At its meeting this afternoon (April 11) the Planning Commission unanimously adopted new rules for upper Market Street aimed at curbing chain stores from opening along the gayborhood’s main thoroughfare.
As noted in a February Political Notebook about the proposed restrictions, the new rules are devised to prevent national retailers from opening up in prime corner storefronts on Market Street between Octavia and Castro streets. Already, planning staff has informed Starbucks, Chipotle, and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf that they do not support their applications to open locations at prominent intersections in the gayborhood.
Under the new criteria for formula retail, any project that brings the concentration of chain stores within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or greater would not be recommended for approval. The retailer could still seek approval from the Planning Commission, though projects disapproved by staffers rarely receive a favorable vote.
Up until now, “We have been unable to influence and shape the influx of formula retail,” Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association President Pat Tura told commissioners.
The policy, which DTNA helped craft, is aimed at ensuring that ground floor retail spaces in the new mixed-use developments being built along the corridor are not taken up solely by chain stores. Among eight buildings under construction or proposed will be nearly 67,500 square feet of new retail space, some of which has already been leased by Whole Foods and Bank of the West.
“Upper Market is undergoing tremendous change right now. All you have to do is walk down Market Street and see all the construction cranes,” Aaron Starr, who works on legislative affairs for the planning department, told commissioners. “The concern DTNA has, as well as the department, is these retail spaces will all be filled up with formula retail.”
DTNA has been working on the issue since 2010. Vice President Erik Honda said surveys of the neighborhood show that formula retail already accounts for close to 30 percent of the available storefronts.
“We were at a tipping point where landlords would only want formula retail and local businesses would be priced out,” he said.
Planning staff are likely to propose the new policy be adopted for other commercial corridors in the city should they prove to be successful in the Castro. A few neighborhoods have outright bans on chain stores, while other areas are governed by a rule requiring any retailer with more than 11 locations to seek a conditional use permit from the planning commission in order to open in the city.