Pictured above is Pacifica's Linda Mar Beach, with the Pedro Point community overlooking it on the cliff above. Not a bad view to have from the Fresh & Easy grocery market set to open in the coastside neighborhood next year.
Upcoming New Markets News: Northern California - Pacifica, San Francisco Bay Area
Representatives of Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market are scheduled to meet with members of the Pedro Point Community Association, a neighborhood group from Pacifica's Pedro Point neighborhood, at 7:30pm on Thursday, October 9 at the Pedro Point Firehouse at 1227 Danmann in the city to discuss concerns residents have about the Fresh & Easy grocery market which will be the retail anchor in a new shopping center being constructed in the neighborhood of about 300 households.
Fresh & Easy Buzz first reported Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's plans to locate a store in Pacifica at 5550 Coast Highway in this June 24 piece," Upcoming New Markets News: Tesco to Locate Yet Another Fresh & Easy Store in San Francisco Bay Area; 21 Thus Far By Fresh & Easy Buzz's Reporting." In fact some of the Pedro Point neighborhood residents told us via an email that reading our piece was how they learned what was going to go into the center which was breaking ground at the time.
Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has yet to publicly confirm the Pacifica store as one of its future San Francisco Bay Area sites, although as we reported there's a liquor license application from Fresh & Easy on file for the store location with the state of California, as well as a paper copy of the application on the store site. Additionally the city of Pacifica has confirmed the Fresh & Easy store location at the site -- and of course company representatives are meeting with neighborhood residents on Thursday evening.
Pacifica is a coastal community located on the peninsula just a few miles south of San Francisco. It has a current population of about 38,000. The median home price in the city is about $668,000. Believe it or not, Pacifica is considered one of the more affordable cities to live in on the Bay Area peninsula despite the median housing number. [Click here to view some additional statistics and data about Pacifica.]
Pedro Point residents' concerns
Residents of the neighborhood and members of the Pedro Point Community Association have a number of concerns about the Fresh & Easy store at the shopping center location, although most say they welcome a grocery store in the neighborhood since the only supermarket on their end (south) of town is a single Safeway store.
Among the chief concerns Pedro Point residents have about the Fresh & Easy store in the neighborhood are the increased traffic it will bring to the primarily residential neighborhood, the store's design and the non-union status of Fresh & Easy.
Here's what one leader of the neighborhood group says about the potential traffic problems the Fresh & Easy store and other businesses in the new center could cause, along with the store's design and the union/non-union issue:
"I don't know how familiar you are with our geography here, but the (Fresh & Easy) location is in a very small shopping center at the far end of town, right before you enter Devil's Slide and head south down the coast. The Devil's Slide tunnel will be finished in a few years, which will have a significant impact on commuting in this area. I assume they (Fresh & Easy) are counting on folks coming north from El Granada and Half Moon Bay to shop here, or at least stopping off on their way home from work. Many coastal residents already do that at Safeway.
"We (Pedro Point neighborhood residents) are concerned about increased vehicular traffic. The (Fresh & Easy) parking lot needs to be re-designed as the current traffic flow is illogical and dangerous. Even with improvements in design, we are concerned about the traffic impact as there is only one street into and out of our neighborhood and the shopping center opens on to it. We also have concerns about ensuring parking for the local businesses that will be remaining in the center. And of course we are concerned with the design of the store - I wasn't particularly impressed with the pictures I looked at of the store open in southern California this week.
"And I have concerns about the union stance being taken by the corporation, though I can't speak for others on this issue."
In terms of the traffic issue, one member of the Pedro Point neighborhood group says she plans to ask the Fresh & Easy representatives at the October 9 meeting for a plan from them detailing the ways they will improve parking at the store site as well as the traffic congestion she says will come from the store opening in the neighborhood.
Another key issue and concern neighborhood residents say they have about Fresh & Easy is its environmental credentials. Specifically a number of neighborhood residents are concerned about Fresh & Easy's policy of offering only free plastic grocery bags rather than the option of paper or plastic. They also are concerned about the use of plastic packaging for most of the fresh produce items (most all produce at Fresh & Easy is pre-packaged in plastic tubs or bags) and Styrofoam packaging for food service and meat merchandising uses.
The 'Green' Bay Area
Green or pro-environmental retailing issues are at the top of the list of many Bay Area consumers. The region was one of the first in the U.S. to initiate curbside recycling programs in the 1970's, for example. It's also home to many of America's top environmental organizations and activist groups including the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and others.
Bay Area consumers get "green." Survey after survey lists it right at the top of the list in terms of what's important to them when it comes to choosing where they shop for groceries and other goods. Bay Area supermarket chains and independents are among the "greenest" retailers in the nation, due in no small part to the demands of the region's consumers to be that way.
Numerous Bay Area cities are passing their own environmental laws as well. San Francisco has banned the use of plastic grocery bags in food stores over 10,000 square feet, for example. It's also phasing out the use of certain plastic and foam containers in food stores.
Oakland passed a ban on the plastic bags at supermarkets as well. But it's been overturned by a court based on a plastics industry lawsuit. The Oakland City Council is debating introducing new legislation on the issue.
Palo Alto recently passed a per-bag fee at supermarkets law on the single-use plastic bags. Emeryville a city near Berkeley is considering a ban as well, as are a number of other Bay Area cities debating ban and fee laws.
Since Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores offer only free plastic grocery bags at the stores and not the option of free paper, we believe if it carries this policy into the Bay Area it will be in for lots of fights from not only environmental and community groups but from city governments as well.
And of course Fresh & Easy will have to eliminate the plastic bags in San Francisco, maybe in Oakland, charge for them if it opens a store in Palo Alto and face other cities in the region that are sure to enact bans and per-bag fees sooner rather than later.
This is particularly true because a proposed California state law that would have charged shoppers in all California cities and counties 15 -to- 25 cents per plastic or paper grocery bag in supermarkets failed to come up for a vote in the California Legislature before the term was over because of the near three month long failure to pass a state budget. Finally doing so at the very end of the session took up all the effort and time of the Legislature. Therefore bills like the statewide bag-fee legislation and many others were just dropped and not voted on.
Another key concern the Pedro Point neighborhood residents say they have involves the sale of alcoholic beverages at the Fresh & Easy store at night, or late at night.
How and what Fresh & Easy will do to control trash and litter at and near the store also is a concern neighborhood residents plan to take up with Fresh & Easy representatives at the Thursday night meeting. The Pedro Point neighborhood is considered the most affluent part of the city and its residents say they take great pride in keeping it clean and constantly improving it, which is one reason they started the Pedro Point Community Association.
Better late than never
A representative of the neighborhood group told Fresh & Easy Buzz they first began trying to get someone from Fresh & Easy to speak to the community association in early July of this year.
"After some runaround, we've finally been given the name of someone named Scott Whitney at Fresh & Easy and we've e-mailed him to ask him to come speak to us about the store," the Pedro Point Community Association spokesperson told us on July 17, nearly three months ago. It was some time before they heard back the association member says. The neighborhood group had requested and were hoping to have a representative from Fresh & Easy meet with the neighborhood group this summer rather than on October 9.
Food and grocery retailing in Pacifica
The Safeway supermarket is the only chain store in Pacifica. In addition to the Safeway there's a longtime independent supermarket, Food Town.
Pacifica Farmers Market is a popular independently-owned fresh produce and natural foods store in town. It features a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, including organics, along with a selection of shelf-stable and perishable natural and organic food and grocery products. There's also Sun Valley, which is another independent natural foods store.
Nearby Half Moon Bay also has a Safeway supermarket, along with a brand new 20,000 square foot New Leaf Community Market natural foods supermarket. New Leaf is a local, multi-store natural foods retailer based in Santa Cruz, California. Whole Foods Market, Inc. also is in the process of building a natural foods supermarket in Half Moon Bay, which will be its first in the city. There's lots of cross-shopping by consumers between the two nearby cities.
Pacifica also is located in a highly dense and urbanized region on the San Francisco peninsula. From Pacifica south about 60 miles to San Jose there's city after city -- Burlingame, San Mateo, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and through Silicon Valley to San Jose. This urban megalopolis of over 2 million residents (the nine county Bay Area has 7 million residents) is filled with supermarkets, natural foods stores and specialty markets.
Most residents of Pacifica, which is primarily a residential city, work outside the city, generally either somewhere on the peninsula or in San Francisco which is only about 12 miles away. As a result of this geographical and occupation fact, most residents are commuters who have different shopping patterns than one would expect is the case with consumers in a less urban region.
They often shop at supermarkets and natural foods stores near where they work, picking up groceries there on the way home to Pacifica.
Additionally, there's such a variety of different stores and formats in the region -- ranging from Costco and numerous chain supermarkets to Whole Foods Market stores, produce markets, farmers markets, upscale independents and specialty stores -- that Bay Area residents don't think twice about driving a few miles from the town they live in to multi-store and multi-format food and grocery shop. This is something any new food retailing entrant to the Bay Area grocery market needs to understand if it wants to succeed.
There's a niche in Pacifica for a convenience-oriented, small-format grocery and fresh foods store like Tesco's Fresh & Easy or a Trader Joe's though in our analysis, especially in the southern part of Pacifica where the Pedro Point Neighborhood is located.
But that neighborhood also has become one of the most desirable in the small coastal city, which reinforces the traffic congestion concerns residents have about the new center and the Fresh & Easy store.
Working cooperatively with neighborhood residents will be key to a successful Fresh & Easy store in Pacifica For Tesco's Fresh & Easy. It's a small, close-knit neighborhood and community that believes strongly in localism.
And Tesco's Fresh & Easy better get used to having highly-involved neighborhood groups as part of its Bay Area business model as it makes its entry into Northern California, and especially into the Bay Area.
Environmental, union and other issues and concerns all are at a higher level in the Bay Area than anywhere else in the Western U.S. This includes Arizona and Nevada -- and even Southern California -- the three markets where Tesco currently operates its 90 Fresh & Easy grocery stores in.