June 4, 2013

CVS's Intense Plans For An Empty Building On 19th Avenue

1900%2019th%20Avenue%20Site.jpg

Built as an auto showroom, the 32,000 square foot building at the corner of 1900 19th Avenue and Ortega Street has sat empty since 2009 when the US Postal Service vacated, having used the building for a sorting facility for twenty-five years.

For the past two years, CVS has been working on plans to remodel, repurpose and convert the building into a formula retail store (click designs to enlarge).

The building’s loading dock would be converted to retail space, replaced by an on-street loading area along Ortega. Atop the building, a primary parking area would provide 31 parking spaces. A parking lot across the street would be used for accessory parking.

This week, San Francisco's Planning Commission will decided the store’s fate with the Planning Department recommending against the project. A plugged-in reader reports:

The planning staff have recommended disapproval of the project, presumably due to complaints from parents at the school across 19th Ave.
Ironically, a primary reason the staff oppose the location is that Noriega St. "includes four other pharmacies that are located a few blocks away", contradicting their rationale for allowing the [Market] Street location.
It's worth noting that CVS has been doing outreach for the last 2 years and many neighbors are supportive of the project.

While the Planning Department also argues that the "intensity" of the proposed store is out of scale with the small neighborhood commercial district and would "foreclose any opportunity for locally owned neighborhood oriented uses to be developed in the district," the project sponsor notes a national retailer is likely the only type of business capable of financing the development of the "white elephant" building and the existing commercial district "provides virtually no service whatsoever to the neighborhood at large."

If the proposal happens to be approved, CVS plans to file for a building permit as soon as possible with hopes of opening the store by the Spring of 2014.

1900 19th Avenue: CVS Proposal And Conditional Use Hearing [sfplanning.org]
Planning For A CVS: The Designs For 2280 Market Street [SocketSite]

First Published: June 4, 2013 2:45 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I bought my first VW Bug there in 1972ish. They put in an FM radio for free. Very exciting.

Posted by: Cade at June 4, 2013 3:10 PM

Because clearly a vacant ugly building is better than a GD chain retailer.

Posted by: PatBurns at June 4, 2013 3:19 PM

"Ironically, a primary reason the staff oppose the location is that Noriega St. "includes four other pharmacies that are located a few blocks away", contradicting their rationale for allowing the [Market] St. location."

Their report on the Market Street recommendation said that the increased competition between CVS and Walgreens outweighed the saturation of pharmacies in the area.

I guess that doesn't apply here.

Posted by: wc1 at June 4, 2013 3:20 PM

So let me get this straight. The parents of students at the Lycee Francais are worried about "traffic" and "pedestrian safety" on 19th Ave? 19th Ave is basically a freeway at times and is not known for its pedestrian friendly nature. If anything, the presence of additional pedestrians generated by the CVS will make it safer not less safe.

Posted by: Guest666 at June 4, 2013 3:29 PM

^Even better. The non-local parents who drive their kids to the school are trying to stop the development that would serve the neighborhood residents and locals who could walk there.

Posted by: CH at June 4, 2013 4:11 PM

"We, the parents of the more than 1000 students who attend le Lycée Francais de San Francisco, faculty and staff have serious concerns about the proposed development..."

Excuse me, does this statement says there are 1000 parent who have expressed concern? Or is it from unspecific number of parents of a school that has 1000 students?

Hard to believe there will be 1000 parents sincerely bother by a retail on the other side of highway 1.

My reservation to a CVS is it will be a standalone retail in that area. Most customers will just drive in and drive out. Ideally if we can turn the block on the opposite side of the street into retails, restaurants, banks, this will make it a more inviting destination.

Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at June 4, 2013 4:18 PM

Allowing CVS to keep the accessory parking lot would be a travesty. That needs to be developed into something useful.

Posted by: anon at June 4, 2013 4:36 PM

These are high net worth parents with quite a bit of influence. No surprise there.

Posted by: lol at June 4, 2013 4:48 PM

By all means let it remain an empty eyesore in the San Francisco tradition.

Posted by: BTinSF at June 4, 2013 5:28 PM

Yet another protest to prevent development of something useful (at least to someone) so that SF can keep an empty building lying around. People who protest should be proposing a better alternative, not just getting in the way of space being used.

Driving a visitor through town today, they commented: "SF seems like it would be a great city if it wasn't overflowing with run down buildings, trash, and homeless people. Why doesn't the government try to clean it up?" SF is its own worst enemy.

Posted by: sfresident at June 4, 2013 6:09 PM

CVS makes Walmart look like Hermes. Except the prices are 40% higher than Walmart or even Walgreens, and the help is coached to kill you with utterly insincere 'kindnesses' repeatedly while you tip toe down the eerily empty, antiseptic, over-lit aisles. CVS is gross. Go try the one up on Portola and report back.

Posted by: egg_cream_of_OCD at June 4, 2013 6:43 PM

Is CVS more or less gross than an unused, vacant warehouse?

Posted by: JWS at June 4, 2013 7:16 PM

Not to get into the parking battle, but 50-odd parking spaces seems a little ridiculous, even for this location in a lower density, highway location.

Posted by: Eugene at June 4, 2013 7:33 PM

Parking requirement according to the SF planning code: "Other retail space - One for each 500 square feet of occupied floor area up to 20,000 where the occupied floor area exceeds 5,000 square feet, plus one for each 250 square feet of occupied floor area in excess of 20,000."

For 32,000 square feet, I read that as mandating 88 parking spaces (a roughly 29000 square foot lot).

Posted by: Alai at June 4, 2013 8:28 PM

Hat tip to egg_cream - I have the same reaction. It's funny because I grew up with CVS on the east coast and I don't get the same vibe when I go in one back there. Can't explain it.

Re: parking- if this is like any other CVS i've been in SF (including downtown, Ocean Ave, and Portola) they could probably get away with 10 spots, not the 31 they are building on site nor the 50 ancillary ones across the street.

Posted by: kddid at June 4, 2013 11:17 PM

Jesus Maria y Jose, enough with the dang drug stores!

Posted by: PepeSF at June 5, 2013 9:44 AM

What needs to be done is to create more density and height along Noriega to create a true retail district in this part of the Sunset. Oooh, perhaps buildings that are 4 stories high.

I'm a frequent ped on 19th Ave and there is no question that it's a freeway. I'm all for giving Walgreens a run for their money but that location is simply a stupid place for a drug store. Build on the lot across from Walgreens on 25th Ave/Noriega that's been sitting empty ever since I moved to SF over a decade ago.

Posted by: Mark at June 5, 2013 1:28 PM

The CVS near my work sells Mumm Napa Brut Rose for $13.99, which is cheaper than BevMo, so there's that.

Posted by: kthnxybe at June 5, 2013 3:48 PM

The Frenchman in me is outraged that any fake Champagne would sell more than $10.

Posted by: lol at June 5, 2013 4:11 PM

Boston is full of CVS stores in all kinds of neighborhoods. No harm done. San Francisco is so damn smart in its thinking, it becomes stupid in practice.

Posted by: Shmendrick at June 5, 2013 5:02 PM

Once again a few crackpots will stall or kill a project in San Francisco. The City is full of blighted properties that get tagged, are magnets to homeless and criminal activity. Stop the nonsense - the BS floating around that chain stores hurt the neighborhood is BS. Go look at what the rents are in Hayes Valley or North Beach. Its not the chain stores driving up the rents, its call supply and demand and landlords that want to get as much $ as possible - which is their right. SF needs to repeal the arcane system that stops development or at least put greater restraints on the serial crack-pots who protest every single development.

Posted by: Karl at June 7, 2013 8:21 AM

This really is a crazy development. The ramp going to the huge rooftop parking lot is one lane. Cars will have to take turns going up and down it. When they meet in the middle, one car will have to back up or down the ramp. It is not safe. cvs is just being cheap and trying to cut a lot of corners with this one.

Posted by: Nicolesaperstein at June 7, 2013 10:18 AM

@nicole: Really? Where did you hear that? Got a source?

Posted by: R at June 7, 2013 12:24 PM

The people that live here, the small businesses that will be adversely affected, and the staff at Lycee Francais are in agreement with the SF Planning Dept's recommendation to REJECT this proposal.

We have 6 pharmacies and too much congestion already. We don't want alcohol sales until 2am. We support our neighborhood family businesses that will be hurt by this proposal.

Posted by: StopCVS at June 8, 2013 5:09 PM

traffic congestion is a huge concern at this location. CVS and Planning Dept representatives have told neighbors that the CVS delivery semi-trucks will U-turn mid-block on Ortega, which I didn't think was even legal in a commercial district.

Posted by: M Liz at July 29, 2013 9:07 PM

There's now a website in support of the new store (in my namelink) and there was a community meeting on Tuesday (couldn't make it).

Posted by: Joel at August 14, 2013 9:45 PM

I tend to avoid most San Francisco family businesses for their outrageous prices and inability to open after 7pm weekdays and all day on holidays.

I own a CVS Extra Care card and frequently shop at the stores on Market St and at Clement St to accumulate discounts. Given the microclimates where it is 80 degrees and sunny Downtown during the work day and coming home to 55 degrees and foggy in the Outer Sunset usually in the same day, I am susceptible to colds...so having pharmacies close to home would be good.

My only concern is crossing 19th Avenue traffic to access the store. I hope those concerns will be addressed in the planning meetings.

Posted by: egg at September 10, 2013 11:45 AM

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