Irving St. Merchants Flustered Over New Goodwill Location

By Jonathan Farrell

Local merchants expressed concerns when they got word this past November that Goodwill Industries International, Inc. plans to move into a retail space at 2400 Irving St.

At just under 4,000 square feet, the retail space, which was once occupied by Blockbuster Video, is on the corner of 25th Avenue and Irving Street, which is one of the busiest corners along the Irving Street commercial corridor.

That is why some merchants, like Angela Tickler at Hard Ware, question the feasibility of having a Goodwill outlet in one of the most traffic-congested areas of the Sunset District.

"Why this corner?" she said. "This street is traffic plagued enough. Parking is difficult and there is already too much with the loading and unloading of delivery vehicles; shoppers can barely get through all this."

Doug Marschke of the Outer Sunset Merchants and Professionals Association agrees.

"Everyone likes Goodwill and supports the charity work they do," he said. "What is upsetting to us merchants is that there was little to no outreach to the merchants before the lease was signed.

" Peter Goches of Goodwill contacted Marschke to schedule an initial meeting with merchants, which was held Nov. 4.

"I asked Peter for a follow up meeting for Nov. 16," said Marschke. "But, the real shock was that the lease was already signed between the time of the first meeting and the follow up on Nov. 16."

Marschke explained that when a business wants to open up shop a merchant must go through a very detailed process with the City by way of the Planning Department.

In this case, "Goodwill did not have to follow the rules," he added.

Apparently, because of Goodwill's status as a charitable organization, the usual process was waived.

"There is not currently any Conditional Use Permit or other planning application pending for 2400 Irving St.," said Elizabeth Watty, a member of the SF Planning Department. "But Goodwill was planning on locating at this site."

Commercial sales Realtor Kenneth Brownell of Brick & Mortar would not disclose the identity of the new tenants for the retail space, only that a lease of $12,000 per month had been signed and that the new tenants have met most of the required contingencies.

Goodwill has reportedly signed a lease agreement with landlord Jack Panos.

Goodwill was founded more than a century ago, in 1902, by Methodist minister Edgar J. Helms. He envisioned a way of helping those in need by collecting donated items and employing the needy to repair and redistribute those items. Now, as an international charitable organization, Goodwill generates more than $3 billion in revenue, with retail sales bringing in $2.16 billion.

Goodwill has eight locations in San Francisco and more than 2,000 throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Some Irving Street merchants are intimidated by such a large-scale retail operation with its tax-exempt status. Goodwill is not considered "formula retail" by the City's zoning administrator because it does not have the exact same things in each outlet.

Goodwill representatives said Goodwill does more than operate retail outlets. It invests all of its income back into the communities it serves and helps rebuild the lives of the down-and-out through job training and employment. On an average business day, Goodwill places someone in a job every 42 seconds.

"We looked at a number of properties in the Sunset District," noted Cedric Yap, Goodwill's chief operating officer for San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties. "Based on our needs for both retail and donation drop-offs and our success for the past two years in this neighborhood with our donation center at Irving Street and 20th Avenue, we thought this would be an ideal site."

Goodwill envisions its presence in the neighborhood will only enhance, and not take anything away from, Irving Street.

"Any successful business in that space is going to add to the number of cars driving through Irving Street between 22nd and 27th avenues," Yap explained. "We expect to attract new shoppers to the neighborhood, which will be positive for our neighboring merchants."

The leased site at 2400 Irving St. has its own parking lot with room to accommodate the drop-off and pick-up of goods.

"We also encourage our shoppers to frequent other local businesses and have even run discounts and sales connected to other local merchants," Yap said.

Supervisor Carmen Chu said she is concerned about the potential for dumping and rummaging of items at the locale, but it is best that such a prominent storefront be occupied quickly as empty storefronts can also do harm to a neighborhood.

"In the two years that Goodwill has had its current drop-off location at 20th Avenue and Irving Street, my office has not received any complaints," Chu said.

She also said her office is monitoring the situation and invites people to make comments about the plan.

A grand opening is tentatively set for March of 2010. For more information or to provide feedback on the Irving Street plan, visit the Web site at www.sfgoodwill.org/sunset.