April 4, 2016
Board of Supervisors:
BOS Land Use Committee:
Director John Rahaim:
Planner Carly Grob:
Russian Hill Neighbors supports the proposed Whole Foods 365 project at 1600 Jackson Street at Polk because families in our neighborhood strongly feel they do not now have a full service grocery store within walking distance, and state they are in favor of the proposed store by an overwhelming margin.
Before reaching a position, RHN surveyed residents of the area. Seventy-one percent of the 275 respondents said they did not feel the existing grocery options for Russian Hill residents were adequate, and 74 percent said they were in favor of this project. RHN also conducted a price comparison survey of selected items at local markets, and the RHN Design, Zoning and Land Use Committee met with both project sponsors and opponents.
RHN understands that San Francisco needs more housing, and that maintaining the retail use of the existing structure at 1600 Jackson would mean that new housing would not be built on this particular site. However, a very large number of new housing units have been, and are continuing to be built nearby in large buildings along Polk Street, Van Ness Avenue and the streets between, but basic urban services for local residents have lagged far behind this development. We believe a vibrant urban neighborhood must have both a mix of housing for families of different sizes and incomes, and a mix of stores to serve those families, including stores to meet daily shopping needs as well as the restaurants, bars, personal services establishments and specialty stores that are on Polk Street now. A full service grocery store will provide much-needed support to existing and future housing in the neighborhood.
A vital city will creatively rehabilitate and reuse, rather than simply demolish, existing structures. We believe that a grocery store would be an excellent use of the old Lombardi’s space, with the potential to enliven the street, create more foot traffic for existing businesses nearby, and bring life to a vacant eyesore. The Polk Street sidewalk along the wall between the garage and main entrances can, and should, be activated. There are many potential solutions here, and it should be an interesting architectural challenge for Whole Foods to reconfigure the space to open up the new store to the street and enliven the sidewalk.
We note that Whole Foods has reached out to local merchants and has offered to limit some of its offerings that duplicate those sold by some of the neighboring merchants. We also note that Whole Foods states that about 100 new employees will work at the proposed store, many at entry level and the majority working full-time, and says it offers higher wages and better benefits than is currently typical in retail.
Although having a walkable grocery store will replace car trips with walking trips for many nearby residents, a successful food store will inevitably generate delivery and customer traffic in its immediate vicinity. Whole Foods will need to find ways to ameliorate adverse effects. These could include:
- Limits on the size of delivery trucks.
- Limits on the number, hours and noise of deliveries.
- Consideration of revising traffic patterns and street parking near the garage entrance, which may involve some modifications to the Polk Streetscape Project plan in that block, and controls on store parking (for example, meters in the garage) if necessary to avoid traffic backups on Polk Street
In summary, we believe there is a real need for a full service grocery store in this area that is not currently being served by existing businesses, and that the proposed market could both serve this need and enhance the vitality of that part of Polk Street, as well as reduce car trips to stores further away. Russian Hill Neighbors recommends that the proposed project should go forward.
Very Truly Yours,