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S.F. Hayes Valley residents await long-promised grocery store

S.F. Hayes Valley residents await long-promised grocery store
S.F. Hayes Valley residents await long-promised grocery store 02:22

SAN FRANCISCO -- Residents in a section of the Hayes Valley neighborhood say they have waited years for an affordable grocery store to open within walking distance of hundreds of low-income families and seniors.

"It's been like this for the last 50 years," said Barbara Wilson, who will turn 80 this year. She has lived in the same apartment for most of her life. "The grocery store has been an issue since I've been here."

Wilson is like many of the residents who live in a rent-controlled apartment. While some people do have a car, others take the bus or walk as much as a mile to the nearest grocery store. They are only able to hand-carry a few items at a time.

Their neighbors in a new condominium building at 555 Fulton St. hoped that, when that building was approved, a required ground-floor market would solve the problem. 

"New Seasons was coming in from Portland, Oregon but that didn't happen so we're still crying over that spilled milk," Wilson told KPIX. "We know that we need a store in this community because it's been a dry desert for many, many years."

The most-recent proposal has a Trader Joe's moving into the space but the grocery retailer maintains a public list of stores opening soon and 555 Fulton Street is not on that list at this time. 

The city planning department says that no further approvals are needed for Trader Joe's to open but, if another tenant wanted to come in, it would require a significant public process.

"A healthy and affordable grocery store has long been sought for this neighborhood and the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors have taken many supporting actions," the agency said in a statement. 

Supervisor Dean Preston represents the area and plans to have a hearing on April 6 at City Hall to inquire about the delay by the condo developer, Z&L Properties.

"Residents in Hayes Valley and the Western Addition were promised a neighborhood grocery store as part of the development at 555 Fulton Street. Despite being fully approved for years, the developer has not delivered," Preston said in a statement to KPIX. 

E-mails to staff at Z&L Properties were not returned and phone calls to the company did not go through as the numbers appeared to be no longer in service. 

"It really is heartbreaking. These people have been here 30, 40, 50 years and never really had that and it's time for it to change," said Jim Warshell, a Hayes Valley resident who has tried to help push the process along for a new grocery store. "We have a real equity issue, you can't have a food desert and have all these families living here."

Both Warshell and Wilson are members of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association. They say the developer has to complete a few more steps in the construction process before Trader Joe's can move in.

They're frustrated, along with many other residents, because the rest of the building is complete with residents living in condos  above the market space. 

"There will be a grocery store here one day. How soon? We don't know but we're looking forward to one coming into the neighborhood," Wilson said. "We're actually powerful in numbers. If we don't speak up then nothing will happen. We have to work together."

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