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 ross.mirkarimi@sfgov.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.

Thank you.
Mark J. Brennan for 690 Stanyan St. LLC


8 Comments so far

  1. stellabillings on August 4th, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

    Umm, a tad one-sided, this post, huh? It’s disheartening to think that it’s assumed that the best "progressive" choice for the Haight is yet another non-local, luxury oriented, international chain store. The neighborhood needs a full-service grocery store, but WFM will be yet another step towards making the neighborhood available only to the wealthy, and less of a viable living space for the neighborhood’s historically diverse populace. Where’s the discussion here about what might be done to find a local supermarket? Where’s the discussion about what harm might also be done to this neighborhood as it grows more and more corporate?

  2. Richard Ault (richard) on August 4th, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

    Look, I’m not advocating WFM per se, I am advocating something be done with that lot and vacant building. It has sat empty for the past 3 years at least. I walk, ride, drive through that intersection at least once a day and it’s a blight on the neighborhood. So in that context, I say yes, WFM has a progressive plan. Not saying I’ll always shop there, but it’s a much better choice than a safeway or other chain market. That combined with their investment in the neighborhoods they occupy certainly make them a better choice than many of the alternatives.

  3. robanderson on August 5th, 2008 @ 9:30 am


    I’m running against Mirkarimi in D5 and support the Whole Foods project, which I think is ideal for that location. I’m now scrambling to get signatures of registered voters in the district. Let me know if you’d be willing to sign my petition (the signatures won’t be used in my candidates’ statement, just to qualify for the ballot). I’d also like to contact Mr. Brennan, too, if you have an email address or phone number.

    Rob Anderson

  4. Richard Ault (richard) on August 5th, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

    Sorry Rob, I’m a resident of D7, although I "live" in D5. Best of luck with your signature drive. Ross is going to be tough to beat.

  5. theo on August 6th, 2008 @ 9:40 am


    I support the Whole Foods project too, and I’m a District 5 resident.

    But I’m not considering voting for you, even for a second. Guess why?

    Your personal grudge against bicycles and your nuisance lawsuit have blocked the city from making any bicycling improvements, no matter how minor, for the last two years.

    We can’t even get new bike racks on the sidewalks because of your "environmental" injunction.

    If that’s the kind of governance you want, I sincerely hope you don’t even make the ballot.


  6. Richard Ault (richard) on August 6th, 2008 @ 10:46 am

    Wow. Rob is that true? That’s some sinister shit if it is.

  7. stellabillings on August 6th, 2008 @ 12:38 pm

    Holy shit – you’re that Rob Anderson? Thanks, but absolutely no thanks. I find your vendetta against bicycles frustratingly pointless at best, and sociopathic at worst. Luckily, I’m sure you don’t have a prayer.

    By the way, Richard, I hear your preference on a WF vs. Safeway, and personally I’m in agreement. I’m a big natural foods person, and I never shop at Safeway. But on the other hand, I’m very familiar with WF as a corporation (having worked for them and in the rest of the natural foods industry, perfectly amicably, for ten years), and though they have some good points and I would prefer to shop there over a conventional chain supermarket, they also heavily greenwash, aggressively push out local comptetitors, lobby for organic laws and regulations that lessen some standards and raise others to suit their already exitsting practices and put burdens on local natural retialers, cater much more to luxury-oriented foodies than local or organic seekers (just look for local stuff in the produce aisle), and are one of the chains at the forefront of the anti-union movement. And the fact is that although I would prefer personally to shop at a WF if the choice was Safeway, that’s because I have some disposable income for food and can manage to buy there. For many residents of D5 (in which I live and vote, by the way), putting a WF in the lot is the same as not adding a market at all, and the only net effect on people without extra income will be to put in yet more unaffordable housing, making the crunch forcing them out of the neighborhood even tighter. I’m not actually advocating for Safeway or some such thing, if you’ll notice – I think that we need to explore local options, and it saddens me that this isn’t discussed. In fact, the only discussion points seem to come directly from the realtors who stand to benefit from this ever-gentrifying neighborhood change.

  8. frankeeuno on August 10th, 2008 @ 8:01 am

    I live up the hill off of Stanyan and would welcome a Whole Foods. Cala was a horrible place to shop. The parking lot that is currently there isn’t serving the community, so let’s get something in that would.

    Right now, I am supporting the NOPA Farmer’s Market happening as I type on Grove @ Divisadero. I own a small business in this area and have noticed that since the farmers market has started, a few local cafes are serving the produce. This is great for our neighborhood, but will only continue(like any business) if the neighborhood supports the effort.

    Please shop Local!

    Frankee Uno

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