A couple of months ago, Puli Trading, a seller of jewelry and fine collectibles on the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and Clement, closed its doors.
The space at 455 Clement sat vacant for several weeks but then suddenly, construction was underway on a new Cricket Wireless store. The chain, which has over 3,349 stores nationwide, is known for its no-annual-contract, low cost cell phone plans.
Cricket already has a small store just up the block near Green Apple Books at 524 Clement Street.
Cricket’s latest move to open has drawn concern from neighbors because technically, it is a formula retail store that is subject to Conditional Use Authorization from the city of San Francisco.
The conditional use process is a long, drawn out proceeding in which the business must first apply to the city for approval, and neighbors, merchants and others are notified of their plans to open.
The process then requires a Planning Commission hearing to determine “if the proposed use is necessary or desirable for the neighborhood, whether it may potentially have a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood, and whether the use complies with the San Francisco General Plan.”
Yet no one at City Hall or in the Richmond District knew about Cricket Wireless’ plans to open on the prime corner of 6th Avenue and Clement.
After a Clement Street merchant contacted the city, it became apparent that Cricket never applied for a Conditional Use permit and instead, just went ahead with leasing the space and remodeling.
Late last week, the Planning Department issued a Notice of Enforcement to Cricket Wireless (2015-018116ENF), giving them until January 21, 2016 to respond. Per the Notice, they are not able to open until they acquire Conditional Use authorization.
If Cricket chooses to open before that process is complete, then the Planning Department would issue a Notice of Violation.
The department is also looking into Cricket’s nearby 524 Clement location, which has been operating for awhile. That also never received a Conditional Use Authorization to open.
These maneuvers are not new in the city, or to Clement Street. Munchery, a food delivery service, tried the same thing in a corner space on 7th Avenue and Clement last year. But after Planning Department enforcement, Munchery closed the operations outpost rather than go through the Conditional Use process to get it approved (which can take months).
On their website, Cricket Wireless says they have “a genuine commitment to supporting the community at the local level, right where our customers live and work”. Ahem, ok Cricket, whatever you say.