Fresh out

Not all neighborhoods are equal when it comes to healthy food access

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Patricia Bryant pushes a cart from the now-closed Fresh & Easy on Third Street in the Bayview.
SF EXAMINER PHOTO BY MIKE KOOZMIN

Rebecca@sfbg.com

Food stirs strong passions in San Francisco. Protests have been mounted against foie gras and live chicken sales, and epic battles have been fought over chain grocery stores' proposals to open up shop in certain neighborhoods.

When Whole Foods opened in the Upper Haight in 2011 amid no shortage of neighborhood controversy, Rachel Levin wrote in The Bold Italic that her glee at beholding offerings such as Kombucha on tap belied her nagging conscience about patronizing a chain retailer in an area dotted with local businesses. Internal conflict ensued; the writer confessed feeling "totally conflicted."

But a very different food-related dilemma is currently plaguing residents in Bayview Hunters Point, a racially diverse, low-income area in the city's southeast sector.

Six months after the Upper Haight Whole Foods flung open its doors to guilt-ridden and guilt-free patrons alike, a different grocery store was welcomed with much fanfare.

Five years had passed from the time when Fresh & Easy Market had agreed to do business in the Bayview to the day it finally opened for business. The store launch, held in late August of 2011, was treated as a celebratory affair — after much involvement by city officials, it marked the first time in 20 years that the low-income community would have a grocery store.

"The opening of Fresh & Easy on Third Street creates jobs for the community and will help make the neighborhood a place where families will want to stay and thrive," Mayor Ed Lee said at the time.

But just over two years later, Fresh & Easy was closed. Tesco, the British parent company that owned the grocery chain, fell into financial trouble and unloaded its West Coast stores onto an affiliate of Yucaipa companies, headed by Los Angeles billionaire Ronald Burkle. Other San Francisco Fresh & Easy locations survived the transition, but the Bayview store didn't make the cut.

Now it's back to square one, and the neighborhood is once again without a grocery store where one can purchase fresh food. That's especially problematic considering that Bayview residents suffer from diet-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes at much higher rates than other city residents.

And ever since Fresh & Easy closed, Sup. Malia Cohen, who represents District 10 where Bayview is located, has discovered that attracting a new grocery retailer to that neighborhood is like pulling teeth.

"Safeway was absolutely closed to the idea," Cohen reports. "They cited safety concerns."

When she first contacted Safeway representatives to pitch the idea of having the grocery retailer move into the vacant Fresh & Easy location, their response was to ask her office to track down emergency service call data in the surrounding neighborhood. "They said they couldn't get the information," Cohen said. "I said, that's interesting, it's public information."

Safeway also cited concerns about the configuration of the vacant space and the size of the parking lot, Cohen said. She noted that the grocer has shown generosity in the past by making Safeway gift card donations to needy Bayview residents, but "that also presents a challenge. It's a hike to get to the grocery store."

Safeway spokesperson Wendy Gutshall did not answer questions about why the retailer was unwilling to consider moving to the area, and wrote in an email to Bay Guardian, "There are no plans at this time with respect to a new location in the Bayview."

Cohen was frustrated, but undeterred. "I think there's a certain level of racism and classism that blinds retailers from even exploring these communities," she said. "I really want the community to be able to have healthy food options — not discounted toss-aways."

Comments

And the city cannot force stores to stay in business.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

It is quite diverse as the Hispanic and Asian populations have been growing there and the black population has been declining. For example, the Bayview census tract bordering the southeast corner of 3rd and Palou is 39% black, 39% Hispanic, and 14% Asian. Of the eleven census tracts in Bayview and Hunters Point, blacks remain a majority in only three tracts.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 6:01 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

as diverse? You waste oxygen.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 9:59 pm

It's not racism or classism that keeps major retailers like Safeway out of areas like the Bayview. It's economic self-interest. A store in the Bayview will lose more products to theft than a store in Pacific Heights or the Marina. There is also a much higher chance of armed robbery which necessitates an even greater increase in security. Businesses that lose money through unnecessary risks or without weighing potential losses and costs don't generally stay in business for very long.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

indemnify the stores from any loss due to robbery and violence.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2014 @ 8:27 am

Safeway had open a brand new store with condos above it at Ocean St and Jules to replace the older smaller store at Ocean near Phelan/City College in the 1980s.

There were 3 armored car robberies in the parking area in a short span after they opened...that was enough for Safeway to shut the place down about 5 years after it opened. It became an exercise gym and then a Rite Aid store...After Rite Aid sold its locations to Walgreens, the property has been vacant since the mid 2000's.

Posted by Guest-SF on Feb. 05, 2014 @ 9:26 am

It is actually almost equal parts Black and Asian.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 11:05 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2014 @ 8:26 am

But it's not Asians making the Bayview the most dangerous neighborhood in the City (with the possible exception of the TL). It's not Asian-on-Asian murder that makes up most of the homicides in the City. And it's not Asians commit over 50% of the violent crime in the city while making up 6% of the population.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

After the hatchet jobs on national chain stores trying to open in San Francisco from the supervisors and activists, who can blame the formula retailer brass for being twice shy about going through the permit process only to get shot down?

Let a precious mom and pop store open there...if they can afford the rent and if they can protect their goods from shoplifters effectively.

I'm sure one can open there...in about 20 years after those formula-retail hating neighborhood activists can no longer to afford to live in the city and when the property is vandalized, graffiti-ridden, and urine-stained....like everywhere else.

Posted by Guest-SF on Feb. 05, 2014 @ 9:20 am

The city demonizes chain businesses at every single turn then bemoans the fact none of them want to open a store in an underserved area!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

Wow, this City has become overrun by racist assholes.....

Posted by TrollKiller on Feb. 11, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

They hate whites, despite the fact that almost all of them are white.

Go figure.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

This may be the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life.

Posted by TrollKiller on Feb. 11, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

You are not missing anything when it comes to Fresh&Easy. The store went bankrupt and new owners took over the remaining 3/4 of the stores. Then overnight and without warning they stopped sending coupons and sale flyers. Then they eliminated the clearance section. Then then reorganized the store and deleted many popular items. Then they raised prices by 30-40% of thousands of items. Quality is down. Prices are up. Sales are gone. Coupons are nowhere. Old food is on the shelves. It's not the same store you remember.

Posted by Former Fresh and Easy Shoppers on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

It's not clear to me why you think the latter is better.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

Gentrification is rampant in the Bayview Hunter's Point area. The actual number you have been considering are all obsolete, things have changed not just in the last two years but notably in the last few months, in jobs, start-ups, business and in the ownership of housing. I would say that in just a few more months and a least in the next two years there will not only be a major grocer but blacks. like myself, will be moved out just as has been happening in the Hunter's Point (Middle Point Road) where Blacks and Asians have been moved out and replaced by new high rises that do not include much diversity.

Blacks are an unwanted people, whites make sure that they feel that way and exclude blacks for any advancement even when they are quite educated...I see this as unfortunate and far more hurtful than just having or not having a grocery store.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 11:09 am

There are rich blacks and poor whites. Race is not a factor.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2014 @ 11:47 am

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