June 29, 2011

From Cala To Condos To Trader Joe's At 1401 California

Cala Foods at 1401 California (Image Source: MapJack.com)

As we wrote in 2009:

Clearing up some confusion with respect to the current home of Cala Foods at 1401 California, the grocery store’s lease ends on December 31, 2010 (not 2009).
And if all goes as the Prado Group (think 2001 Market) plans, demolition will start soon thereafter and in its place will rise around 107 residential units over 30,000 square feet of retail including a replacement "neighborhood-serving grocery store."

And it didn’t (go as planned). Instead, renovations versus razing is expected to commence this coming January with a 14,000 square foot Trader Joe's in place by the end of 2012.

As the now defunct project had last been proposed to look (click on images to enlarge):

1401 California as Proposed (Image Source: 1401california.com)

From Cala Foods To "1401 California" By 2012 Or Bust As Proposed [SocketSite]

First Published: June 29, 2011 7:45 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

What a horrible shame. Means that we're probably going to have to deal with that horrendous parking lot ruining the neighborhood for another 20+ years.

Posted by: anon at June 29, 2011 7:55 AM

I'm so glad!! I think the last thing SF needs is another generic "mixed-use" project. I know it pencils out better for the developers to pack as much bang for the buck as you can into each lot, but I've never been a fan of these "all-in-one" projects. I think it takes some of the character away from the city. (And no, I don't have any magic, "better" answer. I just like stores to be stores, and apartment buildings to be apartment buildings -- that's all.)

I agree the parking lot isn't the greatest, but I'd just rather see a good store at that site.

Just one person's opinion. You are all welcome to disagree!!

Posted by: neighbor at June 29, 2011 8:19 AM

The property and store itself have suffered from neglect for years. I am confident that Trader Joes will improve the facade somewhat and remove some of the strange pieces that currently are in place in the upper parking area. For people in the neighborhood, this is excellent news. Cala in its current state is farily disgusting. It's time for a change.

Posted by: Russian Hill Dweller at June 29, 2011 8:25 AM

so depressing. tj is obviously a significant improvement on cala, but what a shameful waste of a great opportunity. sf, you're killing me.

Posted by: david m at June 29, 2011 8:35 AM

Great news for the Nob Hill / Polk crowd.

Another big winner: the Tenderloin. You don't want to own a car there but yet there's nowhere to do decent grocery shopping on foot.

On the other hand, winos will discover 2-buck-Chuck, cheaper than their econo-flasks.

Posted by: lol at June 29, 2011 9:12 AM

Bummer about the loss of the housing but very glad to hear they are getting a TJs. This is a good location as it serves a more walkable clientele than, say, the Masonic location (density is higher in this area by a lot, I'd argue). Plus, the prices TJ charges are more akin to what Cala provides, which is probably important factor for the folks living in this area.

However, it's still not going to stop a lot of folks from driving to this spot. If they manage it like the WFs up on California, I guess it can work (ie, not terrific, and enough to deter too many folks from wanting to drive there all the time).

Posted by: DanRH at June 29, 2011 9:15 AM

So I wonder what disuaded the developers from going forward from the original project. Neighborhood opposition? Difficulty getting construction financing? Hassles from the Planning Commission? Or all of the above?

Posted by: zzzzzz at June 29, 2011 9:22 AM

Dear neighbor,
You're kidding with the point that suburban style stores with parking lots in front are part of the charm of SF. Get a clue. please.
This store serves the most dense zip code west of the Mississippi - its surrounded by larger buildings and yet we push through with something that would fit with Modesto. What a WASTE.

Posted by: joe at June 29, 2011 9:27 AM

Joe, neighbor did not say that this place is part of the charm of SF. Neighbor was commenting that yet another cookie-cutter mixed use, ground floor retail, condos above does not add to the character of SF. Finally no one is pushing through leaving this place the same, it is more that they failed to push through the previous project for whatever reasons (current housing market perhaps?) and now are just doing a low cost remodel. Is it a waste? Probably not as I expect this place will be redeveloped at some point, my suggestion to the current owner is make sure the remodel is significant and gets rid of anything that might be considered "historic" in ten years!

Posted by: Rillion at June 29, 2011 9:37 AM

As with the Whole Foods @ Haight & Stanyan, this underutilizes a prime transit-rich, high density location for a single-use purpose. WF's and TJ's suburban car-centric model is unsustainable (OK I know that word is as useless as 'artisanal' or 'modernist')). That we continue to do surface parking lots and one-story food emporiums in select dense urban locations makes little sense. (while not the same proportion, a glance at the Safeway enormous lots - Market/Church; Webster/Geary -- suggests why we need to think about parking lots differently.

This dev a gain for TJ and a loss for this particular 'hood in terms of offering needed new housing opportunities as well as the many environmental, social, and economic benefits derived from sharing valuable and ltd resources in the form of mixed-use developments.

Posted by: Glenn at June 29, 2011 9:38 AM

I love the SocketSite haters that tore me up when I commented on the 450 foot high monster residential towers planned to be dumped on South Van Ness and Mission (M and O Plan) and impacts to the adjoining residential enclaves with their mere 40' apartment units. I'd gladly trade for this development.

Posted by: Poor Nimby Rich Nimby at June 29, 2011 9:44 AM

I assume that this means that TJ's will not be opening the planned location at Van Ness and Sutter? That would have been a much better location.

Maybe their plan is to open here, then move the store to Van Ness and Sutter when that building is completed?

Posted by: anon at June 29, 2011 9:45 AM

The old is much more appealing than the new. The building looks like something out of tomorrowland and I was sad that it was going to be replaced with an Irvinian transplant.

Posted by: sf at June 29, 2011 9:50 AM

^this is the project that I was talking about:

http://www.theregistrysf.com/RTRE_gerding_edlen.html

That link is from about six months ago and claims that TJ's has pre-signed a lease. Has that changed? Anyone know?

Posted by: anon at June 29, 2011 9:51 AM

I like residential-over-retail developments. It puts retail on the street where there's mutual benefit between shopowners and foot traffic. And it puts residential up higher where there's more light and air, better views, and less noise.

This creates a finer grained urban environment resulting in less single-purpose nodes that require people to travel farther for their daily activities.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at June 29, 2011 10:18 AM

I dont have a car, so the parking lot serves no purpose to me, other than provide some open / undeveloped space in a very dense neighborhood.
Having said that, I bet with intellgent architecture (which we dont see a lot of in SF), like they have in western europe, this could be a great multi use project- a new roof to pay homage to the current dramatic roof and some condo verticallity to preserve some street froting relief open space- even its just 15' deep.
In either case, I LOATHE CALA, so this is great.

Posted by: love parking lots at June 29, 2011 10:39 AM

whats more important? The perceived and highly subjective notion of architectural charm or homes for people who actually work to make SF a place that is worth being?

Posted by: Joe at June 29, 2011 11:02 AM

^ Or the economics of the market, which is the reason the project is not being built.

I vote for #3.

Posted by: @Joe at June 29, 2011 11:13 AM

@joe,

I just gave my opinion. My observation of this kind of project is that is just pushes the parking underground. As one example, look at the similar development at Fulton and Masonic, where there used to be a parking lot and a market. Also at Broderick and Fell -- same deal. There is still parking -- people still drive there. They are just parking inside or underground, so we shouldn't fool ourselves.

Along the same lines, many financial district buildings were built without parking (650 California comes to mind). This was supposed to encourage people to take public transit. You know what happens? All the execs at 650 Cal rent monthly parking across the street.

Again, just my opinion on a few things. You are welcome to disagree, but try not to hate so much on blogs -- makes them unpleasant.

Posted by: neighbor at June 29, 2011 11:15 AM

A shame. This lot is so very underdeveloped for such a high density neighborhood. A supermarket is critical for that neighborhood--and I'm not at all sure TJ's qualifies as a full service supermarket--but a large surface parking lot is not.

Posted by: BT at June 29, 2011 11:16 AM

"I'm not at all sure TJ's qualifies as a full service supermarket."

TJ's offers all the basics so it qualifies imo. We do all our grocery shopping at TJ's, the only things we don't buy there are some of the non-food/drink items, which we pick up at Target (like cat litter, toilet paper, etc). TJ's offers those items but not at the same value that they provide on their other items. It doesn't have the variety within items (ie only 4 kinds of peanut butter compared to 20) but it does stock just about everything that would be required when grocery shopping.

Posted by: Rillion at June 29, 2011 12:12 PM

Dont fool yourself that economics are why these condos are not being built. I am sure that TJ's took a look at what happened with whole foods in the haight and in noe valley, with their planned store in the castro and just said lets do the minimum we can to this site so we incite as little protest as possible.
And yes, I do think that its the people who tout mixed use buildings as soulless places that are part of the problem.
This is a missed opportunity and its one that is frequently copied all over SF.

Posted by: Joe at June 29, 2011 12:18 PM

Awesome. This is working out even better than I had hoped. If you read my comments on the original linked thread, you'll understand. Open space and tasty groceries. It's hard to picture the "People of Cala" shopping at Trader Joe's though. Should be an interesting culture clash with the neighborhood.

Posted by: blfstyk at June 29, 2011 12:22 PM

An empty parking lot = open space? Only in SF!

Posted by: Bob at June 29, 2011 12:44 PM


A few months ago I was at the corner of California and Hyde, a motorized tourist cable car was crossing the intersection and the driver/ guide announced: "And to your left is a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright."

Posted by: evesdropper at June 29, 2011 4:01 PM

@DanRH, I wouldn't expect the parking situation (ie backing up as it does on Masonic) to be a problem at this TJs. There is another TJs in this part of the city, part of a mixed use development on Mason & Bay, and it is never crowded and its lot is never full.

Posted by: Scooter at June 29, 2011 9:14 PM

This is a dream come true! They should change the front outdoor parking to a glass enclosed patio with tables for a cafe/bakery/deli and a flower shop (and bike racks?). The lower parking would suffice for cars; it is similar in size to the Bay street TJ's parking lot if not bigger. Lastly I agree with Rillion: TJ's qualifies as a full service supermarket, at least for downtown folks like myself...

Posted by: lucicity at June 29, 2011 9:42 PM

I'm glad to see this change of plans. Mixed use developments look a lot better on paper than they do in practice. And the rendering of the previously proposed project is generic and uninspired, if not downright ugly. I hope they keep much of the character of the current building. I'm looking forward to shopping at TJ's.

Posted by: Mike at July 10, 2011 10:26 AM

^All of downtown and most of the shopping streets of the city are dominated by mixed use developments, so unless you're hoping that SF turns into a suburban community with separation of uses, I'm not sure what you're hoping for. Or maybe you're just talking about mixed use with specifically grocery stores and retail, which are admittedly relatively rare in SF (though there are some examples of it being done quite well with 100 year old buildings as well as brand new buildings).

Posted by: anon at July 10, 2011 6:29 PM

^Oops, meant "grocery stores and residential" above.

Posted by: anon at July 10, 2011 6:32 PM

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