The malling of San Francisco - Page 4

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

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


The increased malling of San Francisco isn't simply the result of official neglect. Often, the city's policies and resources are actively encouraging the influx of chain stores. A prime example is the massive redevelopment project on Hunters Point and Candlestick Point that city voters approved in 2008 after mega-developer Lennar and most San Francisco political officials pushed the project with a well-funded political campaign.

"If you're selling the land to Lennar for a dollar, and then building all the automobile infrastructure for people to get there, then that's a massive public subsidy," Radulovich said of the big-box mall being built on what was city-owned land on Candlestick Point.

That public subsidy creates a cycle that makes San Francisco less intimate and livable. Creating commercial spaces on the city's edge encourages more people to drive on congested regional roadways. These spaces are filled with national chain stores that have a direct negative impact on small, locally owned stores in neighborhood commercial districts all over the city, causing some of these businesses to fail, meaning local residents will need to travel further for the goods they once bought down the street.

"Those neighborhoods are going to be less walkable as a result," Radulovich said, noting how the trend contradicts the lip service that just about every local politician gives to supporting local businesses in neighborhood corridors. "There's a certain schizophrenia to San Francisco's economic development strategy."

Sup. Eric Mar has been working with Jobs with Justice San Francisco and other groups to tweak city policies that have allowed the chains to proliferate. Last year, Mar held high-profile hearings in City Hall on how national chains impact local businesses, which pointed to the need for additional protections (see "Battling big box," Jan. 3).

This year, he's working on rolling out a series of legislative initiatives designed to level the playing field between local interests and those of Wall Street and the national chains it champions.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved Mar's legislation to add banks to the city's formula retail controls, a reaction to Chase Bank and other national banks snapping up vacant stores in neighborhood commercial corridors such as Divisadero Street.

Now he's working on legislation that would mandate minimum labor and community benefit standards for chain stores — including grocery outlets such as Fresh & Easy — and study how chains affect San Francisco's overall economy.

"There should be good neighbor policies when they come into a neighborhood," Mar said. "Some neighborhoods are so distressed they may want a big box grocery story coming in, but we need to try to mitigate its negative impacts."

One of his partners in that effort is his brother, Gordon Mar of Jobs with Justice, who argues the city needs to have a clearer picture of how national chains impact local communities.

"We've definitely seen an increase in corporate chain stores coming into San Francisco in the last year, and nobody has really been tracking it," he said.

While the Planning Department's quarterly pipeline report shows that applications for retail outlets has held steady at about 3 million square feet on the way in recent years, it doesn't break out how much of that is national chains — let alone how that impacts the city's economy and small business sector.

The city's Legislative Analyst is now studying the matter and scheduled to release a report later this summer, which Gordon Mar said will be helpful in countering the narrow "jobs" rhetoric that now dominates City Hall.


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