It didn’t come in time to open for the busy holiday shopping season, but See’s Candies did receive an early Christmas gift today when it won approval for a new store in the Castro district.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously 6-0 at its meeting this afternoon (Thursday, December 12) to allow the chocolate chain to open in the Safeway shopping center on upper Market Street at Church Street. It will be its fifth store in San Francisco when it opens in early 2014.
The company’s roots date back to 1920 when its first shop opened in the city but is now owned by Warren Buffett and his company Berkshire Hathaway. See’s is taking over the 1,900 square foot space that had been occupied by Mike’s Cameras, formerly known as Wolf Camera, at 2016 Market Street.
Because the chocolate company is a formula retailer, it triggered the restriction that any chain store seeking to open on upper Market Street that brings the concentration of such businesses within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or more be automatically recommended for disapproval by planning staff.
Even though the sweet shop is replacing a formula retailer and the number of such stores is not changing, the planning staff nonetheless was required to recommend See’s application not be granted due to the chain store stipulation.
The planning commission maintains discretion to reject the staff’s determination and approve the permit request if there is community support for the proposed chain store. See’s was not opposed and had the backing of the Castro Merchants group and the Castro / Upper Market Community Benefits District.
The area’s two residential groups remained neutral, while no one showed up to speak against See’s at today’s hearing.
“I have yet to talk to anyone who says they don’t like See’s,” project architect Ahmad Mohazab, with Tecta Associates, told the commissioners.
Commissioner Gwyneth Borden noted that the project was far different than the proposals by Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill to open in nearby spaces on Market Street. Those stores generated heated opposition and were rejected by the commission.
“There are chocolatiers in San Francisco who are local but there are not a lot of other businesses that compete directly with See’s, other than Safway if you like junk candy in that regard,” said Borden. “This is a perect location for this use. And I am not saying that because I love See’s Candies and live three blocks away.”