Looks like PETCO will be shut out of 5411 Geary. How do you feel about it?

As we wrote about earlier this week, the dog fight between PETCO and our neighborhood pet stores and Richmond District Supervisor Eric Mar came to a head at City Hall. On Monday, the Land Use Committee, on which Mar sits, approved the proposal to ban formula pet retailers from Geary between 14th and 28th Avenues.

As a result, it went to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday where they voted 8-3 in approval of the legislation. The Examiner reported:

Supervisor Eric Mar, who introduced the legislation, said the ban protects smaller, independently owned pet shops in the area. Supervisor Scott Wiener opposed the legislation along with Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu. Wiener said it was a mistake to change the rules and instead Mar should let the application run its course using the existing voter-approved process.

Today, the issue comes before the Planning Commission, who like the Land Use Committee and Board of Supervisors, is recommending that PETCO’s conditional use permit be denied. Read their full recommendation document here which includes these reasons for disapproving the PETCO permit:

The proposed new use will not provide a development that is necessary or desirable with the surrounding neighborhood. There are a number of pet stores and services within the area, including two smaller locally-owned pet supply stores in the immediate vicinity and several others within two miles of the subject site, making the proposed use unnecessary.

The subject area has a large concentration of formula retail establishments, and adding another formula retail store will only increasing this concentration.

The neighborhood is well served by smaller locally owned pet stores and a larger destination formula retail pet supply store (Pet Food Express, on California Street near Presidio Avenue).

The proposed formula retail establishment could have a negative impact on existing neighborhood character by displacing smaller local stores that provide similar products and services.

So, it looks like 5411 Geary will remain vacant for the time being, or at least until another potential tenant is found or if PETCO tries to appeal the decision.

Do you agree or disagree with the city’s action? Answer the poll above and leave a us a comment with your thoughts.

Sarah B.


  1. seems that eric mar is an animal lover…

    …but not a coffee lover? starbucks is basically petco-ing smaller local coffee shops and (maybe I missed it but) he didnt go all out on that issue.

    I think this is a good move. people will always choose the cheaper option but the cheaper option isn’t always best for the community or society.

  2. Your poll response options don’t really cover the possible opinions.

    At the very least you need a third option that is something like:

    “While I do not like the fact that large corporations use economies of scale to push smaller businesses out of a neighborhood because local consumers are price sensitive, I do not think piecemeal legislation controlling what kinds of businesses can and cannot set up shop in a neighborhood is the solution.”

    Our city zoning and business regulations are going to become more and more byzantine, which in the long run will make it more expensive for ANY business to operate in the city.

  3. This would never have happened in Cincinatti! Thank god we’re not Cincinatti….

  4. I am very happy this happened. These small stores would definitely have been shut down and would have died a slow death. They simply cannot compete against these larger predatory chains.

    People say, “So who is going to take their place?”. Well, Kragen was a huge spot at 25th and Geary, and eventually the small Russian furniture store from across the street moved in. There’s nothing that says this spot can’t be filled by a smaller mom and pop store looking to expand. WIll the owner now have to accept less rent now that it’s clear a chain store has little chance of being placed there? probably. What’s wrong with that?

    I moved to this area because I love the smaller stores; if I wanted to live in an area with big box stores I’d move to LA.

  5. I was a bit on the fence about this as I believe Supervisor Mar’s priorities are generally askew and because I objected to the BoS banning HomeDepot from the old Goodman’s site, which I felt was a perfectly appropriate area, unlikely to hurt “Mom and Pop” hardware stores as there were none in the vicinity.

    On the other hand I lived in Foster City as a young man, at a time when it featured several mini-malls of varying character and options. Once the big box chains went on the periphery of town, almost all of the smaller stores lost business and those neighborhood mini-malls that people could walk to just died. Really sort of sad.

    As someone who loves the funky provincial nature of the Richmond and supports small businesses even when it costs more, this was probably the right decision. However I’m still a little uncomfortable with Mar’s banning imperative.

  6. “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.”

    -Adam Smith

    Looks like Smith is describing the exact situation here – some folks meeting behind closed doors to commit a conspiracy against the public. Only this time, they’re doing it with the blessing and help of the government. God help us.

  7. This is absurd and one of the many reasons the mid to outer Richmond is a dying (dead?) neighborhood. The people who would shop at Petco more than likely are not currently frequenting Cal’s and B&B anyhow. As a consumer I prefer having a choice as opposed to having “The Man” tell me where I can and can’t but my f’ing cat food. The fact that both these businesses so adamantly oppose ANY competition or consumer choice, quite frankly, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I guess, by default, I will continue to shop at B&B. There’s nothing wrong with them. However, it’s gonna suck when they raise their prices cause, ya know, they have no competition to worry about now.

  8. There is nothing behind closed doors or conspiracy about any of this. 6 existing stores within 1 mile have been happy to compete with reach other so I don’t buy the idea there are not enough choices or they are overpriced.. Other tenants are already in the mix so it will not be vacant. I very much appreciate the blog updates and comments, all of them. Thanks Sarah! The issue for me is the concept of family businesses giving character to our neighborhood and Petco’s TERRIBLE reputation.

    The 3,000 people who signed petitions want their neighborhood stores and have spoken up. If there is a complaint of service or price call the neighborhood store, I think you will be surprised. They want to stay in business and serve customers in the Richmond just as you want service and good prices.

  9. Eric has become so rigid l that he will sacrafice the economic recovery of thee Richmond f his idiological emotions . . Eric… walk Geary from 14th to 25th and see how many vacant storefronts you can count.

  10. I think pet food is a different commodity because it’s motherf’ing heavy. So, in the pedestrian-friendly Richmond, location beats price for me: the 15lb bag of cat food I buy isn’t any cheaper at Petco.

  11. The hell with Mar, B&B, and Cals! I will continue driving to Petco to by my pet supplies and will not give them my money!

  12. I, too, try to support the locals. My concern with what Mar has done is that it is incredibly short sighted. Once in place, there is an almost irrevocable ban on chain pet stores in the designated area. It’s a ways off, but what happens in 10-20 years should the local pet stores decide/get forced to shutdown? Good chance that pet lovers will be left with no options, and it’ll be tougher for Geary storefronts to be filled. May sound crazy, but it’s incredibly difficult to open and run a business in SF due to all the conflicting laws on the books from years and years of abuse such as this. If we had effective politicians, we wouldn’t have to develop laws to solve for such specific issues as a Petco in the old Walgreens store. Instead, we could follow the current process on the books and the public – which appears to be against the place – could choose to keep it out. Same result, much more business friendly (for both the small and the big guys).

  13. @David H – read the quote from Smith again. The six places that you mentioned have joined together to form a cartel, blocking future competition and implicitly agreeing to protect one another. Higher prices and/or significantly worse service can be expected to happen over time, as they come to understand that they are immune from competition.

    For examples of this on a larger scale, see Comcast, PG&E, taxi companies, etc. Any group of companies that can get together and convince the government to enact laws to protect them and convert them to simple rent-seeking rather than competitive businesses will do so – I don’t blame the pet stores, it gives them security and makes their job easier. Terrible decision by government though. Government authority should be used to protect consumers (through laws that would penalize Petco for the conduct that you brought up, for example), not screw them over.

  14. What a naive and shortsighted effort by Mar. The last I checked we live in a Capitalist society. Competition should be allowed. Apparently in the Richmond it’s only allowed for select few. I don’t own a pet but if I did I wouldn’t shop at Cal’s or B&B out of principle due to this debacle. I am for a free market. I don’t necessarily shop at the cheapest store, I shop at the store with great service but B&B and Cal’s would have to really do something special for me to shop there.

    Since Mar was at the forefront of blocking PetCo he should be at the forefront of beautifying the neighborhood. Not once have I seen anything in that vein for him. Clean up the sidewalks of gum, clean up the trash, bury the power lines, do something to justify your position. As it stands the biggest things Mar has done is remove toys from Happy Meals (there aren’t any McDonald’s in the Richmond so that has an indirect benefit at best) and he’s blocked formula retail from moving in.

    Apparently Mar has no clue about a market economy. If I’m the owner of that building what’s stopping them from suing the city? There’s no good reason for not allowing PetCo to move in.

  15. Please be sure to boycott those independent pet shops who took it upon themselves to determine what stores shoppers should be allowed to access. That would be Cals on Calif. Street and B&B. Don’t go there. Ever.
    Henceforth, a vacant, junk and bum encrusted storefront shall be known as a “Mar.”

  16. (copied from another site)

    If we had “protected” RCA, we’d still be watching color console TV’s. Had we “protected” GM, there would be no hybrids. Had we “protected” Maxwell House, we be drinking instant. Real entrepreneurs compete and find ways to deliver a better product at a lower cost. Protectionists give money to politicians to enact barriers to competition so they don’t have to improve. Society suffers.

  17. Not surprised by the poll results. Mar is even more out-of-touch with his constituents that I had imagined on this topic. I’m sure he’ll get some nice cheese from the pet store cabal for his next campaign though (along with other retailers hopeful that he’ll extend some rent-seeking protection to them!)

    I’m an extremely progressive guy as far as politics go, and I can’t imagine something more conservative than protecting the fat cats of the neighborhood at the expense of the working folk. Keep in mind – this doesn’t just keep Petco out, but ANY chain pet store, including chains that may at some point be started or headquartered in SF. This is a clear giveaway to neighborhood business interests.

  18. I for one will NOT be boycotting those smaller pet stores. Good for them for standing up to big chain stores. We do not need large stores coming in and cannibalizing our neighborhood. 16, 17, 18, 19, 20…you folks are incredibly wrong. Its fantastic this giant store did not get added to the neighborhood; if I wanted to live in a place with large chain stores I would move to LA. It’s the smaller stores that give neighborhood character, and if those of us want to live in that sort of neighborhood it’s our right to try to make sure that happens.

    Mar is not our of touch with his constituents; I am a constituent, and I agree with him.

    We do not live in a pure capitalistic society; to say we do is silly. The larger stores do just as much to shut down competition as you accuse the smaller stores of doing; there are multiple industries in this country where large corporations band together to fight off perceived threats.

    In this case it is all about what kind of neighborhood we want. We need to ACTIVELY make sure our nieghborhood retains a certain character.

    As far as empty storefronts on Geary goes, the primary reason that these stores have a difficult time reopoening with new tenants is because many of them have been shut down by predatory lawyers whose “handicapped” clients are trying to make a quick buck, and it take smaller businesses thousands of dollars to renovate these stores. So don’t go blaming that on rents.

  19. You might not agree with 16-20 but we’re most certainly not wrong. Small companies grow to be large companies and then they get told that they can’t move to the Richmond.

    Yet if we had a large store in the area they could actually fight off the predatory practices by these lawyers. Instead we have empty storefronts.

    I suppose you’re volunteering to clean up Geary then? Good for you. I’ll help you out but I want to see you out there first.

  20. @J – would you be opposed to a Gap or Williams-Sonoma opening in the neighborhood? Would you support other cities blocking the expansion of our companies? Should we simply abandon trade and watch our economy tailspin?

    SF gains a heckuva lot more from trade than we lose, and it’s very worrisome to see protectionism happening in a city that has gained so much from trade (hopefully folks in other places don’t decide to block Visa or Wells Fargo or Twitter or whatever other local company that brings in BILLIONS to our local economy from other places – we’ll be heading to the poor house if that happens!)

  21. The existence of large stores in the neighborhood has nothing to do with fighting off lawyers. A single large store is not going to have anything to say or do to stop places like Thai Me Up, the restaurant that went under at 21st and Geary, from going under.

    And yes, if a small company grows up to become a large company whose predatory business practices would drive out smaller mom and pop stores in the neighborhood, then yes, it is not welcome at all in the Richmond.

    I would rather have a few closed stores boarded up than a single large store that drives out smaller ones. Who do you think is going to move into the smaller pet stores once they are driven out of business? Don’t you realize they will become empty storefronts too?

    Again, I point to the Kragen spot at 25th and Geary. it’s now a mom and pop furniture store that outgrew it’s space. There’s nothing to stop the owner of the Wallgreens spot from offering it to a smaller business. I guarantee you that Cards and Comics central would love that place…they definitely need more room. They are right across the street.

  22. @anon:
    1) No, because those companies do not provide services (as far as I know) that undercut smaller businesses in the neighborhood. There are few clothing stores out in the Richmond.If anything, both of those would be undercut by Ross, which sells many of the same things.
    2) Of course! If they felt it was necessary to preserve their neighborhood’s character by keeping out Russian delis, sushi restaurants, and tiny hobby shops, then by all means they can do so!
    3) This is known as a False Dilemma. Quoth Wikipedia: “A false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, the either-or fallacy, fallacy of false choice, black-and-white thinking or the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses) is a type of logical fallacy that involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options (sometimes shades of grey between the extremes). For example, “It wasn’t medicine that cured Ms. X, so it must have been a miracle.”
    We should neither abandon trade and watch our economy tailspin, nor should we allow giant companies to come in and undercut smaller companies in our neighborhood, destroying both busiensses (trade) and neighborhood character in the process.

    Why can’t you understand that we HAVE places in SF for that sort of “Trade”. For Pete’s sake, the city just allowed two targets to move into the city…but those are in areas, oddly enough that have very few mom and pop stores to undercut! Downtown at the Metreon and the Big Box mecca at Geary and masonic!

  23. I’m failing to see how the Target being at a place that was a former chain retail store (Mervyn’s, Sears, etc) is any different from the PetCo being at a place that was a former chain retail store (Walgreens).

    Fox Hardware (literally across the street from the Target at the Metreon) and Pet Source (a couple blocks away from the Target on Masonic) are probably going to disagree a bit with you that there are “very few” mom and pop stores in the area to undercut. Within walking distance of both of those stores are certainly MORE mom and pop stores than exist on Geary (remember that we’re discussing pet shops that would be more than a MILE!!! away from the proposed PetCo), though the percentage of mom and pop stores may be lower. If you draw a mile radius from the Metreon, you’re going to have literally hundreds of mom and pop retailers competing directly with Target, and certainly at least dozens within a mile of the Masonic site.

    If you’re pulling out Wikipedia references for anon, I’d suggest looking up “Byzantine”, “slippery slope”, and “unintended consequences”.

  24. The owners of Fox Hardware and Pet Source are completely within their right to band together to try to stop Target from entering the neighborhood. There’s nothing stopping them from gathering 3000 petitions to do what these other pet stores out in the Richmond have done. It’s unlikely that either of those stores will be run out of business by a Target, as Target doesn’t focus solely on pet food or hardware. But even if they do, the fact is that a significant portion of the community does not want to see Petco on Geary.

    If you wanted them there so bad, you could have considered gathering signatures of your own. I’m sure the number of people who would have signed it in real life would have been roughly equivalent in ratio to the number of people who click “no” in the poll above, right?

  25. ^I assumed that our elected representative would not make such a ridiculous move.

    BTW, I don’t really care about having a PetCo or not, I just care about the precedent that it sets. We’re in for a long and steady decline of the urban fabric of the Richmond District, part of the reason that I’m looking to move (after six years).

  26. FYI – Pet Source is closed.

    I’ve been in those PETCO express stores – they really don’t have a great selection and most likely wouldn’t be a great addition to the neighborhood… Even if we didn’t have a handful of other pet supply stores nearby.

  27. I love how we have a “handful” of pet stores nearby. There are two 1/2 mile in either direction of where PetCo was going to move in. I don’t consider that a handful.

    What I’d like to know is it acceptable for the NIMBYs to have a chain store at 5411 Geary? If it is acceptable what stores would you not fight against (realistically, Apple isn’t going to move in to an unfriendly business environment and we don’t have the population to support it)?

  28. I think it’s pretty straightforward. I think people have a problem with large single-product chains that severely undercut prices of similar mom-and-pop businesses in the neighborhood. People have been over this again and again.

    You forget the 6th Avenue Aquarium, which is a pet store (selling fish), and the Aquarium at 3rd and Balboa (I think that’s the location)…I know there are others nearby.

    People didn’t mind too much that a Fresh and Easy giant chain store opened in the outer Richmond because it doens’t really compete with the local corner grocers or the little Russian deli a half a block away. It sells it’s own pre-packaged items…its unlikely that it will destroy small mom and pop stores selling groceries in the neighborhood.

    Who would Apple be competing against if it were to move in? What store, other than the sad Macintosh repair shop at GEary and Arguello, would be put out of business? I would have no problem with Apple moving in. Maybe the Gap, as a poster above suggested, or William’s Sonoma? Maybe La Soleil? There’s plenty of Chain stores that could fit there and not screw up the nieghborood by driving out smaller businesses. Plenty of em. And as I said, why does it have to be a chain store? I’m sure there are plenty of smaller businesses looking to expand that would love that space.

    For pete’s sake, Petco already has other stores in the city! The only reason they want to come in is because they KNOW they can drive out the smaller businesses and become the only pet store in that part of the city. I, and apparently many many others DO NOT WANT THAT.

  29. ^Your description of “single-product chains that severely undercut mom-and-pop businesses in the neighborhood” does not match the other chain store that was blocked from opening on Geary – a Starbucks at Geary and 5th. Or is it your claim that Starbucks “undercuts” local coffee shops? That isn’t my experience, and one of the reasons that I prefer a couple of the local coffee shops.

  30. J, I think you’ve lost the message. PetCo doesn’t compete in every niche that the local pet stores do. The Gap would put some of the clothing stores out of business in the Richmond and maybe Ross since they directly compete. Apple could put the computer store on 14th and Geary out of business and this neighborhood is not the right demographic for an Apple store anyway. Totally the wrong neighborhood for a William-Sonoma.

    Also, Fresh and Easy does compete with the Russian market on most items except the Russian markets have a niche. They will survive.

    Have you talked to PetCo and know that they want to hike up prices? I seriously doubt that. I absolutely can’t stand it when somebody takes my right away to shop where I want. Thanks to the supervisors that is going to become a common occurrence in the dying Richmond.

    I ask you again, J, are you going to go out and clean up Geary for us to entice businesses in or just complain that chain stores that you don’t like moving in would ruin the neighborhood?

  31. Also, why doesn’t this cabal of pet stores group together to get bulk pricing on their items so they can lower their overhead? There’s no reason why they can’t.

  32. Why was that furniture shop that is taking over the Kragen allowed to expand!?!? It will now have two locations and is therefore an evil chain!!!!! Doesn’t everyone know that our needs for furniture were already being met!!! They should be forced to pick one location or the other, and not look to gobble up all of the real estate for themselves. If they expand much more, they might start putting other crappier furniture stores out of business.

  33. Chris, I actually would have opposed the addition of Starbucks on 5th and Geary. Not enough to go out and protest about it, but I don’t think we need another Starbucks out in the avenues. Not sure how they were able to make it through the permit process.

    But apparently there was not a lot of concerned opposition from other store owners…perhaps had other coffee shop owners had gathered 3000 signatures, it would have been revisited.

  34. Paul, no one is saying you can’t shop where you want. If you want to go to a Petco, there are multiple other PEtco’s in the city. Please feel free to visit any of them.

    Here are the addresses:
    1685 Bryant Street, San Francisco
    (415) 863-1840

    1591 Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco
    (415) 665-3700

    What we are saying is that as a community, we should be able to decide the character of that community, and one of those things is limiting big box chain stores from destroying said character. If it is so important to you to have a choice of cheap big box stores to shop at, there are a gazillion other places in the country that have that. One of the things that is great about the Richmond is that, for the most part, it DOESN’t have that, and there’s nothing wrong with trying our darndest to keep it that way.

    Of course I’m not going to “clean” up Geary, because that’s not why businesses aren’t moving in. Do you seriously think businesses don’t want the old Thai Me Up restaurant or the Walgreens space because there’s boards on the windows and trash in the doorway? Seriously? Seriously?

    As I have said three or four times now, there’s tons of smaller mom and pop stores that would love to move into those places. As soon as the owners realize they have no chance of getting in a big chain store at the former Walgreens, they will let a smaller tenant in, and their repair crews will do a much better job than I could. 🙂

    I’ll wager you it won’t be long now!

    And for Exhibit A, I present the old Kragens auto parts store at 25th and Geary.

  35. Anon, I suspect highly that the smaller store across the street will not be around much longer. They actually only moved in two or so weeks ago; the renovation inside was done very quickly. It doesn’t make sense for them to keep both stores.

  36. #20 Reej- Eric will not be getting cheeze for his efforts. Most small businesses seem unhappy with him. There were 3000 people who did not want PETCO.Ask a small business owner if they are fat cats driving new cars etc. Each one is struggling dude, along with the rest of the American economy. there was no cabal.@Johnny Cross- it was the pet shop CUSTOMERS who spoke up and do not want them going out of business.It may surprise some of the commenters but all over town neighborhoods have made requests and had legislation to protect small businesses or insure some chain does not injure the neighborhood. Neighborhood merchants have not been in the best of times People who care about the neighborhood keep their stores open through thick and thin. WALGREENS the big chain store left that location in the first place. Yes I do want a better neighborhood not with a store who puts pets in freezers

  37. Um J, the Starbucks proposed for Geary and 5th was blocked and is not there (instead there has been a vacant storefront for 2+ years). Folks did oppose it (including other coffee shops), and clearly not because it was a chain looking to undercut local store’s prices. My point was that this whole process seems to be completely arbitrary and not bound by the “rules” that you mentioned.

    If I were a retailer looking to expand (including a local retailer), I’d be scared to death that some folks might decide that my shop was going to put someone else out of business, and try to kill my business through the government rather than through offering better service or product.

    I don’t go to Starbucks often exactly because I find their product to be sub-par and their price to be on the high side, but that didn’t block a band of local coffee shops from using the government to determine what everyone else’s tastes should be.

  38. @J – I’ve posted this before, but I’ll post again. I’d be completely fine with legislation saying that no big box stores can exist in the Richmond. Or no chain stores. Or whatever.

    I will adamantly oppose any legislation that is ad hoc and responsive in nature, rather than blind to the party moving in. We’ve now created a zone where ONLY chain pet stores are not allowed, which certainly begs the question of what stores will be allowed – every business owner out there now knows that the Richmond doesn’t have rules, it makes them up as time goes along. Concrete rules I’m fine with, even if I disagree with them. Flexible rules that can be changed at any time on a whim are terrible for everyone.

  39. What you define as ad-hoc I define as community participation. Again, you are presenting a false dilemma, which I defined above.

    No, it’s not either
    a) Any big chain store can come in or
    b) No chain stores can come in.

    I do not want a neighborhood that is blind to the party moving in. As citizens, we should be able to decide, or at least have input on, the “types” of businesses that move into our neighborhood. There’s nothing wrong with caring about the character of a neighborhood and what makes up that character, along with the people, are the types of businesses that exist there.

    So yes, if you are a big box retail chain looking to move into the Richmond district, you should probably be concerned that a cadre of citizens will rise up to oppose you. Do you have a product that people need and which isn’t being delievred in the Richmond? Then you will probably face little opposition. Example A would be ACE Hardware, which moved in with little opposition because there’s no other hardware stores around (except for the other ACE at 10th and Clement.) We NEEDED a hardware store there.

    Are you providing a service already provided by small businesses with no way to compete with you and who you will likely destoy over time? Then you will probably face opposition.

    You say
    “every business owner out there now knows that the Richmond doesn’t have rules, it makes them up as time goes along.”

    I think that should be: “every giant chain store business owner out there now knows that the Richmond doesn’t have rules, it makes them up as time goes along.”
    There, fixed that for you.

    Small businesses know if fact the opposite…if you are an integral part of the community and have supported it for many years in the neighborhood you will likely receive SUPPORT, not opposition.

  40. I love the irony of the statement that ” it was the pet shop CUSTOMERS who spoke up and do not want them going out of business.” Why do these people care if a PetCo moves in then? They obviously love their community pet stores and will shop at those so there is no risk of their favorite store closing if they keep shopping there. It sounds to me that they didn’t want the temptation of having a competitor where they can shop for other pet supply items.

    J, I love how you state that the landlords need to lower their rent and then people will move in. Take a look on Geary and tell me how many empty storefronts there are? I just went for a run and I count two major stores that are gone (Delano’s and Walgreen’s) as well as a couple of handfuls of small places that are for rent. By your argument every empty store is charging too much for rent otherwise they would be rented?

    I’m not a fan of Starbucks (I like Peet’s) but how can you say that there is only one Starbucks needed for all of the Avenues? That’s absolutely ludicrous. There’s one on 19th. I would think that one on 5th would have been great.

    There is never going to be a perfect tenant to occupy that location and unless there is a situation where two companies get together to rent the space (CVS/Fresh and Easy) that plot of land might sit empty for a long time.

  41. It seems to me that there are dozens of small pharmacies and sundries shops that could be put out of business by CVS, as well as dozens of small produce shops and grocers that could be hurt by Tesco (Fresh and Easy) moving in, but what do I know.

    If we’re moving to a situation where successful businesses are determined by having friends in the right places, I think that’s a negative. Your distinction between big and small business seems to completely contradict your earlier statements, but whatevs. I don’t really see a difference – all big businesses start as small businesses. Many of the most hated chains didn’t exist 20 years ago, and only got to where they are by a system that allows successful businesses to expand and gain advantages over those businesses that refuse to innovate. The company that I work for now only started four years ago, yet now has a valuation in the billions of dollars (and injects more money into the SF economy than all of the retailers in the Richmond combined, I would assume).

  42. I’m actually kind of glad that this is coming to a head with PetCo acting as if they will pursue legal action. The chain store ordinance as currently written is likely to fall at the state court level, since it’s a clear violation of landlord’s rights and reaches far beyond simple zoning (the ambiguity aspect that you love, J, doesn’t bode well for its chances in court).

  43. franchise is the death of culture. you will all be assimilated.

  44. Supervisor Mar’s legislation banning PetCo is unfair, wrongheaded, and, maybe, just maybe, an illegal restraint of trade. The only reason he selected PetCo is b’cse it might harm some businesses already here. But, hey, that’s what free enterprise is all about. I hope PetCo tries this case in the courts, not the court of public opinion.

    The Richmond District is becoming run down and unattractive because of wrong-headed moves like this. We need to revitalize this neighborhood by bringing in businesses to fill our vacant stores on Geary and encourage people to shop and recreate here. What we don’t need is a legislator who believes he has the right to economically engineer the neighborhood.

    Supervisor Mar has made few efforts to attract business and people to Geary Blvd. At the risk of sounding like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, there’s a part of me that thinks he would like to see this neighborhood become blighted, thereby opening up the way for developers to build, build, build.

    Perhaps Supervisor Mar will be the exception to the rule that an incumbent always wins in San Francisco. It’s time to swing into action and find a better representative for District 1.

  45. @David H – from the reporting on this site, we know that:

    1. Clearly there is and was a pet store cabal, as those were the folks that worked to get the signatures. Merchants of a common industry working together to stifle competition fits the very definition of a cabal.

    2. The owners of one of the pet stores only visit occasionally from their gilded palace in Marin. They stop in to check on the commoners running the place and ensure that the correct amount of bounty is being carried off from the plebes of the Richmond. The very definition of fat cat, in my opinion.

    3. Several of the pet shops (if not all) belong to the Geary Blvd Merchants Association, the trade group that has repeatedly blocked progressive initiatives that would benefit the middle and lower classes of the Richmond, in order to protect the gilded classes – blocking transit improvements, cycling improvements, and now actively stifling new businesses from coming in if they won’t join up in the association’s crusade against the commoners.

  46. Re. BRT, while the Geary Blvd. Merchants Assn. may occasionally block progressives, I wish everyone would understand that the Geary BRT is a terrible idea. It does not enhance transit in the Richmond.

    A few points:

    – By MTA’s own calculus, the decreased transit time for the entire length of the trip is about 5 minutes in a 35 minute Limited trip during rush hour. And that’s the maximum improvement…it gets worse at various times of the day. In other words, there’s virtually no significant reduction of travel time.

    – They don’t know how Express busses will go around Local busses w/out going into traffic, which defeats the purpose of the project.

    – It will remove 1/3 of the traffic on Geary b’cse it’ll eat up two lanes of traffic, thereby diverting these cars to adjoining streets which are either already heavily travelled or are residential and shouldn’t have more traffic.

    – By MTAs own admission, it’s not designed to accommodate more than the current ridership…so what’s the point?

    There are much, much better ways to improve transit on Geary w/out this overpriced boondoggle. Time the lights, use dedicated lanes during peak hours only, pay before boarding using machines at the stops, improve the equipment and bus shelters.

  47. @Sam – you’ve got some outright inaccuracies there (removing 1/3 of the lanes does not imply removing 1/3 the traffic, as any traffic engineer can tell you – look at 25th Ave in the Richmond if you need confirmation of a street losing lanes and still seeing IDENTICAL traffic numbers), but the gist is this:

    The Merchants looked at an initially good project, successfully lobbied to make the project worse, and now complain that the project is terrible and should be scuttled altogether. I agree that now we’re looking at a project that is overpriced and will likely be a boondoggle, but that is BECAUSE of the fat cat merchants sabotaging it, not because it started as a bad project. There is not a more anti-progressive group in the city, and they currently control Supervisor Mar’s actions in the Richmond 100%.

    If the merchants would get behind good transit upgrades, increased density and development, cycling upgrades, and other things that benefit the working classes, I could maybe overlook some of their other fat cat-ish actions, but they’re clearly looking only to enrich themselves at the cost of everything else – no concern for the neighborhood at all.

  48. Just so folks are aware, CalPERS has investments with both of the private equity firms that own PetCo, meaning that any person who is set to receive a pension from the system is a part owner of PetCo, which would be hundreds or thousands of folks in the Richmond District.

    By contrast, at least one of the pet stores currently here is 100% owned by outsiders living large in a Marin mansion. What else will we find out about our pet store overlords?

  49. Hey “J” #21, why dont you and everyone else that agreed with Mar go jump off the GGate Bridge! We need to start cleaning this city up!

  50. Reej @ #50:

    David Heller, Pres. of the Geary Blvd. Merchants Assn. and member of the 1st Geary BRT Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) proposed a much better and more conservative plan than the one that’s under consideration. He proposed dedicated bus lanes during peak hours, sprucing up the stops, improving the equipment, and other less drastic alterations to Geary that would cost a fraction of the proposed BRT and not disrupt business during construction or traffic upon completion. That plan was scuttled in favor of a center lane plan, with all the problems that you and Sam identified.

    (Let’s not forget the traffic engineering nightmares at Geary/Masonic and Geary/Fillmore that a center lane plan will cause.)

    As a regular user of public transit who doesn’t own a car, quality public transportation is very important to me. But the Geary BRT plan is not the right solution. I agree with Sam that it’s an overpriced boondoggle that needs to be reconsidered.

    BTW, one of the reasons it’s been hard to fill up the empty stores on Geary is b’cse tenants don’t want to commit to renting on a street that could become a construction zone. If the BRT is revised in accordance with the more conservative plan, not only would it meet rider’s needs, it would also cost a lot less as well as encourage new tenants who would no longer be facing the aforementioned uncertainty.

    New York City iis implementing a bus rapid transit program called Select Bus Service (http://www.mta.info/nyct/sbs/) As you’ll see, it uses dedicated lanes, pre-payment, and limited stops. I’d like to suggest our MTA reviews this alternative to the Geary BRT. Having seen it in action and listening to users of the system, it looks like a terrific alternative to the multimillion dollar project now planned for Geary. Perhaps we could interest our incoming MTA Director in this plan.

  51. Dedicated lanes only during peak hours fix nothing, because numerous studies have shown that the reliability concerns with Muni, and specifically with the Geary corridor, do not peak during those hours. In fact, I’d say that the only time that Muni is somewhat reliable is during peak hours, because all of the X lines run directly to downtown.

    C’mon, bring a real alternative to the table, not just a “conservative” alternative that does nothing to fix current problems. Being completely unwilling to disrupt anything at any time is not a valid starting point. Dismissing a six (!!!!!) minute time savings for the line as irrelevant is quite offensive to me, especially if that savings comes with increased reliability (the biggest problem with the current line is reliability, not average time).

    I will adamantly oppose anything that does not include full dedicated lanes 100% of the time, because without those we will never move any closer to real transit improvement (rail, etc). Getting the ROW is the first step. The idea that local buses will compete with express buses is something that only happens under plans that the merchants have pushed for – under the ideal plan any local buses would not use the center lanes at all, with those reserved for true express service with MANY fewer stops.

  52. This MTA issue sounds like something that Mar should work on. Merchants might actually move out here if there were viable transportation options for people to get here from the eastern half of the city. Nobody is going to come out here on a 45 minute bus ride to shop unless it is something special. We need rail service out here badly and then maybe somebody actually get a BART station.

  53. Reej #54, the last time I looked, the Local and Limited buses will share the center lane which will be dedicated to BRT. Is there another plan that puts Limited buses in the middle of Geary and Local buses on the margins? If so, that’s news to me. Maybe you can post the link on the MTA’s website to that plan.

  54. @Jean – sure thing, here you go:


    TS-6 and TS-7 are both alternatives that have been discussed that could be used with local buses either in the BRT lanes or staying at the curb. I personally prefer TS-7 with BRT vehicles with dual-side doors, while keeping the local buses at the curb. These alternatives have been discussed extensively at the CAC meetings, with Mr. Heller poo-pooing both.

    It would help the merchants immensely if they’d have someone at the meetings who was somewhat credible in regards to wanting better transit service. Heller has made comments at the meetings like, “No one carries any bags from stores on to a bus or train!” Even the other anti-transit folks there had to stop and laugh for a second, thinking if this guy actually lives in SF…

  55. @Reej

    Thx. for the info. It’s my understanding that TS-6 and TS-7 aren’t on the table any more…but perhaps we’ll have to wait for the EIR to be sure. Nevertheless, according to the link you sent me, re. TS-7: “An option for BRT buses to pass local buses (if both ran in the center busway) has yet to be developed for this alternative [i.e. TS-7]”

    Please understand I’m very much in favor of the best transit possible between 32nd/Geary and downtown. I love public transit. It’s a great way to get around, not pollute, and enjoy some down time. I’m just not convinced that the current plan is a winner.

    I’m not dismissing a 6 minute advantage. But it must be considered that that is the maximum time-saving over the entire route. For shorter rides and at different times, the efficiency is much less. I agree that reliability is important, but from what I’ve seen MTA’s computer modeling of reliability is iffy, Also, I’ve heard inconsistent accounts from MTA regarding the capacity of this new system. On the one hand they say they want to improve the Geary line to encourage more people to use public transit and get cars off the road. Hurrah! But they’ve also said that the current proposal is designed with the assumption that ridership will stay the same as it is now. I haven’t been able to figure out how MTA can have it both ways.

    There’s been a lot of acrimony about this project. All the stakeholders need to get together for a reasoned, non-adversarial discussion of how to best meet everyone’s needs: transit users; merchants; residents; cyclists; pedestrians; and drivers. MTA’s held meetings, but my sense has been they really haven’t listened. Perhaps the rest of us should meet without MTA running the show. That might be more productive.

    MTA is here to serve all of us, yet I get the feeling they know what they want to do and are paying lip service to what everyone feels.

  56. @Jean – Appreciate your constructive comments.

    TS-6 and TS-7 are not “preferred alternatives” at the moment, but they are still included while MTA is conducting the EIR and could be resurfaced then. There hasn’t been anything developed for BRT buses to pass local buses in TS-7, but I would be opposed to local buses uses the center lanes in either scenario. The precedent needs to be set that BRT is for medium-long range trips and thus should have separate infrastructure from the local lines (IMO).

    In general, I don’t much care about time-savings, but care deeply about reliability. Being able to plan to a fairly exact degree how long a trip will take is far (FAR!) more important than the actual time. Walking out to a 38L at 2pm on a Thursday and having it take over an hour to get downtown is not uncommon (from 20th in my case) and is completely unacceptable.

    The passenger models don’t make much sense to me either, but I’ve been told it’s at least partially because MTA is using demographic and construction forecasts that show the Richmond (and other neighborhoods along the route) declining in transit-age population over the next 5-10 years and especially beyond that. Barely any new construction + declining household sizes + aging population = fewer people able to ride transit, thus stagnant ridership. That said, my hope would be that increased transit infrastructure could help promote the idea that significantly more housing could be accommodated along the route.

    The other primary reason that I’ve been given for the passenger models is that MTA is assuming that we’ll be buying a fairly small number of the BRT vehicles to begin with, because there is significant political pressure to maintain too much local service. I can definitely buy this (whispered to me by disgruntled MTA employees), because we’ve seen this in action in other parts of the city. No one wants to lose “their” stop, so we all end up supporting too much local service and not enough limited/express service. MTA seems to be hedging their bets that the same will happen here, and anticipating that beforehand.

  57. I’d be in favor of any of the options from TS-6 to TS-10. Realistically TS-6, TS-7, and TS-8 seem to be the most feasible. With TS-7 seeming to take up the least amount of real estate since it’s a shared median.

    What I can’t figure is why Heller would be against these plans. It seems that more efficient transportation would bring more people out to the Richmond. I can also see more people looking to live out here if there was efficient transportation.

  58. So, the question is: Many of us have strong opinions, lots of information, and a desire to have the best possible transit in this ‘hood. How do we assure that gets done while taking all the stakeholder’s concerns into consideration?

    As far as I know there’s never been a confab that could result in a meeting of the minds.

    Any thoughts on how to make transit in and out of the Richmond District a win-win-win?

  59. I agree with Stacy, I do not go to the smaller stores to buy cat food or mega heavy litter… I get it at Safeway on La Playa, since I can drive and park there. In general, Petco is not all that cheap, especially the “boutique” one that they proposed.

    But that aside, I would love to see a Marshall’s or another small-scale department store go into the shop space, it would be good competition for Ross. And, aside from Ross, the Central Richmond is lacking in house goods or general clothing options that are in walkable locations.

  60. @Jean – it all depends on what you mean by win-win-win. I don’t really see any way around there being some kind of impact (short term) during construction as well as there being a change in the way that traffic and parking currently exists. The merchants (through Heller at CAC meetings) have made it clear that they want NO changes to existing traffic lane real estate or parking spots, and also want NO short term construction interruption. If that is the basis for a “win” in their minds, it doesn’t seem like a starting point for negotiations.

    I’m more than willing to discuss adding more parking to side streets (through angled parking additions), increasing meter rates to encourage more parking turnover, introducing parking permits where none exist now to increase turnover and decrease long term storage of cars on the street, etc. Things like street real estate shifting more towards an equitable balance (transit riders account for a gigantic percentage of Geary traffic now, when measured on a per person basis rather than a per vehicle basis, yet get no reserved infrastructure) and compensation for lost sales during construction are concerns for me as well and something that I support, but the merchants have continually drawn the line in the sand that the status quo is the only thing that’s acceptable, aside from pie-in-the-sky arguments like a 100% machine-bored subway or rush hour transit lanes – things that are either far too expensive to ever happen, or basically non-changes that will do nothing to help transit. Both are bad faith efforts to simply destroy the project rather than improve it or make it win-win-win.

  61. @Reej – You raise some good points. But let’s consider the merchant’s side of the story. They work on very slim margins, and might not be able to withstand the economic impact of a big, disruptive constuction project, as well as the effect of even less parking on Geary than there is now.

    Several years ago the the Geary merchants asked the City’s Small Business Commission to recommend that the EIR should include an economic impact study. Here’s the full video of that meeting:

    As you’ll see, the SBC unanimously approved that request, which included the recommendation that there be mitigations should there be economic harm. (See 1:54:50) Unfortunately, despite the SBC’s recommendation, which included a letter to the Board of Supervisors, the EIR does not include an economic impact study nor is there an agreement that economic harm will be mitigated. At the SBC meeting the MTA said they didn’t want to do an economic impact report because that’s not the way they usually do things. (See 1:48). I hope you’ll agree that is not a reasonable response. It’s just one of many examples of how uncooperative MTA has been.

    Also, Mr. Heller has proposed a viable alternative to the huge BRT project proposed by MTA, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. He pushed for a dedicated side-lane alternative. I don’t think the merchants are unreasonable, but they’ve met with unreasonable resistance from the MTA.

    Also, consider that Mr. Heller’s alternative is much, much less expensive than digging up Geary. I’ve heard there’s lots of pressure to OK this project ’cause it’ll create badly-needed construction jobs. Sure, jobs are critical. But let’s not just make work. There is plenty of other important construction work here in the City. For starters, our roads are in terrible shape. How about spending less money on a side-lane BRT with dedicated lanes, and spending the leftover monies to repair our roads?

    You mention traffic lane real estate. I’m not sure what you mean by that term. Also, what do you mean by “street real estate shifting to a more equitable balance?”

    The Geary BRT is part of a plan to increase the density of the Richmond and change the character of real estate on Geary Blvd and adjoining streets. The plan has significant economic, environmental and personal consequences for all us living and working here. I’m very concerned that decisions are being made without adequate input from those of us directly affected.

  62. I am sorry Petco was not allowed to open.

    Green Apple is an example of a small business that is trying to evolve with the times by offering e-books and a better buying experience. Good for them.

    I will definitely never buy from B&B again, and will encourage my pet-owner friends not to. We can carpool to Daly City and buy our petfood there.

  63. Mia#67, I have told my friends not to shop at Cals & BB!! Let’s car pool anytime!

  64. Mia, go for it. I will only shop at B&B; I have two cats, and they have a great selection of products for my pets. They are quite reasonably priced. I am happy that my continuing to shop there will cancel out your boycott.

  65. I didn’t care whether PETCO was shut out because I knew I would choose to still shop at B&B because they’re okay and I’ve gotten used to them.

    But now that I know they ran a campaign to block PETCO because they didn’t want me to have that choice, I’m going to find a new pet supply store. They’ll be okay and I’ll get used to them.

    I don’t need to get into a debate about the politics of it. All I know is I’m one little person feeding one little cat, and I usually just grab food anywhere in the whole city I happen to be out running errands when I think of it.

    But I sure as heck don’t want someone else limiting my choices for their own self-interest.

  66. I personally do not shop at either store that pushed for Petco not being a store in our ‘hood. I will likely still not shop at both of the stores, not because of politics, but mostly because it is a long huff to carry cat food or litter. The same would be true for a Petco on Geary. However, it would have been rather close to the usually half-empty parking lot between 18th and 19th, so I might have used it.

    The Petco store proposed was not the norm; it was trying to deliver itself as a boutique store, which would have meant not-so-great-stock and also prices that are likely higher than your regular Petco. Additionally, regular Petcos are not all that cheap, it depends on what you buy. They are insanely expensive for some products and have price leaders for others products (especially for dogs). Regardless, Petco, while I lived in Austin metro (about 9 months ago) and here was/is or will never be my first choice for by kitty’s needs.

    So, what does this ramble amount to… I would have liked to see someone in that space. the storefront is kinda creepy to walk past on your way to other Geary shops. For the two pet stores (which I am sure are grand), customer loyalty would have likely led to low Petco profits and their fizzle. But instead of allowing for natural attrition, city planners have decided that a command economy is much better than consumers having free choice.

  67. Keep the chains out and force the rapacious landlords to lower their rents! Landlords round here let their properties go to hell, until they’re practically derelict. Now, let’s see some legislation that forces landlords to keep their properties *occupied*. Let there be HEAVY MONTHLY FINES for properties left vacant for more than 6 months. Then watch this district turn around!

  68. Mia, go ahead and drive to Daly City! The cost of gas, wear and tear on your car, and your time will add up to a far higher price for pet supplies than you would get by shopping local. Also, don’t tell me that ou shop at these loss leader chain pet stores without buying other stuff you don’t need. Bottom line: it will cost you more. Have a nice day!

  69. Phil,

    Please explain to me how it would be legal in America to force a landlord to lower their rents? It would absolutely lose in court. Second, what if there are no takers even when the rent is lowered?

    I do agree with you that owners shouldn’t be allowed to let their buildings deteriorate. But I also think if would be a better use of the city’s time to power wash the sidewalks rather than street sweep three times a week along Geary.

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