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Following the Planning Department’s recommendation and reasoning, San Francisco’s Planning Commission has voted 5 to 1 against Starbucks’ proposal to take over the retail space at 2201 Market Street at the corner of Sanchez in the Castro.
The Designs For 2201 Market Street And Great Starbucks Divide [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    Socialism wins again!

  2. Posted by no_dogs_allowed

    I am an SF plann-ink comish apparatchik and I would like my CVS with a splash of Hearth Realty and a slather of Chase ATM. Heaven forbid a latte! I will not go down in history as anything because I am an apparatchik.

  3. Posted by lol

    That’s a crazy decision. Bloody control freaks.
    Maybe they should call Chris Daly. That’d be a perfect location to start another failing business.
    Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can neither do nor teach just happen to sit at the Planning Commission to vent their frustrations about life and those mischievous successful people.

  4. Posted by OMN

    While I disagree with this on principle, I also know we can do a lot better than Starbucks at this location, so I don’t care too much about this particular ruling.

  5. Posted by Shmendrick

    This is awful. There just aren’t enough StarBucks
    and other coffee places in this town. Whatever shall we do?

  6. Posted by sjg

    This decision is not surprising. I think the Starbuck’s was D.O.A. anyway. It will be very interesting to see if the Chipotle proposal for the old Home restaurant location at Church/Market has even more of an uphill battle now. There is tremendous opposition to this as well

  7. Posted by sparky*b

    Their are 4 building sites within a block of here. I bet that one of them ends up with a Starbucks as part of the commercial space while this space stays empty. Or those parking spots are used as a mini-lot.

  8. Posted by wc1

    Looking forward to this space becoming vacant for several years while the temporary chain link fence falls into disrepair, the building gets tagged, and the homeless set up camp.

  9. Posted by cm

    Oh great. We are saved from the tragedy of having another option for a decent cup of coffee while dozens of empty storefronts sit empty in the neighborhood. I feel so much safer!
    WTF is wrong with people? Apparently the powers that be would prefer to see the neighborhood ROT with empty stores than give consumers another option. Some of us actually LIKE Starbucks. Apparently I’m not the only one as they seem to be doing ok. And I’d rather have a chain store in the space than another derelict space behind a rusting fence.
    But congrats to the misanthropes and curmudgeons who had to get their way. Now you can sleep better at night knowing that instead of a nice place for people to meet and enjoy a few minutes of their day, we’ll have another empty boarded up building for the homeless to urinate on. Thanks.

  10. Posted by sjg

    There are two Starbuck’s literally one block down on Church and four blocks or so up on 18/Castro. Starbuck’s lovers are hardly suffering from a lack of places to meet.

  11. Posted by Jackson

    Sparky*b, the parking spaces cannot be used as a mini-lot because the overhang supports have rusted through, have been tagged by the DBI as unsafe, and the area is fenced off.

  12. Posted by teug

    This one is tough. We have the formula retail policies in place for a reason, but I hate when they are used to kill a good project. The up-zoning of Market is great, and the corners of this intersection certainly need it after the Chase killed the urbanity of the northern corner. On the other hand, this corner seems like a fairly small parcel that might not be great for much more development – maybe a two or three story building max. And at that, the angles might make the interior spaces challenging for tenants. Hopefully someone else comes along with a good use.

  13. Posted by seth rogers

    intelligentsia coffee….come and save us!

  14. Posted by Rob

    Too bad. This was shot down mainly by the owner of “Sweet Inspirations” because Starbucks would take away business from her shop. Has anyone been by “Sweet Inspirations”? It’s almost always empty. This city should be helping small business make it in this town or helping small business people open new shops. There many things that can be done. Instead we do every thing we can to make it difficult and only big businesses can afford the cost and the political BS dance one must done.
    It’s nice to live in “Nanny City”

  15. Posted by futurist

    Terrible decision. Shame on the socialist control freaks.
    @ OMN: do tell us how we could “do a lot better..”
    What exactly do you mean and what would you like to see ONLY allowed at this location?

  16. Posted by Rob

    Intelligentsia would be outstanding! Even another Sight Glass

  17. Posted by wc1

    Curiously Wendy Mogg owner of Sweet Inspiration (cafe of the dry day old cake and fruit fly covered tarts) is on the board of the Castro CBD – but I’m sure that had nothing to do with their strong objections and lobbying to shut down this project.

  18. Posted by PepeSF

    Yay, more continuously empty storefronts along Market! Rock on, Planning Commission!
    You know what would be rilly rilly super awesome is if you would approve another Verizon for that location.

  19. Posted by anon

    There are two Starbuck’s literally one block down on Church and four blocks or so up on 18/Castro. Starbuck’s lovers are hardly suffering from a lack of places to meet.
    Um, those are always full, so there is a lack of Starbucks to meet and actually sit down in, hence Starbucks’ desire to open another one.

  20. Posted by Dan

    Would the folks supporting more chain stores support a Taco Bell/ KFC at this location? As it is, people have to go to Guerrero St.
    There are not “dozens of vacancies” as claimed. And there are businesses having to leave the area due to skyrocketing rents. Renting to fast food chains, even the slightly classier Starbucks, is not the key to a thriving Upper Market.

  21. Posted by EH

    I doubt that’s because Starbucks is the only coffee people want to get. Any coffee place in those locations would be crowded.

  22. Posted by anon

    ^That’s true, but it doesn’t negate my point.

  23. Posted by lol

    It would be really interesting to see an independent coffee shop taking over the space and starve Sweet Inspirations of customers.

  24. Posted by lyqwyd

    I hate the politics of this decision, but here’s to hoping the owner decides to sell and a developer takes over the property and does something real with it!
    Maybe a long shot, but I can dream…

  25. Posted by Thank God

    We can only be thankful that drug treatment facilities, half-way houses, community clinics, medicinal pot outlets, and assorted thrift stores have not been franchised.

  26. Posted by BobTheBuilder

    Don’t you think that decisions like this one, and maybe all discriminatory zoning laws like formula retail, should be challenged on constitutional grounds? New business folks should get equal protection from their governments as existing business owners. But the list of PC decisions (and Peskin-era zoning changes) that are the result of a specific existing owner asking for protection against nearby competition is a long one. That is the real story here.

  27. Posted by Rocco

    My personal choice would be for an In N Out Burger here. No drive-though window– a bike/walk up window.

  28. Posted by Marten

    Bravo! There are already three locations in the Castro. The landlords of the empty storefronts should be called to a meeting to show them exactly how many storefronts are empty. And then maybe they will catch a clue on how greedy they are being. Their high rents are prohibitive for any small business to succeed. The Castro is not Valencia or Hayes Valley. Wake up!

  29. Posted by wc1

    There is one location in the Castro (18th St), the others you mentioned are in the Safeway complex (one located inside the Safeway) in Duboce Triangle, about a 20 min walk separates them. This new location would have been about equidistant from the other two.

  30. Posted by Jackson

    If not for Proposition 13 capping property taxes of long term commercial property owners, it would be unfeasible to sit on non-income producing vacant property.
    Hence, the current situation in the Castro with vacant storefronts.
    It is time for California to tweak Proposition 13 to allow for “split-roll” property taxes, with business and commercial property paying current assessed values and property taxes.

  31. Posted by wc1

    I was just wondering something similar. Could the city penalize owners of retail space who leave it vacant for a certain amount of time?

  32. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Probably the only grounds for a penalty would be blight. If the property were growing weeds and accumulating graffiti then the city can step in. In other cities eminent domain has been used to take over vacant properties under the guise of redevelopment. But that’s a particularly big hammer to apply to this problem and you’d need to demonstrate how the vacancies are preventing the neighborhood from thriving, clearly not the case in the Castro.

  33. Posted by Mark

    Uhm, I think people are missing the whole point of this location. It’s not really about another formula retailer setting up at this site, but the site itself. A one-story corner building on a busy urban corridor is a waste of location. At least build up a couple stories reserving the ground floor for retail, be it a chain or an independent.

  34. Posted by EH

    If penalties were possible, 24th St. would be a different place these days.

  35. Posted by Dubocian

    Bravo to the Planning Commission for following their own policy and denying entitlements to another chain store in the neighborhood. The commercial vitality of the neighborhood is being threatened and undermined by the onslaught of cookie-cutter national chains, driving up rents and forcing out local retailers.
    Look at the most commercially successful neighborhoods in SF. They are not the ones with Starbucks and other chains on every corner. Valencia and Hayes Valley don’t have any chains, and they are thriving. Who will go out of their way to come to a neighborhood to shop or hang out, when it just contains pretty much the same stores you will find everywhere else?
    Starbucks isn’t even good coffee. I daresay most of the supporters are newcomers to SF and/or wouldn’t know good coffee if they were swimming in it.

  36. Posted by Mark

    @Dubocian: for the record, Hayes Valley has La Boulange, which is a chain now owned by no other than Starbucks itself. Also, don’t forget that “sameness” doesn’t have to refer to national chains since many of our neighborhoods have the same local chains.

  37. Posted by wc1

    @Dubocian –
    Why do you suppose these independent businesses aren’t opening up in the Castro? Should every space stay vacant until a mom and pop decides to rent it?

  38. Posted by anon

    Look at the most commercially successful neighborhoods in SF. They are not the ones with Starbucks and other chains on every corner. Valencia and Hayes Valley don’t have any chains, and they are thriving. Who will go out of their way to come to a neighborhood to shop or hang out, when it just contains pretty much the same stores you will find everywhere else?
    Yes, because Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf are completely devoid of visitors AND chain stores.
    Now, I’m not saying that I want other neighborhoods to look like those, but trying to tie visitors from other places to the amount of chain stores is ludicrous. All of the neighborhoods that draw in the most people from other places are loaded with chains, with the exception of one or two.

  39. Posted by Larry

    I live across the street and anything would be better than what is in there now. That guy is using toxic chemicals and pouring them in the gutter and manufactuing metal furniture all hours of the meth-inspired night. So, yes,even Starbucks would be better than that guy. Maybe we can get another nail salon. We only have four on our block.

  40. Posted by S

    I’d bet a mom and pop would love to use that space but they can’t afford the rent. Restaurants are just about the only thing that can pay high rents when they are successful enough and I believe this neighborhood may have a moratorium on those (where one must go to have one come in).
    Many new things opening up on 24th street in the Mission. I really think the reason more small businesses are not interested in the space is due to the price. Obviously to Starbucks the price is not as much of a deal breaker

  41. Posted by Kurt Brown

    Suburban Starbucks
    Stale cake and fruit fly tarts
    Which says “SF” best?

  42. Posted by Marten

    Chipotle would also be a mistake. The flavor of another moment, Boston Market, failed at that location.

  43. Posted by Molly

    I haven’t seen ANYONE address the issue of whether Starbucks has made donations in SF or performed any philanthropic acts giving back to the community, especially the LGBT community since they were trying to open a 2nd location in the Castro.
    I lean towards not wanting any more corporate box stores, but face it, that’s the way of the world.
    While deference should be given to those who live in the area, I’d like to hear from supporters of another Starbucks as to EXACTLY what Starbucks has done for our community (other thanjobs and overpriced and grandioso sugar bombs.

  44. Posted by wc1

    Just saying NO to a chain (just because it’s a chain) but then not having any Plan B is so typical of both the local government and citizenry.
    Fine, you don’t want chains, but then what is your plan to encourage small independent businesses? How are you helping them to open in these spaces?

  45. Posted by wc1

    @Molly
    From the BAR:
    Among the items Starbucks has ponied up money for are hanging flower baskets in the Castro commercial corridor, sprucing up the Castro Community Meeting Room in the Bank of America building at the corner of Castro and 18th streets, and sponsoring the GLBT History Museum on 18th Street at the $1,500 donor level.
    This fall the company will also be donating school supplies to the neighborhood’s two elementary schools: Sanchez and the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy. It also plans to sponsor portable toilets at street fairs in the Castro and the annual Christmas tree display for a second year in a row.”

  46. Posted by Ken Turner

    The corner looks like shit…and this use would have been a great improvement. So now we wait another decade for something more “acceptable” …

  47. Posted by Alai

    If I were an entrepreneur I might open some sort of non-chain chain, where everything is standardized except the name and the decor. Get the benefit of centralizing stuff like payroll and permitting and contracting with suppliers, while maintaining an ‘indie’ facade.

  48. Posted by Dan

    There’s no reason, Ken, that the site would be vacant for 10 years– The Industrialists store was there until not too long before the Starbucks was proposed.

  49. Posted by Kurt Brown

    Alai: Good idea. Others think so too. Click on the link under my name.

  50. Posted by Willow

    La Boulange would be great there even though they were recently purchased by Starbucks.

  51. Posted by Joel

    @Willow – La Boulange is currently trying to open a new location on West Portal. I’m curious to see how that goes…

  52. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Larry wrote:

    I live across the street and anything would be better than what is in there now. That guy is using toxic chemicals and pouring them in the gutter and manufacturing metal furniture all hours of the meth-inspired night.

    Then for the love of God report the offender to SF Environmental Health.
    If the building is zoned industrial, you probably can’t do much about the noise associated with metal working, but you can stop improper/illegal toxic chemical disposal.
    You can find all the important contact info for environmental health, including steps on how to file a complaint, on their website.

  53. Posted by Dan Clark

    @Kurt – Great link! Where/how did you find that? Do you know if there’s a similar for clothing?

  54. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Fine, you don’t want chains, but then what is your plan to encourage small independent businesses? How are you helping them to open in these spaces?

    How about what happened here?
    In the previous thread, a commenter noted that there was at least one local business interested in leasing the space, but the landlord was holding out for more money.
    The landlord was well aware that controls for formula retail were in place in this neighborhood, and partially as a result, this application for a formula retail use was turned down. Now the landlord can lease the space, knowing that the higher rents that can only be paid by global chain stores is out of reach, and can set the rent appropriately. If the store sits there vacant, as several of the above commenters have suggested (as if there are only two options — a chain/formula retail store or endless vacancy), then that’s the landlord’s fault. He could, and should, lower the rent to a level affordable to a local, possibly small, independent business.
    This is a great example of ‘nudging’ the marketplace to produce positive results when markets fail. I’d say that’s one, perhaps small but nevertheless helpful, way that planning policy can assist small independent businesses.

  55. Posted by anon

    when markets fail.
    What is the market failure here, again?

  56. Posted by Kurt Brown

    Dan, do a google search on “the illusion of choice,” “pseudovariety,” and “who owns what.” You’ll find a lot more similar info — food, beverage, beer, media, and clothing too.

  57. Posted by NJ

    Too bad I was already boycotting Sweet Inspirations because their food sucks. Because I want to boycott them over rallying against Starbucks.
    I couldn’t give a shit about another Starbucks–I am not a customer–but I do think these limitations are ridiculous.
    BTW, to those complaining about rents being too high, I don’t see the problem. That’s the free market. Why should a landowner have to accept an artificially low rent to subsidize mom and pop and their shitty product that nobody wants to buy? I’m sure if you owned the property you’d be super excited to rent it out at half price. Really.
    And I agree with the poster above who said Prop 13 allows this nonsense to happen.

  58. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    NJ, the landowner knew ahead of time what the rent level affordable by locally-owned small business was, because he was renting to one until recently. That was the market rent. It wasn’t “artificially low”.
    Then, he decided that wasn’t good enough for him (i.e., he got greedy), he decided to go for a rent that was only payable by a global chain, even though the controls for formula retail in this district were in place and he knew he was going to have to get a conditional use authorization. I don’t really play Texas Hold-em, but I’d guess this play was like drawing to an inside straight.
    It’s not like the rules were changed on him between tenants. In other words, he set his expectations for rent artificially high, as landlords are wont to do.

  59. Posted by Sam

    @Brahma
    Your argument that there was a market failure, is of course absurd. Saying: “Then, he decided that wasn’t good enough for him (i.e., he got greedy)” is a fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism.
    That said, even with your odd argument that rests on nothing to do with market forces as we’re dealing with the police powers of a city, I can buy the argument that it might be better for a city to have similar controls in place.
    It harms owners of property but enriches neighborhoods. It’s funny because it’s an acknowledgment that people would patronize chains at the expense of local businesses, so it blocks people from performing their clear preference. That said, I appreciate being able to try out random places and so approve of this decision.

  60. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Uh, I should have acknowledged that NJ’s comment at 10:36 PM took as it’s premise that there should be no controls for formula retail uses in place.
    If you think that requiring a conditional use authorization for formula retail uses are a grievous offense against the god of the free market, and you identify more with the individual landlord trying to maximize revenue, then reaching the conclusion that his rent expectations were not set too high is understandable.
    My comment at 7:48 AM was aimed at the real world situation, where the controls for formula retail uses are in fact in place, and the landlord knew about them in advance, and therefore if he was so offended by them, he could just sell the property, take the proceeds, move to Somalia and buy commercial property there, where he would have access to an untrammeled free market and can set his rent to whatever he wants.

  61. Posted by anon

    ^Brahma, I’d have no problem if chains were simply banned outright, or even additional chains banned in the area. An outright ban would cause the market to price that in. It’s the fact that this is not the case that makes this absurd.
    It should be either outlawed to allow more chain stores in the area or not, rather than some than some arbitrary review (it’s not a conditional use authorization, it’s literally termed a “chain store review authorization”, meaning that planning can decide on a case-by-case basis whether a chain can be allowed) that decides whether we’re correctly served with the appropriate number of coffee houses in the area. Arbitrary reviews create market failures, not correct them. Draw a line in the sand if you don’t want chains and want to devalue properties enough to make them affordable to non-chains.

  62. Posted by REpornaddict

    Kurt Brown – thanks for the illusion of choice link. Due to the paradox of choice, where the elimination of choice is seen as a good thing, I feel a whole lot better now for realizing there is very little actual choice!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paradox_of_Choice:_Why_More_Is_Less

  63. Posted by NJ

    Brahma: The owner clearly thought he or she had some shot at SBUX-level rent, else presumably he or she would not have allowed SBUX to make the play. Of course, with Prop 13, perhaps it becomes too cheap for the owner to take that risk.
    Anyway, formula retail limits are counterproductive. Everyone wants to sit around, kumbaya, feeling good about themselves for sticking it to “the man.” But the net result is worse product for the consumer. Sure, all things bring equal, I’d rather patronize a local place over a large chain. But, without even the threat of competition, we end up with travesties like Sweet Inspirations.

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