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Friday, September 17, 2021

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UncategorizedTom's Town: Back on the Chain Game

Tom’s Town: Back on the Chain Game

By Tom Temprano

We’re back on the chain/not-chain game of AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s attempted pharmacy on Castro Street. I wrote about the controversy in detail in a previous Tom’s Town and the saga continued late into the night at City Hall this past Wednesday, where a Board of Appeals hearing about the decision to designate AHF’s proposed pharmacy a non-formula retail use brought together a whole slew of opposition.

48hillstomstownThose in attendance who cried “Chain” included everyone from small business owning veterans of the successful Jack Spade fight to San Francisco-based HIV/AIDS service providers who were none too happy with the LA-based mega nonprofit trying to gain a foothold in the heart of the Castro.

AHF, for its part, acknowledged that it’s moving an existing pharmacy, which is currently on Church Street, to a new location and that the agency is changing the name from “AHF Pharmacy” to “Castro Pharmacy” specifically to avoid formula retail restrictions and the conditional use process that comes with them.

To this Andrea Aiello, Executive Director of the Castro/Upper Market CBD, one of the appellants, appropriately asked, “Would we allow McDonald’s in if they called themselves Castro Hamburger?”

Touché, Andrea, touché! Big Stros, Chicken StroNuggets and StroFlurrys for all!

Supervisor Scott Wiener echoed the sentiments of the appellants and others who spoke out during comment in a letter he issued stating that last minute name switch didn’t change the fact that AHF is behind the project and that it was “clearly formula retail.” The letter also pointed out that if this project is allowed to avoid the formula retail process it could expose a loophole and give a greenlight to other corporations to slap a new name on their chains.

It should be noted that Supervisor Wiener’s letter didn’t support or oppose the project itself but was solely about whether or not it was formula retail – an important distinction should AHF have to go through a conditional use process, which could ultimately end up at the Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Appeals members decided that they didn’t have enough information to make a ruling and asked that AHF come back with more proof of its non-chain ways at a new hearing on August 20th at 5pm. Given that this past hearing wasn’t over until 11pm, I suggest you grab a StroRib on the way over to sate yourself for what could well be another late night.

Final San Francisco election results are in and the Campos-Chiu contest is even closer than we had previously though. Campos came in less than 4% behind Chiu in the closely fought/heavily spent upon June Primary to succeed Tom Ammiano, and ended up beating him handily in Supervisor District’s 8,9 and 5 and was only 80 votes away from overtaking him in District 11 as well. While expanding into other parts of the city that he didn’t do fare as well in will clearly be a priority for Campos, I wouldn’t be surprised if far higher turnout in those progressive districts spurred on by a slew of housing-related ballot initiatives did wonders and pushed him over the top in the battle of the Davids this November.

Getting old IS for sissies, thanks to the amazing folks putting on this weekend’s 3rd Annual Howard Grayson LGBT Elder Life Conference. Up until recently, little attention was paid to the unique needs of aging members of the queer community but a series of events – from the creation of the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force to this amazing community-based educational conference — have stepped in to fill an important information void about what we folks need later in life.

This year’s Grayson Conference is being held in remembrance of Jazzie Collins, one of the fiercest activists I’ve ever known, who passed away this past year. They’ll be doing her proud with a series of senior housing and healthcare panels as well as a screening of the Screaming Queens documentary and Q&A with the director and Felicia Flames. The conference is free and will be held this Saturday at the LGBT Center from 10-4pm. More info here.

Having the spent the better part of the past two weeks way under the weather I’d like to take a moment to thank the fine folks at Turtle Tower for helping me to finally get over it. Seriously, though, if you think you’ve had pho but haven’t made it to TT (it doesn’t hurt that we share the same initials either), think again. I must have buried my face in their broth five times since late May, and since I hardly have the time to rest and think Emergen-C is vile, I blame my ultimate recovery solely on their noodles.


1)     The Howard Grayson LGBT Elder Life Conference! All of the info is above but you get free food and beverages, a movie and education all in one spot. Have fun and feel like you did something useful with your Saturday for once!

2)     Plaza 16 Festival. Saturday from 1-4pm at 16th and Mission. Don’t let developers tell you what a neighborhood should or shouldn’t look, come celebrate our plaza with the amazing neighbors that are already there. This festival will feature performances, art, food and folks who are understandably unhappy about the proposed luxury housing makeover that the plaza is slated for.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Thanks Tom! One more point on the AHF/formula retail issue — so the loophole in the current chain store ordinance, the one that allows AHF to change it’s name and suddenly not be considered formula retail, sort of makes the law meaningless, right? If McDonald’s can just plop down a Castro Burger and not have to go through any public approval process, what’s the point of having the formula retail law at all?

    Well, it’s a good thing our representatives have heard the call for reform, and there are proposals on the table to update the ordinance. But wait! The Planning Department is pushing *not* to close the loophole, but instead to codify it into practice. They issued a recommendation last month in which they said that “considering corporate ownership would be too challenging and could have unintended consequences.” (Source: http://missionlocal.org/2014/05/formula-retail-report-pleases-all-satisfies-none/)

    So if the Planning Department’s recommendation carries the day, we’ll have no recourse to challenge major corporate offshoots from moving into our neighborhoods — this, after cases like Jack Spade and AHF show that these issues matter to the community. Let’s make sure our reps listen!

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