In the latest OB Rag poll, nearly four out of five respondents registered negative responses to CVS Pharmacy opening a store in the former Apple Tree Market building in OB. 78% of the 138 people who participated in the poll that was online for a week did not like the idea.
One-fifth of those who responded took a more positive approach.
To the question, “It looks like CVS Pharmacy will be opening up a market for medicine, alcohol and other retail goods in the former Apple Tree Market building. How do you feel about this?”
61% thought it was “terrible news for OB,” and since CVS “won’t be selling any fresh foods”, “OB-central is still without a food market.”
Add to that the 14% who thought it was “a waste” as “OB already has a pharmacy.” And 3% agreed with the choice, “I didn’t shop at Apple Tree and will not be shopping at CVS.” These responses made up the 78%, a total of 107 voting.
Responding in a more positive way, 11% indicated “it’s better than Wal-Mart, condos or an empty building.” Another 7% agreed that “finally something is going in. The empty building has been a blight on OB.” One percent thought it was “great,” that “CVS is cheaper than Rite-Aid”, the other pharmacy in downtown OB. That total is 19% or 27 who took part in the poll.
Finally, 1% of respondents said they didn’t care what went in, and another 1% had no opinion or didn’t know.
As always in OB Rag online polls, we cannot verify that those who participated live locally – this poll was directed at those who lived in the nearby communities – but the results do reflect feelings of our readers – many of whom do live in the Peninsula. We are able to ensure that there isn’t any double or more voting.
The polling results also do reflect the complexity of the situation. The empty building that used to house the Apple Tree – and Von’s before that and Safeway before that – has been a blight upon downtown OB. Any time a large building sits vacant in a usually-bustling area like that acts like a black hole and sucks in energy that ought to be outwardly or other-ly directed. The huge parking lot was also a blight upon the community when it was surrounded by a chain-link fence and providing fertile ground for weeds – until a few businesspeople – like Gary Gilmore – stepped in and were able to get a parking lot contractor to take over the asphalt.
The empty building had become a metaphor for the state of the economy as well. The previous owner of Apple Tree had promised opening up a smaller version of his market in space he owned on Newport Ave., but that never materialized. OB-central is indeed without a source of regular inexpensive fresh food – as CVS will be selling only processed or packaged foods, similar to Rite-Aid.
A good number of those who responded in the poll said CVS moving in was better than Wal-Mart – which is true indeed to some extent – they both are large corporations (Wal-Mart is way larger and more notorious). They also voiced the fear that condos could have been developed in the massive space available – a persistent rumor that has floated around Ocean Beach for quite some time. Yes, CVS is better than condos.
Fourteen percent said they are against CVS because OB already has a pharmacy. Yet, CVS moving into OB continues a trend one can see all over the county – pharmacies moving into close proximity with one other. For example, in the East County community of Lemon Grove, a Walgreen’s just opened across the street from a CVS Pharmacy and kitty-corner from a Rite-Aid – so, three pharmacies all across the street from one another.
Why do corporate pharmacies do that? Are they trying to out-pharm each other? Force the others out of business, limit competition in the area? Doesn’t make sense, except on some bottom-line corporate ledger sheet. Maybe their own internal polling of consumers show that consumers who shop in the area at other pharmacies will also shop in theirs.
In the meantime, it is very likely that CVS will open up in the old Apple Tree.
Another bottom-line is that in this type of capitalism that we live in, residents and small businesspeople of a community really don’t have a direct say in which corporate entities move into the commercial establishments of their neighborhood.
We live in a type of capitalism where we have a semblance of political democracy – but we do not have any kind of economic democracy. We do not have a direct voice in this.
Yes, OB does have a planning board, and many improvements and new development in the area must go through that board. And this is how the entire issue came up. CVS applied for a type of liquor license – where alcohol can be sold but consumed off-premises. This is relatively a minor matter compared with the issue of CVS opening up a new store in OB. That will never be on the table or agenda of the Planning Board – because they are not altering the exterior of the building.
Residents and property owners and small merchants do have an indirect say in things of this matter. There is always political pressure, lobbying, phone calls, letters, etc. There are also other levels of trying to get your voice out there. There are pickets and boycotts. If Wal-Mart had tried to open in the old Apple Tree, there definitely would have been picketing by irate villagers.
OB does have a history of boycotts and picketing of certain commercial endeavors in the community – with some success. In the Seventies, a picket line and firebombing stopped a corporate doughnut chain from moving into OB. During the Eighties, picket lines halted a porno theater from operating in the old Strand movie house. And of course, there was the infamous Starbucks boycott back in the earlier days of this century – that obviously did not result in its closing.
This discussion also in no way reflects any advocacy for any such tactics in response to CVS coming into OB. CVS could be simply the new wave of development that is beginning to sweep across OB – from the new condos across from the Rec Center, to the large houses on W. Pt Loma to the demolition of the old apartments at Abbott and Saratoga and the coming changes to OB’s waterfront.
The CVS representative at the recent Planning Board meeting did state that they were not tearing down the old building on Santa Monica, the old Fifties-era survivor that is now empty. In fact, they like it, he said. Not everyone in OB is actually enamored with the old architecture that the building represents.
But that is what’s coming – despite the polling that demonstrates that many are not happy. Yes, expect to see the CVS moving in after they rehab the insides of the cavernous space, that sits there waiting, waiting, waiting.