San Francisco’s Planning Commission recently adopted “a standardized method for determining the existing and appropriate concentration of formula retail uses in the Upper Market Neighborhood that extends from Octavia Boulevard to Castro Street,” a policy which requires the Planning Department to recommend the rejection of any project which would bring the concentration of formula retail within 300 feet of a site to 20 percent or greater.
This week, the Commission will decided whether to selectively reject their adopted standard and approve the application for See’s Candies to take over the Mike’s Cameras spot in the Safeway Shopping Center on Market Street, an existing formula retail site with a 33 percent concentration.
While recommending See’s application be denied as is required per the standard, the Planning Department does have this to say about the proposal:

The proposed formula retail use will replace a pre-existing formula retail store and continue to add to the neighborhood character and diversity. Formula retail businesses offering similar products have a competitive advantage over non-formula retail businesses because they are often better capitalized and therefore can commit to longer and more expensive leases. This can make for fewer storefront vacancies and more neighborhood stability.

The Planning Commission’s standard was the basis for rejecting proposals from Starbucks and Chipotle to take over two vacant spaces on Market Street, in part due to an argument that formula retailers have an unfair competitive advantage and drive up rents versus providing a stabilizing effect.
There are currently nine vacant commercial storefronts within the Upper Market Neighborhood.
The Chips Don’t Fall In Chipotle’s Favor: Request Denied [SocketSite]
Starbucks’ Market Street Plan Shot Down By Planning [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by sjg

    They will probably win approval I live close by and I haven’t heard of any brewing opposition. Also:
    1.They are not directly in competition with any existing local candy shops.
    2. They are located on the side of the Safeway strip mall out of direct sight from Market Street. If they were going for a street front location, locals would be more opposed.
    However, I do find a See’s Candies a rather odd fit for the Castro area.

  2. Posted by zig

    Why is a See’s Candies an odd fit for the Castro area?

  3. Posted by Joel

    They better think of a more bulletproof rationale. I’m surprised the city hasn’t had a lawsuit over its some-businesses-are-inherently-better-than-others policy yet.
    Grab your popcorn, folks. If the shopping center finds they can’t put FR stores in, maybe a new housing development will be in the works soon.

  4. Posted by Drew

    Another thing, See’s Candies is from San Francisco. Kind of like the argument against having a Levi Strauss store in the Castro.

  5. Posted by Joel

    Pet Food Express was founded in SF – that didn’t stop it from getting denied.

  6. Posted by mdg


  7. Posted by Michael

    The role of the Planning Commission should be to establish and enforce planning policy, not to decide which businesses succeed, fail or are protected from competition.
    I do not agree with the Commission’s current formula retail policy, but it should be uniformly enforced regardless.

  8. Posted by sjg

    @Joel: Pet Food Express is almost directly across the street from where the See’s would be located. It has been there for quite a while.
    @zig;I think See’s would be an odd fit considering the younger, more fitness oriented demographic, moving into the surrounding buildings. That’s not saying it won’t succeed. It just strikes me as old fashioned in comparison to the neighborhood thats evolving there.

  9. Posted by Rillion

    SJG – I believe the reference to Pet Food Express was because they got denied in putting a location into the Marina not in regards to their Market St location (which I think pre-dates their have the required number of stores to become formula retail or pre-dates the upper market formula retail ban).

  10. Posted by Dan

    That shopping center is all formula retail. The Potrero Center is zoned for formula retail, I believe. Perhaps there also should be explicit permission for formula retail at the Upper Market Safeway shopping center, as that has been its use through its existence.

  11. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Freakin southern California carpetbagging confectioners. Send ’em back to LA where they came!
    (But I want my free sample first 🙂

  12. Posted by Stucco_Sux

    See’s Candy? Wow. That’s like the Colonel Saunders of Chocolate. A Mall store if there ever was one. I never understood why someone doesn’t open a small, decent Mexican, Thai or Vietnamese place (Or Sushi, or sandwiches) in that strip mall. As it stands now for the hungry shopper, there’s the cramped Starbucks and the Safeway Smelly Deli with homeless grazing salad bar surprise. Slim pickin’s.

  13. Posted by Serge

    I’ll echo Joel. Peet’s is a Bay Area “chain” and is met with the same amount of hatred as any other formula retailer.

  14. Posted by Dan

    I think there is particular energy against fast food and coffee formula retail, because of their ubiquitous nature and history of forcing out local competitors, diminishing commercial diversity in a neighborhood.
    An exception is the Mission, where any well-capitalized venture viewed as promoting gentrification may become a target.

  15. Posted by sjg

    @Stucco_Sux: There was a World Wrapps location in that strip mall. It did very well. There are numerous (quite numerous) food options within steps of that center. probably only a chain could handle the rent, and street visibility sucks in that center. That doesn’t really foster an ideal foundation for a small independent.

  16. Posted by Dubocian

    That shopping center is 100% formula retail. Replacing one chain store with another in the center doesn’t negatively effect neighborhood character, and See’s doesn’t compete with any local businesses. (The whole shopping center negatively effects neighborhood character, but it is what it is…)
    I think it’s unlikely a non-FR store could survive in that space. It’s a suburban-style center designed for car-oriented chain stores and I expect this will sail through, as it should. As the FR policy requires, the Planning Department staff will oppose the project, but I expect the Commission to approve on its merits. But that doesn’t mean the neighborhood will get behind a similar tenant directly ON Market St. in a location which impacts character more directly.

  17. Posted by bgelldawg

    I love See’s. They use quality ingredients, and if you select carefully they have some great chocolates. But I can’t understand why they would want to be in this location. It is hidden. Many people will go in and out of Safeway and not even realize they are here.

  18. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    Did the Planning Commission consider that See’s sucks? I guess if you think Hershey bars qualify as chocolate See’s isn’t so bad, but yuck.

  19. Posted by Invented

    “See’s sucks” bc they don’t use the word artisanal.
    Shame they’re not uber. (thank goodness).
    If they would reconsider the mini-mall feel to that odd parking area, it might not be as dreary & unwelcoming as it is. Sees won’t last more than 24 months unless something changes.
    Oh, and don’t shop there and think you can walk across street, let’s say to buy your rabbit some hay at the pet store across st; you’ll be ticketed, Instead you have to drive around endlessly to try to figure out how to go from one lot to the next.

  20. Posted by soccermom

    See’s candy, a forbidden treat offered by an iconic feminine (yet husky?) mother figure.

  21. Posted by Brian M

    Sees sucks because their candies taste sugary and harsh. They don’t use good chocolate, so they taste grainy. They are not that cheap, either. Chocalatier Blue in Berkeley is wonderful stuff and costs $1.50 per piece, which is well below many of their competitors. If that is too expensive, just eat fewer pieces. None of need to eat a pound of chocolate in one sitting.

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