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Potrero Hill group leads charge against chain stores

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Potrero Hill residents have thrown up resistance to big chain stores looking to open in their growing community.

The Potrero Hill Association of Merchants, a group of 105 neighborhood business owners, has spearheaded an effort to restrict, and possibly ban, formula retail businesses — those with 11 or more locations nationwide — from opening up in the neighborhood.

Working with the association, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes the Potrero Hill neighborhood, submitted a resolution Tuesday that would force formula retailer businesses to obtain a conditional use permit before opening up for business in the area. A conditional use permit requires a hearing before the Planning Commission, costs more and generates more public input. This stricter planning process would go into effect for one year.

During this time, the Potrero Hill association is expected to shop around to residents the idea of an outright ban of formula retail businesses.

“What we’re trying to do is to protect a thriving, small-business neighborhood commercial strip. Those are the things that make our communities so unique,” Maxwell said.

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Formula retail businesses are criticized for driving out small businesses and for not hiring workers from within the area.

Only North Beach and Hayes Valley have a ban on formula retail businesses. A chain store must obtain a conditional use permit to open up a location in the Upper Haight, along Divisadero Street between Haight and Turk streets and Cole Valley.

The Potrero Hill neighborhood is expected to undergo major housing development over the next few years that is estimated to double the area’s population of 10,000.

Whole Foods, a formula retailer, is constructing a store at 17th Avenue and Rhode Island Street, which business leaders say will attract more formula retailers.

Keith Goldstein, president of the Potrero Hill association, said the planning restrictions protect the neighborhood from turning into “a drive-through destination,” where people only come to shop at the big chain stores.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on Maxwell’s resolution next month.

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jsabatini@examiner.com

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