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article imageTarget gets approval to move into Sears complex in San Francisco Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Aug 9, 2011 in Business
Big box store and formula retail got another round of debate this past July when the San Francisco Planning Commission got an earful of comments from dozens of people when the
The Planning Commission voted unanimously 4 to 0 on July 28 to approve the conditional use permit of a Target store to occupy the empty retail space at Geary and Masonic.
The Commission’s meeting room at City Hall that Thursday afternoon was filled with many people who talked at length about the issue of “formula retail” and if banks also belonged in that category. The issue with "big box" retail is something that gets many upset.
The City’s regulation curtailing the proliferation of chain stores was established in 2004. Yet the balance of the impact the City’s ban has upon the local economy is always in question.
The ban has helped neighborhoods like Hayes Valley, Haight-Ashbury etc. Those areas have been struggling over the past 15 years to establish a unique identity.
Setting limits upon the number of chain stores seriously considers the most appropriate location for a chain store, some critics say. This can help to maintain a neighborhood’s character as well as its own independent economy.
Yet, “out in the Avenues” especially along the busy Geary Blvd merchant corridor, chain stores can be either help or hinder local businesses. The strategic planning is crucial. The empty spot near Masonic where Target plans to occupy is a prime example.
At one time, not too long ago that entire complex covering almost a full block, was a landmark Sears retail store. When Mervyns moved in, it only occupied a portion of the complex that had once been entirely for Sears. The size and location at a major traffic and bus transit intersection makes it an anchor spot for consumers.
With a major recognizable retailer, supporters of Target say, the complex attracts customers, which helps to encourage consumer spending at Trader Joe’s and the Lucky Penny, a local 24-hour diner, almost directly across the street. Since Mervyn’s departure due to ailing solvency and then bankruptcy in 2008, the space has been empty.
“The approval by the Planning Commission is exciting news for Target,” said spokesperson Sarah Bakken. She talked to this reporter on behalf of Target. With headquarters in Minneapolis, it is the second largest discount retailer in the nation.
Bakken said that Target would go through all the required process and procedures to be in compliance with the City’s codes and regulations. She noted support for Target from the community has been positive. And, that Target anticipates an opening day some time in 2013.
“I would not be opposed at all to see a Target store for the Geary & Masonic location,” said Russell Pritchard. He was among the many who gave testimony at the Planning Commission on July 28.
As a neighborhood advocate for Hayes Valley, Pritchard, owner of Zonal Home Interiors, is disappointed with the Planning Commission’s ambivalence toward banks. Pritchard feels that banks like Chase should be considered as “formula retail” and subject to the City’s 2004 regulations. He talked with this reporter afterwards, saying “I am for the most part against ‘big box’ stores.”
While he has never been to a Target store, Pritchard mentioned that did shop at the Geary and Masonic locale when Mervyn’s was there. “I think that a lot of people would buy at Target the kind of merchandise that would not disrupt the flow of customers at a small retailer,” said Pritchard.
He applauds the efforts of Supervisor Eric Mar to tighten restrictions on stores like PetCo. “I am completely against stores like PetCo being anywhere,” said Pritchard. “They drive out small pet stores,” he added.
B&B Pet Supplies on Geary near 12th Ave and Park Presidio would be impacted. PetCo currently has two locations in the City, one on Sloat Blvd at Lakeshore Plaza not far from 19th Ave.
David Heller of the Greater Geary Blvd Merchants Association is in favor of Target. The noticeable absence of a major retailer at the Geary & Masonic location implies that the neighborhood is dying, Heller told the SF Examiner earlier this year in March.
“The Planning Commission asked us to continue working with Planning Department staff on the exterior alterations,” said attorney Daniel Frattin of Reuben & Janius. “We will be back at to Planning Commission on August 8 for a recommendation on the Special Sign District legislation, which Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced to facilitate the sign program,” he said.
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