Market and Noe Center (Image Source:
While San Francisco’s Planning Commission shot down Starbucks proposal to renovate and occupy the retail space at 2201 Market Street, in part based on the Planning Department’s concerns with respect to the concentration of formula retail in the area, this week the Commission is expected to approve the application for CVS to renovate and occupy a long vacant retail space at 2280 Market Street, roughly 400 feet away from 2201 Market.
As proposed, four of the Market and Noe Center’s protruding concrete bays will be removed and CVS’s section of 2280 Market Street’s concrete façade will be over-clad with cement-board siding, a metal lattice, and metal trim (click the design to enlarge).

The metal lattice will mark the entrance and screen the existing parking deck and new elevator penthouse on the roof which would reopen with the CVS. The second floor of the building would be renovated as well but remain availble for another retail or office use.
While noting that there are two pharmacies in the Upper Market Street districts “providing a similar mix of retail goods” within a half-mile of the proposed CVS, the Planning Department recommends approval of the project as it “would provide an additional choice of pharmacy and basic everyday needs goods for neighborhood residents, resulting in prices that are more competitive and a greater availability of goods and services.”
Keep in mind that as part of their argument against Starbucks’ proposal, the Planning Department noted, “The Upper Market NCT is [already] well served by existing similar eating and drinking establishments that are considered coffee houses, including Church Street Café, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Sweet Inspiration and Café Flore.”
Assuming approvals and quickly issued permits, CVS hopes to renovate and open the store at 2280 Market Street by February 2014 with Radio Shack, and Radio Shack’s section of building facade, remaining in place.
Having sat mostly vacant since Tower Records vacated the space over six years ago, Trader Joe’s withdrew their application to open at the Market and Noe Center back in 2011 due to concerns over parking.
Starbucks’ Market Street Plan Shot Down By Planning [SocketSite]
The Designs For 2201 Market Street And Great Starbucks Divide [SocketSite]
Trader Joe’s Withdraws Application For Castro Store [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Patrick

    This is proof positive that formula retail rules make NO SENSE. The proximity of coffee shops was a factor in denying Starbucks, yet the proximity of existing pharmacies in the area is a good thing in the determination to approve CVS. I think that CVS must have made a large donation to the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association and the Castro CBD.

  2. Posted by anon

    Brahma, can you please tell me how this makes sense or solves a “market failure”?

  3. Posted by wc1

    I guess no one on the board of the Castro CBD owns a drugstore.

  4. Posted by brid

    Look for some shiny new cars in the driveways of Castro CBD & DTNA members. What a pathetic bunch…

  5. Posted by JustLooking

    :). I have heard that CVS is looking to partner with Starbucks to have an in-store coffee bar (similar to Safeway). It will be run just like a “speakeasy.” If you know the secret handshake, you can get your double espresso.

  6. Posted by Greg

    Question for the lawyers on this site: has anyone ever challenged the entire Planning process in San Francisco as “arbitrary and capricious”? Isn’t it illegal to have laws and rules that are enforced in an arbitrary and capricious way?
    While I generally don’t like or patronize “formula retail”, the enforcement of this rule in SF appears to be utterly unfair; particularly to businesses and the landlords who should be able to rent to the highest bidder.

  7. Posted by Rob

    I don’t really want to see anymore Walgreens or CVS in this city, but at least they’re planning on bringing the facade into the 21st century. Looks nice via the renderings, and is better than vacant any day.

  8. Posted by sunset guy

    Thanks god, I am so tired of walk 4 blocks to the Walgreen’s in the Castro and the Walgreen’s at Market and 15th or Safeway.
    So is this going to be a two level CVS or will the upper lever still sit vacant.

  9. Posted by Joel V

    Does the Castro really need another drugstore?

  10. Posted by Joel V

    Also, they should’ve just demolished this building, and put up a mixed-use structure to add some housing units. The Planning Commission’s reasoning for the approval is a complete joke.

  11. Posted by sjg

    So is the new facade only only on the CVS part of the building? It seems a little odd to have two facades and window styles on the same building. Hopefully, they will being doing all of it, the building is awful.
    [Editor’s Note: Radio Shack’s section of the building would be cleaned-up, but otherwise their section of facade would remain as-is.]

  12. Posted by wc1

    Strange too that all the various “players” are all for this CVS in the Castro, considering they only score a 60 on the HRC’s LGBT employer rating list. For reference Walgreens gets 100/100.

  13. Posted by Retail in chains

    CVS Pharmacies make Walgreens look downright homey. The worst kind of dull, soul-killing formula retail. Does anyone think anything Planning does makes any sense or is guided by anything remotely resembling highest and best use or any other basic planning ethos?

  14. Posted by wc1

    “Editor’s Note: Radio Shack’s storefront would be cleaned-up, but otherwise their section of facade would remain as-is.”
    Unbelievable, the city couldn’t even require them do the whole building?
    This thing doesn’t smell right.

  15. Posted by curmudgeon

    I agree on the fact that CVS is unbelievably sterile, even for a drug store. Sadly, there are no non-chain varieties, so perhaps this will inject some competition (Walgreens DOES get away with murder, pricewise). Still, I agree with the capriciousness comments.
    However, on the façade…I’m not overly bothered that they are only renovating a portion. It will end up giving the streetscape some more variety. I don’t hate the existing building as much as some here do…it’s of its time.
    Finally, although denser housing is going forward on other corners, I’m happy to see this one stay low-scale commercial…only because Café Flore would logically be a part of any larger scale development, and I would hate to see that go. It’s the best thing about the Castro (even though its coffee has always been awful).

  16. Posted by Jddar

    This is a big mistake. Using Atlanta, where I live, as an example, if one of these stores open, they then spread like a malignant cancer wiping out many small locally owned businesses. Walgreens is guilty too! In NYC, I think Duane Reede is doing the same.

  17. Posted by anonandon

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my ITunes and all, but the old Tower Records in this location was fun (at least way back in the 90s). It had an eclectic mix of music, interesting helpful staff, and a group of shoppers who sometimes made more eye contact with each other than the music sitting in the bins. Now that this is to be a CVS, I also worry about the future of Café Flore.

  18. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Hey anon, why don’t you wait and see what the planning commission does with this proposal. They could easily, and frequently in the past have, ignore the Planning Department recommendation, on just the grounds you’ve described or for some other reason.
    And even though I’ve never worked there, I’d guess just from reading these things that the same people don’t work on all of them, even given a single neighborhood, so one planning staffer might use one justification for approval and another one might use a different justification for denial.

  19. Posted by anon

    ^The point is that the Planning Department is giving wildly different advice on two almost identical proposals.
    Your stated response before was that landlords should lower their price and rent to local companies, when clearly the Planning Department disagrees wholeheartedly. It’s hard to expert landlord A to devalue their property when landlord B is encouraged by a city agency to do exactly the opposite.
    @curmudgeon – not sure what you mean on there being a lack of non-chain drugstores. There are numerous non-chain drug and general purpose stores around town, many owned by Chinese immigrants (several very large ones on Clement, Geary and Irving that I can think of).

  20. Posted by the_biker_elite

    @anonandon your comment made me smile. Its the only thing about a Socket Site > Plann*inc story in some time that has…

  21. Posted by Mark V.

    So while the Planning Dept’s reasoning might seem arbitrary in this case, I might be able to shed some light. First, CVS’ application (and I believe Planning’s approval) happened before Planning adopted the new guidelines regarding not approving an applicant if the new store brings the retail mix to >20% in a 300 foot radius. This guideline was only very recently adopted.
    DTNA didn’t approve of the plans but worked quite hard with CVS to compromise, including on issues of the facade, hours, and the fact that this CVS (unlike most others) will not sell liquor. I think in DTNA’s mind, this is an example showing that they CAN work with applicants and not shoot all formula retail down.
    What will be really interesting is whether the Planning Dept and the Commission approve the proposed Chipotle site because that would fly in the face of the logic used in denying Starbucks and would clearly be after the formula retail guidelines were adopted. If they choose to ignore their own guidelines in this case and approve Chipotle, then the whole process is, indeed, arbitrary.

  22. Posted by jlasf

    There is, in fact, a great need for another CVS because Anthem/Blue Cross users can no longer get their prescriptions filled at Walgreen’s, as the story below explains.
    With the need of Anthem users to find an alternative to Walgreen’s, CVS has had to expand and upgrade rapidly. I don’t think that any of those people will mind having a pharmacy nearby.
    The CVS is not an alternative to Walgreen’s. While I am no fan of chain stores, this is one that is very much needed.

  23. Posted by steve

    Funny – Buff white guy in a tank top and shorts in the rendering. Pandering to the neighbors.

  24. Posted by noe mom

    Yes, unfortunately that is true a lot of health plans are now going to CVS, away from Walgreens, so for some it may be very helpful to have a pharmacy they can walk to.
    It would be nice if they could bring back Finilla’s Finish Baths, wouldn’t it? That was what they tore down to build the thing they now need to renovate. Just being whimsical with a little San Francisco nostalgia to lighten everyone’s day.

  25. Posted by Dan

    Anthem members can use Walgreens again. But it was a pain when we couldn’t. There are few alternatives in SF.

  26. Posted by Michael

    They should just demolish this and build a new mixed-use building. It’s so ugly.
    Also, I wish the editor would link to the actual sources of these things, instead of just back to this site.

  27. Posted by noodle

    @steve – It worked for me!
    Not to dig up an old flame war, but I’m still bummed there isn’t a TJ here.

  28. Posted by lol

    ^ Same for me. Talk about a missed opportunity. And now there’s this boring thing instead. But hey, there’s another place to get a Hallmark card or a quart of fizzy sugar water. Yeah!

  29. Posted by Mark

    Yet another reason to avoid the Castro.

  30. Posted by futurist

    Horrible building as is; it appears it will get worst with the so called “remodel”.
    The building should be demolished completely with several floors of housing about some quality retail.

  31. Posted by Jamison Wieser

    “While noting that there are two pharmacies in the Upper Market Street districts “providing a similar mix of retail…”
    So what are the only two pharmacies that count? The Walgreens? The other Walgreens? The Walgreens mini-pharmacy? The CVS Pharmacy on Castro Street? Safeway? The pharmacy three doors down the block? The AFH on 18th? The other, other, other Walgreens in the Lower Haight?
    Even though I live next door on Noe Street, I probably won’t even have my prescriptions transferred over from the Castro CVS since I almost always am getting cash or doing some other shopping while I’m out.

  32. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Mark V.’s comment above obviated a lot of this, but nevertheless…anon wrote:

    Your stated response before was that landlords should lower their price and rent to local companies…

    That’s a summary of what I wrote and thought, but not what planning espouses anywhere in writing.
    And I also think that drug stores and coffee/pastry shops aren’t interchangeable. I understand that if you’re a commercial landlord, it doesn’t matter because a dollar of rent is a dollar of rent, but it seems to me, just by reading the above, planning is looking at what’s available in the neighborhood to residents.

    …when clearly the Planning Department disagrees wholeheartedly. It’s hard to expert landlord A to devalue their property when landlord B is encouraged by a city agency to do exactly the opposite.

    Nonsense. This is a strawman of your making.
    Where does it say that planning is recommending approval of this proposal based on the anticipated increase in revenue to the landlord because this is a national chain drug store? They don’t. Anywhere.
    Planning isn’t talking about what a commercial landlord should or shouldn’t do. It seems obvious to me that planning has a whole other focus entirely, which is the overall level of amenities provided in the area.
    If you look at the quotes from above and from the ss post on the proposed Starbucks at 2201 Market Street, you’ll note that the justification centers on what’s available in the neighborhood now and the concentration of formula retail in the area; there’s nothing about commercial property not being available at a rate affordable to locally-owned small business.
    Why don’t you provide a link to where planning says that approving leasing to a global chain store would be a good idea because it would benefit the landlord? You can’t, because they don’t say that anywhere.

  33. Posted by the_biker_elite

    What’s so interesting to me is how we can only seem to hold enthusiasm for eating organic. I guess eating is simple enough for us to understand. Heaven forbid we would ever develop neighborhoods organically.
    That is left to the unwashed places. And they my friends shall inherit my girth.

  34. Posted by anon

    Why don’t you provide a link to where planning says that approving leasing to a global chain store would be a good idea because it would benefit the landlord? You can’t, because they don’t say that anywhere.
    Your statement was that landlords should lower rent because planning will not permit chain stores, so landlords should cater to local stores. That is obviously false.

  35. Posted by Mark V.

    Any word on whether the Commission approved it today?

  36. Posted by RIPCastro

    The Planning Commission, as usual, acts in its regal, schizophrenic manner to approve a formula retailer (CVS) and deny a gathering, meet your neighbors place (Starbucks). One gets tired of the little nabobs that run the City like it’s a high school class project.

  37. Posted by Diemos

    The Planning Commission isn’t schizophrenic at all.
    You just need to understand that there are people who have mojo at city hall and there are those that don’t.
    The Code is used as an excuse for why the people without mojo can’t do what they want to do …
    and the Code is something that you need to write a variance for so that the people with mojo can do what they want to do.

  38. Posted by NJ

    Who had the mojo in the case of CVS, and who didn’t in the case of Starbucks?

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