An Online Petition Worth Signing Onto

Borderlands Books is a genre specialty store in San Francisco which is both excellent and owned and staffed by people I consider friends of mine. They want to open a cafe next door, which would be good business for them and be great for folks like me who make book tour appearances or who would want to do other sorts of cozy events in a great atmosphere, surrounded by cool folks.

It’ll help Borderlands convince San Francisco’s planning people that the cafe is a good idea if Borderlands can show there’s a groundswell of support for the idea. Borderlands has a petition at their store, so if you’re in the Bay Area and are a fan of the bookstore, it’d be a mitzvah for you to drop by and put your signature on the petition. If you are elsewhere in the universe, but also a fan of the store, Cheryl Morgan has an electronic petition you can put your name to. Please do, and help make a great bookstore even better.

22 Comments on “An Online Petition Worth Signing Onto”

  1. Interestingly, I’m one of their customers… but I’ve never been there.

  2. As a member of the tribe, I am always tickled when someone busts out the non-penis related Yiddish correctly. Thanks!

  3. I don’t want to mess up Cheryl’s petition – Cheryl, do you know which planning agency in particular is the one responsible for the permits? It might be helpful to also write (polite!) letters to the Persons In Charge of making the decisions on the permits.

  4. Since I have been to Borderlands but could not actually remember where the heck it is, I thought I’d Google and then helpfully point out that the address is

    866 Valencia St

    in San Francisco. That makes it nearly next door to 826 Valencia, so after stopping by Borderlands for some petition-signing, you can pop in to 826 for some pirate supplies and/or opportunities to support writing programs.

  5. Hi John (and all),

    Thank you so much for blogging this. I have to say, I knew both that our community was close-knit and supportive and also that people liked Borderlands but I never expected the degree that people care about the shop. The response to our petitions has been heart-warming. I don’t think the planning commission will know what hit them.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to address mythago’s comment made here regarding letter writing. If people are willing, I am collecting letters to the commission. The letter should be addressed to The San Francisco Planning Commission and people can email it directly to me at When it’s time for the hearing I’ll print ’em out and bring them along. Though general letters of support are great, letters that specifically mention positive qualities of Borderlands, it’s staff, and the contributions we’ve made to the community are even better. Also, mentioning how a cafe would be a draw for visitors to San Francisco is a plus.

    Again, thank you so very much for the support. It’s people like you and your readers that make this the best business I’ve ever had the pleasure of running. You rock!

    Warmest Regards,

  6. What Alan said. I’m just being web geek on this (though I do spend a fair amount of time in the store so I’m all for a cafe). But as far as other things you can do to help, he’s the man.

    And he’s right, you folks rock! Thank you!

  7. Great minds think alike. I stopped by Borderlands today long before I saw this post (sadly, they don’t have The Last Colony in paperback yet, so I settled for some Stross) and signed the petition. For people who haven’t discovered the area yet, there are a lot of great eateries nearby, from Range, Spork, Luna Park, Garçon, Frjtz to Tartine, Delfina and Bi-Rite Creamery.

  8. I firmly believe that bookstores and cafes go together like peanuts and butter.
    Good luck with your petition!
    I do want to ask, does anyone have any real experience with effectiveness of online petitions? It seems to me that official types might not take clearly computer-generated documents as seriously as actual signed petitions, but I have no data to corroborate or refute that. Just an intuition.

    I would imagine that the letters would be more persuasive, but like I said, I have no experience in the matter.

  9. JimR – Good question about online petitions, and to be honest I don’t really know. I also think it depends on what the petition is. This one is very specific. The point is not so much to impress the planning authorities with the number of signatures, but to make it clear to them that Borderlands is a store with a national, and even international, reputation. That’s hard to do with just a paper petition in the store.

  10. One wonderful thing about Borderland is that if you ask them about books outside the genre that they stock, they’ll hand you a little guide to independent bookstores in the Bay Area that they made with details on thirty other stores. It makes you realize that they see the independent bookstore world as a community, not just as competitors.

  11. I makes me sputter with rage that they have to ask anyone’s permission to open a cafe.

  12. If you’ve never been to Borderlands, they really do fit into the community of stores on Valencia Street in San Francisco. SF CA has a great community of indie bookstores, so anything that can help one out is a good idea.

    And Dave is right – Borderland’s owners make an effort to be a part of the community. If you’ve been there, sending an email to Alan to carry to the community board meeting is a great idea.

    On a personal note – When in SF last month, my wife and I bought a HUGE number of books at Borderlands. About two hundred dollars worth, I think. Easily over a hundred. Sadly, the fedex ground shipping department managed to break open the box somewhere in transit, tape it up with over half the books missing, and many more damaged.

    Borderlands had exact records of everything we bought that day, and sent it over to us to help with getting Fedex to reimburse us, and more importantly, to know hat we lost and hopefully be able to buy replacements.

    You just can’t get better service or nicer, more knowledgeable staff.

  13. I makes me sputter with rage that they have to ask anyone’s permission to open a cafe.

    Well, given the hazards of completely uncontrolled development, I’d rather there be a well-regulated process for approving particular businesses or uses in mixed-use neighborhoods like the Mission.

    I mean, one wouldn’t want a pig farm to open up just there, for instance.

    Borderlands is a very cool bookstore. And they have a hairless cat.

  14. What the heck?

    You need government approval to open a gosh darn cafe in San Francisco?

  15. Stopped by and signed in person. And then remembered that I’ve only ever read Scalzi’s blog, so picked up a copy of “The Android’s Dream” too.

    (And, um, restaurants (and “large fast food” places, which is apparently what coffeeshops are here) require permits. Are there municipalities where this isn’t so?)

  16. Just a quick comment on the whole permit thing – Overall I’m for it. As cofax pointed out, I wouldn’t want a pig farm to open up next door to my home (or my store for that matter — pig shit _stinks_). In SF for example, permits like this are in part required so as to act as a break on changing uses in commercial spaces so that the community can have a chance to weigh in on the proposed change. It was a great help during the dot-com boom in that it stopped every damn storefront being turned into office space.

    That said, I wish the process was simpler, more fairly applied and made a bit more sense (for example, there is no such thing as a “small fast food restaurant” nor is there a “large self-service restaurant” — weird, isn’t it?).

    And, on the other hand, my personal oh-yeah-who-says-I-can’t reflex tells me that if I own (or rent) a building, I should damn well be able to do what I want with it.

    Overall, I’m pretty sure I liked it better when I was in my 20s and the world was simple in two-tone black and white. Age and perspective make so many things so much more complicated.

  17. Hi All,

    Just a quick follow up. Had the hearing on Thursday and . . . we got the permit!

    I’m so grateful for all your help and support. As several people commented, the Planning Commission didn’t know what hit them. I was in and out of the hearing in fifteen minutes. Now I have to wait about a month and a half to get permits from the building department and then I can start the construction.

    Since I don’t want to hex myself by setting a date, I’m not going to but keep an eye on our website for news as things progress.

    Thanks again,