Mission and 23rd streets in San Francisco's Mission District.

When clothing retailer Jack Spade tried to open a store in San Francisco’s Mission District last year, many local merchants and residents revolted. The company eventually dropped its plan to open in the neighborhood, but the battle rekindled a perennial debate over how the city should define and regulate chain stores. On July 17, the city’s Planning Commission is set to consider new rules for chains, which supporters say will reduce red tape and stimulate the economy. Opponents contend it will weaken existing restrictions, threatening neighborhood character.

John Rahaim, director of the San Francisco Planning Department
Eric Mar, San Francisco supervisor representing District 1
Dee Dee Workman, director of public policy with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
Kathleen Dooley, commissioner with the San Francisco Small Business Commission and president of the North Beach Business Association

  • Frank

    How can corporate chains stimulate the local economy when they send their profits out of San Francisco? The corporate chains are parasites, seeking profit only and doing damage everywhere they go. They seek to undermine the democratic process however they can to achieve their unethical purpose.

    Alex Carey explains the history of corporate domination:

    • erictremont

      It is not as simple as you imagine. For example, large chains are more likely to offer their workers health insurance benefits than small firms.

    • geraldfnord

      Nature, as Kropotkin observed, tend to preclude true parasites, and though corporations (and many people) care only about profit, if comparative profit can be made in ways benefitting people, they’ll pursue them. Corporations _are_, often, much like Philip Dick’s sociopathic androids, but like the androids they were made for reasons with which many people would agree, and we shouldn’t be blind to that…otherwise, among other problems, since many others like more of what they do than we, or like some portion of it much better, their failure to back us will be mysterious and frustrating, the stuff f which dictatorial vanguard parties were made.

      I’m probably much more in agreement with you than in dis-; I objected because I think you were venturing into straw-man territory.

      • ES Trader

        Societies that determine products for citizens instead of allowing for freedom of choice are the parasites………..forgotten U.S.S.R., the Berlin Wall already?

    • MKauder

      Frank — this statements reeks of ignorance and economic illiteracy. Where profits are “sent” has little to do with economic stimulation. What kind of damage are these chains doing — providing high quality products at competitive prices? No one is forcing you to buy McDonald’s burgers but I like them and want the freedom to buy them.

    • ES Trader

      The democratic process means individuals have free choice to choose and believe me San Francisco and Marin would benefit from high quality chain like Costco. High quality products, wild caught salmon, large wine selection and cheaper gasoline.

      So who profits? Small business? The few owners of the small business and the few employees? How about the majority of people who may benefit more from products and services that a chain like Costco, Chipotle or Starbucks offers ?

      Operate society for the benefit of a few at the expense of the majority is socialism or totalitarian is it not ?

    • JuniorWoodpecker

      I don’t totally disagree with Frank about profits accruing to corporate headquarters that are elsewhere. Still I have to ask aren’t the local employees of chain stores getting paid? Don’t contractors who build and remodel their facilities make a profit? As do local route men and delivery truck drivers? Etc., etc.?

  • AW

    I live in the Mission Dolores neighborhood where, in the past year, we have been denied a Starbucks, a Chipotle, and the Jack Spade store all of which were going to move into abandoned buildings. The denials were made saying that there were chain stores that would hurt local “mom & pop” stores, but in each case it was obvious that the people spearheading the effort to deny the new stores were those that would have been direct competitors. This reeks of protectionism to me and I fail to see how it doesn’t violate AntiTrust Laws. We all know that if a Starbucks tried to keep another coffee shop from opening that everyone would be saying that it was a direct AntiTrust violation.
    Please allow me, the consumer, the freedom to choose which merchant I use. If the “mom & pop” store has a good product, then what do they have to worry about?

    • geraldfnord

      It is possible for something that will net-damage a population will be noticed first and pursued most vigourously by those whom it would hurt first and/or most. Private and particular interest does not _preclude_ public good, though it does merit a sceptical eye.

    • ES Trader

      U R right, it hurts consumers. I don’t want to see The City resembling the suburbs but consumers are hurt both economically and general quality of life.

      SF Costco does not offer gas for example and there is only one for the entire City that offers high quality products like wild caught fresh salmon and 24 packs of Heineken !

  • geraldfnord

    We can’t stop all change and shouldn’t try to stop it all, but we shouldn’t be blind to the fact that once a neighbourhood’s at-least-seemingly unique character and culture were destroyed, even the Most Holy Inisible Hand can’t return tem.

  • Don

    While a lot of stores like coffee shops only generally have 1 or 2 locations, they all carry only a few coffee beans for example. Ritual, blue bottle, verve etc. At some point isn’t this just a backdoor franchise system? People have come to expect these types of coffee. How is this not what law is trying to prevent? How do the regulations approach this type of issue?

    • MKauder

      Maybe the law shouldn’t try to determine what kind of coffee we want to drink!!

  • cory

    As someone who has run a small business in SF for 19 years it is harder to keep up with competition in what I feel is a hostile small business environment. Large chains, proposed astronomical minimum wage increases, weights & measures tax, license for everything. alarms. cash registers. No parking. How can a business work in the future with a no waste initiative to drop one day. Where does all our money go? Soon mom and pops will only be able to afford to work for themselves so they will leave and what minute amount of interesting things left in sf will all go the way of some lousy, poorly run city program that sells the same thing all over. Employees should be paid more but where is the extra money come from when the city squeezes all of our margins. SF, no mater what anyone says is small business unfriendly.

    • Robert Thomas

      On the other hand, it shows admirable initiative and entrepreneurialism to up-vote one’s own post.

  • MKauder

    If chain stores are so “evil” and suck the life out of the city as many of these letters imply, why do customers use them? I think it is arrogant of people like Frank, to want to deny others to buy high quality products at a reasonable price? No one is forcing customers to shop, let them make the choices. Keep local zoning ordinances to maintain the architecture and look and feel of neighborhoods, but let consumers decide where they want to buy and what they want to buy

  • ES Trader

    While I don’t want to see The City or Marin lose its unique charm, a blanket policy of excluding chains only hurts local consumers. Local businesses cannot provide all the services and products that makes life convenient and better.

    San Francisco residents could buy cheaper gas at Costco than at local gas station for example. I don’t work or own Costco stock but Marin County residents would benefit having one for its high quality.

    • MKauder

      Marin County has a Costco, in Novato, thank you.

      • ES Trader

        Real convenient if you live in Sausalito, Tiburon or Mill Valley isn’t it? And Novato Costco does not have gasoline !

        • MKauder

          Good point! Though the Tiburon, Mill Valley and Sausalito crowd is even more opposed to chain stores than the SF crowd. Remember, they voted against BART to keep the rif-raf out!!

          • ES Trader

            I fill up at Costco gas every Sat AM, get cat litter, high quality dog & cat food(chicken 1st ingredient) fresh Alaskan or Copper Riv wild salmon, fresh raspberries/strawberries/bananas/English cukes/pineapple, organic milk, organic red wine (low sulfites), other organic products, 24 pack of Heineken, fresh cut flowers for GF( 18 roses $19.99 or stargazer lilies $8.99, 100% chicken treats for my dogs, large dog bed $20,prescription Rx < than Wags or CVS or Kaiser, tires(Michelin), drive up to tire bay for tire pressure w/ nitrogen by tire service person e5tc etc.

            If you try it believe me you get hooked !

            Costco employees seem very content w/job, see same ones for last 10 years and nearly as customer service oriented as Nordstrom's.

            Much of culture is a reflection of Jim Sinegal, ex CEO and founder's philosophy and values regarding retailing, , employees and value for customers money.

            I'm a vegetarian again for the past 3 years but they have a great rotisserie chicken for $4.99 and their meat selection is 1st rate.

            Southern Marin'ers are missing good value !

  • darqmyth

    Why is employment diversity left out of this discussion. How many Blacks or Hispanics do you see employed in, since it was mentioned, North Beach as compared to Macy’s in Union Square. Just wondering? When you talk about the character of a city aren’t the people in the city part of that character. If you can’t find employment in your city, are you really fully part of that city’s character.

  • Chemist150

    The great thing about chain stores is market research. Why should I be forced to buy the brown chalk laden “mocha” from some wannabe coffee shop when Starbucks knows what I like.

    The bad thing about chain stores is the lack of options because they only carry that one best selling item when people are too stupid to know that something else is better. I used to go to Target but never more. They destroyed selection for their groceries to be like Walmart. Because of this, when I want furniture, I go to a furniture store. When I want appliances, I check out appliance stores.

  • Mjhmjh

    Sounds to me like nimbyism by another name.

  • erictremont

    Parts of the S.F. Mission district are very nice, and even some of the gritty neighborhoods have a certain kind of charm. But some of the Mission neighborhoods (e.g., 16th and Mission) are still in terrible shape, and it is a fantasy to believe that keeping out chain stores are somehow going to make them better.

  • Robert Thomas

    It’s interesting to note that Supervisor Mar invoked Borders Books when talking about chains that put pressure on local retailers.

    Of course, Borders was forced out of business by the national chain retailers, several hundreds (surely) to which San Francisco is made comfortable host. I speak of the mobile retailers: UPS, Federal Express and USPS, from which vocal “Mom and Pop” store supporters in The City routinely receive merchandise throughout the week.

  • Robert Thomas

    The last (only, really) computer-based game I enjoyed playing was SimCity 2000, fifteen years ago.

    For a time, my friends and I played a leisurely variation where we were assigned a random real world city and competed with one another to increase “health and vitality” index of the metropolis over a week or a month of play.

    The only cities we started with that we eventually left out of the pool were Venice and San Francisco. After any of us drew either of these two, the only result was “crash and burn”. Playing SimCity with these lovely cities as template was like putting a loaded pistol to one’s own head.

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