In 2004, San Francisco adopted the first ever controls on chain stores with a ban in Hayes Valley. Thirteen years later, The City may grant its first exception to allow the Portland-based grocery store New Seasons Market to open in the ground floor of a new condo development at 555 Fulton St.
When that condo development was permitted, the understanding was the ground-floor retail space would go to a grocery store to help address the area’s food desert. But when it came time to find a tenant, Board of Supervisors President London Breed said there was no alternative but to go with a chain to ensure products were affordable.
The obvious problem was that Hayes Valley had already banned chain stores, also called “formula retail.” The ban led to other chain store prohibitions in other neighborhoods and special conditional use permits for chains to open in commercial corridors throughout The City.
New Seasons announced its plans to open on Fulton Street in March. For that to actually occur, the law needs to change, and the company needs to acquire a permit.
Breed has introduced legislation that would allow for a special conditional use through the Planning Commission for the grocery store to operate on one parcel in Hayes Valley, and the proposal is wending its way through the bureaucratic process.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to vote Aug. 31 on both Breed’s legislation and New Seasons’ permit application to occupy the 30,000-square-foot space.
Last month, Breed’s proposal passed muster with the Small Business Commission, which unanimously approved it. Breed told the commission that “unfortunately, the harsh reality” is that the “speciality stores that are not formula retail are a little bit more expensive than formula retail.”
Breed said she worked with the Planning Department and reviewed data that showed chain grocery stores offer less expensive goods than non-chain grocers. She said that “we also discovered that formula retail establishments hire more from the neighborhood.”
Those comments may not sit well with chain store opponents, but the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association supports lifting the ban for New Seasons.
“We struggled with it because we don’t like this idea of having chain stores as the solution,” Gail Baugh, the president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, told the San Francisco Examiner on Monday. “This is going to be an OK compromise. It’s a one-time only. It will…