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San Francisco should ‘bring a full-scale grocery’ to food desert, legislator says

Resolution follows effort to delay closure of a Safeway in another underserved area

San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston has filed a resolution calling for the city to study the possibility of bringing a supermarket to the Tenderloin district, where residents currently live an average of a half-mile away from a full-scale grocery store.

The effort, which seeks to establish a supermarket within easy walking distance of residents, follows Preston’s recent success in helping delay the closure of a Safeway supermarket in another area of his district for at least another nine months.

Preston’s latest resolution, a draft of which was obtained by Supermarket News, calls for the San Francisco Human Services Agency, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the Planning Department, to come up with a plan to bring a full-service grocery store to the Tenderloin area.

Although the resolution notes that full-service grocery stores are accessible to Tenderloin residents by public transit, it goes on to explain that “navigating public transit with groceries can be difficult, inconvenient, and for some, impossible,” especially for older shoppers and for people with disabilities.

The resolution also acknowledges that a previous effort to stock more fresh produce in bodegas through the Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition has successfully partnered with eight local stores, but it is “not a replacement for a full-scale grocery store.” In addition, a local farmers market is only open for limited hours, two days a week.

The area has long been recognized as being underserved, according to the resolution, but apparently several efforts to attract a full-service grocery store to the neighborhood have failed. The resolution also notes that other municipalities, including Chicago, have considered opening municipally owned grocery stores to provide access in underserved areas.

Preston’s resolution would require city agencies to compile a report on previous efforts to bring a grocery store to the area, potential sites for a new store, and any efforts currently underway, within the next 90 days.

Preston had recently pushed for a Safeway supermarket that was slated for closure in his district to remain open, and he held a rally in January after the retailer pledged to operate until at least January of next year. At that rally, he also pledged to resurrect the city’s Neighborhood Grocery Protection Act, which would require notification and community involvement when a neighborhood grocery store plans to close.

“Meeting the food security needs of our seniors and families cannot be left to unilateral backroom decisions by massive corporate entities,” Preston said in January.

The Neighborhood Grocery Protection Act was passed by the Board of Supervisors in 1984, but it was vetoed by then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

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