Cricket Wireless tries to hop around city rules to open on Clement Street

The 6th & Clement corner location where Cricket Wireless wants to open

The 6th & Clement corner location where Cricket Wireless plans to open

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.

Sarah B.

The Cricket Wireless remodel underway at 455 Clement

The Cricket Wireless remodel underway at 455 Clement

Cricket Wireless' location just up the block at 524 Clement Street

Cricket Wireless’ location just up the block at 524 Clement Street


  1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Sarah B.
    Like Munchery, Cricket has shown the neighborhood that they are not interested in being neighborly and playing by the rules.

  2. Cricket replaced Pacific Books a few years ago. That was the Chinese bookstore in Clement. So sad to see that store go.

  3. How about cutting down on the number of Starbucks and Walgreen’s stores around the city. How did walgreens skirt the rules?

  4. RE. Walgreens–it’s a drugstore and pharmacy, which is a pretty big contribution to most neighborhoods in which they exist. there are few stores that arent chain stores that offer what they offer.

  5. Glad the City if following up… but it shows there is not any sort of monitoring at city hall of businesses that suddenly start paying sales tax (or, are they paying sales tax?). For Hazbeen – I’m glad you wish to live in a chain-free world, but I like to find the balance, where you don’t have to leave your over-restricted neighborhood to find a product or food item you like.

  6. I’m a little confused what the fuss is all about. They offer a service and want to sell a product. Mind you a product that competes with AT&T/Verizon/Sprint by offering customers a better price for their wireless needs. What is the point of this Conditional Use ridiculousness? Is it a way for the city to make extra money and delay stores from opening?

    As a resident of our fine neighborhood, I’d rather see that storefront in use instead of sitting vacant. Have all the other stores around those blocks applied for CU? There are plenty more chains and such that are way more of a nuisance than this store seems to be (especially considering this looks like a fully-branded, company owned store instead of just an authorized retailer).

    But why not… let’s all sit here and complain about a business bringing jobs into the ‘hood. Maybe instead of Cricket, we’ll get another Chinese restaurant to compete with the other 300 or so that are available in the area.

  7. and hopefully these anti-chain fanatics dont shop at amazon/online, or shop at TJs, Whole Foods, Safeway–all chains– or get their gas from any of the local gas stations, b/c theyre all chains.

  8. banking at chase, BofA, or wells fargo is a big no-no too. chains! YMCA, chain!

  9. The Richmond needs more chains. I am sick and tired of the lack of quality from so many local Richmond stores.

  10. Richmonder, from where I sit, the issue isn’t that it is a chain, it is that they didn’t get the proper permits. If they didn’t think they’d be allowed a Conditional Use but they went ahead anyway, it says something about their business practices and their regard for the community.
    I do agree I’d rather have them in that space than a vacant space, but legitimately and properly within the City framework.

  11. I’m sure eric mar will get right on it the same way he and his office took care of the munchery and mailbox situation at Angelina’s.

    Oh wait…

  12. It’s a cell phone company. It should be exempt from the “chain” store rule. It’s a service that lower income residents could actually benefit from. To be honest, this whole small business obsession some residents have needs to stop.

  13. Churchill’s did the best job of occupying that corner. Sad day when it left.

  14. im willing to bet that all these anti-chain fanatics regularly wear clothes purchased from chain retailers (local or online) and manufactured abroad, and have cupboards full of food produced by global manufacturers. if that’s the case, then shut up with all this hypocritical buy-local hot air!

  15. @steve- Agree with you about Walgreens, to a point. I’d love it if another an independent drugstore, such as what we had for a few decades with Evergreen Pharmacy, moved it. But unfortunately, independent pharmacies are a rarity now, unable to compete with — yes — chains that can buy, store, and sell huge quantities of merchandise.
    @richmondtechie: Many people here don’t ant the Richmond to into a place that probably looks like the place so many transplants have recently moved here from. Life’s too short to be “sick and tired” of not having chain stores within your immediate reach. Move to the East Bay or the South Bay, which are choking with chain stores.

  16. Check out any suburban shopping center and you’ll see exactly what you’d get if the chains took over. Stonestown is a perfect example. You might as well be in LA or San Jose.

  17. Let’s have a non-chain cell phone store. One that only operates in one location and that has it’s own cell network. Let’s make it a rebel cell phone network that doesn’t interface with any of the other networks. Yeh, that would be real useful.

  18. Wow. I sure am glad that people like “Steve” don’t make the rules. What a feeb.

  19. It is very difficult for an independent drug store to survive because most insurance companies direct people to use Walgreens/CVS/online to fill their rx prescriptions. Sorry this is a pipe dream.

  20. I’m with RICHMOND RESIDENT. I think we should designate a 2 x 2 block area in every neighborhood for a Verizon superstore so we can not only generate broad coverage but also make it easy to actually drop in and pay the newly required fees that were just added to page 3002 of our service contract.

  21. @Renee Is the concept of enjoying quality stores a bit over your head?

  22. 1. Derek and Rachel actually get it and thank you for cutting through the hyperbole. This sets a bad precedent and adds to the already obnoxious reputation of tech and disregarding communities.

    2. Franz, “lower income” residents have discovered that cell phones don’t grow on trees. And Cricket would be free to brag about that themselves if there were any truth to that if they’d ever applied for a permit.

    3. Lastly, “HERR DOKTOR PROFESSOR DETH VEGETABLE” is my new favorite name.

  23. Wasn’t Churchill’s at the another corner on Clement, where Kitchen Istanbul is now?

  24. @richmondtechie: Nope, the concept of “quality store” is not over my head. But I don’t equate “quality store” with chains–just the opposite, in fact. Putting aside the quality of the merchandise itself, it sounds like you equate quality with convenience, whereas to me, quality also includes great customer service. If the service you receive or product you buy at an independent store is not to your liking, or if it malfunctions, breaks, etc., you will more likely get an apology and the product replaced much less hassle than if you are a chain customer. If you own a store, or work directly with/for the owner, you typically have much more of a stake in your customers’ shopping experience. Yes, I have shopped at chains and had great customer service from employees who went the extra mile. But independent, LOCALLY OWNED stores not only contribute to the local economy, they have a big stake in the local place where their business is. Do you think a chain with 50 or 100 or 25,000 stores that is headquartered in Ohio or Texas or Indiana knows or cares what’s happening in the Richmond? Of course not. It’s short-sighted to equate quality solely with your personal convenience, the sprawling suburbs, with their characterless chains, await you. Why do people move here and then want to remake it into the place they just left?

  25. Cricket is about as “artisinal” and “boutique” as it comes in terms of wireless providers.

  26. I am confused. In the article it says that there is already a Cricket store a half block away. Did they not get a conditional use permit for that store?
    Did they think they didn’t need one for the new location because they didn’t have one for the first? Why all the fuss now? Was everyone upset about the first one or was no one paying attention?

  27. @Tim – The Planning Department is looking into the legality of the original location at 524 Clement (e.g. did they get a CU permit for that location); likely they did not.

    And yes, basically no one noticed or complained until they tried to open on one of the prime corners of the neighborhood.

  28. Laura: You’re right. Churchill’s was on the SE corner, not the SW corner of Clement. One of the first Fern Bars in SF, designed to attract the nurses from French Hospital. Seemed to work. Cheers, Art

  29. Well said, Renee! And thank you for further info on the matter, Sarah.

  30. “Affordable City” vs. preferring independent stores more than chain stores.

    Make up your mind.

  31. Nonsense, Egg. That is an entirely false dichotomy.

  32. there are plenty of independent shops cheaper, or at least not as expensive, as chains. Starbucks/Peets vs. John Campbell’s Irish Bakery/Blue Danube, for example. You’ll pay, more or less, the same at each place for coffee/pastry.

  33. I remember Clement in the ’60’s. Everything you needed…dry cleaners, laundries, shoe repair, 5 & 10 store, shoe store, women’s clothing, men’s clothing, watch store, eyeglass store, home furnishing store, carpet & floor store, florists, bakeries, drugstores, bookstores, Lazy Susan gift store, yarn stores, antique stores, old school bars, Mexican, Chinese & so many more restaurants. Now it is more like a bazaar & the grease on the street is disgusting. I know I’m old & times change.

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