Whole Foods could be a glimmer of hope for the Haight 

Neighbors hope that the new Whole Foods Market that recently opened in Upper Haight can bring some positive changes to the area.

For years, the neighborhood was at the top of former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s fix-it list because some residents clashed with people loitering on the sidewalk asking for money. Newsom pushed both for a recent law that prohibits anyone from sitting or standing on the sidewalk, and the eviction of a nearby, 36-year-old recycling center.

Neighbors are saying the new, clean and green Whole Foods in the former Cala Foods building at Haight and Stanyan streets could be part of the solution.

Ted Loewenberg, president of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, told dozens of attendees at the market’s grand opening last week that he hopes people and businesses will “follow the example of what Whole Foods has done to invest in the neighborhood.”

Being the fifth Whole Foods to open in The City with at least two more on the way, the market had a smooth grand opening. There were previous debates about the store’s impact on the area before it scaled back on development plans after the recession.

The market seemed to tailor the event to the neighborhood’s character. It decided to forgo the typical grand opening with several tasting stations and had security guards at the door to ask if people would like to check their bags.

The store’s marketing team leader Jennifer Dobrowolski said that they didn’t offer sampling booths because they wanted to first work out kinks for customers.

“We definitely encourage people to come in and ask for samples,” she said.

One man who came in for the samples was not afraid to inquire. Scott Weaver walked into the store and immediately started asking employees for free samples.

“Usually they have those sample cups out,” Weaver said. Then he sarcastically added: “I wonder why they didn’t do it here.”

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who represents the district and recently introduced a resolution to rescind the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council’s recycling center just a few blocks away, called the market an “anchor institution.”

Mirkarimi said neighbors “don’t always agree” on new development in the area but Whole Foods’ due diligence has paid off.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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