Whole Foods / Cala and the Haight
Earlier this year Whole Foods and the owner of the propert where Cala foods is located proposed a new development, including housing and a full service Whole Foods market. The project has been met with deft opposition by the HANC (Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council). An organization that seems to largely be concerned with protecting their own vision of the Haight and their political clout is significant.
The Haight Ashbury Improvement Association is taking a much more progressive stance and is in favor of the project. Long story short, if you live anywhere close and have a point of view, the time to speak up is now, and the person to talk to is Ross Mirkarimi. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Statement to HAIA from property owner and developer of 690 Stanyan St. :
On July 17, 2008, at a meeting of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, we informed those members in attendance that the chances of moving forward with the 690 Stanyan St. Project (proposed are 62 residential units above a full-service grocery store – Whole Foods Market, currently undergoing environmental review by the City and the public) were at best “50 – 50” and that it is quite likely that this project is on its deathbed. The unreasonable delays in environmental review by the City are causing both the project sponsor and the proposed tenant, Whole Foods Market, to think seriously about whether it is all worth it. We would like to elaborate on our earlier remarks.
A weak economy is coming around to affect San Francisco and there have been huge increases in construction costs over the last 12 months. National grocery chains, like almost all public companies, are re-evaluating the risks of expanding into new markets. The Project’s planning application has been under environmental review by the City for nearly 2 ½ years now, without any sort of schedule for an approval hearing with the Planning Commission and certainly no end to the City planning process in sight.
We have spent nearly $1 Million to date on planning for the project, largely on City fees and consultants chosen by the City to analyze the environmental effects of the project: we have to little to show for it except a stack of heavy draft documents. Thanks mostly to a vocal minority of opponents of the project, we have encountered long delays in publication of a Final EIR and the City has called for new environmental studies to be undertaken involving new data collection, analysis and writing-up (the new studies confirm the conclusions of the original draft EIR). For example, an 18-page letter from the Sierra Club has cost weeks of schedule and thousands of dollars in re-analysis by the City’s highly-paid consultants. This and delays sought by HANC have pushed back any hope of obtaining an approval hearing before the Fall of this year, perhaps even conveniently beyond the November elections. Given this, the earliest that the supermarket could now open for business would be 2011 or 2012. This leads to a likely conclusion that, unless there is a hearing before the Planning Commission soon, there will be no market tenant, no housing and no development of that site in the foreseeable future. The parking lot, of course, would stay open for business.
All the while, our District 5 Supervisor, Ross Mirkarimi, has expressed little or no interest in pushing this project forward. He denies being in opposition to the project although the warmth of his feelings depend greatly on the audience for his remarks. Instead he queries other grocery vendors regarding their interest in occupying the old Cala Foods building; while his allies more actively work in opposition to the project. If the Supervisor is opposed to the project, that is his prerogative, but he should clearly articulate his reasons why, particularly in an election season, in order to convince his constituents that his position is the right one. If he is supportive of having a full-service grocery store for the area then he needs to take a leadership role in carrying the project forward, lobbying city staff and prominent people, pushing them along a little in order to get the project ready for its approval hearing as quickly as possible: this is the essence of the role of a District Supervisor. The Supervisor’s inaction and lack of leadership on this issue serves the same result as actively opposing it. Unfortunately it appears that he has cast his lot with HANC and the handful of opponents to the project but does not have the integrity to admit this to his constituents.
We ask only that you make your feelings known to our District Supervisor and ask that he provide leadership for our community, that trying to hide in the shadows is not an acceptable way for him to represent our opinions.
Mark J. Brennan for 690 Stanyan St. LLC