Report From the OB Project Review Hearing: CVS Pharmacy, Verizon, BBQ House

by on October 17, 2013 · 27 comments

in Economy, Environment, Health, Ocean Beach

OB Plan Bd panel 10-16-13 sd 01

The Planning Board’s Project Review Committee at work, Oct. 16, 2013. (Photos by Steph Denton)

Editor: The following is a report of the October 16 meeting of the Project Review Committee, a sub-committee of the OB Planning Board, chaired by Peter Ruscitti.

By Stephanie Denton / Special to the OB Rag

CVS Pharmacy Alcohol License

Tonight the OB Planning Board’s Project Review Committee agreed to recommend approval to the board of CVS’s ABC License Type 21 application at the proposed location at Santa Monica and Cable – the old Apple Tree Market location.

This came about not without debate however as board members were not unanimously in favor of a second pharmacy entering the Ocean Beach community. The recommended approval was strictly regarding the ABC License however and was nominated for a recommendation at a 3 yays to 2 nays vote.

Board members expressed that a second pharmacy in a few block radius of OB is not a necessary or primary need in the community.  The CVS representative retorted, “In the American market there is more and more demand for pharmacies.”

The board pointed out that what the community needs at the moment is a market with fresh produce and other foods, which is the crux of the situation for the community. With a Rite Aide Pharmacy up the street and another CVS within a short driving distance, the purpose of this property could be better used for other immediate needs of the community. Concern was also expressed for local businesses with the opening of another corporate local one stop shop sort of establishment.

CVS: No Changes to Architecture of Former Apple Tree

OB Plan Bd panel 10-16-13 sd 02

CVS rep and plans.

CVS vowed that they have no current intention to alter the architecture of the building, that the corporate heads on the project “absolutely love the building and do not intend to change its structure at all.” This is important to the neighborhood as the former Apple Tree Market on Santa Monica is a candidate to join the landmark registry. (Editor’s note: the former Apple Tree also used to be a Von’s and before that a Safeway.)

Whether or not this pharmacy will be a 24 hour facility is yet to be known. The lease will be in the 30 year range and is still under negation. The lease will include the 82 parking spots on the property and CVS will be responsible for the upkeep of the parking lot. Currently the lot is open as a paid public parking lot but CVS will not know if they will be renting these spaces out until the hours of operation are identified.

There will be security provided by CVS throughout the property with special attention paid to the alcoholic beverage aisles.

On November 6th CVS will be presenting its application for the ABC License to the full board. And naturally, the public is welcome to attend. At the November 6th meeting CVS will be able to provide the number of jobs which will be created through this development, right now it is an estimated 15-20.

VERIZON

Verizon Wireless was recommended for approval to the board on both of their applications to upgrade their wireless facilities to encompass new LTE technology for their wireless customers. With respect to the integrity of the standing structures both proposals passed the boards review.

As communication technology evolves aesthetic design has to evolve as well. Verizon reported that the newer LTE antennae’s have brought forth challenges in masking their presence and that “there has been a lot of work to modify the visual” in this project.

The bottom line is that the planning board made sure that the integrity of the buildings remained intact and made a point to state that from here on out if other wireless companies upgrade their own antennae’s that they will have to follow Verizon’s precedence and design to accommodate the structure as it is.

BBQ House Expansion

Lastly, the BBQ House has requested approval for their expansion project entitled “The End Zone” which will take over the old Cow store in order to double the current size of our favorite local BBQ House, plus include a full bar with patio.

The expansion will include 13 parking spaces in the back for customers and employees. The BBQ House will be adding trees and shrubs to the parking lot to help beautify the space as well.

There will not be much change to the menu, the service style may change a bit though the owners are considering table service once the customer has ordered at the register. There is hope that the new patio will be dog friendly as the BBQ House has always welcomed pets, the details are being worked out by their design team to make this a possibility.

The façade of the BBQ House will not be changing according to the current plan, and despite the doubling of the size of the restaurant the kitchen will not be receiving an expansion but will be remodeled.

Recommendation for approval to the board of the BBQ House expansion was the only unanimous approval by the Project Review Committee this evening.

All approved recommendations from tonight’s OBPB meeting will be presented to the full board at their next monthly meeting on November 6th.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Mari October 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm

All I can say is yuck! I moved to the other side of Nimitz by the slough not to long ago and although CVS is closer now I still drive to Rite-aid in OB because CVS’ prices are outragious and they only have the self checkout lanes open!!! I also like the fact that Rite-aid has friendly service and their employees have been around for awhile. It’s also shame for all the eldery people in Ocean Beach that don’t drive, they only have the Olive Tree to depend on for groceries. SAY NO TO CVS!

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avatar obecean October 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm

CVS seeks to cash in on alcohol and tobacco sales. OB has enough merchants of that sort. OB needs a grocery store in that building. Microwave dinners, candy and processed junk is all CVS carries and we have enough of all that too!

We have Rite Aid and another CVS a mile away and a Target and Walgreens a little farther. Ocean Beach needs a real grocery store in that location, so nothing else acceptable!

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avatar OB Mercy October 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Mari and obecean, then show up at the Nov 6 full board mtg and put in your two cents! Don’t just complain on here, make the planning board KNOW you mean business! And spread the word. There was NO one there last night to speak against it except one of the board members.

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avatar kbanashek October 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm

It is crucial for you to spread the word to any OB residents that the plan to allow CVS is proceeding. Tell everyone you know when you’re out and about that the Appletree will become a CVS if you do not raise your voice. I cannot stress this enough, this is your town – you DO have a say in what happens here if you’re passionate enough about it.

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avatar jambert1502 October 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Hello, OB Planning Board member here district 1. I voted against the approval for the alcohol permit on the grounds of homelessness, crime rate in the area and that Rite Aid is literally 2 blocks away. Unfortunately this project is “by-right” and the owner of the building by law can rent it out to whomever they choose. To my dismay, my fellow board members did not understand the opportunity at hand to deny the Alcohol permit and make CVS reevaluate the profitability of such a venture. What is desperately needed here is overwhelming community support against the issuance of the alcohol permit to CVS. I truly believe that without an alcohol permit, CVS will not be able to prove the venture profitable and seek a different site to land their store. Please rally the troops, call your OB friends and family, and get people to the November meeting where the issue will be brought in front of the full board. While it is not clear that the project can be completely stopped, it is most certainly clear that we as a community can only create more hurdles for large corporations to jump through in trying to destroy the fabric of our community with cheap, big box retail solutions. Please come out and show your support.

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avatar obracer October 18, 2013 at 7:49 am

jambert1502- Thank you for serving the community as a volunteer on the O.B. planning board.
Property rights or the owners right to choose what to do with a property is not up to the planning board , the city’s zoning and land use maps dictate what can be done.
saying ” it is most certainly clear that we as a community can only create more hurdles for large corporations to jump through in trying to destroy the fabric of our community with cheap, big box retail solutions ” is not a productive way of dealing with the reality of a CVS coming in, you want to create more red tape.

Large corporations make money from serving the community, have you contacted CVS and made the community’s concerns and needs know to them ? have you asked them about the mural ? most big box stores adjust inventory based on location, CVS needs to fit in and serve the community in order to succeed, try contacting the regional manager, you may be surprised.
“Unfortunately this project is “by-right” ” , yeah! that’s how it works community planning board member from district #1, when YOU spend the money then YOU can decide what to do, until such time I suggest you look for ways to work with large corporations instead of trying to dilute property owners rights.
” I voted against the approval for the alcohol permit on the grounds of homelessness, crime rate in the area and that Rite Aid is literally 2 blocks away ”
Really ? did you really mean that ? , are you saying alcohol should not be sold at that location no matter who owns the business ?
The fact that CVS is willing to work with the existing structure shows some concern for protecting community character.
If you want to change the zoning or land use then show up next month for the meeting on the community plan update, that’s a more appropriate location for your comments on property owners rights.

I would tear the entire POS building down, build a modern location for a grocery store with residential units above it and two levels of underground parking.

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avatar jma1502 November 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Great input OB racer. I am an Architect and I am very familiar with property ownership, owner’s rights, permitting, and the planning process, but thank you for the input.

Yes, I AM trying to create more red-tape and restrict this property owners rights in this situation, as we have tried to contact the property owner and he has not been helpful. In addition, I have contacted CVS Corporate but they have no responded. The individual who owns the land outright created a bidding war between Trader Joes and Sprouts. The bidding war got to a price too high for either of them to afford and that is when CVS stepped in. Thus, the desire to impose additional restrictions against property owners who do not support the needs of our community. There is very little additional recourse here, other than trying to purchase the site.

And yes, I meant that I do not support approval of ANY more type 21 (off-site) alcohol permits, specifically on the grounds of homelessness and crime, as alcohol and crime/homelessness are directly related. We have plenty of liquor stores and drug stores in OB and no not need more venues to support Alcoholism or drug addition. Yes, this means that even if another tenant came into town I would vote against approving their sale of alcohol. And trust me, I love my beer.

Cheers to CVS for not trying to change the character of the building, but really this is not their decision, but rather it is a move by the owner to avoid incurring additional redevelopment taxes.

I also agree with your desire to redevelop the site. I would support a mixed use project that provides underground parking. The area is zoned for commercial purposes CC-4-2 so re-zoning it would not have a major impact, but redevelopment would require new residential units.

If you have the desire to continue the conversation, I highly urge you an all other OBeacians to attend the upcoming meeting on Wednesday.

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avatar Seth October 17, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Thoughts and questions from a former OBPB member:

1. No, we obviously do not need another pharmacy at this location, although I reserve the right to revisit this opinion next time I am in line for 25 minutes at Rite-Aid at 10pm for shaving cream, diapers and a 12-pack of whatever semi-good beer they have at 30% off.

2. The previous tenant had a beer/wine permit, no? Would advocates for a grocery store be OK with that type of business having one? Yes on both, it would seem. So what is the grounds for recommending denial, then? Apparently not over-saturation of the area (or area residents lol) . Just want to be clear that the case being made against a permit is preferring a different tenant in that location, and not, you know, something that would actually be defensible upon appeal. Yes, there appears to be a fair amount of “discretion” involved with these permits, just saying.

3. Is this the only location for a grocery store in the neighborhood? Been reported on this blog that the Appletree folks own or lease the vacant Surf and Skate/RPS building 30 feet away. Appletree not as desirable as another type of market, but it would appear that several different grocery markets have looked into this Santa Monica location/building and decided that it is not in their economic interests to open up there.

4. With that in mind, what happens if opponents to this project do in fact succeed, and keep CVS from being able to profit at this location via denying them an alcohol permit? Then what? Barring another viable tenant to move in within a reasonable timeframe, the owners are then quite possibly forced to lower their lease asking price or simply sell off the entire property to the highest bidder. I know which option I would be betting on, if that comes to pass. Given what we know about this owner, this booming real estate market and the permissive mixed-use, high-intensity zoning of the site in question, this could lead us right back to the giant condo/retail structure that was everyone’s nightmare scenario at the start of all this. Food for thought. No easy answers here.

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avatar JAMES KEMET October 17, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Want to eliminate CVS? It’s real simple; let them move in-then boycott them to their end-they’ll be gone. A Trader Joe’s will work there.

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avatar Debbie October 17, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Seth’s, point #2 is right on. It’s hard to argue it would be ok for a grocery store to have a permit but not CVS.

Does anyone know if Rite Aid is committed to their OB location and if so, for how long? If Rite Aid closed that would be a hardship for many in OB.

If we can have multiple bars in this town, another pharmacy probably won’t be devastating. For those that don’t want CVS here or like CVS, don’t shop there.

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avatar kbanashek October 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm

To Seth’s point #3 – Where are you getting this information that other groceries stores have ‘appeared’ to have looked at this location and showed no interest?
If this is truly the case I would like to know which ones…

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avatar Gail October 17, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I too would love a Trader Joes to open at the old CVS, but I do not see the demographic in OB to support it. I find a wide variety of fresh veggies and fruits, as well as baked goods and specialty items to be available weekly at the walkable and easily accessible farmers market. Olive Tree is the closest and best thing we have to a butcher, for seafood , make the trip to Point Loma . Also love The People’s MKt, but it is virtually impossible to park there, so I avoid it.

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avatar longboard October 17, 2013 at 10:13 pm

having lived in Ocean Beach for several years now I cannot explain how easy and wonderful it was to have the apple tree market there. I would really love to see another grocery store there instead of buying Fritos and booze at CVS when I live right next to Rite Aid. I am sure that there are supermarkets that would consider setting up shop in this location. I will do my best to attend the meeting on the 6th of November and I will try to bring as many like-minded friends as I can find.
- your neighbour

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avatar Tyler October 18, 2013 at 7:05 am

Is the old OB Surf and Skate/BofA building available for lease? Without going into details on this site, I tried to inquire about it via the OBMA but haven’t received a response. If anyone has information, it would be appreciated. The OB community deserves better, and I’m going to see what I can do to make that happen

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avatar Bearded OBcean October 18, 2013 at 9:39 am

Yes, it just went on the market in September. 10000 SF.

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avatar Debbie October 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

Ocean Beach Retail Lease
4976 Newport Avenue San Diego, CA 92107
Price: $22.80 Per Sq.Ft/Year

For anyone that wants to put in a grocery store…..make it happen :-)

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avatar Tyler October 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

My one major question. Why are the former Apple Tree operators NOT putting in a new store? They already own the property and own the equipment, which I’m assuming is still in storage.

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avatar kathy October 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I heard he (Bob?) also owns another grocery store, and changed his mind about opening one at the Newport property.

I also heard a rumor that OB Surf & Skate was having a hard time paying rent there, so maybe he used his “grocery store plan” to evict them without hard feelings. Disgruntled tenants are known to trash a place under strenuous circumstances.

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avatar Debbie October 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm

The equipment was old and probably not very energy efficient. Why, no new store??? probably not very profitable and alot of work. There was never much smiling by the owners of Apple Tree….I think they are burnt out.

If other markets thought is was a good location (assuming the rent is affordable and the owner would allow concessions for TI’s) the old Apple Tree would have been scooped up already.

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avatar Dan Shay October 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

Yeah, I agree with OBRacer and Seth. I too would prefer a grocery store, but I do not see how we can make the property owner only rent to a grocery store. Furthermore, a grocery store almost certainly would sell alcohol too, so denying the alcohol permit for CVS does not seem right. CVS is not my first choice, but it is a lot better than condos, etc. I believe CVS plans on keeping the building architecture too. Not sure abt the mural.

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avatar OB Mercy October 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

I was at the meeting. CVS said they absolutely would not tear down the building because of the historical architecture. One of the board members expressed her approval of that because the building is inline for historical preservation status eventually due to that cool architecture.

I too would like to see a regular market in there because we do have many people in OB that don’t drive and they need fresh food. I love Peoples but it is expensive. So is the Farmer’s Market. We’ll see if the old Apple Tree owners ever do open up the market in the old Surf and Skate, nothing has happened there so far. There also supposed to be a small market opening up in the old Rocky’s Surf Shop on Abbott, but that also has not materialized yet, but it does look like they are working on it.

As much as we don’t need another place that sells alcohol, it is inevitable it will happen if any kind of venture of that kind opens up there. As much as I don’t like to see anymore big box stores open up in OB, I don’t know really if any amount of protest will stop it. But it certainly doesn’t mean we can’t try. Sounds silly after saying all that, but I would still rather see a Trader Joes open there than a CVS.

SHOW UP AT NEXT MONTH’S MEETING!!

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avatar kathy October 18, 2013 at 1:09 pm

What happened to Foodland? I heard the independent grocer, like Apple Tree and Apple Market on Voltaire, would take over the old Apple Tree site. I assume the jacked up rent that caused Apple Tree to move out, dissuaded them, as they’re usually located in more “depressed” neighborhoods.

I suppose CVS is better than nothing, but I’ll continue to support Rite Aid who was just voted #1, over Walgreens and CVS, for “reward card” savings. Although long lines and pharmacy wait times are exasperating, they’re open 24 hours and have great liquor deals. However, their remodel sucks. It’s not user friendly and it appears they considerably downsized inventory.

@obracer . . . great idea to contact CVS with suggestions suitable to our community needs. They would get my business by expanding the grocery section to include items Rite Aid doesn’t sell, and honoring the same discounts as my Rite Aid “rewards card”.

@obmercy . . . this is the first I heard about a market at the old Rocky’s site, presumably by the owners of the laundramat next door, and two liquor stores close by. The last thing we need is another overpriced, limited item convenience store, but a cheap produce store would be perfect. I was always satisfied with Apple Tree’s produce, @prices 1/3 to 1/2 of big grocers and competitive with Costco w/out the big bulk purchase.

I’m really surprised another independent grocery store didn’t replace Apple Tree. The building couldn’t be more suitable, doesn’t require major renovations, and it’s a good size parking lot.

It’s unacceptable for a community our size not to have a grocery outlet within walking/biking distance. What has the OB Planning Board done to market the site to small grocers?

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avatar kathy October 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I just sent this email to CVS . . .

“I just learned you are opening a new store in Ocean Beach, San Diego, at a site formerly occupied by an independent grocer. Apple Tree Market closed January 1, 2013, and our beach community has suffered a major inconvenience by the loss of our only grocery store, both economically and transportation wise.

News of your new store has not been well received in our community, who had hopes that another grocery store would open at that site. I’m sure you’re aware there is a Rite Aid store, just two blocks away from your new proposed location, and our small community doesn’t need another pharmacy.

While your new store will be a few blocks closer, I will continue to fill my prescription needs at Rite Aid, and probably shop for the limited items they offer, because I enjoy savings with my “rewards card”. It would take a while at your store, to build up to the maximum savings status I reached, after years of shopping at Rite Aid.

Discussion on a local media website spews of negativity, however, I’m taking one commenter’s advise and contacting you with suggestions that will satisfy community needs. I hope “logistics” is the appropriate recipient choice. If not, please forward or reply to me with the proper avenue to direct my input. Your response, or lack thereof, will be communicated to the comment board where concerned residents and OB Planning Board members are discussing this disappointing news.

I’ll start off complimentary . . . the majority are in favor of your decision to operate within the architectural design of the structure. Good decision – it’s “old school”, like the people who live here.

The focus of the news story I read was approval of your liquor license. I like that too. I buy my liquor exclusively at Rite Aid and Vons, based on selection and price. You’re already price competitive, and if you stock my preferred brand that forces me to drive to Vons, I’ll even pay a buck or two more. It’s all about “convenience”.

The current premises is designed to accommodate a full service grocery store. I’m inclined to believe it would be cost efficient to limit renovations to “upgrades”, rather than significant interior “revisions”. This would allow for an easy transition to manage and maintain a large grocery inventory.

While “produce” might not be a merchandise category you are able or willing to offer, it would be hugely successful. Apple
Tree Market had a wide array of produce, selling for 1/3 to 1/2 of major grocers, and residents felt the sting of the loss. Most complaints from locals are focused on the lack of affordable produce.

Your competitors’ general grocery items, as well as frozen and dairy products are high-priced and very limited in selection. You have the space to replicate a 24 hour independent grocery store with a liquor department and pharmacy, that could be the demise of Rite Aid. They reaped the benefit of Apple Tree’s closing, and soon after announced their new 24/7 hours. Their only complaint seems to be “long lines”.

I’m no marketing expert, but as a 15+ years Ocean Beach resident, I suggest you consider opening a 24 hour CVS “Superstore”. One block from the beach, and Newport Avenue’s shopping and bar district, you couldn’t ask for a better location.

We need you to meet our needs if you want to succeed. Because right now, residents are talking about boycotting your unneeded pharmacy that blocks the prospect for a much needed grocery store.

Thank you for your consideration. If you take the time to respond, I will gladly circulate it in my neighborhood. If you choose not to, I’ll consider writing to you a waste of my time and a disregard for our community. Be assured, I will communicate that likewise.”

I’ll keep everyone posted if I get a response.

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avatar Steph October 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm

There are so many important points presented throughout this thread of comments. I enjoy taking in the cares and concerns of the community regarding this plan. I really look forward to seeing these ideas and more presented at the full board meeting on November 6th!

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avatar j toner October 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm

it is bad news for o.b

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avatar John November 4, 2013 at 10:08 am

CVS sucks, surely their intent here is to do what they did to Longs- overwsaturate the market until their competitor goes out of business, then they are alone, then jack up prices through the roof.
Rite Aid is GREAT. Many of their employees are lifers, like that good looking middle age blonde woman (sorry your name is on the tip of my tongue) you’re the best! Anyone who thinks CVS is a place you want to shop, please do so the next time you need to at their W. Pt. Loma location. Then go to Rite Aid and price the same items.
Then surely you’ll say it- again, repeat as many times as necessary:
CVS SUCKS.
(I heard somewhere they eat their children and club baby seals too! Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger.)

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avatar D.J. Bonin November 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

We need a grocery store ! plain and simple.

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