1600 Jackson Street Site

With the neighborhood fight over the former Lombardi Sports site at 1600 Jackson Street having reached a fevered pitch, and battle lines having been drawn over a proposed Whole Foods 365, the City’s Planning Commission is poised to institute a prohibition on new Formula Retail establishments opening along the Polk Street corridor. But with a big twist.

If the Planning Department’s recommendation is heeded by the Commission next week, the language of the proposed Polk Street Neighborhood Commercial District (NCD) formula retail prohibition will be amended to prohibit Formula Retail uses over 5,000 square feet, “unless the ratio of residential uses on the same lot to the formula retail use is at least 3:1.”

From Planning with respect to the recommendation:

“The Department supports the intention of the Ordinance, which is to help preserve the retail character of the Polk Street NCD and, in part, ensure that under developed land is better utilized. However, a blanket prohibition is too blunt of a control. Certain formula retail uses bring value to a neighborhood and existing formula retail controls effectively filter lesser proposals. Instead, the Department believes a modified formula retail regulation can serve multiple policy objectives in the Polk Street NCD.

Staff recommends the proposed modification as means to achieve two policy goals. The first is to carefully manage the number and type of formula retail uses in the Polk Street corridor. The second is to incentivize the use of remaining larger corridor sites for housing. Taken together, this will help new mixed use development fit the existing, character defining pattern that the Polk Street NCD enjoys.”

The existing building on the Lombardi’s site, which has been vacant for over a year, measures 59,000 square feet, which is too small to support a Whole Foods 365 and three times its amount of housing.

But with a parcel which is zoned for development up to 65-feet in height, the original plans for demolishing the existing building and constructing 62 condos over a ground floor of retail, as we first reported back in 2014, could open the doors for a Whole Foods on Polk.

17 thoughts on “Prohibition on Formula Retail Likely for Polk, but with a Big Twist”
  1. Build It! If not it will sit empty for years to come. This city needs to be open to more formula retail, looked what is happening to Union Street. The small guys can’t afford the rent and the new generation of people don’t shop there. Union Street is dying and needs more formula retail to survive. Look at Chestnut Street it has found a great balance with formula retail and small guys. Balance is the key!

  2. The way people shop is changing. The internet is growing as “the” shopping venue and even formula retail is struggling to compete with it. Look at Penny’s recent cutbacks for one.

    Independent retail is in an even more difficult situation. Things will continue to change viv a vis shopping and prohibiting formula retail will result, IMO, with more and more empty store fronts. As it is a lot of these new developments with the de riguer retail ground floor component seem problematic to me.

    On Portola near Molly Stones, Walgreen was allowed in but the size of its store was restricted. There was a small empty storefront next to them they wanted to expand into but were not permitted to do so. That storefront has been empty for a decade. Walgreens left two years ago and its space has remained empty. Some of the other independent stores on that little strip are struggling.

    West Portal has a nice formula/independent mix. Papenhausen was an independent hardware store for decades but a while back it had to fold into Ace Hardware to keep going. Though it is still called Papenhausen it is technically formula retail now. Best of both worlds.

    1. Cliff’s Variety on Castro Street is also an Ace Hardware. Does anybody really think Cliff’s could exist as an independent? Image is everything, I guess.

      1. I think Ace hardware is somewhat different than a normal franchise in that the owners of the hardware stores are more like a collective. I would have to look into it more but I believe collective in SF=good and not evil

        1. Yeah Ace Hardware is a co-op, as I understand it. The stores are independent, but Ace acts as a distributor and wholesaler (plus marketer), and the individual stores own shares in Ace.

  3. The problem with this is its really a non-decision. Who will decide which mini-big-boxes “add value” — planning dept staff, district supervisor, russian hill preservationists? Anyone have the criteria for “value”? it will end up being a typical SF lobbying effort and a “beauty contest” result.

    And If you had ever those criteria clear, then you would still sell them out for a few luxury condos upstairs?

    See this being managed so badly, I would almost rather see either alternative — make it like 24th street in Noe Valley which remains a great urban village street, of just open it up and spend all the resources devoted to arguing this over the next decade to something productive.

    1. As reported above, formula retail over 5,000 square feet would objectively be allowed if the ratio of residential to formula use was at least 3:1 on the lot.

  4. Too subjective and too many double standards. There is already formula retail on Polk, but it appears that they make allowances for certain retailers.

    As for people’s shopping habits, yes, the Internet has taken a lot of foot traffic away from traditional bricks and mortar establishments. However, that doesn’t mean urban, walkable and scalable retail districts aren’t thriving. Hayes Valley, Chestnut St., and Noe are great local, success stories. Why? Because people connect with the businesses and location, regardless of whether they are independents or formula retail. It’s called a neighborhood. This is the same reason why places like King St. have failed because they couldn’t connect with residents.

    1. Good points about neighborhood retail. King St is primarily a high-volume traffic connector between 280 and 3rd/Embarcadero. It carries as about as many cars as Lombard or Van Ness. The streets around there more suitable for neighborhood connecting retail are Brannan, 2nd, Townsend, and 4th.

      SF has a recurring pattern of major traffic roads paired with and parallel to narrower neighborhood-centered roads Lombard/Chesnut, Van Ness/Polk, Lincoln/Irving, Oak/Haight, Geary/Clement, 3rd/2nd, ….

      Also why MB should have 4th the neighborhood-friendly pedestrian/bike street, while 3rd and Owens route the traffic.

    2. Internet shopping inroads aside, yes some scalable urban shopping districts are thriving. Like West Portal.

      But many of the new ones aren’t. The area around the Lumina towers is dead on weekends. Don’t know how the stores at the podium bases are doing but they are totally uninviting to look at..

      The retail planned for Hawthorne/Folsom at the base of the 30 story towers and the Canton restaurant mid-rise towers is what I refer to. That area is not a neighbor hood and likely never will be. What retail outlets will fill all that space? What outlet is not at the base of Bleu – have not been there in a long while.

      Sam for the ridiculous, IMO, Hub proposal.

      Some of this ground floor retail has to be re-thought. A good amount of this space is likely to sit idle for prolonged periods. Most of these new developments will not have a Hayes Vallry or West Portal type venue spring up around them.

      Not all older districts are doing well. Taraval near Sunset has a lot of empty storefronts. Many of the businesses there are marginal. I am told Westlake has a fair number of vacancies.

      Botom line, too much retail space is being planned for SF. IMO.

  5. Yes because the entity that is best position to manage the optimal mix of private market retail establishments is the SF Planning Dept and the zoning code. As opposed to, you know, the market.

    This is like watching the Howdy Doody version of the Soviet Politburo in action.

  6. Spot zoning. Bend over. Wait until Polk St gets the next jolt from Peskin with his pro camper homeless proposal requiring 15 day resettlement notices and delivery of services to the homeless on the sidewalks. Just great.

  7. Couple of good points here – basic takeaway is that no “non-chain” local “mom & pop” will lease 59000 sq ft and even if they did/could, they would die on the vine due to the maturity and overall utility of online delivery services that have rendered them largely useless…

    Ahhhhhh, I love San Francisco, where the NIMBYS and “progressives” can ignore the existence of the internet and the lack of relevance and viability of the very “small retail outlets” they think they serve.

    Wake up BoS – it’s the 21st century and you can’t pass an ordinance to change that.

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