Parking and the gentrification of food

How catering to motorists makes groceries more expensive

The 555 Fulton project will have 134 condos, a huge grocery store, and plenty of free parking.

STREET FIGHT Professor Don Shoup, an icon in San Francisco planning circles, is famous for illuminating that there is no such thing as free parking. In his voluminous book The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup breaks-down the costs of building parking spaces and the land underneath.

Beyond that there's lighting, insurance, security, maintenance, ventilation, financing, contracting, and surveying costs. There's also the additional property tax on the parking, and piling onto that, the vast external costs to society with congestion and pollution from car trips generated by parking.

While all of this might seem obvious, the virtue in Shoup's work was to show how the costs of parking are regressive and passed onto communities, especially low income households and non-drivers. For example, a grocery store bundles parking into the price of food and this is disproportionately borne by non-drivers.

In a sense, free parking causes the gentrification of food.

In San Francisco, underground parking costs anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 per space to construct. In the proposed supermarket at 555 Fulton Street, the 77 spaces proposed underneath the store will cost anywhere from $6.1 million to $7.7 million to build.

That's millions that will be passed on to a grocery store tenant and ultimately to shoppers. And that's just to build, not operate, the parking. This adds more burden to the already tight pocketbooks in a gentrifying city like San Francisco.

Parking also complicates the issue of grocery stores and formula retail, making developers prefer a chain store because it can access the financing to build parking. So parking literally "drives-up" the rents for tenants seeking to lease the space. This makes it more difficult to find an affordable, local, non-chain grocer while also translating into higher food prices, since grocers transfer the cost of parking onto all shoppers regardless of how they got there and regardless of the shoppers' income.

All of this came to a head last week at the San Francisco Planning Commission hearing on 555 Fulton, a proposed mixed use development that might include a grocery store. The Commission voted 4-2 to lift a formula retail ban on this site, concluding that only a chain store is "economically viable." (Disclosure: I publicly advocated against that exemption as a member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association).

This was not just a blow to the city's unique character in terms of guarding against chain stores. It undercuts sustainable and affordable urbanism and will lead to gentrified food. Here's a brief summary of what happened:

In the early 2000s, the old Christopher Dairy at 555 Fulton, between Laguna and Octavia, was identified as a good location for a supermarket as part of a larger mixed-use development. The site was folded into the Hayes Valley formula retail ban to encourage an independent, community-based supermarket with fresh produce, high quality food affordable to nearby residents, and jobs for locals.

In 2010, the Planning Commission approved the first iteration of this project, with 136 housing units above a non-chain grocery store. Neighbors were very excited to have a local supermarket to serve the whole community and the developer did not try to circumvent the chain store ban. The community and Planning Department were working together.

In late 2012, the site and its entitlements were sold to a new developer, Fulton Street Ventures. It immediately informed the community that it would seek to lift the ban. HVNA unanimously opposed lifting the ban and Planning Department staff supported HVNA's position. At that point, it seemed that the planners had read and understood Shoup.


this is simply a wall against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive 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 w on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 11:47 am

some places will get nicer weather and some will get worse weather. It's like moving a thousand miles (or a couple in SF).

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 11:52 am

we should give him the Rush Limbaugh award for intellectual development

Posted by racer x on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

The term "global warming" was dropped for "climate change" precisely because it became understood that some places will also get colder.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

you just don't know when to stop sticking your foot in it,

do you?

here's a link on the subject:

Posted by racer x on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 4:49 pm
Posted by k on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 4:13 pm
Posted by c on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

Oh all the boo hoo'ing about the Climate change disaster? You people need to stop being drama queens. Half the cars on the road today are part zero emission vehicles and for every car we give up in the United States places like China are adding two.

In ten years Tesla will have an electric car that that will rival the anything on the road today. Lets talk about what this is really about. Gasoline Taxes are going away and the Feds are scared shirtless that they will never see their pensions. Their solution is to push people into cities so they they have continued stream of revenue.

Posted by sfparkripoff on Oct. 17, 2013 @ 8:38 am

The fear-mongering is nothing but political opportunism.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2013 @ 8:50 am

but straw man stuffer wants you to believe

Posted by a on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

And where will you get the oil? This discourse must change if we are to get serious about building a reliable and robust Public Transit.

Posted by nafiss griffis on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

you'll feel better

Posted by h on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 4:10 pm
Posted by w on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

Guest's response is incorrect, for several reasons:
* Residential parking will be separated from retail parking, so the sale of residential parking will not offset the cost of retail parking
* Parking costs are nonlinear; each space you build costs more than the last as you dig deeper underground and incur the need for additional, more expensive infrastructure. So "adding" the retail spaces in addition to the residential spaces increases the price of the parking disproportionately.
* Parking does not necessarily lead to increased sales. For a simple example, consider that at certain times of day at many shops, cashiers operate at full capacity with lines forming at the registers. Adding more parking won't increase the sales at the store because the store is already selling as much as it can.
* There are many food stores within short driving distance that already offer free parking, including Safeway (Webster), Whole Foods (Franklin) and Trader Joe's (Hyde). Both Safeway and Trader Joe's have an excess of underused parking. So there is no need to increase the total number of "free" parking at food stores in the area.
* You CAN sell projects without parking; people are increasingly happy to purchase a home for a lower price without parking, provided that it is in a walkable area well-served by transit with necessities nearby. Many shops do not offer off-street parking and yet they thrive because, believe it or not, most people, in most commercial districts in the City, walk or take transit -- only a minority drives.
* City building code only requires off-street parking in certain neighborhoods, and even this policy is likely on its way out since, as others have pointed out, the City just cannot accommodate more and more cars -- nor would it be desirable to try.
* People are not required to drive. They have choices which in SF usually include walking and Muni and sometimes other options as well. Reducing off street parking doesn't mean everyone who is going to an establishment then has to double park or compete for on-street parking-- rather, people switch from driving to other modes.

Posted by teo5 on Oct. 18, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

Give people easy parking ("EZ in; EZ out" as the old slogan has it) and that store will attract more business.

And cars ain't going nowhere, so don't give me the line about how people will just switch to other modes.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 18, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

The solution is obvious: strict price controls on all groceries sold in San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 12:06 am
Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 5:08 am

Brilliant idea! The city can establish a Food Board to set prices and prevent the gentrification of food.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 9:48 am
Posted by anon on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 9:59 am

Progressives and their cooked books are always so ridiculous.

Also there hemming and hawing over what other people are up to is so weird, they get absolutely livid when anyone tries to tell them what to do, but some goofy academic strings some crap together and we all need to fall in line.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

What planet does this guy live on. Even if banks would lend to a developer planning a grocery with no parking (which they wont) the neighbors absolutely wont allow a grocery store with no parking other than a small twee boutique with artisanal prices.
Even the peoples republic of rainbow grocery has two parking lots.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

is bang downtown like the Target in the old Metreon.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 16, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

on what they think people would do, what they think people want to do, what they think people should do, and then at the end of the line it will be what they coerce people to do by law. These things seldom cross path's with the actual citizens.

How far would people walk to get groceries? Lets say five blocks, for everyone to be able to walk that five blocks there would need to be a lot more stores.

With these hundred extra stores the amount of money spent at each one of them would be diluted, so they would have to raise prices, get subsidies, or open and close endlessly with different vendors. If we go the subsidy rout, didn't that just get solved with banning parking lots?

Now that we have this need for all of these stores, who do we evict to make room for them, who will operate them on even lower margins?

The other option is that only certain areas/people are entitled to these Utopian ideal stores, considering the quasi elitist views of this cities Bay Guardian intelligentsia, that is a real wine and cheese option.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 19, 2013 @ 10:32 am

In the real world people drive to food stores for reasons like that is when they do their weekly shopping and errands at the same time. People do drive in their cars, car sharing services, rentals or maybe they go with a friend who has a car. Electric, Hybrid, Gas or whatever kinda of fuel it needs to run on. It is a car, cars need space, space for parking and roads, roads get busier thus the need for freeways.

Before you say Transit or bike. Public transit stinks along with bikes you can't go everywhere. Not everyone live within reasonable distance to work by bike or bus and can't do after work errands.

Whole Foods is great but pricey, Trader Joe's is good but not really a full service market, those little neighborhood markets are great for milk or a few items. You are better off going to a 7-11 but the prices are worse then Whole Foods.

Posted by Garrett on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

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