Fresh & Easy Approved, With Beer and Wine Only

Fresh & Easy will move in the former DeLano's supermarket location

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Fresh & Easy will open a supermarket on South Van Ness Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets, but will only be able to sell beer and wine. The Planning Commission approved the project in a 4-3 vote on Thursday, with several conditions.

“This activates a site that has been vacant and blighted for a long time,” said Commissioner Michael Antonini. The site has been vacant since 2010, when Delano’s supermarket moved out. Before Delano’s, Cala/Bell Markets operated a supermarket at the site from 1959 to the early 2000s.

“I think this is going to improve the area a lot, as well as all the other improvements made to the neighborhood,” Antonini added.

The issue that dominated most of the meeting was the sale of alcohol. In the end, the commission approved only a beer and wine license.

Commissioners were especially concerned with the supermarket’s self-checkout system.

Bruce Lee Livingston, executive director and CEO of the organization Alcohol Justice, spoke up against the self-checkout, explaining that it made it too easy for minors to buy alcohol.

While there is an alarm system that notifies store employees when an unauthorized person is trying to purchase alcohol, the commission thought this was insufficient.

The project sponsor disagreed, but the commission stood firm, saying the project would only be approved if the company had one check-out station for alcohol purchases that will be staffed by a human being.

“They negotiated with Fresh & Easy in front of us while the community had to remain mute,” Livingston said of the lengthy back-and-forth.

This is a victory for the community, Livingston said, but he is still worried about the sale of liquor.

“[Fresh & Easy] should not have been allowed an alcohol license. It is completely against [what] the law was trying to establish,” Livingston said, referring to a moratorium on liquor licenses in the Mission.

A letter from the Planning Department to Grocery Outlet, Inc., in September 2010 states, “in the event that any such establishment ceases to operate or discontinues operation for 30 days or longer as set forth in state law, such use shall be deemed abandoned and as an existing non-conforming use may not be reestablished per Planning Code Section 183.”

“The liquor license by Delano’s was not used for 30 days, so the use of the state ABC license was deemed abandoned by the City,” Livingston said.

“But today, the planning staff said that when the liquor license was sold from Delano’s to Fresh & Easy, that it could be used because Fresh & Easy is formula retail and not a grocery store, even though Delano’s was a grocery store.

“The letter of the law on the Mission Alcoholic Beverage Special District is willfully being ignored … when the liquor license should have been denied,” Livingston said.

In a letter to the Planning Department, project sponsor Lawrence Badiner, an urban planner, listed the benefits Fresh & Easy would bring to the site. He wrote that it would provide much-needed food service in the Mission District, as “there is a lack of moderately priced basic goods and healthy convenience foods.”

Some commissioners were concerned about the store’s proximity to other neighborhood-serving markets.

“There are a lot of grocery stores in the neighborhood. There are eight within three blocks,” said Cindy Wu, the commission’s vice president.

Wu said that she would like to protect local businesses, citing Duc Loi supermarket on 18th and Mission as an example of a store that serves the same function as Fresh & Easy.

Fresh & Easy will also allow nearby businesses to use its parking lot, the sponsor wrote, but the letter did not state which businesses would be allowed to share the lot.

The letter also stated that Fresh & Easy would provide 25 to 30 permanent jobs.

The store will work with Arriba Juntos, a nonprofit employment and training organization, to recruit employees from the neighborhood. The company has partnered with other local nonprofits to staff its Bayview, Portola and Richmond stores.

At the meeting, Fresh & Easy’s sponsor said that the store aims to hire 50 percent of its staff from the neighborhood. It’s not clear, however, how the store will work toward those goals.

The Planning Commission found this lack of information to be “disconcerting,” but motioned the proposal forward under the condition that the supermarket work with Arriba Juntos to meet a goal of 100 percent local hires, and report back on these numbers in one year.

9 Comments

  1. bob

    These NIMBYs drive me crazy… glad the new store is coming.

  2. jlsf

    This is fantastic news. It might not be perfect, but it’s FAR better than nothing and the neighborhood needs a grocery store.

  3. SFSquee

    I can’t believe the vote was 4-3. An old building that housed a grocery store replaces a slightly updated building with a smaller grocery store and the planning commission expresses concern that there will be grocery store there. Also DeLano’s sold hard alcohol. The alcohol sales were a fake issue hoping that Fresh and Easy would walk away and YAAAAAYYY! we’d have have another abandon building in SF rather than any evil outsider. If alcohol sales are such a concern start going after the sketchy corner markets that DO sell to minors regularly.

  4. sfmissionman

    In the Mission, scratch below the surface, and it’s all about gentrification. Never mind that Cala/Ralph’s/Delano’s had been there for decades. When it went out, it was a “good” thing because it was a set back for the gentrifiers. Fresh and Easy will likely serve the gentrifiers more than Latinos, so it is “bad.” Like it or not, that’s the mindset. Too bad that inevitable change in the neighborhood can’t be seen in a broader context. No, the slum of the past several decades will not endure. The third world immediate past is being swept aside by the first world future in all of SF. Elsewhere in CA it’s going the other way. This kind of change can be fought and delayed, but in the end, it’s very difficult to prevent for very long.

  5. Carlos

    I live 1.5 blocks away and have been waiting for something to open up for so long. Im glad that Fresh and Easy is coming soon. Why are commisssioners so obsessed with keeping buildings empty.

  6. Carlos

    If Bruce Lee Livingston is so concerned about peolpe under 21 obtainig obtainig alcohol then he should go stand outside the many corner liquor stores that sell alcohol to minors without a shame.

  7. Reality Checker

    But what about the right of their workers to unionize? Other than that, who cares? Chumps will go to chain stores, as they went to DeLano’s — supposedly, large stores can buy bulk lots and thus give lower prices, but DeLano’s were consistently higher than the average corner store. We called their rip-offs precios Del Ano.

  8. Mazzy

    It is GREAT for the neighborhood and the vote should have been unanimous. Yes a new store replacing and empty store. DUH. I’ve levied in the Mission for 21 years and I’m a native. Neighborhoods have allays evolved. Before the Mission was heavily a latin are it was Irish. The Fillmore was primarily Jewish until WW2. Potrero Hill and parts of the Richmond were Russian. Clement Street and Irving Street as late as the 1980s were not heavily Asian and Daly City was not Philipean until the late 70s and 80s.

  9. tessa

    In These Times has a very interesting article about this, with much more background on Tesco:
    http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/12915/fresh_easy_european_companies_and_u.s._labor_relations

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