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

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.


but there is a huge amount of racism expressed here against both whites and Asians. And very little against blacks and hispanics.

So I find it ironic that you'd pick up on one of the rare instances of the latter while ignoring all the occasions of the former.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 3:01 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 @ 3:20 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:23 pm
Posted by troll barrier on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

Lucretia, your defense --that others apply racial stereotypes to other races -- is hardly a defense at all. That said, let me add that I have not been a regular reader of this paper, so I don't know what the norms are among the commentariat. I have called out others for anti-Asian ridicule of Supervisor Chiu at the SFExaminer, so I am not being inconsistent personally. More important, it seems to me, is that I have read your remarks on occasion and remember them as sometimes making good points and being persuasive. Just asking you to channel your better self here-- the logical, articulate Lucretia I have read before.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

Lucretia. I accept your admission that you are not that familiar with the apparent mores here, but the sad fact is that it is considered OK (desirable, even) to criticize people here on the basis of their being white.

Asians are fair game too because they are the model minority, routinely out-perform whites academically and professionally (as do Jews) but most of all because they give the lie to the idea that not being white condemns you to failure.

Compared to that, a crack about fried chicken that could have come from chris rock doesn't even register on the PC scale

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

When Chris Rock made his remarks, I doubt he wanted to provide additional cover for racism of any sort. Calling things "jokes" and criticism thereof as "PC" is a intellectual dodge. I don't find your argument persuasive. I have read enough in local papers to conclude that racist commentary of nearly all sorts is quite common, though it is usually expressed slyly and supposedly humorously when applied to black people. Lucretia's malt liquor and chicken wings remark was typical of the latter. And as I've said, I have found her other comments at other times well written, logical, and cogent. So I and I imagine other readers would appreciate it if we could discuss policy issues, values, etc. without resort to pointless put downs of whole categories of people.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

you said nothing when whites and asians are based here.

But the first time a fried chicken joke appears, you are manning the PC barricades.

Which makes YOU the racist, ironically.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

I don't agree with framing every argument as if it's written for a 12-year old, but I could have expressed my sentiment without the imagery you've written about. I appreciate your tone and will take it to heart.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

"but there is a huge amount of racism expressed here against both whites and Asians. And very little against blacks and hispanics."

What planet are you living on?
Very, very few African Americans or Hispanics read the Guardian,
so where does the "racism" come from?

This City has gone to the dogs, and the people who think dogs are more important than people. And people who make stuff up to cover for their own sins.

See your friend "Lucretia Snapples" racist "joke" later in this thread.

Posted by TrollKiller on Oct. 10, 2013 @ 6:20 am

deal only with the leadership of these groups, the lumpen lefties only tune in when it's some sour true believer pontificating on the subject.

The people that the the leadership claims to speak for more often than not could care less about the progressive agenda, or the people that claim to speak for them. The whole agenda, Bicycle lanes, Food Justice, servility to SEIU, raw food movement, fixed gear bikes, shitty tat's, poetry slams, etc... Maybe legal weed and more free shit marks some common ground.

Posted by Matlock on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

long time now. the average age of a poster here is probably about 50. The young have little time for this tired old 1960's shtick.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 12:56 am

Why do you keep calling losers who have lost their way PROGRESSIVES?. They took a wrong turn when they started equating FREEDOM with FREELOADER and have been going down a regressive road ever since.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

Racist Pigette.....

Posted by TrollKiller on Oct. 10, 2013 @ 6:12 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 @ 12:13 pm
Posted by Winning barrier! on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 8:30 am

Given that the current plans involve spending tens of millions on underground parking for the grocery store, I don't see it catering to anyone but the wealthy.

Posted by Alai on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 11:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 12:55 am

You may not have to be wealthy to run a car, but you have to be wealthy to spend tens of millions of dollars on parking for a grocery store.

Posted by Alai on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

developer to sell to a wider group of people, and for a higher price because it is an extra desirable (for some, essential) feature.

Say it adds 100K of value to each condo. Average condo price in Sf is around 800K so as a percentage, it's not that much.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

Sure, $100K is not that much for a well-paid tech worker.

Maybe for other people, but who cares about them?

Besides, this is not about parking for condos, but parking for the grocery. If the grocery has to spend tens of millions on parking, they have to make that money back. Either by being a high-volume chain, or by being a high-price boutique, or both.

Posted by Alai on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

They compute the probably returns with and without the parking and look at which option gives the best ROI, and go with that.

They figure that people taking 30-40 pounds worth of grocery might want parking near the store which, in a congested area, isn't available unless it is onsite.

In the end, you look at the prices. If they are selling food at prices you can afford, and that is because of the economies of scale they get by investing in parking, then why do you care either way? It's not your money being spent.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

I don't object to groceries building parking if they feel the need. For instance, Safeway built a store on 7th & Cabrillo, and they included 65 parking spaces. I don't personally shop there (despite living only a few blocks away), because their groceries are twice the price of the local shops. I don't begrudge their investing in parking, though.

It would be insane, though, if the city were to insist that they build that parking (which it did). But if the grocery is voluntarily investing that money, that's up to them, and it's my choice to shop somewhere cheaper.

Posted by Alai on Oct. 06, 2013 @ 1:55 am

minima for certain types of development. I would assume that is to reduce the demand for parking on the streets close to that development.

If you create demand for parking with a new store and do not build parking to serve it, then there will be more congestion, illegal parkijg, double parking etc in that immediate area.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 06, 2013 @ 6:35 am

I 'm really tired of the slandering of the wealthy. I wish for many more of them in San Francisco and way less of the loser trash that is the real problem with this feces and urine glazed city. And the fact that many have no problem with that feces and urine glaze, shows how really sick so many are in this town.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

Or made me a loan.

Or invested in my business.

Or paid my taxes.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

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