Ocean Beach Rejects Another 7-Eleven Coming into the Community

by on August 5, 2016 · 8 comments

in Culture, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing

OBPB meet 8-3-16 audience -smTo a person, Ocean Beach residents who packed Wednesday night’s OB Planning Board meeting, rejected the proposed addition of another 7-Eleven coming into the community. (Please excuse the delay in this report as I was involved in the Thursday morning protest to save the Torrey Pine on Saratoga.)

Over 60 people jammed into the small community meeting room of the OB Rec Center, with standing room only (some even had to sit on the floor) to hear a presentation by 7-Eleven representatives and then to offer the company feed-back. There were other items on the Planning Board’s agenda, but this was the issue that drew the crowd.

Many eloquent speeches were made by residents during the discussion phase (which I try to paraphrase below) – but it was clear by the end of that segment of the meeting – that no one was there in support of the corporate franchise coming to the space currently occupied by a dry cleaning business at the intersection of Sunset Cliffs and Narragansett.

If it opens, it would be either the second or third 7-Eleven in the OB area – depending whether you count the store at Catalina and Voltaire – which is not in OB, although certainly it is within the 92107 zip area.

Reps from 7-Eleven were present to only give an informational presentation, as there was no vote expected by the Board. The company is in the process of obtaining an alcohol-selling license and is only in the preliminary phases of testing whether another one of Japanese-owned corporation’s 59,000 stores around the world could succeed in Ocean Beach.

The company could not move in for another year as the dry-cleaners has another year on its lease. And it was made known during the meeting that they would like to stay there. Daniel Graham stated that as a representative of the dry cleaner owner, they pay their rent on time, and “”We’d like to stay.”

Another revelation was brought up in that the property owner of that lot, Ronnie Shamoon, also owns the alcohol-selling market on Newport as well as the Quik Stop on Voltaire. (Shamoon also owns the property where the former O’Bristo was located and where a “cowboy sports bar” is coming.)

During 7-Eleven’s presentation, the company team ran a short slideshow, and stated that the current “view corridor” and “view cone” would be maintained, that the current building is “viable” and only needs interior remodeling, that the parking lot would be kept, and that a “small, independent business person will own and operate the franchise.”

The crowd was also told that 7-Eleven has programs where they match donations to sports teams as part of their “give-back to the community”, that they will give “lots of training to the franchise owners”, that if the franchise does not operate well, the corporation would pull the franchise.

A good part of what the company wants to do, it was said by its rep, is that they “hope to buy an existing (alcohol) license from the Ocean Beach community, and not increase the number of licenses in OB.”

The corporation “wants to work with the community to create a ‘community-benefits program’, and see this as an opportunity to create a 7-Eleven that is unique to Ocean Beach”; that its plans “are consistent with the neighborhood plan and goals”, that it does believes a new store is “not a regional draw,” that it would have to “make it or break it from the existing community.”

Finally, the company rep said they wanted the community’s input, and then asked, “What would it take to become part of the community?”

And at that – the input flowed – and flowed.

First, chair John Ambert turned to other Board members for questions and to the company reps for their responses.

Why this location?

The rep stated that 7-Eleven has gone through an intensive process, and this area has been identified as having a business need. Another one of the team members commented: “You guys really support our other stores in Ocean Beach. We just want to be part of your community.”

Has a market study being done on traffic and population? Has there been a traffic analysis for that locale as it is a busy intersection?

No, a traffic analysis has not been done, as the company has not received all its paperwork from the City’s Development Services Department.

If you can’t sell alcohol, would the company go into the site anyhow?

No, even though alcohol sales only make up 10% of all receipts, typically, “it’s unlikely that it would go forward”.

Why can’t the dry cleaner stay?

The property owner, Ronnie Shamoon, considers a 7-Eleven “more profitable” than a dry cleaning business.

Other questions were asked about lighting and deliveries, but the answer was that it was too early in the process for the company to address these issues.

At this point, Ambert turned the questions over to members of the audience.

Julie Klein commented that she was opposed to 7-Eleven coming in, that “the traffic impact will be godawful”, that she supports local markets, and that Victory Liquor is right there, a half block away, that closeby Rite-Aid is open 24/7, and that the Circle K was once there and had died.

Tony said, “7-Eleven is in all kinds of countries. We already have one and don’t need a second. Traffic in and out will be much more dangerous. I beg you to not open a 7-Eleven there,” Tony stated emphatically – to much applause.

Marilyn made the point that “people will cut through the 7-Eleven parking lot. Olive Tree is a family-owned business. I see no reason for you come in. We don’t want a corporation coming in.” More applause.

Kevin said that there other factors that 7-Eleven has to comply or deal with in turns of restrictions, such as it cannot move into a high-crime area or be too close to a residential neighborhood, both factors here. “There’s going to be more places to get a drink than places to eat,” he said.

Carole Wright lives next door to the property and is extremely concerned about the noise on Narragansett that a new store would make. She said 7-Elevens attract homeless people due to the cheap wine they sell.

Sandra also lives very close to the site – and has been there for 35 years. “The idea of having a store open for 24 hours is horrible. You will bring nothing to north OB.”

The dry cleaner’s son Daniel spoke next: “The 7-Eleven will bring more traffic, more crime” and that’s there s children in the area. His father and uncle have run the place since 1988.

Martin also lives near – 110 feet north of the site, he said. He told the room that 7-Eleven has 59,800 stores in 17 countries, and that the company has Japanese owners. He then rattled off a whole list of problems and issues.

“We don’t need another alcohol license in OB. 7-Eleven will change the character of the immediate neighborhood.”  He said the parking will get bad, with no enough space available now. “Delivery trucks will pull into the alley and try to make a right turn,” he said, which will be very difficult and make traffic even worse. “Another 7-Eleven will be additional competition to local businesses.” He added that “junk food is sold at 7-Eleven – the worst ever.” He too mentioned that Rite-Aid is just one block away, and that there are a number of businesses on Voltaire that stay open at night. He also felt the noise would be a big problem.

Len was next, and he emphatically called the reps out: “Tell corporate headquarters OB citizens will boycott you till you lose money and get out of OB!” The room broke out in enthusiastic clapping.

Chris Stavros broke in and said: “The only license available is your landlord’s own Quik Start license.”

Kathy then brought up the issue that locals avoid Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and leave it for emergency traffic. She also asked whether a study had been done on whether dry cleaning chemicals would pollute the food stuff sold.  She said she had heard a rumor that when a restaurant was thinking about moving into the lot, it could not because of all the chemicals.

Andrea was the next speaker, and said, “OB does draw a lot of tourism,” and tourists driving or walking down Sunset Cliffs Boulevard will more likely stop at something familiar than local businesses.

Scott brought up that OB has a history of boycotts, mentioning the (failed) one against StarBucks.

“In the day,” Doug said, “we stopped 7-Eleven for years. It’s not in the character of this community. I’ll join that boycott,” he said to another loud round of applause.

Josh accused the corporation of “selling rainbows for profit.” He recounted how he found out that the temperature within the Voltaire 7-Eleven is actually controlled by someone in Texas, and the inside temp at the OB store is based on Texas weather.  He also questioned what would happen if the franchise obtained a 10-year lease, and said the company “will pay a hefty price for the license.”

Annaleen lives right across the street now from the site, and used to live close to the other 7-Eleven. She complained that the one on Voltaire attracted “zombies” and she had to move because of the discomfort of her kids. “I used to slip on urine” she said at the other location. “I’ll have to move again!” she exclaimed. Then in a pleading voice, she said: I am begging you for my children, please – we don’t need it.”

“Benefits?” Patty asked. “We’re not hearing any benefits.”She mentioned that once in the past, “we got the ABC to disapprove a bar, and you can expect that effort.”

Then Chris Stavros, owner of the Olive Tree and associated businesses of that building, launched into his spiel. He began by reiterating that “buying an existing license the only way to get a license.” He said, “7-Eleven doesn’t belong,” and that “the original 7-Eleven never made it,” and the “demographics don’t support another 7-Eleven.”

Then Chris told an amazing story from his youth. His father owned the business in OB that opened a Winchell’s Donuts here back in 1970s. After a lot of community backlash, including small fires lit in 2 different Winchells, Chris asked his father what he was going to. His dad answered: “We’re going to listen to the will of the people and not open a Winchells.” He was implying that now 7-Eleven must listen to the will of the people.

Stavros complained of insufficient notice of the company’s plans. He said, “If we’d had enough notice, we would have filled the basketball court with residents.” Applause.

He continued: “The landlord is very wealthy,” that he and his son have a lot of financial interests in the community, particularly alcohol-serving businesses. He accused the landlord of somehow playing the system to obtain an alcohol license right in the middle of a block on Newport.

Then Chris’ tempo increased. “I won’t allow it,” he told the audience and the company reps, “I will sell my merchandise at cost to put you out of business.”

Rick jumped into the conversation, saying that 7-Eleven’s statement about only creating an “incremental” increase of their stores, the former English teacher pointed out, that if they only have one store now, another one is a 50% increase – “this is not incremental.” Rick also found fault with the use of the term “valuable commodities” to describe potential OB customers by one of the 7-Eleven team members.

A young woman was next. She said her family has lived in OB for 50 years. “The biggest benefit from 7-Eleven” she said, “is that we’re get deals at Olive Tree.” The place broke out in laughter.

Another woman said: “I have heard nothing to help my community.”

Next Jill said that she lives close, and that a “new 7-Eleven won’t make the area safe. It feels like you’re invading our home.”

Bonnie questioned whether the company sold good foods to children, whether the choices they have for the young ones are adequate.

At the back of the room, Kimmy spoke. She noted several discrepancies in the company’s presentation.  She stated that is not a “mom and pop” store, that OBceans will use their buying power to defeat 7-Eleven, that the “OB community would choose quality over the franchise.”

She continued. The store “is not compatible with the community plan – as it doesn’t support local businesses and it changes the community character.” Then pointedly, she proclaimed: “End this quest tonight!” Lots of applause. “Our community is going to fight this … will cost you a lot of money even if you do come in.”

A former member of the OB Planning Board, Valerie Paz, took the floor. She told them, “This community is not your base. People going up and down Sunset Cliffs will see a familiar store [and stop at 7-Eleven].” There are “risks of litigation,” she said, “and negative economic costs.”

The 7-Eleven attorney then spoke. “Unless you as a community want this, it’s not going to happen. 7-Eleven doesn’t want to spend a lot of money if the community doesn’t want it.”

Then Ambert called on Gretchen Newsom, president of the OB Town Council. “It’s a farce,” she declared, “that you offer healthy food to children.” She iterated her concerns about the job pay and quality of the employees. “You’ll only pay a dollar more than minimum wage and provide no health benefits.” Newsom was feeling feisty. “This meeting is only the tip of the iceberg,” and strongly hinted that if 7-Eleven moved in, they’d see “an angry mob” opposing them. “Not a single person wants 7-Eleven.”

At that point, Board chair Ambert called for a show of hands. “All those who support 7-Eleven,” and not one hand showed. “Opposed?” Every hand in the audience shot up. It was overwhelming.

7-Eleven had received their feedback.The message was crystal clear. Ocean Beach rejected another 7-Eleven store from coming in.

That segment of the meeting was over, and everyone got up to leave save for about 8 people still sitting. This is not over, of course, but if 7-Eleven management is smart, they’d take this advice – and stay out of Ocean Beach.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Betty August 5, 2016 at 3:10 pm

How wonderful that Obeceans came out in force. I hope the 7-eleven decides to skeedaddle out of town. Bravo!
Good that the neighbors, including the owner of the terrific Olive Tree Market, spoke their minds.
Would that we could have such hearings on all the “tasting bars” on Newport. Wonder how many local hands would have gone up for them – or not.
The O B described above needs to have the chance to speak up on any major incursions into our town, to protect and nurture it and not watch it sold away to the highest bidder.

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avatar Jon August 5, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Thanks for the recap Frank! Man I wish I could have been there too. Huge props to everyone who spoke. Gretchen & John A are fantastic community servants. And WOW Chris Stavros! Way to shut them down. “I will sell merchandise at cost to put you out of business!” (Drops mic)

Love it!

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avatar Geoff Page August 5, 2016 at 3:45 pm

7-11 seems to have handled this a little better than they did the store on Bacon and Voltaire. I remember the construction sign at that time said Future Home of Ocean Beach Equipment Rental. When it finally opened, the OB Rental shop was about 1/4 of the building and the rest was the new 7-11. I actually like 7-11 but I agree that one down there is OB is bad idea because we have local businesses that provide what a 7-11 does. Good for the OBPB.

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avatar Happyinob August 5, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Great Article!!
I just hope Ronnie doesn’t raise
the rent & force the Dry Cleaners out
Does he or anyone of his family
even live in OB?
Same thing happened to Apple Tree
Good For OB for standing up
& putting their 7-11 east of 5
Hopefully

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avatar unwashedwallmartThong August 5, 2016 at 9:13 pm

What in tarnation are these corporate types talkin’ about? How about that phrase, “create a 7-11 that is unique to OB.” Unique = one of a kind. You can not have a unique 7-11 in OB when there are nearly sixty thousand 7-11 stores worldwide.

On its own web site the parent company Seven Eleven Japan states they like to “enhance the convenience-shopping experience,” and that means more profit for the parent company. And they like to “implement 7-11’s successful strategies of market concentration.” Same old crap from the free market corporatists; state how good competition is for everyone and then drive towards monopoly and market concentration.

7-11 “wants to work w/ the community to create a community benefits program.” Right, a program that generates more profits for the parent company to the detriment of any other small business. Walk into any 7-11 on the planet & you will not see the Snake Oil Aisle; nope, it ain’t near the Twinkies; they save the snake oil for the community gatherings, & then they lather it up into some feverish corportatist homily about how dedicated they are to the community. I reckon they want to buy an existing alcohol license because the dang things are so expensive, no?

How about this for future Main Street Ocean Beach: Starbucks, CVS, 7-11, Jack in the Box, Starbucks, major bank building, CVS, 7-11, the major gasoline company, 7-11, Subway Sandwiches, big orange lettered box store, big blue lettered box store, 7-11, Starbucks, CVS, Starbucks inside a Starbucks inside a Starbucks inside a Subway Sandwiches inside a big orange lettered box store next to a shoe shine shack.

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avatar RB August 6, 2016 at 7:03 am

Given yet another protest and yet another planning board meeting, one would think OB = Oppose Business…. Luckily, you can still come over the hill to find grocery stores, concert venues, movie theaters, book stores, family oriented shops and support for things other than tasting rooms and tattoo parlors…….

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avatar unwashedwallmartThong August 6, 2016 at 4:47 pm

I saw Avenue Q the other night in OB. There is a variety of culture on Newport.
America & the strip mall & the franchise & the Slurpee: just another blip in the strata of mediocrity.

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avatar Jason November 18, 2016 at 8:16 pm

Our community needs help stopping a 7 eleven from coming to the gaslamp. Can anyone help us on this situation any advice will help and keep our community safe from corporations taking over small business.

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