November 10, 2010

Whole Foods Concerned About Market (Street), Delaying On Haight

2001 Market Street Whole Foods

The parking and traffic concerns that are being blamed for torpedoing a Trader Joe's in the Castro are now front and center with respect to the planned Whole Foods at 2001 Market.

"They have a potential queuing problem," said Bill Wycko, the department's environmental review officer, referring to concerns that cars will be backed up and blocking traffic while waiting to get into the store's planned 60-space parking lot off Dolores Street.
"If they can't manage the queuing issue, paid parking would become a tool," he said.
"The issue is definitely something we're concerned about, especially as it can impose an unfair competitive burden on us compared to other stores in the area," said Adam Smith, Whole Foods' design and construction coordinator.

The 2001 Market Street project is scheduled to be presented to the Planning Commission next month. Assuming approval, the Prado Group plans to start construction on the development next fall which would enable the grocery store to open in 2012 and residential units fall 2012.

And while originally expected to open in time for the December holidays, it appears as though its opening of the Whole Foods at the corner of Stanyan and Haight has been pushed back to February 2011 as construction on the Cala conversion continues on.

Trader Joe’s Reportedly "Outed" From The Castro Over Traffic [SocketSite]
Drawings And Details For The Proposed Development Of 2001 Market [SocketSite]
Parking threatens to curb Whole Foods in Castro [SFGate]
Whole Foods Here By End Of The Year As Cala Gutting Commences [SocketSite]

First Published: November 10, 2010 8:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I think the Planning Department's efforts to make stores like this take steps to mitigate the parking and traffic messes they create are entirely appropriate. If the development of this store results in queues of cars waiting to get into the parking lot, then they should absolutely be pushed to reduce demand for the parking by charging for it. This is supposed to be a neighborhood store that many/most people walk to anyway, right?

Posted by: Dubocian at November 10, 2010 8:54 AM

Oh the tangled web we weave... when Planning pulls parking from up its sleeve.

Posted by: stucco-sux at November 10, 2010 9:08 AM

I would only be in favor of charging for parking if Safeway is then forced to charge for parking.
This would mitigate the unfair advantage the giant suburban styled safeway with free parking would have.

Posted by: Joe at November 10, 2010 9:20 AM

let's make a rule to charge any store with more than 2 employees a too big to be in San Francisco charge. After all everyone walks everywhere in our medieval village. We don't need any of these corporation. I have a garden on my roof that provides 99% of my fruits and vegetables. I use the fertilizer of my carrier pigeons create to feed the pigs.

I don't see why we need any of these store or cell phone companies in SF. And it's the role of our government to get them out of SF as fast as possible so we can return to a fully organic lifestyle just as Jesus intended.

Posted by: snafu at November 10, 2010 9:28 AM

If someone wants to shop at Whole Foods rather than Safeway, needing to pay for parking isn't going to deter them. The pay parking would only go into effect if their other measures don't prevent queuing - Whole Foods shoppers would likely rather pay a little than sit in a queue, anyway.

Posted by: curly at November 10, 2010 9:31 AM

If anyone should doubt that the Planning Department's efforts to mitigate the potential parking mess are without merit, just try to going up 24th street through Noe Valley in front of the Whole Foods there. What has been created there is nothing less than a FIASCO. the parking lot is overrun and causing a great deal of frustration to those trying to get through. In this instance, this was a bad location due to limited parking.

Posted by: SFLooking at November 10, 2010 9:37 AM

"The issue is definitely something we're concerned about, especially as it can impose an unfair competitive burden on us compared to other stores in the area,"

Meaning of course Safeway and their large subsidized free parking lot. I can understand WF's concern here though and hope that there is a solution that can even the playing field while not giving Market St. a case of congestion.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 10, 2010 9:39 AM

Why is Safeway getting slammed for having a parking lot? They chose to purchase the property, pay taxes on it, maintain it, and made the decision not to use the lot for other, probably far more profitable uses (more leaseable commercial space). Whole Foods could chose to purchase enough free parking for its customers, but choses not to. I don't see how their business decision is an "unfair competitive burden"

Posted by: traumatic at November 10, 2010 9:59 AM

"just try to going up 24th street through Noe Valley in front of the Whole Foods there. What has been created there is nothing less than a FIASCO."

I drive there often. I hardly think I would describe it as a fiasco.

In fact the parking attendants in my opinion manage the parking fairly well.

I have rarely waiting long

Posted by: zig at November 10, 2010 10:01 AM

I'm sure Whole Foods could find a large parcel around Bayshore if they want a large parking lot. They could probably even get a subsidy out of it. It won't do any good for WF to complain that they didn't open their store 85 years ago like the Church Safeway did.

What they're griping about here is the right to open a store wherever they want and screw the world and their driving/parking concerns. "Deal with it," they seem to say. The simple fact is that anybody who opposes these high-driver stores only needs to show a picture of the situation at the Masonic TJs to get their point across. It's going to be extremely difficult and expensive (lobbying, bribes) for TJ/WF to counter that image anywhere they want to open. In fact, the Masonic TJs may have killed the golden goose, poisoned the well, or whatever your favorite metaphor might be. Overreaching can be fatal.

I think it's important to note that these stores are trying to pose as stores that people don't need to drive to which is more than a little disconnected from their actual demographic. Lazy people aren't magically going to start walking to the store and carrying a family's worth of groceries home. No, they're going to block the street until the parking vulture in front of them gets a spot. Same as it ever was.

Posted by: EH at November 10, 2010 10:04 AM

I doubt that Whole Foods will agree to any sort of paid parking

Even in my one car household within walking distance of Whole Foods we drive because carrying groceries on PT or walking simply sucks.

Posted by: Zig at November 10, 2010 10:06 AM

zig: In fact the parking attendants in my opinion manage the parking fairly well.

I have rarely waiting long

What about the people driving down 24th who aren't going to WF?

Posted by: EH at November 10, 2010 10:09 AM

EH

If this is true and I agree then why is the planning this far along?

Paid parking is untenable for these businesses

Posted by: Zig at November 10, 2010 10:10 AM

This is ridiculous. Why does SF have so few grocery stores? There isnt land left in the nAYborhoods to develop stores with huge parking lots - so what do we do - ban grocery stores?
We are so phucked with our priorities.

Posted by: Joe at November 10, 2010 10:12 AM

"What about the people driving down 24th who aren't going to WF?"

what about them?

Personally I don't drive down 24th street.

If I have to go near this block it's a minor inconvenience

I am pretty tolerant when driving my car in a dense city. I assume that I won't be able to drive fast all the time on busy commercial streets.

It's really a minor problem IMO vastly outweighed by having a nice grocery store in our neighborhood.

The alternative is easy driving and Cala or an empty store front

Do you not agree?

Posted by: Zig at November 10, 2010 10:22 AM

Check the TJs on Masonic, or the WF on Franklin, or the the WF on 24th. They've got cars backed up 20 deep or more quite frequently. It's perfectly reasonable to expect them to manage their parking situation. There's no reason that people not going to the store should be impacted because the company is unwilling to manage the situation they are creating.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 10, 2010 10:34 AM

Perhaps they could redesign the building so that the condos would sit on top of an exposed multi-level parking podium. Then, we'd be able to accommodate all the SUVs. It would essentially look like the other Whole Foods on Fourth which has apartments on top of the parking podium.

Posted by: invented at November 10, 2010 10:38 AM

invented - I was under the impression all parking podiums in SF were banned via planning in the last 10 years. Parking has to be underground now.

Posted by: Eric in SF at November 10, 2010 10:53 AM

Imagine buying a home...and then finding out that a new development will place idling cars below your window for much of the day.

Idling engines produce more pollution than cars at speed, and the exhaust plumes from idling engines travel straight upward and are concentrated, as opposed to being dispersed when the car is moving.

Insufficient parking so as to require queueing is a deal breaker.

Posted by: Jack B. Nimble at November 10, 2010 10:55 AM

Zig: Hey, cool. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Not your problem, you don't live here, and it's not about your strawman's "ability to drive fast."

I agree that paid parking is a non-starter, but that doesn't mean that the store should go in any particular location. They want parking, they can site the store where there is room for parking. Ever thus.

As for why planning is this far along, I don't know, brinksmanship? I don't waste time trying to read between the lines, I prefer to stick to the uncontroversial facts: these stores are creating traffic problems. But of course I realize this carries no water with the solipsists among us.

Posted by: EH at November 10, 2010 10:58 AM

I will do whatever it takes to convince the BOS to mitigate the parking issue. Earlier posters are right- 24th street is a mess. I ride my bike and drive, and both modes of transportation are interrupted by the SUV wagon train lining the street, and since 24th is one of flattest streets in the area it's not right to try to convince me to take an alternative hillier route because the world revolves around Whole Foods.

The traffic patterns on Dolores and Market right now are very smooth, and all it would take is the same conditions we see on California/ Franklin- Geary/ Masonic- 24th/ Noe to destroy the Market street flow. Cars heading west on Market and turning left onto Dolores would be backed up, overflowing into the transit lane, backing up street cars. Cars heading east on Market would need to merge to the left to avoid the back up of cars turning right onto Dolores, causing overflow into the transit lanes there with same negative effect just described. Harvest Urban Market on 8th street and a few blocks down on Market and Noe are very successful grocery stores catering to the same clientele that are very successful without any parking at all. I would prefer no parking be allowed for Whole Foods, if they complain about unfair competition than maybe this location isn't for them. This is a city, not a Whole Foods franchise.

Posted by: Tyler at November 10, 2010 11:04 AM

EH

Not sure what you mean by "you don't live here". Do you mean on this block? I do live fairly close to the traffic "fiasco" on 24th Street and it's just really not a big deal to me.

The reason the zoning allows for a full service grocery store at this location is because a majority want one in this area. Its really that simple.

Just like the Whole Foods on 24th Street, a vocal minority protested it for various reasons, it was built and it is now packed with patrons. And I would agree it has caused some traffic problems.

Parking attendants seems to me to be a reasonable mitigation.

Posted by: Zig at November 10, 2010 11:08 AM

There you have it. There are too few grocery stores people actually want to go to. TJ's are too few. WF's are too few. And because of that the overcrowded locations have parking issues. What we're told then is that overcrowded stores have parking issues and therefore they should be discouraged from opening new stores!

Stupid, just plain stupid.

Counter-productive micro-managing idiots.

Posted by: lol at November 10, 2010 11:15 AM

Very informative video about parking, I found the part about old town Pasadena (starts at minute 5:30 or so) particularly interesting.

See link.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 10, 2010 11:42 AM

@lol, you are mixing a parking issue with grocery stores. There are not too few grocery stores purely because there are parking problems at some grocery stores.

If there are too few grocery stores, build more grocery stores. There are already grocery stores in this city with 0 parking, so for WF or TJ to say it is a competitive disadvantage to have to take care of the problems they are creating is ridiculous. There are also many grocery stores that deliver groceries, some will even put the food in your fridge if you want.

The real problem is that places like WF are unwilling to make the slightest adjustment to their business model to operate in a way that does not impose traffic problems on the surrounding area. If they won't do that, then I have no problem with them not operating here.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 10, 2010 11:56 AM

WF and the developers want to have their cake and eat it too. They sell the store (which I support) on the notion that, "oh, this is an urban store that people will walk to, aren't we so hipply smart growth." And then in the same breath they say that everyone will drive and that they have no responsibility for mitigating the problems associated with people driving to their store. Well, which is it?

Posted by: hmmm at November 10, 2010 11:58 AM

There are not too few grocery stores purely because there are parking problems at some grocery stores.

Whatever the reason, when there are ACTUAL BUSINESSES THAT WANT TO GROW AND THRIVE AND BRING JOBS IN THIS CITY, we should accommodate them instead of sending them packing. Free parking is a tiny issue if they have a parking attendant and some parking enforcement. Only necessary trips would be made.

I do 80% of my grocery shopping on a bike or by foot. For the 20% when I need my car (frozen goods + drinks cartons, all in bulk), I love to have the parking at my North Beach TJ's. Some shoppers will skip a store for the sole reason of lack of parking. You can't ask 100% of the population to be fit and 20-40 years old with no kids.

My biggest point: more local stores will render many car trips obsolete! Sending people to shop to Colma is the end result of the 94114.

Posted by: lol at November 10, 2010 12:49 PM

Imagine buying a home...and then finding out that a new development will place idling cars below your window for much of the day.

Where would those homes be? On Market? The only "homes" that would have traffic backed up in front of them are the condos above Mecca. Anyone who moved into them wasn't worried about cars...

And, as for blocking the transit lane, the transit lane is the one farthest from the curb, in the middle of the road.

Posted by: BobN at November 10, 2010 12:55 PM

I guess I should count myself as lucky - I shop online with Safeway and have it delivered. For meats and produce, I can walk down the street and pick those items up. Doesn't Safeway deliver city-wide?

Posted by: Fishchum at November 10, 2010 1:01 PM

The problem is: how do you accomodate successful and popular businesses in a dense city? (Little known about Trader Joes on Masonic is that there is significant additional roof top parking available acessed from Emerson Street, but the neighbors on that street won a condition limiting it to employee parking only).

If queing at the peak hours is the problem (and that is a good problem to have)then the role of the attendant is to not allow any queing on the street. People will circle, get discouraged and either stop shopping there or shop during the off peak times.

These are good problems to solve.

Posted by: Gonzybaby at November 10, 2010 1:06 PM

@lol, like I said, you are mixing up the two issues. Nobody is preventing them from opening up shop. Other grocery stores operate with 0 parking. If their business model can't survive without massive free parking, or they are unwilling to operate without having customers lining up on public streets, then it's not the appropriate business model for the area.

I'd love to see the city make opening a business easier, but we are always going to require businesses to operate under a certain set of rules. I think the rules should be clearer, the process faster, and the exceptions granted much fewer, but I have no problem with requiring a business to mitigate the impacts of it's operations.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 10, 2010 1:10 PM

Whole foods has massive stores in manhattan without a single parking spot. So people can stop claiming that WF refuses to adapt to stores with an urban footprint.

Posted by: Joe at November 10, 2010 1:40 PM

WF is the one claiming they are at an unfair disadvantage by being required to manage their customer parking.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 10, 2010 1:41 PM

requiring a business to mitigate the impacts of it's operations.

And might I add that there is plenty of evidence by now to support this.

I really do think that these stores depend on having overflow on their parking lots. I wouldn't doubt that if there were enough WF/TJ (and I'm sure TJ loves that association and WF hates it) store in San Francisco such that traffic blockages were no longer an issue, there would not be enough business at any of them to support their staying open.

Posted by: EH at November 10, 2010 1:41 PM

WF and TJs should take over the crappy Delano's on South Van Ness and/or build next to the new Lowe's on Bayshore. Problem solved.

Posted by: Snark17 at November 10, 2010 1:51 PM

The safeway on jackson an davis
has no parking .

Posted by: mark at November 10, 2010 1:53 PM

I can see how paid parking could alleviate the queuing problem. As much as I like the idea of paying proportionally for resources consumed I don't understand why planning doesn't simply address the queuing issue directly by creating a legal requirement for the building owner to manage the queue.

And to those who think you need to be young and healthy to shop for groceries without a car, a million babushkas with their rolling carts would like to prove you wrong.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 10, 2010 1:55 PM

In NYC Whole Foods offers a door-to-door delivery service for about $5. Problem solved. But of course, WF refuses to offer that service in SF. Instead they want to offer you a personal shopper costing an additional 25% on your bill. What a joke.

Posted by: hmmm at November 10, 2010 2:04 PM

When is the Orange County Ideology Trend going to end? This location is located within 1 block to all major transit lines in the city- bus, light rail/ subway, and streetcar. It's easier to find a vacant Taxi on Market Street than a tranny hooker on Polk. If any grocery store in the city were to benefit the most by doing without parking it would be this location.

Posted by: Tyler at November 10, 2010 2:10 PM

A little reality check please about Whole Foods and 24th Street traffic: there has been a supermarket there for eons. Remember Bell Market? The traffic there is no better or worse now. There's plenty to like and dislike about Whole Foods without blaming them for traffic on 24th St.

Posted by: steve at November 10, 2010 2:47 PM

Nobody is blaming them for traffic on 24th st. It is merely being pointed out as 1 of many examples of WF and similar stores causing traffic impacts, that they are unwilling to appropriately address.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 10, 2010 3:16 PM

Planning IS trying to make them manage their queue. But if they can't manage it, then they have to chagre for parking. It's last resort.

Posted by: ilivehere at November 10, 2010 3:48 PM

I thought traffic was part of what one should expect when one lives in a CITY?

It seems as if most of these comments are from people who should be living in Bolinas instead of a city.

Posted by: astonished at November 10, 2010 6:26 PM

or medieval europe

Posted by: givemeabreak at November 10, 2010 6:42 PM

If they allowed these stores to build adequate parking, there wouldn't be "ques" and other problems. That's the issue at TJ's near Geary/Masonic and it will be the issue here. People will line up waiting for someone to leave and open up a space.

Posted by: BT at November 10, 2010 7:05 PM

Manhanttan has a working subway system. We have Muni.

Posted by: kathleen at November 10, 2010 7:35 PM

If you can afford a car to drive a few blocks to pay the high prices at Whole Foods, then you can afford parking.

Posted by: StockBoySF at November 10, 2010 7:57 PM

I lived in central Tokyo in the 90s so I'm getting a kick out of this. . .

I actually chose my apartment to be within walking distance of this store (google street view -- note the parking attendant).

One thing I see here is that the old Safeway stores have a competitive advantage by having a Prop 13 tax valuation of 1979 I assume.

Posted by: Troy at November 10, 2010 10:00 PM

lets remember:

"If they can't manage the queuing issue, paid parking would become a tool,"

So this is not about WF being prevented from having parking, or forcing them to charge for parking no matter what. It's requiring a business to manage their parking situation. If there is a queue on public roads with free parking, they will be required to charge a fee for parking in order to keep their customers from blocking public roads.

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 10, 2010 11:57 PM

Are those that do not own cars complaining about increased traffic related to allowing a business that is desirable for the majority of residents because they want to ride bikes on car free streets? OR do they own cars but desire car free streets? Or, as posted earlier, do they have some hope that car free streets could help to create a Medieval European village? Markets, and market places, were and are, always busy junctions of traffic, commerce and people. Marketplaces are part of city life, as is noise, density, activity, and SHARING space and streets with others.

Posted by: 4parking at November 11, 2010 12:34 AM

Just remove parking all together.

We live in a dense city, walk it. Use the sidewalks. Use a bundle buggy or a back pack if you feel you have too much to carry. Too many people come from other places having used a car and are too afraid to let go of that crutch having immigrated to the city.

Posted by: no car joe at November 11, 2010 12:38 AM

Sure, if there's no parking then people will try less. That seems uncontroversial. Steve: there were also umpteen Cala/Bell/Etc. stores throughout the city. 24th was not nearly as congested then, and it only got bad like WF is every day on special occasions like Super Bowl or Thanksgiving. WF pulls people from much further away, meaning more people driving. The Noe WF is the Southernmost WF, so anybody on the peninsula who doesn't want to go to San Mateo (where there is probably more parking) comes to the NV.

Posted by: EH at November 11, 2010 1:33 AM

Yesterday I saw an 80 year old Chinese woman pushing her groceries along the sidewalk on a fold up cart. I have just blown the minds of half the Socketsite commenters.

Posted by: Name at November 11, 2010 9:19 AM

"I thought traffic was part of what one should expect when one lives in a CITY?"

Well obviously if you create a city containing a lot of people going from place to place it will cause traffic. But that doesn't mean that each traveler needs to be individually wrapped in two tons of steel and plastic which in turn requires substantial real estate resources.

There really are other solutions and they work very well. We just need the political will to execute those solutions correctly. The current theme of "I want my Whole Foods, give them whatever they want even if it degrades my neighborhood." is going in the wrong direction.

"If they allowed these stores to build adequate parking, there wouldn't be "ques" and other problems."

Of course granting unlimited parking will fix that one extremely local queuing issue, but then more severe problems are created elsewhere. For example gridlock that makes our already feeble bus transit system even more lame.

That's an aspect of a distributed automobile based transportation system : incrementally adding more capacity causes a slight degradation over a wide area. The aggregate negative impact is huge though it is spread out so far and wide that individuals don't really notice each incremental loss in their quality of life. Traffic analysts see the problem clearly though the voting public remains clueless.

Frogs swimming in a pot slowly heating to a boil.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 11, 2010 9:27 AM

The Noe WF is the Southernmost WF, so anybody on the peninsula who doesn't want to go to San Mateo (where there is probably more parking) comes to the NV.

Really? I would be very surprised if Peninsula dwellers were driving into SF to shop at a tiny urban Whole Foods. I think it's more likely that there are SF dwellers who used to drive to the Potrero Hill WF but now drive to the NV WF because it's closer.

I live a few blocks from the Noe Whole Foods and always walk there. If I have a lot of groceries I push the shopping cart home and back. I do occasionally do a TJ's run by car, or shop at Berkeley Bowl after work, but generally I'm willing to pay more for the convenience of walk-shopping. (No, I don't have kids and I do small grocery runs many times in a week.)

Posted by: RenterAgain at November 11, 2010 11:02 AM

If there was limited/no parking, I would just drive to another location that has plentiful parking. I wouldn't walk, ride the bus, get a taxi, or pay for parking to shop at this location. It's not worth the trouble. It's just Whole Foods FFS.

Posted by: brandno at November 11, 2010 12:01 PM

My partner works at Noe WFM and for the first 6 months they were open they got a lot of people from the Peninsula who said WFM NV was their new closest store. Once they got sick of the parking situation and the fact that the store is 1/2-1/3 the size of a normal WFM those folks stopped shopping there.

Posted by: Eric in SF at November 11, 2010 12:34 PM

"Yesterday I saw an 80 year old Chinese woman pushing her groceries along the sidewalk on a fold up cart. I have just blown the minds of half the Socketsite commenters."

Hey there is a reason my ancestors immigrated from dirt poor situations to San Francisco

And that was so I wouldn't have to be an 80 year old with a fold up cart pulling along vegetables

Posted by: Zig at November 11, 2010 1:51 PM

But I bet that 80 year old Chinese woman is happier than you.

Posted by: @Zig at November 11, 2010 3:04 PM

Really? I would be very surprised if Peninsula dwellers were driving into SF to shop at a tiny urban Whole Foods. I think it's more likely that there are SF dwellers who used to drive to the Potrero Hill WF but now drive to the NV WF because it's closer.

Yeah, the WF diehards who no longer have to drive to Potrero are a part of the "casting a wider net than Cala/Bell," I should have been more explicit. As for people traveling up from Burlingame, you could be right and they'd just as soon go to SM, but you can't discount the people who work in SF and stop there before going home, since the 280 is right there. At the end of the day though, I don't know who all those people are and all of this is idle speculation. I just think the traffic is much worse than it was with Bell there.

Posted by: EH at November 11, 2010 3:28 PM

"I can understand WF's concern [that their competition doesn't have a similar constraint imposed on their parking] here though and hope that there is a solution that can even the playing field ..."

I'm going to disagree with myself and take that statement back. No retailer should expect a completely level playing field when they enter a market already occupied with competition. Early movers usually get an advantage, the most obvious being real estate costs. A new arrival could be paying twice the rent of a competitor that signed their lease a decade ago. There are other inequities that baked into the competition's situation as well like grandfathered in signage that would not be permitted for new buildings.

So no sympathy for WF here. They're just whining and trying to use their popularity to pressure the city to give them something for free.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 12, 2010 8:50 AM

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