Chain store ban and affordable groceries at issue in 555 Fulton debate UPDATED

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The 555 Fulton project itself has wide support, but not the developer's insistence on a chain grocery store.

UPDATED San Francisco's resistance to formula retail stores will be put to the test tomorrow (Thu/3), when the San Francisco Planning Commission will vote on the 555 Fulton St. project.

The project — a five-story, 136-unit residential building with a ground-floor supermarket, complete with up to 275 total parking spaces— has been bobbing in purgatory since 2010, when developers were stalled by the withering economy.

But dried-up finances aren't what's now holding up the development of this project in an area governed by the Market and Octavia Better Neighborhood Plan and the Formula Retail Use Ordinance, both of which discourage national chains in favor of locally owned businesses.

Debate is centering on the question of whether the formula retail ban prevents an affordable grocery store from going in at the site, as the developer contends. The politics surrounding the project have gotten heated, with Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association supporting the ban on chain stores; the Mayor’s Office, Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, and Planning Director John Rahaim supporting the developer and project contractor Walter Wong; and Dist. 5 Sup. London Breed caught in the middle.

Last week, her legislative aide Vallie Brown told HVNA that Breed would support their request for a continuance at tomorrow’s meeting while they explore ways to attract an affordable local grocer, but Breed seems torn between what she told the New Yorker recently were desires to make affordable groceries available and prevent the boutiqueing of Hayes Valley, and her support for the formula retail ban.

“Breed said that despite the ban, she’s willing to allow a chain grocery store into the area to make it more affordable for residents,” reporter Lauren Smiley wrote in the article. The Guardian has been unable to reach Breed or Brown this week.

[UPDATE: Breed told the Guardian that her biggest concern is that the grocery store is affordable to the three low-income housing projects located right across the street, and she has yet to be convinced that can happen without breaking the formula retail ban at the site, despite working on the issue with both activists and the developer.

“It’s a challenge, I get that,” Breed told us. “I want the developer to operate with me in good faith and make a serious long-term commitment to me that this will be an affordable grocery store.”

But she doesn’t yet have that full commitment, and she says that she’s planning to honor her commitment to activists and ask that the formula retail waiver be delayed today even if the rest of the project goes through. “Ultimately, I asked them to be a good community partner,” she told us.]

For Hayes Valley, this has been a near decade-long process. In 2004, the Board of Supervisors first outlawed these generic retailers from opening up shop within the Hayes-Gough Neighborhood Commercial Transit (NCT) District when it passed Ordinance No. 62-04, classifying "formula retailers" and limiting their impact within unique neighborhoods. The ordinance keeps local businesses viable, keeping deep-pocketed corporations out.

The 555 Fulton project falls somewhere between the Hayes-Gough NCT and the Residential Transit Oriented District (RTO), and currently, a two-story, 19,620-square-foot office and industrial building with about 70 surface parking spots inhabits the address.

Both the neighborhood residents and the developers have historically felt that the property would make for an excellent grocery store. “What" has never been an issue with the property. "Who" on the other hand, has been the biggest issue.

In order for 555 Fulton to be developed by a "formula retail" outlet — which have been the only types of occupants the current developers believe to be able to pay the exorbitant established rent costs  — the property technically located in the Hayes-Gough NTC needs to be designated as a "Special Use District" (SUD).

An SUD adjusts the land use controls and height restrictions for a specific piece of property, in this case allowing for a "grocery store larger than 15,000 square feet of gross occupied floor area, as well as residential uses meeting a minimum density of one dwelling unit per 600 feet of lot area." And up until April, the property was an SUD.

Back in 2008, 555 Fulton was granted its SUD by Section 249.35A of the Planning Code Section, which established the "Fulton Street Grocery Store Special Use District." In 2010, the Planning Commission approved both a Conditional Use Authorization and a Planned Unit Development, allowing the developer of the subject property to build their mixed-use grocery store-residential building. Neither of these exceptions allowed for a "formula retail" outlet at the time, but interest still seemed solid.

Then everything stalled. And stalled. And stalled some more. Things have remained idle for so long that the five-year window given to the Fulton Street Grocery Store SUD expired this past April. Now, the developers are asking for five more years on the same Fulton Street Grocery Store SUD that was allowed to a different development group in 2008.

But it isn't exactly the same request this time: Now the developers are trying to get an SUD without a provision on "formula retail" outlets, and both sides are expected to turn out big numbers on each side of the question at tomorrow’s hearing, which starts at noon in City Hall Room 400.

Comments

and the new Faletti's, plus the new WholeFoods going in on Market and 14th. A Trader Joes would be a good addition though.

I'd leave the decision to the developers as they are the ones putting capital at risk. Stores open and close all the time anyway.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 5:56 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:18 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

large chain? Seems to me they nearly all are, and the ones that are not, are not expanding, else they would become a chain anyway.

A grocery store as an anchor tenant makes a lot of sense, but not if you are going to micro-manage it and claim that is matters whether it is a WholeFoods or a TraderJoes.

The WholeFoods finally went in at Haight and Stanyan, but without the housing and parking that would have been a much more efficient use of space. Other WholeFoods have sailed through, however, including the one that replaced the non-chain grocery store in Noe Valley, IIRC.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 02, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

Exactly. It's one thing to want neighborhood restaurants instead of the same McDonalds/Olive Garden/Applebee's crap that's everywhere else.

But it's ridiculous to demand "independent" grocery stores. That's just not how the grocery store business works. It would be like demanding an independent car. All cars are made by large companies--that's how it works.

Posted by SFRealist on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 6:44 am

store to be affordable, because affordability comes with the economies of scale, i.e. a chain.

Rainbow may be a non-chain (a groovy co-operative, in fact, so perfect for progressive dogma) but it's nowhere near to being cheap.

In fact some items are cheaper at WholeFoods than Rainbow, and at least the staff at WholeFoods appear to shower occasionally and I don't have to tolerate some ugly lesbian in purple hair giving me dirty looks just because I haven't tattooed a giant cobra on my head.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 6:55 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:55 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:15 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:21 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

are happy that they don't have to tolerate you.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

Rainbow Grocery awarded #1 in Customer Service, USSR 1988

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

Israel?

They backed down on that fairly quickly when they realized how stupid it made them look.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 2:51 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:56 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:16 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:22 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:38 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:28 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 2:51 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:56 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:16 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:23 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

Right on....I love it.

Posted by SFAnnie on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

and still do sometimes for some "otherwise hard to get" items.

But, oh, that precious attitude.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 4:52 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:02 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:24 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 12:14 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:54 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

Well, there's Haight Street Market which has tried very hard to compete with Whole Foods coming in up the block by expanding... to offer basically the same things that Whole Foods does. Yeah, they're a great business and I buy sandwiches from their deli once or twice a week, but the prices are pretty bad and meat is ridiculously expensive there. Pretty much as bad as the prices at Whole Foods.

Even then it's still a fairly small grocery store, not a large supermarket.

This obsession against chains really needs to end. Small, local businesses often do not serve the community the way people want them to because the lack of an economy of scale requires them to charge very high prices. In turn the only people who shop there tend to do so out of convenience, wealth, or because they have a specific agenda. Many more people are driven to purchase goods online instead where they can get a good price. All we end up doing is encouraging small boutique operations that cater to a high-end clientele because nothing else is sustainable when you're selling mass-market goods at a high price.

The other problem is that since it's so hard to get around town people rarely leave their neighborhoods and price or stock comparisons are tough to make. So rather than deal with the one small local shop with very limited stock and high prices that happens to be in their neighborhood and holds a geographical monopoly they turn to the Internet where they can find almost anything, search through tons of shops for the best price, and have it delivered to them at home without having to spend hours on Muni to get across town before the shop closes at 6 PM (why such early hours everywhere?) and then wrangle their purchases back home.

Unless a better system is developed we're just sending people to buying from even larger chains with this policy regardless.

Posted by Belgand on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 4:27 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 7:40 am

like the Haight is why it is so important to have adequate off-street parking for such stores. WholeFoods are usually good about providing parking but it's works best because they are usually in new multi-use developments where the aprking can be designed from the outset.

If you're doing a weekly shop weighting 20-30 pounds, then you need to be able to park very close by.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 8:30 am

stores - there are many located within blocks of the projects in the Western Addition. And they all take EBT. So people should quit complaining already. There's always a store open ready to serve malt liquor and chicken wings!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 12:11 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:53 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:19 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:25 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

TraderJoes.

A BevMo, maybe? They serve snacks too.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

Yes, some poorer African-Americans DO eat "like that." It's not a stereotype - it's real. Sometimes a brutha or sista just want to hit the corner store for a 40 of OE and a corn dog. Ain't nothing wrong with that!

Of course - that's not the kind of "diversity" San Francisco likes to celebrate. Black people should be eating collard greens they've pulled from their lovingly maintained roadside gardens and fried chicken they've killed and plucked themselves while warbling spirituals for the amusement of their white guests.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

fried chicken chain stores like Popeye's.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 6:59 am

Lucretia, I find your comments racist and demeaning of the people you seem to think you know and can caricature -- black people living in the Western Addition. Resorting to hurtful stereotypes is no way to think through any issue, including where to site grocery stores and what kinds of stores they should be. Here's a test: would you explain an issue to your 12 year old child, niece, friend using racist imagery? Is your truth so pure that they should imbibe this racism and go on repeating it? I think the answer is obvious. Relative anonymity afforded in these comment pages should not absolve us from expressing ourselves responsibly.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

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