A new grocery store is set to open in the Outer Richmond soon on a site that has sat vacant since 2015, despite concerns from some residents about the store’s planned hours.
Safeway, doing business as Andronico’s Community Market, will open a store in the 16,664-square foot retail space at 3132 Clement St. left empty when a Fresh and Easy grocery store closed there in 2015.
While some nearby residents objected to the long operating hours of the business, fearing it would attract homeless residents to the area, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the permit Thursday.
The store will be permitted to remain open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with deliveries limited to 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The adjacent CVS, approved by The City in 2010, is allowed to operate from 7 am to 10 pm.
James Argo, a member of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association, wanted the commission and Safeway to reduce the hours.
“The city has changed,” Argo said Thursday. “We have issues with homelessness and those kinds of problems. Our only request is that the hours be modified mildly to address really what is a quiet residential neighborhood.”
He suggested that there was an increased homeless population in the area living in nearby Lincoln Park and on land overseen by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
“There are more people residing in the parks than there used to be even five, seven years ago,” Argo said, adding, “I don’t want to be a social worker in my neighborhood.”
Norman Kondy, president of the Lincoln Park Homeowners Association, said the proposed hours of operation were out of keeping with the neighborhood of single-family homes on the edge of the city.
“We see no need to operate it as if it were a big-box store,” Kondy said. “We want it to conform to the neighborhood that it is in. We would like to see them more respectful of the way we live in that neighborhood.” Kondy said preferable hours would be 8 a.m. to 10 pm.
While the group has discussed appealing the permit to the Board of Supervisors within the 30-day deadline, Kondy told the San Francisco Examiner that “at this point, we have no plans to do that.” He added that a condition of approval was for Safeway to continue to work with them to address security concerns; failure to do so could be grounds for an appeal.
Argo was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Melinda Sarjapur, a Reuben, Junius and Rose land use attorney representing Safeway, said the proposal has broad support from the neighborhood.
The 2002 building was designed for a grocery and first occupied by Lucky Foods, she said.
“The neighbors have been generally excited to see a grocery returning to the space,” she said.
Christopher Kagay, a nearby resident, said in an email to the commission that “this site has sat empty for far too long, and there are too few groceries in the Richmond District, home to 80,000 San Franciscans.”
Sarjapur said the hours were important from an economic standpoint “to ensure that Andronico’s is viable in this location and it is able to serve the neighborhood for years to come.”
Natalie Mattei, senior real estate manager for Safeway, said while the support is “very large” for the grocery store, there was the concerns from a few residents that the hours would result in “homeless that are going to loiter at the grocery store.”
“Whether it’s 12 noon or 3 pm or 6 am or 7 am, those are operational items and social items that as a retailer we need to be addressing regardless of time and we are committed to doing so,” she said.
Joel Koppel, vice-president of the Planning Commission, said he has first-hand experience of how grocery stores can attract homeless residents, and called on Safeway to come up with ways to “mitigate the neighbors’ concerns without cutting the hours.”
“My office is a block away from the Church and Market Safeway, and let’s just say it’s an eventful block every time,” he said.
Mattei offered ideas such as having a contact person at the store for residents to call, regular meetings with the district police station and careful monitoring of the property.
Myrna Melgar, Planning Commission president, said that the hours were important for the business’s viability to protect against having a vacant storefront there again.
“It is important to note that this location has seen a bunch of tenants that have not worked out,” Melgar said. “Part of what hasn’t worked out is the economics of running a small grocery store in a very low density area.
“I do think that low-density neighborhoods — and I live in one — do need grocery stores,” she said. “And we need successful retail, and in the age of Amazon it is difficult to compete.”
Safeway spokesperson Wendy Gutshall told the Examiner the grand opening is expected in early 2020.
“We’re excited to open a new Andronico’s Community Markets and serve the Outer Richmond and Seacliff neighborhoods,” Gutshall said in a statement. “We’re grateful for overwhelming support of the neighborhood and receiving unanimous approval by the Planning Commission after hearing public comment this week.”