For the last year Duboce Triangle neighborhood Association (DTNA) has been fighting to keep a new mega-chain store, CVS Pharmacy, at bay from moving a standard, suburban cookie-cutter, style store into the Castro.
According to the latest news from DTNA they've managed to convince CVS to make serious alterations to CVS's original store, designed by a local Noe Valley architect, destined for the first floor of the old Tower Record Complex, making it more Castro friendly.
Changes to the scope of the business from the original CVS proposal that the Corporation has agreed to include:
Limiting store and delivery hours.
Restraint of all deliveries from the residential (Noe St.) side of the complex.
Not to sell alcohol.
Roof parking lot will be open for all accompanying neighbor stores to have access to.
Redesign of the stores interior so front facing windows aren't used like Walgreens on Market and Castro Streets displaying their wares like a 99 Cent Store.
Signage will be a unique design and less obtrusive. The plan had called for a large, almost billboard sized sign-now-it will be a backlit smaller sign.
An elevator will be installed to the second floor.
Bay windows removed.
Along with these changes to the CVS store DTNA has also been working hard with the City's Planning Dept to define parameters for expansion of all formula stores hoping to make inroads into the Castro.
Even though San Francisco and the Castro are no easy marks when it comes to retail formula incursion into the hood everyone involved acknowledges that it will continue to happen. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. More will be coming and a solution to how many and where they land is the best way to effect limitations.
The experimental plan DTNA has put forth and the Planning Department will consider approving at its next meeting is rather simple.
Applications for new formula retail would be judged on whether they bring the concentration of chain stores within 300 feet of the proposed new store to above 20% occupancy in the area.
If the answer is 'yes' there is already store(s) meeting that criteria than the Planning Commission would deny the permit based on the 'Conditional Use' clause that is attached to the approval process. Much like they would deny a proposed medical marijuana dispensary applying for a permit too close to a school.
This plan allows landlords early warning that prospective renters won't make the Planning Commission cut and hopefully encourage a variety of retail offerings of both local, small unique business and formula retail thus ensuring the 'village' feel of the Castro remains intact.
If this experiment works the Planning Department hopes to make this standard practice and offer it to other neighborhood and districts around the City all fighting off the rising tide of chain stores expansions.
This is quite a feather in DTNA's cap and provides a compromise that many felt couldn't be reached.
No one will ever be 100% happy with the results. Hardcore Castro preservationists who wish to see nothing altered from the past will be, most likely, displeased as will the new neighborhood citizens brought by the Tech boom who care little for the old ways and only desire convenience of services and goods they enjoyed in their old, mall orientated, suburban homelands.
Its DTNA's hope that this modification to curtail what could turn into rabid retail gentrification is something that all parties should be able to live with and help reduce more of the empty retail store front space within the community.