtime residents of the Mission District spoke loud and clear about the importance of keeping Jack Spade out. Commissioner Frank Fung, whose change in vote was the key to our appeal’s success, specifically noted that this was what swayed him. Check out the passionate, articulate case made by Oscar Grande of PODER:
  • Have fun: We certainly got mileage out of the “Jack Off” puns. Sure, the New Yorker and its delicate sensibilities seemed off put by it. But whether it was the “Jack Off” fundraiser, or the “Fill the Streets with Seaman” event put on by Chicken John, it kept smiles on the faces of our supporters, and the momentum going even as we faced setbacks at City Hall. As the great Saul Alinsky reminds, “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
Chicken John's Jack Off 16th Street party

Chicken John’s Jack Off 16th Street party

A huge, heartfelt thanks to all the people who poured their heart and soul into this campaign.

Long live the Mission!


One thought on “Victory! Jack Spade Abandons its Mission District Plans

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