Supervisor’s plan to help grocery stores clears hurdle 

A plan to reverse the trend of major supermarkets leaving The City received the blessing of the Small Business Commission this week.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd is proposing an ordinance to help keep full-service grocery stores from leaving San Francisco in the wake of two Albertsons stores recently closing in The City and Cala Foods also vacating some of its locations. The supervisor’s proposed bill would remove grocery stores from The City’s definition of formula retail, which limits businesses with 11 or more locations from opening in certain neighborhoods in San Francisco or forcing them to go through difficult zoning conditions in others.

Jordanna Thigpen, the president of the Small Business Commission, said the commissioners unanimously supported Elsbernd’s ordinance after it was presented to them Monday by the supervisor, despite the fact that it seems counterintuitive for small businesses to support formula retail or chain stores.

"On its face, it looks like it would be bad for small businesses, but we don’t exist in a vacuum," Thigpen said. "You need a mix for a healthy economy and a healthy city. You need a mix of small and large businesses."

The point of the ordinance, which still has to be heard by the Planning Commission before it can be voted on by the Board of Supervisors, is to encourage supermarkets to reopen in buildings vacated by Cala Foods and Albertsons by making the permitting process easier for them and to also allow grocery stores to open up in neighborhoods that have a ban on formula retail.

"The point is to keep it grocery and your permit process will be easier," Elsbernd said. "This is to prevent a big grocery store from closing and becoming six nail salons or a sporting goods store."

While some residents who live near a vacated Albertsons near Alemany Boulevard support the supervisor’s proposal, others are not as happy. Gizelle Quezada, who used to shop at the Alemany location, said the ordinance does not directly help the communities that have already lost a supermarket and other low-income communities that have never had a full-service market.

"We are kind of a little bit on the tired side with presenting our issues and nothing is happening," Quezada said. "I really do feel something needs to be done more effectively."

sfarooq@examiner.com

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