Haight has mixed feelings about new grocery store

A 28,000-square-foot Whole Foods grocery store at the edge of Golden Gate Park is gaining approval from some neighbors while others worry about traffic and other impacts to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

The plan forthe upscale grocery store at the corner of Haight and Stanyan streets comes in the wake of Cala Foods closing its doors there last year after more than four decades.

Owner Mark Brennan wants to build a four-story building for 62 condominiums at 690 Stanyan St. with a Whole Foods grocery store on the ground floor.

Brennan anticipates that it will take about four years to do the necessary environmental reviews and complete construction if the plan is approved. Trader Joe’s was interested in the site but didn't want to wait years to move in, Brennan said.

“Whole Foods was the only viable option,” Brennan said. “Safeway [and other big chain grocery stores] doesn’t seem to be expanding.”

Whole Foods would not confirm the opening of a Stanyan Street store, saying current San Francisco expansion plans only include Potrero Hill, at 17th Street and Rhode Island. Whole Foods spokeswoman Erin Couch said, for competitive reasons, the organic grocer does not report any business ventures until the leases are signed.

Kostantinos Vardakastanis, owner of the nearby Haight Street Market, said Whole Foods would bring 2,000 people and their cars to the neighborhood each day, clogging its streets.

“We’re talking about a huge number” of people, Vardakastanis said.

Additionally, it’s difficult for middle-class people to shop at Whole Foods because its prices are too high, the grocer said. Instead, a regular supermarket would be a better fit, Vardakastanis said.

Cheryl Brodie, president of the Haight-Ashbury Improvement Association, said she often shops at the Haight Street Market but welcomes a Whole Foods to her neighborhood.

“It’s the right thing,” Brodie said. “It’s about getting neighbors to walk Haight Street. It’s good for the community.”

City Planner Sarah Jones said a study is being done to ascertain what sort of environmental review should be done for the condominium proposal.

Traffic concerns, the impacts of shadows casting onto Golden Gate Park and increasing the height to 50 feet are all environmental concerns that need studying, Jones said. The condominium building would fill the parking lot, bringing the construction closer to the street than the existing building, Jones said.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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