When word spread earlier this year that the mega-chain McDonald’s was seeking to move into the 9th and Market Street corner occupied by the popular vegetarian restaurant, Ananda Fuara
, both the mayor’s office and D6 Supervisor Jane Kim jumped into action. Showing the same concern for Mid-Market’s future that she demonstrated in trying to stop evictions at 1049 Market
, Kim quickly introduced legislation in July imposing Mid-Market interim zoning controls . The controls would require formula retail chains like McDonald's to obtain conditional use authorization for approval, and on July 30 the Board of Supervisors passed Kim’s measure, 11-0.
But McDonald’s was not deterred. It still seeks to move to 9th and Market, and has money to spend to try to make this happen. Its renewed interest could hamper Ananda Fuara’s lease negotiations with its landlord, as the hamburger giant can pay a much higher rent. While major political obstacles to the takeover remain, all those concerned about Mid-Market’s future should be alarmed by McDonald’s power play.
I was very disappointed to learn last week that McDonald’s is resuming efforts to displace the popular, independent and healthy Mid-Market neighborhood favorite, Ananda Fuara. I thought Supervisor Kim’s legislation had resolved this issue, but apparently not; the low-wage fast food giant food thinks it can still get the conditional use approval it needs to take over the space.
Wrong for Mid-Market
Trading an independent restaurant serving healthy food for yet another fast food outlet is a terrible deal for Mid-Market. Carl’s Jr. is at the corner of 7th, Burger King at the corner of 8th, and now McDonald’s---which already has a branch at 1455 Market near Van Ness---- wants to be at the corner of Market and 9th Streets.
This is one potentially terrible development in Mid-Market that nobody can blame on the consumer habits of tech employees. The unanimous backing for Supervisor Kim’s formula retail measure shows that tech companies in the area don’t want more fast food chains on Market any more than the progressive activists long opposed to formula retail.
What Mid-Market does need is quality independent restaurants like Ananda Fuara and the nearby Sam’s Diner
at 1220 Market. Or Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers at 6th and Market, which got city assistance in opening up in 2011 and whose hamburgers should not face additional competition from McDonald’s (one of the owners of Pearl’s grew up in the Tenderloin).
Attracting quality independent restaurants to Mid-Market is a challenge. Many retail spaces are too large and there is currently little evening foot traffic. The current boom on Mid-Market office space has left many potential new restaurant spaces either unavailable or undesirable due to ongoing or future building renovations.
From the Luggage Store to ACT's Strand Theater project to the new ground-floor retail set for Market Hall, Mid-Market is attracting diverse and unique businesses. McDonald’s takes Mid-Market in the opposite direction, homogenizing a street whose success depends on its offering something different from what can be found in every other city and neighborhood.
Expect McDonald’s to offer a community benefits package to get particular groups on its side. Critics will be deemed elitists, as if a company that fails to provide employee health care and lobbies against minimum wage hikes is some sort of advocate for working people (and as an October 2013 UC Berkeley Labor Center report concluded, fast-food restaurants serve their workers “an ‘unhappy meal’ of poverty wages
,” at a cost to all taxpayers.
On Thursday, December 5, fast food workers in over 100 cities will protest these low wages paid by McDonald's and others. This follows similar protests in 50 cities on August 29.
McDonald’s already has 19 locations in San Francisco. That’s plenty.
Supervisor Kim’s interim controls last for eighteen months. McDonald’s continued interest in Mid-Market confirms the need for permanent protections, as the area’s revitalization process has come too far to be set back by fast food outlets displacing local businesses.
Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron.