The malling of San Francisco - Page 5

National chain stores are flooding into a city that once led the nation in protecting neighborhood businesses and setting limits on commercial spaces

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The Metreon mall is being revived by a huge Target scheduled to open this fall. Will it put the city in chains?
GUARDIAN ILLUSTRATION BY DANNY HELLMAN

"They are exploiting the economic recession by saying they're bringing much needed jobs into the city and serving low-income residents," he said. "But when you bring out the facts about the impact of these low-road retail stores on neighborhoods and small businesses, there is a net loss of jobs and a lowering of labor standards."

 

 

VALUING MALLS

Yet the fate of those controls is uncertain at best, particularly in a tough economic environment in which the city needs revenue, people are desperate for jobs, and many residents have seen their buying power stagnate, making the cheap goods offered by Target and Walmart more attractive.

"It's complicated stuff," Michael O'Connor, a local entrepreneur and former member of the Small Business Commission who favors formula retail controls, told us. "Stores like Target do appeal to lower income families...The progressive agenda needs to understand that working-class families need somewhere to shop."

O'Connor acknowledges how small businesses like those he owns, including a clothing store, often can't compete with national chains who buy cheap goods in bulk. So he said he favors protections in some neighborhoods while allowing chains in others, telling us, "I don't have a problem with the Target going into the Metreon."

That argument also held sway with city officials when they considered approving the CityPlace project two years ago, which was presented as a mall filled with "value-based" stores that would be affordable to median income San Franciscans.

"At the time, the decision was around whether a value-based retail operation made sense in that location, and the answer was an emphatic 'yes,'" Barbary Coast Consulting founder Alex Clemens, who represented the project, told us.

On a national or global level, there are good arguments against reliance on national chains selling cheap imported goods, which has created a huge trade deficit between the US and countries such as China that costs American jobs — ironically, the very things that some use as arguments for approving chain stores.

"The recession has created a climate of desperation where cities are more easily swayed by the jobs argument," Mitchell said, noting the falsity of those arguments by pointing to studies showing that the arrival of chain stores in cities usually creates a net loss in employment. Finally, supporters of chain stores say the cash-strapped city needs the property and sales tax revenue "Because they say they'll produce a lot sales tax revenue, they're going to get away with all kinds of shit," Cornell said, arguing that shouldn't justify city policies that favor big corporations, such as tax breaks and publicly financed infrastructure. "I certainly don't think [city officials] should be giving them any advantages." There are few simple solutions to the complex and interconnected problems that result from the malling of San Francisco and other cities. It's really a question of balance — and the answer of whether San Francisco can regain its balance has yet to be answered. "Given the mayor's approach to economic development, it's inevitable that we'll have more coming into the city," Sup. Mar said. "But the '50s car culture, and the model of malls that came in the '60s, don't build communities or strong neighborhoods."

Comments

No, its because they are too lazy to travel, and too afraid to do anything but shi* in their own backyards

Posted by Greg on Jul. 12, 2012 @ 10:18 am

What's the big deal if a Target and so forth open up... Where do folks shop there, because no small business has the range or prices of these stores.

Why should the rest of us be forced to put up and shop at these stores? In reality, there is room for both and of course, there are things large stores do better. Costco allows me to purchase organic food, for example, at 1/3 the cost of a small store.

Also ironic to see an area that heavily exploits outsourcing and cheaper migrants over Americans in the IT sector, to rant about protecting the little guy. Not to mention, I am sure no one in the bay area shops online either of course.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 9:50 am

Denying consumer choices to others is a far bigger problem.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 10:34 am

Go rent the movie "The High Cost of Low Prices"

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

The witchunt vilification of "chain stores" (11 stores nationally... WTF?) and anything made outside 15 miles of SF is misguided policy by progressive supervisors (past and present) based on half truths, opinion, guesswork and so called "neighborhood input" (NIMBYS) that has hurt the city and it's neighborhoods more than helped them. SF already has one of the most difficult approval processes for retail businesses in the country, but it's not enough. clowns like Supervisor MAarr favor total ban on specific uses of certain categories of retail and protecting certain categories. After the happy meal ban pet stores and chains are next. Ever been to the Richmond lately? Highest retail vacancy in the city. Mr. jones thinks it's horrible that JC Penney is coming to mid market where it's better to have piss stained, graffitid, vacant storefronts with crack dealers and porn stores than national chains in his mind. He feels awkward in a Safeway i guess. What did you want the metreon to bcome? A urban garden, lasertag, art gallery, homeless shelter? It was built as a retail project you moron. Other businesses follow target and JCPenneys in and around these projects and oftentimes are local retailers and restaurants. Go to the metreon, you can see for yourself if you could bear the site. The transbay terminal "god forbid" might have retail stores. Really? It's a terminal for god sakes. Target is taking over two spaces that were previous large box stores. Guess we should just let spaces sit vacant and wait for 120000 square foot local yarn store. There was an I magnin dept store here 50 years ago you know...... Why does nobody ever talk about the other jobs created (other than employees) for people when a company opens up a business. Much goes on in the background that employs many people but progressives would never mention or bear the thought of mentioning this just focus on the evil corporation and their fleecing of the stupid masses that go there The professionals referenced in the article prefer a "dynamic" view of neighborhoods. How do you pay for these ideal park, open space, car free, neighborhoods if you could? Tax dollars. Where does most of city revenue come from? sales tax. Especially RETAIL sales tax. Theatres and grocery stores and gyms and drugbstores don't open due to useless red tape and small businesses opportunities to open. I'm just a sheep brainwashed by chain stores I guess.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

Every time I go to San Francisco is a real treat for me, I can find there whatever goes through my mind and it's a beautiful city as well. I hope I'll get back there soon, I am planning some business trips there.

Posted by san francisco burrito on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

In the absence of government intervention in land use, through height and minimum setback restrictions, segregation of residential, commercial and institutional use of land, impact fees being too low for low-density land use and too high for infill, and property taxes based on the combination of land and building rather than the value of the land alone, big business would not be economically competitive, as the chains require greater amount of transportation infrastructure (both consumers travelling by car and suppliers travelling by truck) and would be paying much more in property taxes per square foot of land.

Posted by Danny Handelman on Jul. 15, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

Anyhting that constrains business imposes a cost to business, which translates to lower wages and higher prices.

Government costs you far more than just the taxes you pay. It's a frictional impediment to all economic activity, and mostly for stuff you don't want or need.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

Some consumers do love the malls exactly because of their national chain stores and restaurants. This could be due to the familiarity of the brand names and due to the consumers being already accustomed to patronizing those places which are considered common. Well, it is also true though that the authenticity of a place will be diminished or fully eliminated but as time goes by and as economic progression takes over, some things are simply too inevitable not to occur.

Posted by Jeanette Hayworth on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 1:43 am

Just wear one of these beauties to a party and see the attention you will be receiving. You do not have to approach any women.

Posted by aisin on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 8:05 pm