Petco opponents raise stakes in San Francisco land-use battle 

Just four weeks after Petco filed a permit to open in the Richmond district, an outright ban that would block the pet-supply chain store was proposed Tuesday.

The chain store’s effort has turned into the latest heated land-use battle in San Francisco, whose residents have earned a reputation for putting up fierce fights against big-name chains, including Starbucks and American Apparel.

Despite outspoken opposition, Petco applied for a permit Feb. 15 to open up a location at 5411 Geary St. near 18th Avenue, formerly a Walgreens site.

Supervisor Eric Mar, whose district includes the area where Petco wants to do business, said he was disappointed the chain went ahead and applied for the permit, and he now wants to shut them out completely. Mar introduced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit all chain pet-supply stores from opening along Geary Boulevard between 14th and 28th avenues.

The legislation, Mar said, is “to protect the several small mom-and-pop pet-supply businesses already in the neighborhood.”

Petco denies the charge that their store opening would have an adverse impact on the other pet stores and maintain it would also help turn around “a distressed retail district,” said Petco spokesman Kevin Whalen, who called Mar’s legislation “surprising.”

“We would be one [pet supply] store among five others,” Whalen said. “We think there’s lots of room in the market.”

Petco has more than 1,000 store locations in 50 states, including two in San Francisco.

John Todgya, who owns B&B Pet Supplies, which is near the proposed location, supports the ban. “It is certainly a shot across the bow to any big chain store who wants to infiltrate community merchant corridors,” Todgya said.

Tough restrictions on chain stores began several years ago.

In 2004, The City’s first ban on chain stores — described as businesses with more than 10 locations nationwide — was enacted in Hayes Valley by the Board of Supervisors. A North Beach ban followed a year later.

Subsequently, voters approved a measure requiring chain stores looking to open for business in neighborhood commercial areas to go through special permitting that includes an appeals process allowing the Board of Supervisors to vote on whether to grant a permit, known as a conditional-use permit.


Battle of the brands

City’s recent chain-store set-tos:

2009: Pet Food Express applies for permit to open in a storefront vacated by Blockbuster Video on Lombard and Divisadero streets. Planning Commission rejects the application amid opposition from nearby pet-shop owners.

2009: American Apparel applies for permit to open in the Mission, but Planning Commission rejects application. Hundreds of residents speak out against it.

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