Following a major false start by Portland-based New Seasons Market, which was aiming to open in 2018, Trader Joe’s has now formally submitted their application to build-out and operate the roughly 17,000-square-foot ground floor grocery store space at 555 Fulton Street in Hayes Valley.

If approved by the City, the build-out should take around 14 weeks to complete. But TJ’s isn’t expecting to have secured all necessary approvals and permits for the build-out until mid-2022 at the earliest, for a grand opening in “2022 or 2023.”

And yes, the original approvals, permitting and development of 555 Fulton have been at the center of a widening criminal investigation into San Francisco’s former Director of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru, and the former Director of San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection (DBI), Tom Hui.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by maurice

    That building has long been cursed. It’s now…. partially occupied, but still appears cursed.

    I wonder if the retail space is also cursed.

    • Posted by Alai

      …I’m gonna guess that Trader Joe’s will do alright.

    • Posted by redseca2

      It does seem to be cursed. I used to ride the Chariot vans to work until they went bottoms up, and the route took me past this everyday when it was under construction. I lost count of the times a portion of the glazing was installed, then later covered in plastic and duct tape, then replaced. It was 3 steps forward and two steps back for one of the slowest build outs I have ever seen.

      I have to admit I do like the looks. But I am a little terrified of the exterior build quality. I am an Architect and this building must be near the record for the ratio of exterior sealant joint linear feet versus interior square footage.

      • Posted by maurice

        Agree. The build quality remains very suspect (to say nothing of the shady dealings of it getting approved, and it’s endless delays). It doesn’t quite add up to a nice building to actually live in.

      • Posted by inthemarket

        also, that building has no AC, the south and west facing units get so hot, even in winter. I can’t imagine summer time.

  2. Posted by Bluntcard

    “”for a grand opening in “2022 or 2023.””

    Good lord. It’s a grocery store not an underground extension of muni.

    • Posted by Adam

      My worst case scenario would be an above-ground bus lane. $300 million, six years, and counting.

      • Posted by Panhandle Pro

        Meh. I’m just happy that San Francisco actually pulls the trigger on major upgrades like this. BRT is a great bang for the buck compared to a subway. Van Ness needed the beautification / modernization in a big way. We replaced hundred year old electrical and sewer lines.

        To me, this is actually pretty good ROI. Agreed, five years (2016-2021) is too long.

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          How is removal of a green median with mature trees, and hundreds of historic streetlamps, “beautification”? And BRT is a joke as long as buses are dependent on surface traffic, lights, and subject to the weather.

          • Posted by bus rider

            Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Van Ness’ new sidewalks have attractive pavers and appear far more attractive than your average sidewalk, or the sidewalk it replaced. Many of the mature trees (which will be replaced) weren’t particularly attractive and were prone to fall or die and the historic lamps were even older and in a state of disrepair, if I recall correctly. BRT is an improvement over what was there before and the impact of this will be felt as far north as Sonoma County (for people who travel the 101 corridor via bus transit).

        • Posted by BobN

          Go to Milan and look at how they accomplish BRT without spending hundreds of millions of dollars. As movement patterns change, they close off streets or lanes with those flexible, plastic “bollards”. Minimal physical change to the street — maximum flexibility on route changes. They spend their money on real subways.

  3. Posted by Roy

    Will this have to be reviewed by the SF Planning Department as Trader Joe’s is “formula retail”? If so, a grand opening in 2023 is a pipe dream. Look at what happened with the proposed Whole Foods 360 proposed for the former Lombardi’s space. Lombard’s Sports closed near the end of 2014. Here we are more than 6 years later and that property is still boarded up.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      Yes. A Conditional Use Application will need to be approved but the groundwork for the formula use has already been laid.

      • Posted by jimbo

        im sure Dean Preston will block it. Hes never seen a project that he doesnt want to block

    • Posted by Chris

      It is still boarded up because certain business owners and residents have fought redevelopment plans for the property tooth-and-nail.

      I would say the majority of nearby residents supported the proposal for a Whole Foods store, which would have included new housing, but a vocal minority objected, and their voices were the ones the Planning Commission listened to when rejecting the proposal.

      Eventually Amazon got tired of the obstruction and walked away. Then, Mollie Stone’s was supposed to open a new store at the location, and since it is a small chain that fell below the formula retail threshold, their proposal could avoid the conditional use application process.

      But, here we are almost two years later, and still the Lombardi Sports location sits empty, except for it adjacent public garage. Last I heard, the Mollie Stone’s project application was still under review by the SF Planning Department.

      • Posted by Roy

        The final proposal put forth by Whole Foods and the property owner for the Lombardi’s property included significant new housing, but the only reason that SF Planning had any say was that Whole Foods was formula retail. With Mollie Stone’s, it’s not formula retail, which means that they don’t have to add any housing. What ultimately was achieved by all of this? Clearly SF Planning and the vocal minority overplayed their cards.

        • Posted by jimbo

          we also have the case of Dean Preston blocking whole foods on geary and masonic, where it was replacing a best buy. completely moronic

    • Posted by I witnessed the whole thing

      Who the hell wants to live in some shoehorned apartment on top of a grocery store? No one thought this through.

      The guys from WF were consummate gentlemen and jumped through every hoop and moving goal post the Planning Commissioners put before them. And because Mollie Stones is not formula retail and they don’t have to put in housing, this is stalled at the Planning Dept? Cmon. Something is afoot here.

      Until the City calls foul on dubious neighborhood groups who speak for no one, nothing will progress on Polk.

      • Posted by SFRealist

        People live in apartments over grocery stores all over San Francisco, all of America and all over the world.

        • Posted by I spoke at every hearing in support of WF

          Not the point of what’s happening on Polk though. Two sites a few blocks from one another and both a topic of frustration. One a former grocery and the other a former sporting goods store. One can’t be a grocery again because the family can’t steer the aging owner. The other can’t transform to be a grocery because orchestrated groups got in the way. Sites like these will sit empty for a decade. Unless Big Apple is sold for its land there won’t be housing there. Unless a non-formula retail grocer goes in Lombardi’s, there won’t be 8-units plopped on top.

  4. Posted by Panhandle Pro

    Here’s hoping that this becomes the go-to anecdote for why permitting in San Francisco is broken. The period from application to “breaking ground” on the build-out should take no more than three months. Instead, every party loses out for a few years…

    • Posted by SFRealist

      Agree 120%. If they really started the process in 2013, it could take ten years to put in a grocery store in the ground floor of an apartment building, which happens in every city in America all the time. This should not be complicated.

    • Posted by Kyle

      The timing adds to cost. It makes everything in SF more expensive. SMH

  5. Posted by UnlivableCity

    When SOME people discuss their surprise at how much OTHER people hate government I always ask them what they do. They never, ever operate a business.

    I believe Nuru is small potatoes — we have a billion dollar open air fentanyl circus operating here after all, with underage HUMAN-trafficked Honduran boys openly selling on the streets of the Tenderloin, and overdose deaths far exceeding homicides and COVID, so good lick convincing me that Nuru’s not a small little fry of public corruption in SF — but can you blame people for sliding a few smackers under table here and there to speed up the process?

    BTW — all the recent DPW work in the Mission from street repairs to sewers to flood mitigation to sidewalks (that cracked within weeks of replacement) needs redoing. Not that this angle of the scandal is ever mentioned.

    • Posted by Zugamenzio Farnsworth

      Not to mention Van Ness. It’s taken 10 years to paint a few lanes red. And Market Street: it gets redone more than the average tony neighborhood domicile. I ponder if the Cow Palace and it’s parking lot would be the best and in some ways logical place for the street sales of illicit drugs and various encampments. It all creates one big bizarre mess. If the city wants to ignore this I feel the city could at least allocate an adequate square footage to the task(s). Not to mention that the sidewalk usages violate various planning codes, daily. I don’t know why various city agencies even pretend to care about the drug sales. If the city does care it’s care is fruitless. Which again, no ones seems to even ponder.

      • Posted by bus rider

        For the sake of accuracy, the Van Ness project is far more than painting a few lanes red (and the bulk of the work involves replacement of underground utilities).

        • Posted by SFRealist

          The city really should have explained this better. It’s actually a rebuild of the entire street, and the bus lanes are a tiny part.

          Putting BRT on Geary should be much quicker and cheaper.

          • Posted by Alai

            I don’t want to defend SF’s process too much, but I suspect the utilities under Van Ness were far more complicated than the utilities in Phoenix– you know, being a century+ old and likely with missing and incomplete records.

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          Phoenix – *Phoenix*! – took only a couple years to replace miles of underground utilities in conjunction with building arterial median light-rail public transit (cite: I lived there through it). It seemed interminable at the time, but laughably simple compared to the travesty that is Van Ness. How many times do you go by Van Ness and not even see *any* construction activity going on – for weeks at a time! And I recently drove a few blocks of the northern end (Lombard to Pine) – the abrupt lane shifts across intersections are horrible; they’re accidents waiting to happen (over and over).

          • Posted by SFRealist

            It is also true that while the rebuild was much more complicated than repainting bus lanes, weeks would go by with nothing happening.

            In Singapore when they do complicated infrastructure construction, which has happened a lot there, they basically work at it 24-7-365. If something is important, it gets done immediately and gotten over with. SF lets these things drag on and on with little care about the inconvenience.

        • Posted by Chris

          Indianapolis built a longer and more robust bus rapid transit line (which also involved road resurfacing, utility relocation and repairing/replacing very old sewers, etc), and it has been operating for awhile, all while SF’s Van Ness project remains unfinished. There is simply zero excuse for the length of delays with Van Ness transit project.

  6. Posted by soccermom

    In the Richmond we just went over 5 years from 2015 when Fresh and Easy on 32nd Avenue closed to when Andronico’s opened (just this month).

    Safeway/Andronico’s signed a lease in 2018. Who knows what took three years for a grocery store to move into the space where there had been…. a grocery store.

    • Posted by Rachel

      Yep! I should not have had to write letters of support for two grocery stores that were replacing grocery stores.
      I am a proponent of formula retail restrictions but grocery stores should be an exception – they are vital.

  7. Posted by Brian M

    Unlivable City: Excellent analysis, except it ignores the reality that government is more REACTIVE than anything. Permitting is burdensome because many interests WANT it to be burdensome. The Fentanyl Circus continues because “advocates” insist that drug trade is a victimless crime and we should just give the addicts free food and lodging and the other residents of the neighborhood should just shut up. Bad infrastructure is not only or uniquely associated with public works projects.

    So…I agree with you, but government does not exist in a vacuum.

  8. Posted by Kyle

    Agreed Brian. Now How do WE convince this government to do something about it?

  9. Posted by Robert B

    TJ’s-Feh. I dream of a San Francisco Berkeley Bowl store.

  10. Posted by Panhandle Pro

    BRT is not a joke. With their own dedicated lane, infrequent stops, and year round mild weather, I don’t think any of your objections make sense. Subways cost $1B a mile, this this is probably 10% of the cost but with probably 80% of the speed of a subway. Don’t forget with a subway you have to spend 2-3 minutes *each way* just to get underground to the boarding platform.

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