300 Ivy Welcomes Ground Floor Shops

The commercial/retail spaces at 300 Ivy in Hayes Valley are transforming into bustling bursts of retail activity! Above the 63 homes of 300 Ivy are three retail/commercial spaces. Two of them are already occupied, with the corner location currently empty as of this writing (August 2014).

The restaurant space is home to Monsieur Benjamin by James-Beard-award-winning Chef Corey Lee. The restaurant describes itself as, “a modern restaurant and bar in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley that is inspired by the great Parisian bistro culture and traditions of French cooking.” As noted by Food and Wine, “Monsieur Benjamin will stay open till 1 a.m., serving the kind of food that a chef rigorously trained in the French system, like Lee, might cook for friends on his night off.”

Immediately next door to Monsieur Benjamin is the made-to-measure men’s clothing shop of  Klein, Epstein, & Parker. The menswear boutique offers, “high-quality made-to-measure fashion items like jackets, pants, suits and shirts. Personalized fashion that looks AND feels great.” towards a vision where they “democratize made-to-measure fashion! Liberate men, giving them a chance to wear what they want and look and feel great. Escape the horror of pre-canned, off the rack, over-priced and mass-produced “stuff?.”

What are your thoughts about these two new additions to Hayes Valley? Have you had a chance to eat at Monsieur Benjamin yet or pick yourself up some snazzy threads from Klein, Epstein & Parker (which sounds more like a law firm than a clothing store?!)? We’d love to hear your thoughts, or any scoop you have about the final initial retail tenant. Leave us a comment or get in touch via FaceBook or Twitter.

Whole Foods on Market Street opening November 6

This morning, like the grocery geeks we are, Matt and I took a tour of San Francisco’s newest Whole Foods, opening next Wednesday, November 6. It’s located at 2001 Market Street @ Dolores, the site of the former S&C Ford dealership.

Photo tour (click on any image for a larger version/slideshow):

A few nuts & bolts first…

Number of Whole Foods Markets in San Francisco: 7

Approximate square footage of new store: 27,000

Number of parking spaces for the store: 63

Number of those that are for electric cars: 2

Hours of operation: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm every day

Official opening day/bread-breaking: November 6, 9:45 am (They don’t cut ribbons, they break bread. Cool, huh?)

While the Safeway across the street continues quaking in its staid corporate boots, I’ll describe some of the unique features of the new Whole Foods.

Just to the left of the main entrance is a two-seat shoeshine stand, operated by a local vendor called A Shine & Co., adjacent to a wall of what our tour guide called “man products.” By which she meant “men’s grooming stuff,” like shaving gear and skin care. The shoe shine stand will be open daily until about 6:00 pm.

Now for some unique-to-this-store food items. Oh, Whole Foods, you had me at sausage on a stick, made in house and available in the grab-and-go section. There will also be locally made gelato with flavors like Blue Bottle Coffee (Ok, you had me at sausage on a stick AND Blue Bottle Coffee gelato). The bakery will put out mini foccacia in a variety of flavors daily.

Every Whole Foods has a hot bar, but this one amps it up with an entire section of the hot bar with all Paleo foods. If you’re throwing a cheese tasting party and you need 250 kinds of cheese from around the world, they’ve got you covered. They’ll also sell honeycomb from Steve’s Bees in Orinda and tell those of us who are unfamiliar with honeycomb how to pair it with cheese. Who knew?

Now I’ve got to bust on Whole Foods a little bit for a cake with a big ol’ carbon footprint. They’re selling cakes called Baum cakes and they’re flying them in from Denver. DENVER. That’s far away from San Francisco, even though a layer cake cooked in a rotisserie sounds really damn cool.

Let’s Repeal the Ghetto Tax

555 Fulton was approved by the Planning Commission last week. It contains a ground-floor grocery that could eliminate the “ghetto grocery tax” for at least one neighborhood. What will the Board of Supervisors do?

At issue is the developer’s desire for a ground-floor grocery store. The affluent of San Francisco have banned “formula-retail” chain stores, so a variance/exception will be required if there is to be a grocery store at the development.

While I applaud the spirit of a formula-retail ban (I voted for it in 2008, I think), the fact that we are even debating banning a grocery store from an economically poor neighborhood appalls me!

(site/neighborhood photos taken in October of 2013, click any image for a larger version or slideshow):

Poverty and Access to Basic Services:

This is a social justice issue. We aren’t talking about whether or not another coffee shop should open in the Castro, or whether or not we should allow another CVS when a Walgreen’s is almost right across the street. The recent approval of a CVS in the Castro (near 4 or 5 other chain drug-stores) while a proposed nearby Starbucks was denied (because it was near 4 or 5 other coffee shops) shows the rather subjective enforcement of our formula-retail ban.

What we are deciding is whether we can open a grocery store in a historically underserved and economically poor neighborhood. There are no “independent” grocery stores (i.e., non-chain and therefore allowed in the space) that are interested in the space. One of those independents (Andronico’s) is struggling, and their grocery costs are (in my experience) more expensive than Whole Foods. So the idea that there is a viable independent grocery store that wants this space but can’t have it is a blatant falsehood.

I also know that the homes above the grocery store will be expensive. New housing in San Francisco is expensive, and the reasons for that are far too many and too long to be addressed here. But regardless of the cost of the homes above it, a grocery store at 555 Fulton will be a source for reasonably-priced groceries (including fresh fruit and produce) for all of the surrounding neighborhood(s).

When deciding whether or not to approve 555 Fulton, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has a chance to repeal the ghetto grocery tax for at least one neighborhood. I believe that they should. If you aren’t familiar with it, the “ghetto tax” is a term that refers to the fact that the urban poor almost always pay more than wealthier citizens for basic goods and services. Why? Because being economically poor doesn’t suck enough….

For example, a 2006 report by the Brookings Institute found that:

Grocery stores in lower income neighborhoods tend to be smaller and more expensive than in higher income neighborhoods. The average grocery store in our sample of 2,384 lower income neighborhoods is 2.5 times smaller than the average grocery store in a higher income neighborhood. Also, there is about one mid- or large-sized grocer for every 69,055 residents in lower income neighborhoods, half the availability found in other neighborhoods. Access to only small grocery stores results in higher food prices for lower income shoppers. In particular, over 67 percent of the same food products in our sample of 132 different products are more expensive in small grocery stores than in larger grocery stores.

Is 555 Fulton in Hayes Valley (wealthy, white) or Western Addition (not-wealthy, not-white)?

The 555 Fulton site is located on the edge of the Western Addition and Hayes Valley. On a real estate map, the property is located in Hayes Valley, although it is a block away from SFAR’s definition of Western Addition. Various city groups map various areas differently, as I’ve written about before. While it may fall in Hayes Valley on a real estate map, the site is across from several housing projects, and the immediate area has a very different feel from the “Hayes Valley” of Patricia’s Green. It is, in short, an economically poor area.

According to a SF Planning 2011 document, in the Western Addition 14% of the residents live in poverty, and the annual household income is about $54,000. According to the same document, the average annual household income in San Francisco is just over $70,000 and the poverty rate across the city is 11%.

About Our Formula-Retail Ban:

From the Institute for Self-Reliance comes a pretty brief summary of our policy that was enacted in 2004 and strengthened by ballot measure in 2008.

Since 2004, San Francisco has restricted formula retail and restaurant uses.

Throughout most of the city, including all of San Francisco’s Neighborhood Commercial Districts, formula retail stores and restaurants are considered conditional uses. This means they must be approved by the Planning Commission on a case-by-case basis.

The law specifies that the Planning Commission must consider the following factors when deciding whether to approve a formula business:

  • the existing concentration of formula retail businesses within the neighborhood,
  • whether similar goods or services are already available within the area,
  • the compatibility of the proposed business with the character of the neighborhood,
  • retail vacancy rates in the area, and
  • the balance of neighborhood-serving versus citywide or regional-serving businesses.

The city’s regulations define a formula retail use as an establishment that shares common features, such as a standardized array of merchandise, trademark, architecture, and décor, with at least 11 other establishments in the United States. The term “retail use? includes both stores and restaurants.

Formula uses are prohibited entirely in a few neighborhoods, including North Beach and Hayes-Gough.

What are your thoughts on 555 Fulton?

Hayes Valley’s Newest Container Building

If you are a long time reader, you are no doubt aware that we are big fans of Hayes Valley and Patricia’s Green. What was once unhospitiable urban terrain, home to freeway off-ramps is now a bustling and vibrant urban destination. The folks at Proxy are behind the temporary installation/conversion of shipping containers on empty lots in the neighborhood that are awaiting development.

Newest container building in Hayes Valley

The shipping containers are currently home to a Beer Garden, Smitten (awesome!) and a Ritual Coffee location. Work has been taking place over the last several weeks on a new shipping container business, located at roughly 489 Hayes. What sets this shipping container apart from the other businesses, though, is that this shipping container is actually 3 containers that have been welded together vertically. Shipping container skyscrapers, be still a hipsters heart!

I have no idea what business will be the lucky recipient of this really cool space, but it has been fun to watch the work progress on the job site over the past couple of weeks. The proxy site doesn’t list any “coming-soon” businesses, but the project contact for the building site is also listed on the proxy website, so I’m sure that they have had a hand in this Hayes Valley project. Looking at the space, it seems (duh) incredibly vertical, so I’m not sure if the plan is for office space, the layout and flow don’t seem particularly hospitable to a retail site, but perhaps the developers have some evil-genius plan up their sleeves?

Do you have any tips about what is happening at this Hayes Valley construction site? If so, please leave a comment below or get in touch via email/twitter/phone/smoke-signals. We’d love to hear what the planned use for this vertical shipping container turned skyscraper shall be.


Divisadero Street – from Zero to Infinity

One of the things I love about San Francisco neighborhoods are how wildly they vary. Say what you will about San Francisco, our neighborhoods each have a unique character, charm, and style. And while The Marina might feel like it is a thousand miles away from the Western Addition, they both have Divisadero Street in common. I’ve been wanting to drive some San Francisco streets from start to finish (or finish to start) to give you a sense of how much things can change along one street in just a few blocks.

This morning I tackled Divisadero Street, which starts in the Buena Vista/Ashbury Heights neighborhood – that’s district 5F if you are playing along at home with a SFAR MLS map – and ends at Marina Boulevard in the Marina District.


Divisadero Street runs through or touches the border of all of the following neighborhoods (I’m going to go in the order you see in the video, which actually starts at the end of Divisadero and works back to the zero block). If you are curious about learning more about any of the neighborhoods, follow the link, I’ve made videos for many (but not all) of them:

I really enjoyed making this first video of a street in San Francisco from start to finish. What other streets would you be interested in seeing from beginning to end? I’ve definitely got Folsom street on the list, but I’m sure there are plenty of other streets that would make for a fun video. I hope you enjoy watching the video, feel free to leave your comments, critiques, and suggestions below.