Richmond coffee fight brews in S.F.

Members of an Inner Richmond neighborhood group are fighting the opening of a new Starbucks, saying a nearby Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King are already turning the area into a strip mall.

Jesse Fink, who heads the Clement Street Merchants Association, which represents about 30 businesses in the Richmond district, has appealed a June 14 decision by the San Francisco Planning Commission to allow Starbucks to open a second shop in the Richmond district on Geary Boulevard at Fifth Avenue. The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on the matter at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Fink, who has owned the Toy Boat Dessert Café on Clement Street at Fifth Avenue for 25 years, says he has nothing against Starbucks, but argues that another chain would erode the neighborhood. He said he has gathered more than 2,000 signatures of business owners and residents who agree.

“This isn’t about Clement Street, this isn’t about Geary Boulevard — this is about all the neighborhoods in San Francisco,” he said. “This should be a landmark case, letting people know they can control their neighborhood and that chains cannot move in and do whatever they want.”

Victoria Boyka, who has owned Javacat on Geary Boulevard near 20th Avenue for four years, said small, locally owned businesses are already struggling and cannot afford the additional competition of a large chain retail store. “The last thing the neighborhood needs is a mega Starbucks. They’re killing all the little guys,” she said.

The 750-square-foot Starbucks at 4041 Geary Blvd. will be located within a larger building formerly occupied by a Cala Foods grocery store. A Toyota service center was also approved for the location last year and has begun construction at the site.

Since 2006, the Planning Commission has been required to review all chain store proposals and hold public hearings on them under a proposition approved by voters. Under the new guidelines, chain stores must support local employment, conserve the character of the neighborhood, and cannot disrupt or overburden a public transit route, among other restrictions.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who represents the Richmond district, said he plans to review the Clement Street Merchants Association appeal today and is still “juggling the pros and cons” of the situation.

“People of San Francisco are concerned that a lot of the unique characteristics of The City and its neighborhoods can very much become diluted into a semi-strip mall,” he said. “But the whole point of having a hearing is to see whether or not [the stores are] desirable or necessary. You suspend your judgment until you actually get down to crunch time.”

Representatives for Starbucks and a group called the Planning Association for the Richmond, which says it represents about 1,600 households in the district and has indicated support for the project, could not be reached for comment.

arocha@examiner.com


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