Haight Whole Foods now seen as a plus 

What a difference a recession makes.

The last time a Whole Foods store was proposed for the corner of Haight and Stanyan streets, hundreds attended the public hearing, many wearing bright-pink stickers supporting the project, others carrying protest signs and issuing dire warnings about a project they saw as far too large for the proposed site.

Today, a very-downsized proposal will be vetted before the neighbors who so loudly opposed the initial project — and it’s expected to be warmly received.

Ultimately, the protest signs didn’t sway the Planning Commission, which approved the project in October 2008. However, the project was killed six months later due to the recession.

Property owner Mark Brennan said the new plan is a “watered-down” version of the original plan, which would have included an expanded store with several extra stories of housing and parking. Instead, Whole Foods will simply renovate the existing Cala Foods building and parking lot.

Brennan said the development-impact fees on the housing helped make the project too expensive to pursue in the recession.

The new high-end grocery store could be open as soon as Thanksgiving, according to Haight Ashbury Improvement Association leader Ted Lowenberg, whose organization has always supported the project and who heard a presentation from the grocery chain last week.

Today, grocery store representatives will attend a 7 p.m. meeting of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council at the Park Branch Library. They will go before the Planning Commission on Jan. 28 to ask for approval of the new, much-smaller project.

The HANC previously opposed the project, and leader Calvin Welch said the organization still has a handful of concerns, such as noise and parking flow. But those concerns are dwarfed by the group’s earlier opposition and should be able to be resolved, he said.

City Planner Jonas Ionin said he expects virtually no opposition to the current project. However, he said, the new project is less in The City’s best interest because it does not provide infill housing, as the Planning Commission had initially hoped it would.

“Filling in that area with housing would have been the preferred option,” Ionin said. “However, the Planning Department and The City is limited in how much they can influence a property owner to develop their property.”

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Katie Worth

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