Residents clash over 99-cent store

While everything in the 99 Cent Only Store proposed for a Pacific Heights neighborhood would cost less than $1, neighbors are not sure the addition would come without a price.

The 99 Cent Only Store is hoping to open its first San Francisco discount house on the 1300 block of Post Street between Gough and Franklin streets, the former site of a Ralphs grocery store, that has been vacant for a year. The area is labeled Pacific Heights, though many residents still consider it part of Cathedral Hill or Japantown.

Some nearby residents say the proposed bargain store would clash with the high-end neighborhood, attract people from outside the area and pose a safety risk.

“You have professional people that live here,” said one resident of nearby Sutterfield Condominiums who didn’t want to give her name. “I just don’t think it’s going to work. It just kind of degrades the neighborhood.”

Michael McDonagh, who has lived in the area since 1993, said he doesn’t think the deep-discount store would be a proper fit either. He said his friend suggested a Ferry Building-like indoor plaza with a variety of retail shops for the space.

Representatives of the West Coast chain, however, say 99 Cent Only Stores are clean, first-rate establishments that stock fresh produce, health and beauty products and other household items.

“Our stores are attractively merchandised. We pride ourselves on our stores and that they’re clean and well serviced,” said Will Judy, senior manager of property development for the chain.

In October 2006, The City adopted a strict policy for chain stores in certain areas of the The City, including Pacific Heights. The 99 Cent Only Store is the first project subjected to the new guidelines, including a public hearing.

Gaynell Armstrong, a San Francisco Redevelopment Agency project manager, said the new policy came about after residents strongly opposed a Starbucks in Japantown.

“They felt the Starbucks would put the mom-and-pop stores out of business,” she said.

For Margaret Carter, who has lived in Sutterfield Condominiums for 12 years, the store would give her a place to shop for groceries again.”One of the main reasons I bought into the building was because of the grocery store,” she said. “If this is not approved, I’m just afraid it will sit vacant for years.”

arocha@examiner.com

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