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News + PoliticsBreed ignores community, takes full credit for delay in Safeway closure

Breed ignores community, takes full credit for delay in Safeway closure

Oh, and 40 years ago, Mayor Feinstein vetoed a bill the might have prevented Safeway from just abandoning the Western Addition.

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Mayor London Breed is taking sole credit for Safeway’s decision to delay the closure of its Western Addition store, ignoring the role that community organizing and neighborhood activism played in this struggle, and writing Sup. Dean Preston, who led the efforts, out of the picture.

Wikimedia Commons image

In a press release, Breed’s office states:

 Mayor London N. Breed today announced the City and Safeway reached an agreement to extend services at the Webster Street Safeway until early next year. The unprecedented decision is a result of Mayor Breed leading extensive discussions with Safeway and the site’s new owner, Align Real Estate, to find an interim solution to keep services in the area for the Fillmore community while future iterations for the site continue to be determined.   

It’s not entirely the result of the mayor’s action. Preston noted:

On January 4th, Safeway announced the closure of their Webster Street location, shocking and outraging the Fillmore and Japantown communities that rely on this store for food, the pharmacy, and the banking services on site. My office immediately responded with a letter to Safeway officials , demanding that they withdraw plans to close in March, and work with all stakeholders to hold a community meeting. We then introduced a resolution at the Board of Supervisors on January 8, scheduled to be voted on by the full board tomorrow, Tuesday, January 23, to be preceded by a rally at Safeway on Tuesday morning with community members, neighborhood leaders from the Fillmore and Japantown, and Board President Aaron Peskin, and Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Shamann Walton. Then we just got the great news earlier today.

The rally is still on, because despite Breed’s announcement, Safeway has not rescinded its decision, just delayed it. Community leaders will meet in the Safeway parking lot on Webster to demand that whatever future development happens at the site, a supermarket is part of it.

Breed won’t be there. The reality is that the mayor came late to this issue and it now taking credit for it.

The Rev. Amos Brown in the Chronicle notes:

Great applause should be given to Mayor Breed for supporting our appeal and negotiating with Safeway to create what would have put us into a food desert. Preston came to our NAACP meeting and introduced a resolution. But this success was born out of the womb of the community. We stood up for what rightly belongs to us.

Most mayors in the past would include the neighborhood supervisor and community leaders in these kinds of press releases on neighborhood issues, even if they had other political disagreements. Not Breed.

But there’s another interesting story here. This whole controversy could have been prevented, or at least controlled a bit more, were it not for the actions of Mayor Dianne Feinstein in 1984.

Late in 1983, Safeway announced it was closing a store on Larkin and Bush. Sup. Harry Britt introduced a resolution calling for the store to stay open, but to no avail.

Then a few months later, Sup. Nancy Walker introduced a bill that would have required significant neighborhood notification when a full-service supermarket store planned to shut down. Among the requirements: The store must

Provide residents with notice of the closing by: (i) prominent display of 3 foot by 2 foot posters at 20 foot intervals across the storefront windows. The posters must state, in bold letters, the market’s intention to close, the date of the impending closure and the market’s intention to work with the community to find a replacement market if the community so desires.

Also:

At any time during the six-month period immediately preceding the closing of a supermarket, the market shall, at the request of local residents, a residents’’ association, or any member of the Board of Supervisors send representatives to meet with the residents and/or the Board members. The supermarket representatives sent to these meetings must hold sufficient authority and appropriate responsibility to ensure that the meetings proceed in good faith. Such representatives shall work together with the residents and/or the Board in a good faith effort to find a workable alternative which will provide the residents with comparable supermarket service. Such alternatives may include, but ace not limited to, helping the residents organize and open a cooperative, or obtaining another market as a replacement tenant.

The full board approved the legislation, and it went to Feinstein—who vetoed it. Her message:

Though I understand the well meaning intent behind this proposal, regretfully, I find this legislation to be an unnecessary intrusion of governmental regulatory authority. I recognize that it purports to help people maintain service in their community, but I believe it would have an adverse impact in “pushing the camel’s nose under the tent,” with further legislation in other areas.

She said she was worried that similar bills might target, say, hospitals, or banks. Which would have been fine: The supes and the community organized to stop the closure of St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission, and legislation of this type might have made perfect sense.

But Feinstein, who was never much on limiting business activities, said she didn’t like additional regulations. The law, of course, died there.

Now, 40 years later, maybe someone will try to bring it back.

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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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