If Apple Tree Market Is Forced Out and Condos Are Built – Where Will OB Shop for Food?

by on October 24, 2012 · 45 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing

There’s a “For Lease” sign on Apple Tree market in Ocean Beach.

The rumors that have been circulating since late Winter 2010 are back: Apple Tree is closing and condos will be built in its place. Although, some say, this time around, they are not just rumors, but the future.

We had heard that the Los Angeles- based landlord/ owner of the property raised the rent to an exorbitant amount – an amount the current Apple Tree owner can not afford.

Yet, if this true, if Apple Tree does move or close down completely, and if condominiums are built in its stead, the changes to this community would be horrendous. For many OBceans – especially the elderly – Apple Tree is the only large market in OB central – their only store within walking distance.  With its closing, where are these folks going to shop?

Yes, People’s organic market is over on Voltaire, but that’s not only too far for those who live in south OB, the long-time organic market does not offer the wide range of foods and drinks that Apple Tree (or a more traditional store) offers.

Now, many folks would not be that sad in seeing Apple Tree leave – especially if a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts was moving in – as there have been a steady stream of complaints about Apple Tree over the years: it stinks, it’s dirty, they don’t sell anything organic, the freezers are very old, many of the products sold seem old themselves and are very limited, the butchers smoke cigs in the back … There’s also the fact that the owners of Apple Tree contributed to an anti-Bob Filner flier distributed throughout the community. This did not win them any friends in Liberal OB where Filner swept the place during the Primary in June.

In that article by Doug Porter, he stated:

Over the past two weeks San Diego mailboxes have been flooded with mailers attacking Mayoral candidate Bob Filner from a group calling itself a committee called California for Small Business,” sponsored by the Neighborhood Market Association.” A quick visit to the group’s website confirms that OB’s Apple Tree Market is an active member of the group, with a video featuring the OB location on the front page of their website.  …

The anti-Filner mailers are remarkable for their venom directed at the Democratic contender and because they do not suggest an alternative candidate, despite the fact that Neighborhood Marketing Association has endorsed Nathan Fletcher and given money to his campaign.  In short, they are “hit pieces.”

On the issue of whether Apple Tree would be missed, back in late March of 2010, the OB Rag ran a poll on how people felt about the store closing, and even though only about a little over four dozen respondents were involved, the winning response chosen was that most do not shop there and wouldn’t miss it at all (22 out of 51 respondents).

But, if the only supermarket in OB for a mile did close and condos came in – the development would be a severe step towards gentrification of the village. It would greatly alter downtown OB, increase its density and all its attendant problems (increased parking problems, traffic, etc).

Of course, the planning process to get condos built would take time, and if approved by the OB Planning Board and the City, they still would be years away for their completion.

One of our loyal readers is very upset about this probable development and made some interesting comparisons:

 THIS IS FAR LESS ACCEPTABLE THAN A STARBUCKS INVADING NEWPORT, … This move likely would gentrify the hell out of OB and also would rid us of our only supermarket within walking/short driving distance (bad for the elderly on the hill etc.). 

There should be fliers, petitions and demonstrations (much larger than those against Starbucks and against the police murder of “the walker”, both in recent memory.

Ask OBMA, OBCDC etc. about this, and I expect they will verify this “rumor”. Come on folks, don’t let this happen (and it’s going to happen soon, as I understand it – a stealth maneuver if there ever was one.

At the very least, the village community needs to find out what is happening and what we can do about it.  Let’s start the discussion now …..

 See our poll on the sidebar.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Seth October 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

This is a big deal. Time for the community to envision what they would actually like to see in that location and hope that the developer is receptive to it. It obviously wasn’t Apple Tree. Mixed-use with parking and a small-scale, non-yuppie grocery store is probably a best-case scenario, IMO.

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avatar gailpowell October 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I would love to see a Trader Joe’s come in there. TJ’s sells lots of organic products but usually they try and locate their stores in more upscale areas. Not that OB is not upscale, but farewell to Apple Tree. I remember when that place was a Safeway years ago.

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avatar dave rice October 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I thought the rumor a couple years ago was that the Apple Tree would be converted to a CVS – if my memory is correct it drew criticism due to there already being a big-name drug store chain in Rite Aid a couple blocks away.

I generally don’t do full shopping trips at Apple Tree – their food is often old and expensive, and the selection isn’t huge. But I’m certainly glad to have them there in case I need to pick up a few items in a hurry, as I can get there faster on my bike than I can get to Vons on Midway in a car.

If we lose Apple Tree, we’ve just got People’s and Olive Tree, both specialty grocers with an even more limited selection and generally even higher prices – though what products they do have are generally superior. What’s the closest market – Stumps? Fresh and Easy in Pt. Loma?

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avatar Goatskull October 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Considering the Fresh and Easy chain overall isn’t doing very well, that store on Catalina will probably be gone in a few years.

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avatar dave rice October 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm

True, Tesco’s move into the U.S. market has been bombing by all accounts…

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avatar dave rice October 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Just checked out the poll – I can’t really answer, because even though I only shop there occasionally I can’t say I “wouldn’t miss it at all,” because having a community grocer is a pretty big deal.

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avatar liveinob October 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm

what about all the people that will be out of jobs?
apple tree has been in ob for 24 years, i shop there at least 2-3 times a week
i myself would miss the place

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avatar Goatskull October 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm

If a TJ’s were to go in, perhaps that wouldn’t be such bad thing. Even though they are a “specialty” store, they still have a pretty full variety of grocery items, their prices for many of their items are actually cheaper than regular stores, and as far as being corporate, they are a pretty good company. I often save more there than I do at the Navy Commissaries.
As to putting condo’s in there I think that would be unsustainable. The only ways to get in and out of OB are limited and traffic is bad enough as it is. Not only would it affect the quality of life for the people who already live there, the new residents will only make the problem worse and they themselves will quickly tire of spending an hour or so getting into and out of OB on a daily basis just to get to work and back and in the long run regret moving to OB, and that in effect will bring down the value of new residential development (I assume not something the developers would want to happen). Tearing down and old dilapidated buildings and replacing them with newer more expensive units is one thing, but added residential development that will possibly double the population of OB will only bite itself in the ass. Just my opinion but perhaps it would be some good ammo in the fight against gentrification?

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avatar unWASHEdWalmaRtthONG October 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Hmmm, Trader Joe’s, owned by Aldi, a German company. Have we no other alternatives?

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Again, the idea of a Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, or any other store is just a fig newton of our imagination. There is nothing material out there to suggest that the owners are considering these alternative stores.

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avatar Goatskull October 28, 2012 at 12:16 am

As Frank said, a new store in its place is pure speculation and not in the plans. Just speaking hypothetically, what’s wrong that Trader Joe’s? You have to admit, the Apple Tree is kind of a dump. On the few occasions I’m in there, hardly anyone is else is. It’s simply not doing well. Why is the fact TJ’s being owned by a German company an issue?

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avatar Catherine Hockmuth October 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I realize this is not a popular opinion, but I think OB could use a small dose of gentrification. We have more than enough dilapidated housing to admit a few condos without losing our saltwater stained charm. Actually, we just need more housing in the coastal areas and I guess condos are a smarter choice than actual houses. But I would love to see some new, modern cottages with small yards instead. But I doubt that would ever happen. Improved access to the neighborhood would be required, but we need that any and I damn whoever decided that the only access to 5N would be through SeaWorld Drive over a tiny bridge.

I don’t shop at Appletree unless I really need something that they don’t sell at the co-op (which is really not that expensive except for jarred/canned/boxed foods that I buy at TJs) or Olive Tree. And Trader Joe’s sells everything a full grocery store sells, and usually for lower prices, so it’s hard to see how that would be hardship for anyone.

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avatar Goatskull October 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I agree about the Trader Joe’s. I would go so far as to say it may be time for the worst of the dilapidated buildings to be replaced with new ones in the very spot they sit, but adding new residential units that would add more people to an already very congested neighborhood not so much. As I explained in my post above, not just for people who already live in OB, but new comers would end up being miserable as well. Like you posted there’s really only one way in and one way out of OB (Well maybe two if you count West PT Loma Blvd). Other than that it would be taking side streets up to Catalina.

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avatar kenloc October 25, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I think businesses like Pizza Port are causing more parking/traffic problems than adding some housing would cause. The sign says for lease,indicating they are looking for a tenant.If condos were going up there wouldnt be a sign,unless it was for sale.

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avatar Catherine Hockmuth October 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

also the farmers market and kids sports activities at Robb Field, but I wouldn’t want either or Pizza Port to go away. It’s one of the few kid friendly restaurants in the neighborhood. I’d have no problem with the AppleTree being turned into condos, but would prefer to see some kind of new housing there.

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avatar Catherine Hockmuth October 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

That’s true but we need to improve access to the community anyway because it’s inadequate for the current population. Any effort to do so should account for population increases. Although, this being San Diego, I doubt anything so thoughtful could happen.

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avatar Citizen Cane October 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I think other merchants can pick up the added sales when Apple Tree closes. Maybe somebody will open up a butcher shop on Newport Avenue. Building condos right on the bus line could be good for the elderly. I often see progress where other people can only see gentrification.

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

The elderly that need buses won’t be able to afford the condos being built.

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avatar Catherine Hockmuth October 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I understand what you’re saying, but I think the fear of gentrification in our community is a huge part of what is also dragging OB down. Take, for example, the development on Saratoga that everyone here seems to be against. The current property is an eyesore and I’m not even sure how many people actually live there. I’ve never seen a person enter or leave the building. But perhaps it’s just sitting empty awaiting a decision? I honestly don’t know. The only signs of life are in the odd little building on the park with the horse shoe club. Don’t have a strong opinion about that one. It’s kind of cute, I guess. The club is cute, at least. The building is an eyesore. My larger point is something I’ve experienced first hand as someone who rents in this community. We have large numbers of dilapidated, unkempt, uncared for properties. Renters like me have a hard time actually finding a decent place to live in this neighborhood. And by decent, I mean a place that is free of rodents, mildew, rust and cracked whatever. I belief I may have one of the few landlords who actually takes care of his property. I believe our fear of gentrification and our assumption that it has to mean higher rents/mortgages, keeps us from advocating for better housing and increased code enforcement. To be clear, I’m not for fining the elderly out of their homes with code enforcement fees and I recognize that inability (physical or financial) may keep some folks from keeping their property together, but, for the most part, I think it’s just property owners collecting checks and assuming people should just be grateful to have four walls around them a few blocks from the beach. Certainly, living near the beach is a luxury, but we shouldn’t have to live in squalor at the same time. I’m regularly astounded by listings on Craigslist for rentals in OB that advertise that the place includes a “refrigerator or stove” or that state “NO DOGS!!!!!” next to a photo of broken down old property covered in dust with a yard full of weeds. I’m also not surprised to see some of these properties go unrented for a few months.

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avatar Seth October 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm

And yet, you live here, Catherine, and not in La Jolla or Mission Beach, or any number of places that are full of franchise stores and upscale condos where the neighbors don’t even know each other — or where land use and development decisions are made almost entirely according to how best to maximize property values, rather than how to best balance individual property rights with the interests of the community at large.

It’s not to excuse property owners not doing proper maintenance, or to say that we can’t have nice things, or that Saratoga & Abbott or the Appletree lot should never be developed and sit forever like Roman ruins. But when it comes to these larger-scale developments, I think most here just want people to do it in a way that respects the community and the people who live in it.

Which is obviously not usually the mindset of out-of-town developers who are looking at their bottom lines. Given market forces surrounding beachfront property in SoCal, I’d offer that the only reason the unique character of OB as we know it even exists is because many fought against the likes of gentrification for the last several decades.

I don’t mean to come down, I just don’t agree that this mindset is “dragging OB down”. I would also agree, as you somewhat alluded to, that this mindset also isn’t responsible for why most homeowners and developers alike do not have the money to improve or develop their properties in such a bad economy right now.

In sum, I have lived in other communities like Harvard Square that had a similar unique character and seen gentrification wipe it away within a decade, and in the OC, where everything is shiny, new and terribly bland, and in SF, where all the artists, minorities and long-time residents are being supplanted by yuppie software developers and high rents at a record pace.

Warts and all, OB is just a lot preferable for me. For those that don’t feel the same, Mission Beach and La Jolla are right up the road. Just my two cents.

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avatar OB DUDE October 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm

To all you landlords, tenants and homeowners in OB….weeding, sweeping the side walk, picking up trash and dog poop cost nothing! IMO there are too many people that don’t give a damn. A gallon of paint is cheap ….. cost less than a good dinner out with drinks or a bag of weed. When your neighbors don’t care and things start looking dumpy…one is happy to consider old stuff disappear. So all you in OB that want to avoid gentrification should put a little time in and make it look like you love your home and neighbors :-) Muchas Gracias Amigos!

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avatar Kenloc October 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I can certainly see both sides of the issue. I understand that if it gets too “gentrified” here it won’t be the same. But this place has changed a great deal in the 12 years I’ve lived here. Little more drunken stupidity(not by homeless people),little less respect and decency.So many bars and restaurants.The graffiti I paint over a few times a month now says stuff like “South East” …not good. A fine line between improving and gentrification.
What if no company that has the money to make something of this location wants to come here because they don’t want to fight the Starbucks battle?It may sit vacant for a time.There is one example of how the mindset could affect things.
If recent events are any indication,I’m sure someone will figure out how to make this a bar or nightclub.Tsunami’s OB.Or a bowling alley with a bar in it.(that could actually be cool)Or maybe just a big ass liquor store.40’s “r” us.Appletree had a liquor license,no?

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avatar Goatskull October 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

I thing a limited amount of gentrification would be a good thing. As a community OB can dictate just how much. Like OB Dude said below, there are too many who simply don’t care one way or the other. I think people like that sort of need to be pushed out to make way for people who do care.

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avatar Catherine Hockmuth October 30, 2012 at 10:51 am

So, if I’d like to see a little sprucing up around the neighborhood, I should just move to La Jolla or Mission Beach where I clearly belong? I thought OB was the place where all points of view are embraced and respected. Of course, I know that’s not true. Only certain points of view are okay: Development is bad. Anything new is bad. There are absolutely zero problems created by large numbers of homeless people in the neighborhood. All the drunk people are just visiting from PB. Artists good. Yuppie IT people bad.

I’ve lived in other communities also, and have seen neighborhood-appropriate development enhance things for the benefit of residents who live there. I know some people object to Pizza Port for some reason, but it was previously just a boarded up old restaurant and an eyesore. Now, it’s a nice place to get good beer and good pizza, and, it’s kid friendly. I realize the bad economy may keep some people from maintaining their properties, but plenty of other property owners can’t reasonably use that excuse. Plenty of properties have been dilapidated since well before the downturn. One is the apartment complex that overlooks the pier. Not the cottages, but the huge salt-stained building on Narragansett that looks like a crack house. My old apartment had a small, fenced yard. The owner was always promising to replace the fence, which was basically falling over. He never did because he was a cheapskate. We had a problem with mice and he just refused to do anything but bring traps. We moved and were fortunate to find a place that is well maintained and has been remodeled. My point is simply that this can be hard to find in OB and I think it’s unfortunate. I don’t discount that the efforts against gentrification have benefited the community also, and perhaps should have said so initially, but I do think there is reflexive anti-development attitude that could drag us down. I certainly don’t advocate handing the neighborhood over to developers that I’m sure would love to raze the place and install the dense urban paradise of their dreams. But I think it’s possible to have a well-maintained neighborhood and to allow for new development that preserves the scale and relaxed, friendly feel of OB without having streets lined with chain stores.

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avatar jim grant October 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Geez people have cars in OB drive to another market like the rest of the 7 Billion people on the planet. The place is a hole anyway who ever shops there to actually feed the family as opposed to running down for chips and a sixer is nuts anyway …
The only thing constant is change itself.
It will be ok maybe a decent market will take it’s place .
I DO NOT live in OB or anywhere close now much like Frank I moved away from the OB / Point Loma area but I have shopped at Apple Tree over the years and was never impressed in anything they sold other then Ice.

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avatar Cuss November 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm

there’s a good article in today’s beacon on this topic, in which the long time tenants explain, in very convincing detail, why they have not modernized apple tree. the absentee landlords wanted them to sign a month to month lease, under which they’d be at the beckoned call of a greedy landlord’s (arbitrary) desire for more pocket change.

many of the comments here are meaningless. it seems people think “oh, well if appletree moves out, we will get a trader joe’s or a sprouts, which are better”. ummm… where does this little pipe dream come from? yeah, appletree is not the best supermarket in the area, but it is a conveniently located, 25 year resident that does not deserve an eviction notice from some hands-off los angeles outsiders…

oh, and hey frank. thanks for the quote!

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avatar chris dotson October 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm

OBMA wrote an amazing letter to support of Appletree remaining where it is, or so I understand.

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am

Where is that letter from the OBMA?

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I answer my own question: we just posted it, see above next post.

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avatar Tyler October 25, 2012 at 9:00 am

I have a love/hate relationship with Apple Tree. It’s great for convenience when I forget about a few items from my normal grocery runs (Sprouts/People’s), however, the place is quite gross and I’ve seen expired items on the shelves more than a few times.

I think it’s quite obvious that none of us are in favor of condos being built in its place, but I for one would more than welcome a better grocery store like TJs or Sprouts coming in to OB. If anything, that would give OBceans both young and elderly a better choice of foods and most likely at better prices.

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avatar Frank Gormlie October 25, 2012 at 9:39 am

Tyler, agree with you here. Although, perhaps I should regret my comments about a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts coming in, as there is absolutely NO evidence that they are. It was more like wishful thinking on my part. I don’t think the owners want another market, but are really looking to maximize their major property holdings in the Village of OB.

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avatar Debbie October 25, 2012 at 10:29 am

Just a thought…if Apple Tree improved their store and thanked people for their business they might actually have increased sales and be able to pay a higher rent. The location is great, the parking more than adequate but the landlord and the tenant need to take some pride in ownership. It doesn’t hurt to smile at customers and thank them for their business (hint, hint). This would be a great place for senior housing and a senior/community center. Any which way you look at it…it’s time for some change.

FYI: the pad is up for lease $10,000/month 6,000 SF available for ground lease, built-to-suit or lease.

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avatar Citizen Cane October 25, 2012 at 12:15 pm

$10 K per month could also be generated by a ten unit apartment building, and the property is a lot bigger than a ten unit apartment building. The math is clear. People are going to have to go somewhere else to buy their alcohol, tobacco, fructose, and hydrolized fats.

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avatar Steve October 27, 2012 at 8:59 am

I remember one time I went shopping at “CrappleTree”. There was a woman at the register and while she was ringing me up, she was reading a magazine at the same time. It went like, scan item, scan item, turn page, scan item, turn page, etc. … Then I looked behind me and there were 3 people in line after me. I was a little shocked at first but then again that’s why it’s CrappleTree.

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avatar gailpowell October 27, 2012 at 10:21 am

If your relatives and kin folks owned the business and you had no reason to fear being fired, I suppose you could also put on your make-up, fix your hair and check your email while waiting on customers. Unfortunately, that’s one of the problems with this Apple–their customer service is terrible but I am so used to being ignored there, that I’ve gotten used to it. Still I will miss them if they leave.

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avatar Christine October 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm

developers are PURE EVIL! They never design anything of value. this building should be historic. Get SOHO involved. Also it likeley has asbestos in it which is best left alone. Use that as a reason to demand an EIR and why it would be en environmental catastrophy to tear it down exposing the neighborhood to large amounts of asbestos.

In No Cal any demolition has to go through rigorous testing for asbestos and be approved before it can be demolished because of the severe health risks posed. In SD they just bulldoze buildings exposing everyone to free-flying asbestos. It is egregious. We need to do what No Cal does. That way it becomes much more expensive for developers to tear down these old buildings and hopefully they will stay away due to potential lawsuits.

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avatar Goatskull October 28, 2012 at 12:20 am

If it does in fact have asbestos, perhaps it needs to be torn down if there’s a proper way to do it no?

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avatar Christine October 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Get developers out of OB!! we need laws that protect OB. All the craftsmans will be demoed. They want that neighborhood so bad. The new stuff they build is absolute garbage. There is NO architecture in San Diego. Look at what replaced the El Cajon Bowl? if developers have their way that garbage will be all over SD.

SD has no more water for all this development hence the huge rate hikes and all the water conservation talk from Sanders. Make the developers pay a huge water fee since they are raising rates on all of us. Also the comment I made above. Follow No Cal and how they deal w/ demos. if the have to properly remove asbestos it will reduce their profits.

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avatar RB October 28, 2012 at 7:09 am

A building have a useful life. The Apple Tree property has been on life support for several years. If OB would embrace change, we would have development like we see in Hillcrest and Mission Hills. Both small unit living areas and retail shops can occupy the same site.

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avatar lyn October 28, 2012 at 9:00 am

I would be very unhappy to see anything but a grocery store there. We do some odds and ends shopping at apple tree most weekends, because I like staying in the neighborhood and ON FOOT, which is how OB is best enjoyed. I also notice a lot of elderly people shopping there and many appear to walk. As far as the staff, I find them always pleasant! The product, however can be disappointing at times. I also love the architecture of the building. It’s too bad that can’t be retained. As much as I love trader joes, I think sprouts would be the better option. Either one would do well…

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avatar BEN October 31, 2012 at 10:31 am

My prediction, If Apple Tree closes the building will remain vacant for quite a while. The parking lot will become a mini tent city for all of the transients that we love sooo much.

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avatar Deb October 31, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I am thinking positive…..Something good will come OB’s way :-)

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avatar Deb November 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm

0k, I am going to give them some slack for the condition of the building and equipment. I will still say that a smile goes along way, thanking customers for their business and improving fresh veggies and fruits doesn’t require a lease. Why did it take this long for the community to learn of the problems of this business/tenant? Apple Tree should have called Turko….years ago and reached out to the OBMA and community.

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avatar angeroo November 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm

The condition of the building and the equipment is one thing. I will not excuse the fact that they think it’s ok to sell rotten produce, expired shelf items, and over charge for it all. People keep talking about the elderly and handicapped needing groceries. Do they not deserve affordable, quality products from their local grocer? ATree should be ashamed. They don’t care about the community, just money, just like their landlord. In addition to horrible, overpriced stock, it’s not ok to treat your paying customers like they are an annoyance or ignore them. A little customer service would go a long way in helping this cause. The Beacon article only showed me that they are indeed the greedy folks I already thought they were. Lots of excuses….yawn.

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avatar The Dude January 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I live in OB. Yes we need a true retail store like a Safeway/Vons. I’ve been in commercial real estate for 15 years. The vibe among large operators, the only ones who can buy product cheap enough to support a $400,000yr lease say this community won’t shop there. Yet Rite Aid has huge lines and they’re as corporate as any company in the nation.

With all that being said if OB residents don’t want condos (I don’t) pages like this that show true shopper sentiment need to be more supportive of a grocer that can not only qualify to lease this space but make money doing it.

I remember the Starbucks fight. I didn’t understand it. In the retail/commercial world we all know that the “Starbucks Factor” tends to help draw and keep customers shopping local in the very stores and bars a football throw away. While the entire community was on fire over Starbucks I felt nobody was looking around to notice the lack of a local Credit Unions. Yet the biggest of bailout banks line the streets. Starbucks “no” but Chase is ok?

This owner is not going to lease to a mom and pop ever again because of Apple Trees poor operation. We need to support the larger grocers that have the capital to make this move.

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