Chain-store legislation takes bite out of Subway

A proposed Subway sandwich shop is being recommended for approval in San Francisco’s Marina district, although city planning officials rejected a plan to put a Subway in the Mission district earlier this month and are expected today to block another one of the sandwich franchises from the Tenderloin.

On May 15, The City’s Planning Commission narrowly voted down the Subway proposed for Mission Street between 17th and 18th streets on the recommendation of department staff, who concluded that the chain store was “neither necessary nor desirable.”

The decision followed rules laid out in a 2006 voter-approved law that requires The City to give closer scrutiny to chain stores coming into San Francisco.

Under Proposition G, which passed with 58 percent of the vote, chains with 11 or more stores nationwide need Planning Commission approval to set up shop in The City.

The commission bases its decisions on factors such as the mix and type of nearby stores, the number of nearby store front vacancies and the proposed store’s appearance and its compatibility with the neighborhood.

Since Proposition G passed, nine chain stores have been approved by the Planning Commission while three have been rejected, department data show. Decisions are pending on five stores.

Mission district community advocate Michael Nulty spoke in support of the Subway proposal at the recent commission meeting, saying that quality, low-priced food is needed by residents who lack cooking facilities.

Akki Patel, who owns eight of the 36 Subway stores in The City, had planned to open the Mission Street store. He has two other proposed Subway projects before the Planning Commission today — one on Lombard Street between Buchanan and Laguna streets in the Marina district and the other on Market Street between Franklin and Gough streets in the Tenderloin.

City Zoning Administrator Larry Badiner said the department recommended approval of a Subway store in the Marina district because it is “tourist-oriented” and “auto-oriented,” while the Mission has a high concentration of small-scale family-owned businesses. He said the Tenderloin proposal was recommended for disapproval because it’s close to an existing Subway.

Patel called the San Francisco approval process “frustrating.”

“Small businesses like mine would pretty much go bankrupt if you have to keep on spending money and then they don’t approve the projects,” he said.

Broader legislation that would ban chain stores from some parts of the Mission and Bernal Heights — similar to existing chain store bans in North Beach and Hayes Valley — has been introduced by Supervisor Tom Ammiano.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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