Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bike people oppose Whole Foods in the Haight

On Thursday October 23 the Planning Commission will hear the proposal to put a Whole Foods Market at the old Cala Foods site at Haight and Stanyan. The main opposition is coming from the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC) and anti-car bike people, like Rob Bregoff. In a PROSF message last Friday, Bregoff made his bias clear:

“Ample Parking” is far too much. This is on a major bus corridor, and if you’ve stood on the curb in front of the WF on California and Franklin, you can see how much drivers jockeying for parking can tie up traffic. What ever happened to our anti-formula retail legislation? WF will take local dollars and send them back to their HQ in TEXAS! I share the concern for the blight at Haight/Stanyan, and I think that housing over retail is a good thing, but this is bad retail. I’m sure that the Brennans would have no problem renting out storefronts in a building in that location, and since it’s on a transit-rich corner, with neighborhood support, the parking requirements could be waved[sic] for the residential units. More parking = more traffic. Always.

Actually one can more convincingly argue the opposite, that inadequate parking is what creates more traffic. Take, for example, the supermarket where I often shop, the Lucky Market at Masonic and Fulton, which has 251 parking spaces in the parking lot beneath the store. Even though the store does a brisk business, you never see a traffic jam at the only entrance to the garage on Fulton Street, which also carries the #5 Fulton Muni line. Since the Whole Foods market proposed for Haight/Stanyan is a much smaller operation, it's only asking for 114 parking spaces for market customers, 62 spaces for the new housing units, and even 47 spaces for bikes!

Bregoff cites the Whole Foods at California and Franklin as a cautionary traffic tale, but the problem there is inadequate parking, not too much---or "ample"---parking, since it has only 90 parking spaces. Ditto for the Trader Joes at Geary and Masonic: their parking lot is way too small---a mere 61 spaces---which is why cars have to line up on Masonic to get access to the lot as people leave.

The moral of the story: "ample"/adequate parking is the way to avoid traffic problems in the neighborhood. But Bregoff and the bike people will be out in force to try to convince the Planning Commission that an underground parking lot on the site is going to be a problem for the neighborhood. The rest of us---the reality-based community, including all those in the Haight-Ashbury desperate to have a supermarket again---also need to be there to counter the anti-car bike people who will try to sab the project.

More on Bregoff by clicking on "Rob Bregoff" at the end of this post.

To all -

After nearly three years of working our way through the maze of City Planning, I am happy to announce that the 690 Stanyan Street project will have a hearing at the San Francisco Planning Commission on October 23, 2008!

On behalf of 690 Stanyan Street LLC, I would like to thank all of you who have supported this project, who have visited our website (, have written letters of support to the Planning Department and those who testified in front of the Planning Commission for the Draft Environmental Impact Report last February.

Although the level of public support on record with the City is nearing 10:1, the battle has not been won yet. Please plan on attending the Planning Commission hearing on October 23, 2008 if you can, or else please submit a further letter of support. Tell the Commissioners that you want the former Cala Foods eyesore remedied, that you want a clean, well-used corner, you want a Whole Foods Market, that indeed this area deserves a world class, full service grocery store, that you want good-quality new housing in the neighborhood . Most importantly, that you want your voices of sanity heard above the City's usual din of professional nay-sayers . It is time to abandon the past and to move forward on this very important project. We believe that the fate of this project at the Commission will rest with the level of support or objection perceived by most of the Planning Commissioners.

Information regarding the hearing:

The Planning Commission will hold a Public Hearing to decide whether to approve the project or not on Thursday, October 23, 2008, beginning at 1:30 p.m. or later (please call 558-6422 on or after Monday, October 20, 2008 for a recorded message giving a more precise hour that the hearing on this specific matter will begin), in City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlette Place, Room 400.

The City Planner for this case is Jonas Ionin : please contact him at (415) 558-6309 or for more information about the project, referencing Case No. 2006.0460C.

If you are unable to attend this very important hearing, you may submit written comments by mail, FAX or email (these need to be sent by October 22, 2008, in order to be included in the official record). Please address these to:

Jonas Ionin
SF Planning Department
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103 (if you send an email, please also cc : )
or to the commission secretary at FAX (415) 558-6409

Again, thank you for your consideration, your support, and most of all, your patience! Please do refer back to for more information about the calendar and when the item may be heard.

Mark J. Brennan, 690 Stanyan Street, LLC

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At 6:41 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Hi Rob -- I'm actually a little surprised that you support the Whole Foods development. As a fellow D5 resident I totally agree that we need a supermarket in the area and that the Haight/Stanyan lot is an eyesore. But Whole Foods? Personally there's no way I can afford to shop there on a regular basis, and the idea of luring even more of the well-heeled to the neighborhood doesn't seem like a step in the right direction. Too bad the only choices on the table are so imperfect. Maybe I'm off-topic on this, I hesitate not because of parking / traffic issues, though the fact that underground parking is included does mitigate the impact for the most part in my view. Anyway, I'll be curious to see how this plays out.

At 7:09 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Whole Foods is an excellent store. I do all my own shopping, and I really don't think prices at Whole Foods are much higher, though I know it has a reputation of being expensive. Maybe I should compare prices on the same items in the two stores. Also, the Whole Foods deli,the meat counter, and the fish counter are all vastly superior to those at Lucky. In any event, the Haight needs a real supermarket, and no one else seems interested in the location. I oppose developments that are too large, not one like this, which is large but then it's filling a large footprint---and a real need. I just hate to see it sabbed by the anti-car folks.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Hey Rob! We agree on something! Stop the presses!

This same argument - "Whole Foods is too expensive" was also latched onto by people in Noe Valley who want the Cala on 24th to stay. The Cala on 24th is one of the most expensive grocery stores I have ever seen. And their produce/meats suck.

Sure, good produce and meats/fish do cost more - this is not where people should be scrimping and buying the inferior products at bad markets. For staples - your typical Cala/Lucky will actually charge MORE than you can buy things at Whole Foods. Whole Foods has an excellent selection of bulk foods that are of high quality and do not include the margin included when buying "Kellogs Cornflakes" or "Quaker Oatmeal".

Bottom line - there are a lot of products at Whole Foods that are very expensive and you can spend your "whole paycheck" - but you can also buy good quality nutritious foods at reasonable prices - people buying prepared or "higher end" products at WF subsidize the great stuff also found there. And if you cannot afford the produce prices there - there are many farmer's markets in the area that will sate that need at reasonable prices.

I do think the Whole Foods will bring in traffic to the area, which is a bummer. But it IS a great location for such a store in that it's in a densely populated area with good transit.

As for shipping money to Austin - consider that WF is definitely more malleable in terms of locally sourcing their produce and meats - they are far more likely to be a company which will support local farmers - a resource we need to have maximum support.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"I do think the Whole Foods will bring in traffic to the area, which is a bummer. But it IS a great location for such a store in that it's in a densely populated area with good transit."

I counted the parking spaces at both Trader Joes (Masonic/Geary) and Whole Foods (Franklin/California): Trader Joes has only 61 spaces in its parking lot, which is why cars are lined up on Masonic to get in; that's obviously a much too small parking lot for the volume of customers. Whole Foods has 90 parking spaces in all, which is clearly inadequate when it gets busy in the evenings as people often go shopping after work. The proposed Whole Foods for Haight/Stanyan is asking for 114 parking spaces, 24 more than their Franklin/California store. I'd feel better if there were even more parking spaces planned for the new store, but that should be enough.

As I pointed out in the post, the Lucky Market at Fulton/Masonic has 251 parking spaces underneath the store, and I never see any traffic jams due to store traffic on Fulton Street, where the entrance to the parking lot is located.

At 5:23 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

of course this is not a problem at Rainbow (which is not served well by transit) - and I think you know why...

At 6:03 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, I don't know what you're referring to. Could you be specific?

At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So that first comment - is that from Adam at the SF Planning Department? He uses long words like "mitigate" so that makes me think so.

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Hand said...

I think at this point, it is time to build the damn thing! Parking has always been a red herring. HANC just doesn't want the project. Reportedly, Ross Mirkarimi is on board for the project, as is. Your thoughts Rob?

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I thought I made it clear in my post that I support the project completely. But opponents will try to sabotage the project by reducing and/or eliminating the parking, which will make it unviable.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Rainbow gives 10% off to bike-nuts who ride their bike to Rainbow and show their SFBC card, and they have reasonably secure bike parking in the garage with a security guard. The place is a gosh darn grocery critical mass.

At 12:52 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Heh heh, Nope, this isn't Adam from the planning board, I'm just some guy... And with respect to the price of food at WF, if the situation is as murphstahoe describes then so much the better.


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