A San Francisco lawmaker introduced a proposal that would require grocery stores in the city to provide six months of notice before closing a store and to explore a replacement supermarket at the vacated location.

Dean Preston, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, introduced what he calls the Grocery Protection Act – which is based on a proposal the board approved in 1984 that was vetoed by then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein. 

Preston’s proposal would require grocery store owners to provide six months written notice to the Board of Supervisors as well as the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD). The store would also be required to post notices at all entries and exits as a means of informing customers and the general public. The rule wouldn’t preclude closures due to a store being unprofitable.

“It was a good idea in 1984, and it’s an even better idea now,” Preston said in a press release. “Our communities need notice, an opportunity to be heard, and a transition plan when major neighborhood grocery stores plan to shut their doors. Meeting the food security needs of our seniors and families cannot be left to unilateral backroom decisions by massive corporate entities.”

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The six-month notice requirement would be waived if the closure is caused by business circumstances that weren’t reasonably foreseeable at the time notice would’ve been required, or if the closure was due to a natural disaster or emergency

It would also not be required if the business is in the process of actively seeking capital or business that would allow the closure to be postponed or avoided, and the business has a reasonable and good faith belief that giving the closure notice would’ve precluded the store from obtaining the capital or business needed to stay open.

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Grocery stores relying on those exceptions would still be required to give as much notice as is practical before closing and also provide an explanation for having reduced the notice period.

The bill would also require that grocery stores “meet and work in good faith with neighborhood residents” and the OEWD to find a workable solution to keep groceries available at the location. Those solutions could include identifying strategies and resources to allow the store to remain open, helping residents organize and open a cooperative and identifying another grocery store operator to take over and continue grocery sales at the location.

Under the legislation, any person affected by a grocery store’s failure to comply with the requirements could initiate legal proceedings for damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or a writ of mandate to remedy the violation. 

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Preston’s proposal comes as San Francisco deals with a rise in store and office closures as the city deals with a crime and drug crisis that has made it more difficult for businesses to operate. 

Last year, a Whole Foods location in San Francisco closed a little more than one year after it opened. Records indicated that the Market Street location was the scene of 568 emergency calls in a 13-month period due to incidents such as vagrants throwing food, yelling, fighting and attempting to defecate on the floor, according to the New York Times. At least 14 arrests were made at the location.

More recently, Safeway announced in January that it planned to close a grocery store in the city this March, but rescinded that announcement and said it would keep the Webster Street location open until January 2025.

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