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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Formula Retail: Six Former Supes Claim Planning Department Proposal Would Be Illegal

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge "Formula Retail" has negative connotations in this city...
  • "Formula Retail" has negative connotations in this city...

In a blast from the political past, six members of the "Class of 2000" Board of Supervisors have penned a letter to the city's Planning Commission.

And they are not pleased.

Former Supes Matt Gonzalez, Chris Daly, Tony Hall, Sophie Maxwell, Jake McGoldrick, and Aaron Peskin yesterday sent a succinct missive regarding possible changes to the decade-old ordinance limiting formula retail stores from pervading San Francisco.

This is a complicated and controversial subject.

But, in a nutshell, the city considers a business with 11 or more outlets to be "formula retail" and subject to a far greater degree of scrutiny. That process varies from neighborhood to neighborhood; putting a chain store into a spot on Bayshore Boulevard is not akin to trying to shoehorn a Starbucks into North Beach.

In any event, the Planning Commission will today consider the recommendations of Planning Department staff to alter Gonzalez's legislation, and loosen the definition of "formula retail" from 11 establishments to 20.

Gonzalez and his colleagues are "deeply troubled" by this proposal "as it is without any rational justification."

See Also: Pet Food Express Attempts to be the Most Adorable Chain Store In Town

But, even more than that, Gonzalez et al. claim the Planning Department's attempts to alter the formula of the Formula Retail ordinance may not be entirely legal.

In 2006, 58 percent of San Francisco voters passed Proposition G, the "Small Business Protection Act." Within the text of this measure, "formula retail" was codified as 11 or more outlets -- and, per the electorate, any outfit bigger than that hoping to plant its flag in this city's neighborhoods is subject to a "conditional use process."

That measure "provided that the Conditional Use process could be strengthened by additional controls -- not weakened," reads the letter. To loosen that definition without going back to the people, claim Gonzalez et al., would be illegal.

A copy of this letter was also sent to the City Attorney. His staff, presumably, inveighed upon that legal claim prior to today's noontime Planning Commission meeting. So, it will be interesting to see what comes to pass today.

More when we know more. 

Update: Following a lengthy session, SF Weekly is told the Planning Commission passed two bits of would-be legislation along to the Board of Supervisors: One calling for the threshold to be raised to 20 outlets and one keeping it at 11. 

City officials have reiterated the point of the Gonzalez letter: Raising that threshold may be legally dubious. 

Class of 2000 Letter

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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