My Gym’s Dogpatch location, which offered fitness classes for children from six months to six years-old, permanently closed at the end of last year. Part of a franchise that has more than 600 locations worldwide, it’d operated at 901 Minnesota Street since 2004. Owner Marci Briskin said her own children, Amanda and Jonah Briskin, were six and seven when she started the business and enjoyed attending classes there. Other franchises continue to operate in San Carlos, Walnut Creek, San Ramon and Palo Alto.
“The teachers are wonderful, always encouraging her to try new things,” said Jillian Lucas, whose daughter started at My Gym when she was 14 months old. “And the classes are incredibly well-run at a price point that is approachable for my family. However, My Gym is more than merely a children’s gymnastics and music facility. It is the kind of place where community is built, families are supported and, most importantly, our children are given an opportunity to explore and build confidence in a safe and supportive environment. Sadly, there are so few of these places left in San Francisco.”
“I employ some wonderful young people,” Briskin said of her staff. Course offerings included Tiny Tykes/Waddlers, which introduced movement to kids aged six to twenty-two months; and Practice & Play, which offered supervised, unstructured play for one to six year olds.
My Gym was felled by a challenge almost every retailer in the City is facing: the expense of doing business. “The rents in San Francisco are too high,” said Briskin, who had been paying $12,000 a month for a space that’s presently being marketed for more than $20,000 a month. She was given roughly a 120-day notice of the rent hike.
Briskin pointed out that the Peek-A-Boo Factory, an indoor playground that’d been located in West Portal, closed last fall and lamented that San Francisco’s high rents are driving small businesses out of the City.
Recess Collective, a nonprofit multi-generational community center that opened on Potrero Hill in 2008 moved to the Sunset last year.
Briskin hoped to relocate her business to 1750 Cesar Chavez Street, but was disappointed to find that the property was zoned for heavy industrial use. She discovered this impediment when she applied for a conditional use permit, a requirement for franchise businesses pursuant to San Francisco Planning Code Section 303. According to Briskin, she was denied the permit because zoning regulations allow gyms to be operated in spaces no larger than 2,500 square feet and the Bayview Business Center area was 3,500 square feet.
“I mean, I guess he was just doing his job,” Briskin said of an unnamed employee at the San Francisco Planning Department. “I have 350 kids coming [to classes], birthday parties; we’re family-friendly.”
“It’s not an individual process,” explained San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton. “Rezoning comes as a part of a broader plan along with many feedback sessions with surrounding communities and input from everyone affected.”
Unable to find another space, Briskin decided to close the business permanently.
“If we want a vibrant and flourishing city, we need to support families and help make this a more livable city for children,” said Lucas. “One way is to support businesses such as My Gym who do the work to provide the services and community we need as families to make this city conducive to family living.”