Walgreens says near-empty Van Ness & Market store isn't closing — it's just theft

Walgreens says near-empty Van Ness & Market store isn't closing — it's just theft
Mostly bare shelves at Walgreens at 1496 Market St. | Photo: Juan Lopez
By Saul Sugarman - Published on February 28, 2020.

Last week, we reported on the ongoing closures of Walgreens locations in San Francisco, with three stores having closed over the past three months. 

In response, we received multiple tips that the chain's location at Van Ness and Market streets (1496 Market St.) also appeared to be on the verge of closing its doors.

A Hoodline reporter visited the store, and confirmed that many shelves were almost or completely empty, with some sections entirely denuded of products for sale.

But the official word from Walgreens is that the location is not closing — what we’re seeing is shoplifting.

“Retail theft has become more prevalent in the San Francisco area, including at this store location," said Walgreens spokesperson Alexandra Brown. "We are currently reviewing additional actions to help curtail and prevent theft, while also striving to balance product inventory and how we can best meet the needs of our customers.”

Though Walgreens announced last fall that it would shutter 200 stores nationwide as part of a cost-cutting effort, Brown said there are currently no plans to close any other locations in San Francisco or Oakland.

However, it is likely that this particular Walgreens will close at some point in the future, regardless of the theft situation. Plans for a 47-story, 520-foot tall tower with residential, office and retail space have been considered for the site for many years, though they're still mired in the approvals process.

Outside the Walgreens at 1496 Market St. | Photo: April M./Yelp

In the meantime, customers who rely on the Van Ness and Market location say they're concerned. 

San Francisco resident Juan Lopez, who works near the store, said he used to “grab a drink or something” there during breaks.

Upon visiting the store recently, “my first thought was someone just cleared house — but then I noticed it was almost all of the shelves.”

Hoodline editor Allie Pape, who has shopped at the store regularly for more than a decade, said this week is the first time she had ever seen the store without a security guard up front.

She also noted that one of the glass panels on the store's front door had been smashed in recent days, and covered up with plywood.

“Something’s always happening there, at Walgreens,” added Sebastian Luke, an Opera Plaza resident who also spoke to us about theft in Hayes Valley. “They have to call police four times a day.”

Plywood covers a smashed panel on the pharmacy's front door. | Photo: Allie Pape/Hoodline

Earlier this week, we reported on an uptick in vandalism and theft in Hayes Valley, which, like the Walgreens store, is in SFPD's Northern District. 

According to official data, year-over-year larceny incidents in the Northern District (encompassing Hayes Valley, the Western Addition, Pacific Heights and the Marina) are currently up 16%. So far this year, there have been 1,176 incidents, compared to 1,008 at the same time last year.

Larceny incidents also increased in the Northern District from 2018 to 2019. In 2019, there were 8,167 reported larcenies in the district — a 9% increase over 2018, when there were 7,496.

SFPD spokesperson Michael Andraychak says the department does not have data on the proportion of larcenies at retailers, compared to other businesses and residences. However, he said that the department takes retail theft “very seriously.”

While Andraychak did not comment directly on this Walgreens location, he noted that “SFPD has been working with our law enforcement and retail partners to address retail thefts for several years now.”

He also referred a reporter to the office of SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin, which did not return a request for comment.

Larceny rates are up 16% compared to this period last year. | Screenshot: SFPD Crime Data Dashboard

Two community meetings in the Northern District have been scheduled to discuss the theft issue, and what can be done.

St. Mary's Cathedral (1111 Gough St.), which had nine of its windows smashed last month, will host a meeting to address local break-ins on Thursday, March 12 at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents the area, plans to attend a public safety meeting at the Korean American Center (745 Buchanan St.) on Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m.

Thanks to Juan Lopez, Sebastian Luke and our other readers for their tips and photos!

See something else interesting while you’re out and about? Text Hoodline and we’ll try to find out what’s going on: (415) 200-3233.