The President of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Tom Ammiano, is making it tough for stores with big box formats to barge into the City By The Bay. We told the story recently of the Visitacion Valley, where Home Depot tried to pick the lock on property that had once been a lock factory. The Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance on thet parcel restricting the size of any store footprint to 65,000 s.f., and that was all it took to lock out the crew from Atlanta. Now Home Depot is trying to wedge a 140,000 s.f. store into the Bayview Hunter’s Point neighborhood.Ammiano has now introduced legislation that would require all stores larger than 50,000 s.f. to get a special permit (condition use is the technical term). Such conditional uses can only be approved by the Planning Commission, whose members are appointed by the Mayor. A conditional use permit is not a road block to a superstore, but it does give the city more control over the conditions under which a store would enter, and it gives the Commission more leeway to say no to a plan. “This is basically about leverage,” Ammiano told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We need to know that the city is getting the best deal when stores like Home Depot come courting.” Leaders of the nearby Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center have been very blunt in their opposition to Home Depot. “What we’re worried about is that Home Depot is going to suck the life out of existing small businesses,” said Joe Smooke of the center.
So far, Home Depot has a terrible batting average in San Francisco. The company has tried on several occasions to break into a neighborhood, only to be repelled. Right now, there is still no Home Depot in San Francisco. The Ammiano plan, by the way, exempts supermarkets from the conditional use size cap. Many communities have gone beyond Ammiano and imposed strict size caps, not allowing any special permits or construction above the cap. If Ammiano really wants leverage, its time for San Francisco to impose a dimensional limit on the first floor of retail stores.