The franchisee of the Castro's 7-Eleven convenience store (3998 18th St.) has sold it back to the company's corporate parent, citing frustrations with theft and fears for the safety of her staff.
Elizabeth Concepcion, who's run the store since 2013, confirmed to Hoodline that she's no longer the franchise owner. She transferred the store's liquor license to 7-Eleven Corporate last week; it's currently listed for sale on 7-Eleven's franchisee website, although no price is given.
While "the people who live around the store are very nice," Concepcion said she's faced an overwhelming amount of shoplifting from homeless people, who often loiter outside the store, and students who steal items in the morning before school.
"It's the people who don't live around here that are the problem," she said. "They get whatever they want and leave without paying ... I don't make any money at all."
Concepcion also said she was frequently fearful for her safety and well-being, and for that of her employees. "I'm scared, and it makes me stressed out as a franchise owner."
Concepcion declined to comment on the role of a recent contract change that negatively affected 7-Eleven franchisees' profits in her decision. But neighbors say her concerns about shoplifting and safety are justified.
Carolyn Thomas, captain of the nearby Ford Street Neighborhood Watch, has lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years. She said that incidences of shoplifting, littering, loitering, violence, drug use, small fires, and human waste around the 7-Eleven have picked up in the past five years.
Like the 13 other 7-Elevens in San Francisco, the Castro store is open 24 hours a day, which can lead to late-night noise issues. But Thomas said cab drivers and shift workers popping in and out of the store late at night aren't her concern; it's loiterers creating disturbances.
Thomas said her organization worked with 7-Eleven's Eric Dela Cruz to make some changes to the store. For example, after noting that pizza boxes and alcohol bottles contributed to much of the litter around the store, he adjusted those items' displays to make them less prominent.
"[Dela Cruz] did address some of the behavior inside the store," Thomas said. "But a lot of the problems are really outside the store," where people frequently loiter, litter, use drugs and cause a late-night racket.
For nearly three years, Thomas and her neighbors have convened biweekly meetings, "to have a cooperative, collective voice with the Supervisor and city agencies" about the store.
She said that former District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy started working on the 7-Eleven issue during his brief time in office, and that his successor, Rafael Mandelman, has since picked up where he left off.
"For years, the neighbors have been actively trying to improve conditions around this 7-Eleven," a representative for Supervisor Mandelman's office told Hoodline. "We have been working to support their efforts."
Thomas' group has also worked directly with officers at SFPD's Mission Station, whose coverage area includes the store.
"We have an officer at Mission Station that has been assisting with observation," she said. "We have beat officers more present, and especially aware of late-night behavior."
A representative for Mandelman's office said they've also passed along constituents' concerns to Mission Station, asking Capt. Gaetano Caltagirone to increase foot patrols near the store.
Mandelman's office has also involved SF Public Works in the cleanup effort around the store, asking the agency to remove an unused newspaper rack that was attracting litter. Earlier this year, Public Works placed metal barricades around the store to deter loitering, but they've since been removed.
A spokesperson for Mandelman said that the Supervisor has asked Public Works why the barricades were removed, but has yet to receive an answer.
With none of her organization's efforts having succeeded in addressing the issues at the store, Thomas said she's now talking to Mandelman's office about the possibility of changing the store's zoning, which could affect its ability to remain open 24 hours a day.
That may be difficult, as the location and its use are grandfathered in under previous zoning laws that predate the neighborhood's current zoning, said a representative for Mandelman.
The 7-Eleven has operated at the corner for decades, although there's no public record of its exact opening date. Liquor license information shows it dating back to at least 1988.
Mandelman's office is hopeful that 7-Eleven Corporate's takeover of the store could represent a fresh start to the discussion. But after reaching out to the company several times for comment on the neighbors' concerns, Hoodline only received a prepared statement.
"We hope to continue to give customers what they want, when and where they want it, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week," the statement reads, suggesting that there will be no change in the store's hours. "This store is focused on providing excellent customer service while driving value for customers, especially when it comes to fresh and delicious food options."
Mandelman's office has also reached out to 7-Eleven Corporate to set up a meeting, but has yet to hear back.
"We're hopeful they'll engage in a meaningful dialogue with the neighborhood about which aspects of their business are resulting in negative impacts on people who live around that location," Mandelman's spokesperson said.