Moving Targets: A Sea Change In San Francisco Planning

Five years ago, if a (hiss) "big box" retailer had dared to seek to open a super-center in the City & County of San Francisco, the anti-business elements in the City would have detonated a thermonuclear level of smug parochialism on the shop's Planning Department application. Today, San Francisco has approved the opening of not one, but two Target stores:

Once more unto the San Francisco breach comes Target.

This time, to help fill the dead space - or "ghost town," as it's often referred to - in the geographical heart of the city where Mervyn's and Sears used to be.

Last week, the Planning Commission gave its initial go-ahead for the Minneapolis retail chain to move into the 106,000-square-foot Mervyn's space, with an option to occupy an additional 15,000 square feet in the largely deserted City Center shopping complex on the corner of Geary Boulevard and Masonic Street.

Opening date: Spring 2013.

"We've long been interested in coming to the center of San Francisco, and we know we have a lot of supporters here," said Sarah Bakken, a Target spokeswoman.

San Francisco's second Target store will be looking for 200 full-time employees, said Bakken. Construction, which could begin as early as next spring, will employ about the same number of construction workers.

Work on San Francisco's first "City Target" - the centerpiece of the downtown Metreon's overhaul - is well under way, and on track to be done by fall 2012.

"Things are moving smoothly," said Bakken.

The obvious reason for this turn-around is financial. These stores will be leasing space that has been open or under-utilized for nearly a decade. But, this is also a sign of a cultural change in progressive San Francisco. Hard as it may seem to be, there are actually fewer smug a**holes in The City, and those are the people who would start whining any time a Wal-Mart or Target had previously tried to enter the Special City. But, for all the self-righteous blather about mom & pop stores in the "neighborhoods," you can't escape the fact that the towns that ring San Francisco are packed with big-box stores, and the parking lots are filled with San Francisco residents buying everything you could imagine and loading them into their zip cars for a quick trip north. After a few trips like that, I am sure the pure fire of progressive rage against the machine fades in the glow of everyday low prices.

Whoda thunk that a bad economy would change San Francisco's righteous attitudes towards grubby retailers.

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