Chain store ban faces ire of commissioners

A proposed ban on chain stores along major commercialcorridors in the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods is being blasted by planning commissioners who indicated at a recent meeting they would recommend its rejection.

The Board of Supervisors passed legislation banning new chain stores — defined by The City as those businesses with 11 or more locations nationwide — in Hayes Valley in 2004 and in North Beach in 2005.

Additionally, city voters passed Proposition G in 2006, which requires chain stores that want to open in San Francisco to go through a permitting process that includes a public hearing and allows any permit to be appealed to and voted on by the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who introduced the chain store ban for the Mission, said the zoning controls do not go far enough and the Mission could still “become another strip mall.”

The legislation is opposed by business advocacy groups including the Mission Merchants Association. At a Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, the organization’s vice president, Anita Correa, said the ban could result in empty storefronts for years.

At Thursday’s meeting, Planning Department staff member Tara Sullivan-Lenane told commissioners that there were “several concerns” with the ban, including that it could result in a decrease of neighborhood services and that it would eliminate planning flexibility. Planning Commission President Dwight Alexander said he opposed the idea of a ban, adding that it was not needed because the current planning controls work “just fine.”

In response to concerns previously expressed, Ammiano recently changed his proposal to allow chain stores — also called formula retail — to move into spaces once occupied by other chains.

Ammiano said he has not been surprised by the opposition.

“There is always a difference of opinion about this issue. But there is definitely support for this,” he said.

Although six of the seven planning commissioners spoke against the ban at Thursday’s meeting, their vote on the legislation — scheduled for Feb. 28 — will be only an advisory. Enacting the ban will ultimately be left up to the Board of Supervisors.

The ban is supported by the Mission Economic Development Agency. MEDA organizer Dairo Romero said the organization worries development pressures will result in new expensive housing projects financed by chain stores occupying ground floor space — displacing existing residents as property values increase.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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