Neighbors spar over proposal to ban chain stores on Polk Street

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The fate over whether Whole Foods can open a location of its new line of robot-enhanced stores on Polk Street hangs in the balance as a proposed chain store ban along the corridor is up for a key vote this week.

More than 100 letters have poured into the Planning Commission ahead of its scheduled vote Thursday on legislation introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin to ban chain stores, also called formula retail, along a one-mile stretch of the Polk Street corridor between Post and Filbert streets, as well as a portion of Larkin Street between Post and California streets.

The proposal would impact Whole Foods’ plan to open a 365 by Whole Foods, a new brand of stores emphasizing quicker service and lower prices, at the former Lombardi Sports site at 1600 Jackson St.

There are 336 retailers along the corridor, of which 22 — 7 percent — are chain stores, including banks and pharmacies.

Whole Foods opened its first 365 store location May 25 in Los Angeles, where “shoppers can order hot dogs, bowls made with quinoa, rice and veggies and pizza from self-serve kiosks.” There’s also a robot to blend teas…

San Francisco’s efforts to restrict chain stores began in 2004 with an outright ban in Hayes Valley and residential notification requirements for other areas. Restrictions have since increased to include bans in North Beach and Chinatown, and require special permits that can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors for other areas. Whole Foods has applied for such a permit for the Polk Street location.

The commission report by city planner Diego Sanchez said Peskin’s proposal was “too blunt of a control,” noting that “certain formula retail uses bring value to a neighborhood.”

The memo instead recommends amending the legislation to “not permit Formula Retail uses over 5,000 square feet unless the ratio of residential uses on the same lotto the formula retail use is at least 3:1.” That amendment, the memo said, will “carefully manage” chain stores and “incentivize the use of remaining larger corridor sites for housing.”

The recommendation, however, supports the position of those opposing the “365” store, such as the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, which instead has favored a 62-unit housing project with ground floor retail for that site.

The association’s president Moe Jamil told the San Francisco Examiner on Monday that he will continue to call for a blanket ban at the commission meeting Thursday. He has argued chain stores inflate rents, squeezing out independent neighborhood stores.

“This is much more than about one project,” Jamil said. “We are like North Beach. We are like Chinatown. We are like Hayes Valley,” he said, pointing to those neighborhood commercial corridors that already have such protections.

Emphasizing Polk Street’s uniqueness, Jamil said the chain store ban is needed “to make sure we stay that way.”… (more)

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