The debate over whether or not Petco should be allowed to open up one of their Petco Unleashed stores at 5411 Geary Avenue has been fierce.
On one side are the owners and supporters of the small pet stores that already exist in the neighborhood, who argue that Petco’s size and pricing advantage could drive the small shops out of business. Several of the pet store owners have banded together to fight Petco.
On the other side are people concerned about the high commercial vacancy rate in the Richmond District, estimated at 25% – considerably higher than the city average of 4%. The space Petco is looking to take over is 5,000 square feet, arguably too large for any small mom-and-pop retailer to manage. So what, other than a chain store, could afford to move in there? (5411 Geary used to be a Walgreens)
Neighborhood meetings have been heated and in March, after Petco applied for their permit, Richmond District Supervisor Eric Mar responded by introducing uber-specific legislation that would prohibit all chain pet-supply stores from opening along Geary Boulevard between 14th and 28th Avenues. The legislation was backed by the Small Business Administration in early May.
The legislation, Mar told the SF Examiner, is “to protect the several small mom-and-pop pet-supply businesses already in the neighborhood.”
Today the SF Examiner reports that Petco is prepared to carry on the fight to take over the 5411 Geary space.
Petco sent a letter to Mar and the City Attorney’s Office calling the proposal illegal. “We believe the proposed ordinance exceeds the city’s police power, infringes on the project sponsor’s equal protection rights and, if enacted, would be invalid under federal and state law,” said the letter from Andrew Junius, of the Rueben and Junius law firm, which is representing Petco.
The City Attorney’s office told the Examiner they “are confident that we will reach an outcome that is legally sound and in the best interests of The City.”
Petco would like to see the legislation amended, or better yet, withdrawn altogether. It remains to be seen whether Mar’s legislation banning chain pet stores on central Geary will stick, or if it will just prove to be ceremonial.
Tricia Principe, the owner of Cal’s Pet Supply on California and 22nd Avenue, is committed to continuing the fight against Petco. “We are still committed to the concept that a family/neighborhood pet supplies store works best for the Richmond District. This latest move won’t deter us from gathering support for Supervisor Mar’s legislation. PETCO already has turned a deaf ear to any positive suggestions and would rather spend money hiring lawyers.”
Yet despite the support from small business owners and some residents, Mar knows the fight is far from over. He told the Examiner earlier this year, “According to many small businesses, the game is still played largely in favor of bigger businesses that can hire their lobbying firms and often they can win their six votes on the Board of Supervisors.”
The interior of an Unleashed by PetCo store in Hillcrest, CA