Patrons of the OceanView Village shopping center on Alemany Boulevard miss the days when they could do their drugstore and supermarket shopping there.
Marc Christensen and Glen Hatakeyama, who live across the street from the strip mall, often drive to the Westlake Shopping Center in Daly City or the Lucky’s on Mission Street to do their grocery shopping.
It’s an experience that is familiar to residents of the Merced Extension Triangle and the Ocean View because of the lack of grocery options in the area.
Grocery and drugstore tenants have come and gone from OceanView Village since it was remodeled in 2002, but this is the longest time that either space has been empty. Ocean View Market, the most recent grocery store at the mall, left in 2013 and a Walgreens next door moved out in July.
Christensen and Hatakeyama, president and vice-president of the Merced Extension Triangle Neighborhood Association, are advocating for a new grocery store at OceanView Village to serve the surrounding area.
“We’re trying to do what is best for the community and this is what they want,” Christensen said.
The shopping center’s inability to hold on to a grocery store raises questions about whether the mall is relic as grocery delivery apps and smaller urban stores, like the new Target on Ocean Avenue in Ingleside, are becoming more common.
The fate of the shopping center has been a topic of discussion in The Light’s opinion section. In September, Daniel Weaver, a member of the Ocean View-Merced Heights-Ingleside Neighbors in Action, suggested that the properties should be rezoned to house nonprofits that can’t afford to stay in more gentrified parts of the City.
Christensen and Hatakeyama responded the following month rejecting Weaver’s idea with a call for a new grocery store at the location, preserving the status quo.
Since Walgreens and Albertson’s/Safeway hold long term leases on the vacant spaces, local players don’t have too much power.
“They are private businesses, they can do what they want,” Hatakeyama said. “It’s also hard to lease such a large and expensive space.”
A representative of Culligan Management, which manages OceanView Village, said that, two years on for the supermarket space and six months for the former Walgreens space, the leaseholders are working on subleasing the spaces but that the management company isn’t involved in the decision.
Representatives of Walgreens and Safeway confirmed that they hold leases on the spaces but had no further comment.
Joaquin Torres, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said that his department is providing all the technical support it can to find a tenant that could fill the space.
“We’re very committed to working with the community on facilitating an easy process for the new tenant to help serve community needs at the OceanView Village,” Torres said.
District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee’s office had no comment on the issue, except to say that the office is trying to help facilitate communication between all parties.
Despite the lack of a food or drug store, a Chase Bank, 24-Hour Fitness and several other small businesses still draw considerable traffic to the shopping center.
“The positive thing is there are some viable business in the space,” Christensen said, pointing out the new Hertz rental car service that recently moved in.
Theories about why the mall has failed to attract a new store are common. The space may have been cursed from the start by its awkward location near the highway or, now that so many stores have left, new tenants might not be impressed by the spaces’ history.
Weaver believes that the suburban design of the mall, such as its large parking lot and setback retail spaces, makes little sense for the urban area it is in.
A Larger Issue
The Broad-Randolph corridor, which bisects Ocean View, also lacks food options. Most of the corner stores along the stretch are stocked with candy and liquor, not fresh produce.
Paula Smith, a 67-year-old who moved to the area when she was two, says that the stores in the neighborhood once did a much better job of serving the community.
“Victoria Market (now closed) and Fairview Market were good. They had full meat markets, seafood, produce and all of that. They were thriving stores,” Smith said.
Smith noted another transition in the neighborhood: car culture.
“In the 50s and the 60s if a family had a car it was only a one car family,” Smith said. “It wasn’t multiple cars (per family) like it is now where you almost have to fight to get a parking spot in front of your house.”
The exception to the liquor stores is Ana’s Market, at the Broad-Capitol intersection, which is part of Healthy Retail SF, a program from the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development meant to help small stores provide healthier food to their communities.
The effort is part of the city’s renewed attention to the area which has also involved beautification and traffic calming projects along the corridor in order give residents pride in the community.
The City’s plan for the commercial corridor will involve more of the same attention, according to Torres.
The long term plan for Broad-Randolph “is continuing and building on our successes in terms of our beautification efforts, our small business support and finding the right community partners to help steward the community’s desires for the neighborhood,” Torres said.
This article appeared in the December 2015/January 2016 edition of the Ingleside-Excelsior Light.