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1998-10-16
San Francisco, CA. Rite Aid Abandons the Palace

All the world is a stage, but Rite Aid can't get into the Pagoda Palace Theatre for all the money in the world. Once again, the national convenience chain store has been shut down by a citizens group -- this time in the North Beach neigborhood of San Francisco (see July 31,1998 entry below for another Rite Aid defeat in S.F.). In the North Beach case, Rite Aid initially approached the city in October of 1997 with a plan to build a 9,200 s.f. store open 24 hours. Neighbors expediently shot down that idea, but Rite Aid came back trying a second time to take over the Pagoda Palace theatre, just minus the 24 hour feature. The Palace is located in the historic Washington Square area. Rite Aid seems enamoured of S.F., since it has 7 stores in the city now, and plans to add 20 more! To conquer North Beach, Rite Aid hired the former press secretary to Mayor Willie Brown (when he was a mere Assemblyman) and a Democratic political operative. Rite Aid paid nearly $10,000 to one lobbyist to help get into the Pagoda. But the neighgbors, including the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, would not relent. "A store like that moves in," one resident said, "and you can kiss the rest of the stores on that block goodbye." Citizens rented a billboard in the neighborhood with the message: RITE AID, WRONG PLACE, and testified against the store's application for a conditional use permit. Rite Aid's spokesperson objected: "We think people should vote with their dollar. If people don't like us, they don't have to shop at our store." True enough, but North Beach residents didn't even want the Rite Aid around. In late September, Rite Aid bowed to resident pressure for a second time in one year, and announced they were giving up the Pagoda site. But enter the Mayor. Willie Brown told residents he would help Rite Aid look for some other site in the North Beach, and that statement kicked off another round of neighborhood protests. "It's not just Washington Square Park that we're trying to save," explained Aaron Peskin, who helped gather more than 8,000 signatures on a petition against Rite Aid, "We're trying to save North Beach." He called Rite Aid's move to another location a classic "bait and switch". Neighbors complained that Rite Aid would change the character of their Old World neighborhood with its acrylic and neon image. Rite Aid seemed oblivious to the whole ambiance argument. Rite Aid spokesperson, Darolyn Davis actually said the following about the company's new automated prescription dispensing machines: : "Our new state of the art system makes the pharmacy almost like a factory. It's almost like a conveyor belt." And the residents of North Beach were worried about losing their unique identity!

What you can do: For further information on Rite Aid's losses among the neighborhoods of San Francisco, contact: Telegraph Hill Dwellers, Box 330159, San Francisco, CA 94133.










 
 
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