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News + PoliticsCrimeNo, the closure of Whole Foods does not mean the city is...

No, the closure of Whole Foods does not mean the city is headed for collapse

It just might mean that the market for a high-end specialty grocery disappeared with the tech industry abandoning mid-Market and new luxury housing foundering.

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The closure of a Whole Foods store on Market Street is the latest story in the ongoing media-driven saga of San Francisco in Ruins, the crime-plagued city teetering on the brink of failure.

In fact, the closure spurred Sup. Matt Dorsey to make public his plans for a City Charter amendment that would lock in funding for more cops than the city has ever needed.

Sup. Matt Dorsey wants minimum police levels in the City Charter. Photo by Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

That would be the first law-enforcement set-aside, and would set a challenging, possibly dangerous precedent: If San Francisco were to succeed in moving toward restorative justice, if the crime rate continues to fall, the city would still be locked into hiring and paying a high number of officers.

And if recruitment efforts continued to be slow, the taxpayers would be on the hook for whatever pay levels and benefits the Police Officers Association and the department leaders decide are necessary.

So let’s take a second and look at some reality.

I went back and looked at the conditional-use application that Whole Foods filed back in 2018 to open the store under the newly renovated Trinity Plaza apartments. (The store required a CU because it’s considered formula retail).

The company applied on Sept. 11, 2018. Back then, mid-Market was booming, filled with tech workers whose companies were attracted by a tax break. Twitter and ZenDesk and Uber and Dolby were just a few of the companies that had thousands of workers just a short walk from the Whole Foods site.

Housing for hundreds more high-income people was in the planning pipeline.

That made it a perfect place for a high-end grocery outlet. From the application:

The name Whole Foods Market has become synonymous with healthy, responsibly sourced food, offering the highest level of service to its customers while maintaining environmentally responsible practices in the operation of its stores throughout the country and the world. The addition of a Whole Foods Market will enhance the surrounding community by offering a beneficial and necessary “one-stop” shopping experience in which nearby residents, neighbors, and tourists can purchase grocery items, medicine, household products, beverages, and/or other necessary retail items. …

The addition of a Whole Foods Market to The Trinity Plaza will provide a high-end, full service specialty grocery store.

The Planning Department approved the CU in December 2018.

Again, at the time there were people dealing and using drugs in UN Plaza, as there are today.

As housing activist Sara Shortt notes:

Yes, that’s what happened.

What also happened was a global pandemic, a profound shift to work-at-home culture in the tech industry, followed my massive tech layoffs (oh, and Elon Musk). At the same time, the bottom fell out of the housing industry, and many of the new luxury units slated for that area never got built.

So … the market Whole Foods was counting on sorta vanished. The Twitter Tax break turned out to be a failure, for so many reasons.

Do you think that might be the real reason that Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, is pulling out of the area?

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
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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