High-end grocery retailer Whole Foods said this week that it will continue with its plans to set up a store in the Polk Street Neighborhood Commercial District, despite recent legislation from San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin that seeks to ban chain stores in that area.
Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFM) has been proposing a slimmed down version of one of its larger stores in what was formerly the Lombardi Sports site, a 19,000-square-foot store at Polk and Jackson streets it has dubbed 365 by Whole Foods. It told the Business Times Wednesday that it would push on with the project because of the large number of requests it has had to open shop in the area.
“We believe the community should decide what retail serves them,” Whole Foods spokeswoman Beth Krauss said in a statement to the Business Times. “From the beginning of the (conditional use) process we’ve been gathering community feedback on the proposed 365 by Whole Foods Market project. So far, the response has been largely positive. We will continue that dialogue with residents over the coming weeks.”
Opponents to the plan, including Peskin, have argued that the presence of Whole Foods would be hard on the local merchants and that a chain store is better suited to the busier Van Ness Avenue corridor nearby. The area is slated to begin major construction soon with a new sewer, bike lanes and sidewalks, something that has local businesses worried already.
“The businesses are going to be challenged to the max,” Moe Jamil, president of the Polk Street Neighborhood Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We don’t want a situation where two years later we have tumbleweeds rolling down Polk Street and a Chipotle or Starbucks going in to pick up the slack.”
But supporters of the idea of a Whole Foods in the neighborhood have been vocal and include local residents who like the idea of having it as an option within walking distance. That might derail an effort by some members of the Board of Supervisors to ban formula retail in that stretch of Polk Street between Post and Filbert streets and a part of Larkin Street between Post and California streets.
“We want healthy choices,” Sharon Solomon, whose mother has lived in the area for four decades, told the paper. “We were ecstatic when we found out about the Whole Foods 365. For us it’s a no-brainer.”
Credit: Riley McDermid