Ocean Beach Planners Delay Decision on CVS Pharmacy Moving Into Former Apple Tree

by on November 7, 2013 · 31 comments

in Culture, Economy, Ocean Beach, Veterans

OBPB meet 11-6-13 sd 07Board Requires Corporate Applicant to Return in 90 Days With Information on Planned Alcohol Sales to Neighborhood

By Stephanie Denton / Special to the OB Rag

The monthly OB Planning Board meeting – Wednesday, Nov. 6th – brought out dozens of locals and it was standing-room only in the meeting room of the OB Rec Center as the Board’s agenda included topics which have caused a stir.

OBPB meet 11-6-13 sd 02

OB Planning Board. (All photos by Stephanie Denton)

CVS Pharmacy’s Alcohol Permit Application

The hottest topic of the evening was the alcohol permit application by CVS Pharmacy which plans to move into the former Apple Tree Market on 4949 Santa Monica Avenue.  After a presentation by the CVS rep and after numerous speakers asked the Board to deny the application, the Board decided to delay their decision and give CVS 90 days in which to present more information regarding alcohol and the neighborhood.

This most coveted topic regarding the CVS Pharmacy Alcoholic Beverage Control License Type 21 was presented by CVS Program Developer Tom Wilheim. OB has a history of limiting its liquor licenses, as the community does not want to be known just for its alcohol consumption options.

OBPB meet 11-6-13 sd 01

CVS Program Developer Tom Wilheim addresses the OB Planning Board.

During a Q & A, Board Member John Ambert of District 1 presented the crime map for the month of October 2013 for all activities within a 1 mile radius of the projected CVS location. The crime map revealed that over 1/3 of the crimes listed are alcohol related, mostly open containers and minors in possession of alcohol.

When asked what percentage of their sales will go to alcohol the CVS rep responsed that it is “unknown” as each location is unique to the sales of the neighborhood they reside in.

Wilheim went on to report that CVS does want to compete with local business with the lower prices that they can offer when compared to a non corporate local business. This comment sent the room into a bustle of commentary between the folks who came out for the meeting.

CVS also reported that the current building where Appletree was would need many upgrades to meet the grocery standards – which could have something to do with why a grocer hasn’t taken up the space as of yet.

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Former Board member Craig Klein speaking to the Board.

On the issue of jobs being offered to the community, CVS had been asked at the previous meeting how many jobs this CVS market would offer to OB and did not have a firm answer then.  At this meeting they did; it was reported that CVS would be offering 20-30 new jobs.

Residents of OB who came out to the meeting were largely against CVS coming into our neighborhood. A community member who claimed 135 years of family residence within Ocean Beach stated that “we have enough alcohol being sold throughout Ocean Beach” and that this CVS “is the end of the community as we know it.”

OB Town Council President Gretchen Kinney Newsom also made a plea to the board not to approve the liquor license as CVS would not be providing fresh food that suits our community and that CVS does not offer any new benefit to the community.

OBPB meet 11-6-13 sd 05The former owner of Appletree was present at the meeting and stated that if the CVS is approved there “will be a new Appletree” that he will open on Newport Avenue, but he had no further details. Board member John Ambert responded that this is “extortion” as the owners statement of bringing back a grocery store to the neighborhood was being held over the Board and based on their vote of approval of the CVS Alcohol License.

In the end, the Board voted to delay for 90 days their approval or denial as they requested to have CVS present them with more information regarding the permit. The board requests that more research on the neighborhood be presented and reported on by February of next year.  (After the Board meeting, I followed up with a couple of Board members and they weren’t quite sure of what just happened, but knew bottom line the project was tabled for at least 90 more days.)

OBPB meet 11-6-13 sd 08

Steve Grosch of the OBCDC.

Steve Grosch of the OB CDC (Community Development Corporation) presented the updated plans for the Veterans Plaza which was unanimously approved by the Board.

The plan has incorporated the ideas of the community through 2 workshops earlier this year and has reflected the ideas presented in their new plan. There were two plans assessed and commented on the by the community at these workshops.

The rebuilt Veteran Plaza will remain in the park off of Abbot and Newport, however it will be moved much closer to the Lifeguard station. The current flagpole will be incorporated within the new memorial entitled “Life Journey” as well as the plaques and rock of the current memorial

The board suggested a review of the materials to be used, requesting that it not be overly colorful. The 84 names on the current memorial have become worn by sand and wind which the creators of the new memorial have taken into account. The new memorial will place the names of the Vets away from the elements which wore the previous memorial down. Knowing that OB attracts folks who wish to reside in the shadows, the OBCDC reported that the space would be well lit throughout the night and may even include foliage which is not easily habitable.

The board inquired about the materials used and whether it will attract skateboarders. Grosch reported that the concrete to be used will not be skateboard friendly, stating that the concrete will not be smooth or desirable by skateboarders.

The cost of the Plaza will be just under $800,000. A public participant in the meeting volunteered $500 towards the project, as the Plaza will be built off of donations and grants. This was obviously well received by Grosch on behalf of the OBCDC.

Verizon Wireless

Next on the agenda are the two permits Verizon is seeking approval for so that they may replace the existing antennas at 2229 Bacon Street as well as 1711 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. In the previous presentation of this application by Verizon the board asked that the plans be sure to not alter the aesthetics of both buildings. Verizon presented plans that ensure that the integrity of the buildings will not be compromised if they upgrade their antennas with new materials, and that the aesthetics will be kept the same as requested by board member Raeanon Hartigan. This application was unanimously approved.

BBQ House

The owner of the BBQ House presented their application for Coastal Development Permit to the board. The BBQ House will be expanding its business into the old Cow Record store which will double their size. At the previous meeting in October the board requested that the BBQ House include plans for dog access to their patio, as they are a dog friendly establishment. These plans were submitted, with access for dogs on the patio included.

The board clarified with the owner of the BBQ House that the name of their establishment will not be changing from the BBQ House to The End Zone. It was stated that the name The End Zone was possibly going to be the new name for the infamous OB bbq spot, however is now just the name of the project, the owners are keeping their well known name the same. The board unanimously approved this application.

As the meeting carried well beyond the time allotted, the Chair announcements/correspondences/meetings were not presented tonight.



{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly November 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

Nice job of summarizing a long meeting, Stephanie. Thank you for being there for those of us who didn’t but should of attended.


Steph November 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Molly, Thank you I appreciate your feedback. Its my pleasure to attend and report back to the community. The next public OBPB meeting regarding the CVS Liquor License should take place in February, so the community should have at least one more chance to present their questions and/or concerns to the board. Perhaps we will see you there :)


Tyler November 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

Shameful to hear what the owner of the old Apple Tree is doing, but I’m not surprised. The condition of the old Apple Tree is proof enough how much they actually cared about the community.

I tried several times over the last month to inquire about the vacant Newport property owned by the old Apple Tree owners via a broker and the OBMA, but was either given the cold shoulder or flat out ignored/not called back. I was thinking about doing what was right for the community (and obviously myself) and opening up a grocery store in the vacant Newport building, but I’ve realized it’s not possible.


Steph November 9, 2013 at 8:56 pm

That’s interesting Tyler. Perhaps its because the ball is already bouncing on this project? It couldn’t hurt to keep trying :)


Joe November 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

F**K Apple Tree, if CVS is allowed in i will boycott both CVS and Apple Tree.



obracer November 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Joe–You mean big corporations like the makers of Budweiser ? or Cox cable ?, Verizon ? Sempra Energy ?
I assume you brew your own beer, listen to radio, use pigeons to communicate and you have solar panels ?


Joe November 11, 2013 at 8:50 am

@Ob Racer

yes i brew my own beer, i grow a lot of my own food, i do have solar panels, i only listen to public radio which i donate to. i do not use COX and my messenger pigeons are well groomed. Not all of us have to suck off the corporate tit. learn to be self sufficient. my point is i don’t want big business in OB. My family has been here for over 75 years , last thing i want is big corps like Walmart, or any company with a yearly income of 5+ million. i want small family business so we can keep our eclectic diversity and not get swept up in corporate propaganda.


ob girl November 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Word. But I think you mean messenger parrots ;)
I keep thinking what would be amazing would be to divide this building up into work/sale space for local artists/artisans to make art or food and sell to us. Of course, that would probably require a rich person donating this to the community…..


judi curry November 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I was also at the meeting and want to clarify the feeling about the previous owner of the Apple Tree. He did not “coerce” the board by any means. He explained that if if CVS was going to offer fresh produce and groceries at their new store, he would not be opening up Apple Tree II. He feels that there would not be a need for a second grocery store if people were to purchase grocery items at CVS. At the original meeting when CVS made their presentation, it was unsure as to whether or not they would be offering the produce/meats that Apple Tree sold. It is interesting to note that the owner still holds the liquor license from the original market – and if he were to open up a new grocery store he would reactivate his liquor license thus adding to the alcohol sales in Ocean Beach. (Assuming that the board approves the CVS request.)

Presently Ocean Beach has exceeded the number of establishments selling alcohol beverages. If CVS is given permission to sell liquor, and not just beer and wine, there would be a glut of establishments and would need approval from the City to do so.

One of the board members was sentimental about the 1960’s building and doesn’t want to see it torn down and have something else built there instead. (Like condo’s.) Another stated that if there was another company that wanted to purchase the property and sell alcohol they would probably approve it – the feeling was that that the community just doesn’t want CVS to go in to Ocean Beach. (I wanted to ask the question of why CVS feels the need to put in another store when they have two others within a 4 mile radius, but the chairman did not call on me.) I also want to know if they are planning on closing either the Rosecrans store and/or the Midway store.

I can’t help but the board was “wishy-washy” in their decision. These people represent the community yet could not come to a consensus as to approve or disapprove the request from CVS. OB already has more than its share of alcohol establishments. To let sentiment enter into a decision like this didn’t show me any backbone by the board. I stopped shopping at Safeway when the smell of rotting food was so bad I felt things were not clean. The few times I shopped at Apple Tree the smell was just as bad. Perhaps the building needs to be gutted in the inside and the outside shell remain. Regardless, to approve CVS because of the fear of what may go into the building – or not – is juvenile.

To set the record straight – however – the previous owner of the Apple Tree Market will build a new market in the old Bank of America Building if CVS is given approval and will not sell produce and meat. He will not open a new market if CVS sells those items.


Tyler November 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Excellent write up. Thanks for clarifying the grey areas.


Seth Connolly November 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Judi, thanks for the clarifications. As a former OBPB board member, here is one of my own, in my typical long-winded fashion: While the board does represent the community, they do not do so in a vacuum. They do so according to existing policy and code, at least if they want their non-binding advisory recommendations to actually be taken into account by the actual decision-makers.

One of the best things I heard getting a planning degree was that, “In Europe, you cannot build anything until someone tells you yes. In the US, you can build whatever you want until someone tells you no.”

Which is really just to say that recommending denial of a permit requires an argument with teeth of some kind. Parking and traffic impacts, failure to meet the standards for getting a variance, etc… not “the community doesn’t like it, or would rather have a grocery store, or we think your building is ugly.”

Board members can certainly base their votes on arguments like that if they choose, but they can’t expect them to be legally-defensible reasons why the applicant’s property/economic rights are being infringed upon, even for a discretionary permit such as this one.

This somewhat limits the power of community activism in the planning process IMO, even at a community planning meeting. Showing up in numbers with the pitchforks and torches can go a long way to dissuading property owners or applicants from going against the (real or perceived) will of the community, but if the arguments themselves don’t have teeth, they might not impact the bottom line when push comes to shove.

In that context, it would appear to me that the closest opponents of this permit have come to getting an argument with actual teeth is to make the case that (a) there’s a spatial correlation between the locations of alcohol vendors and an increase in nearby crime (probably, although having played with those crime maps myself, I can make them say just about anything), and (b) this problem would be exacerbated by granting any new permits to any new alcohol vendors in this area due to the critical mass of some sort of cumulative impact.

There’s certainly some validity to that argument and drawing that line in the sand right there. If the Appletree owner has not relinquished his permit and plans to possibly transfer it to a new location, then CVS is not simply replacing his former permit (making the increased cumulative impact rather null and void), they are a new applicant above and beyond what has already been approved.

But it’s also a tricky argument if you want it to actually work, and not just play to the room of people who showed up last night. For starters, it helps to apply that line in the sand uniformly to everyone, and not just selectively against applicants you don’t “like” or what have you. More importantly, it helps to have that additional cumulative impact quantified to the extent it possibly can be.

I can’t speak to why the vote to table was made, but I know that I have been up there in similar situations where I was being asked to… well… basically just guess as to the validity of certain arguments or even what exactly was being proposed by an applicant who didn’t really have their ducks in a row. Or for that matter, the validity of cases made by project opponents who didn’t really have their semi-valid arguments together quite yet.

In those instances, I don’t think it is all that “wishy-washy” to ask for more information that can allow you to provide a more knowledgable, and hopefully more accurate, recommendation to the decision-makers that actually *do* determine these things.


John November 7, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Well said, Seth,and I think commenter Joe above would do well to take heed of the advice about focusing on relevant legal matters when it comes to taking action on these projects people get concerned about. I remember reading the permit applications submitted in the matter of the Stebbins residence on W. Pt. Loma Blvd. (where I’ve rented, in the building next door, for 17 years) and along the way at hearings at City Hall, the Coastal Commission, etc, each event was preceded with well detailed agenda about what issues were up for discussion and you needn’t have passed a bar exam to read simple English and see what avenues there are to pursue successfully.
However there is a caveat to all that, and Stebbins was candid about it: People wanted to block his project altogether and saw a relevent issue in the underground garage, and did make inroads with that part of the project. Ultimately it caused him to go back to the drawing board with a new plan that discarded the underground parking with automated flood doors- in doing so cutting the cost of the build by (IIRC) something like $250k?
Which, as his project would become a precedent others would follow, only made it more attractive for others to build a likewise cheaper, similar design and the permit process streamlined.
Ultimately working against the real goal of stopping gentrification of the whole block. Had he been able to build his elaborate and expensive design there would likely just be Stebbins’ house today, not 3-4 like it. (which, for the record, is a very attractive house,and even though I’m ultimately going to be displaced, fully support my landlord’s desire and right to build within codes and the precise plan- though damn I’m getting sick of the sound of hammers at 7 am every day!)


Seth November 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Thanks, John, and good thoughts. There are often unintended consequences with how this all plays out.


kenloc November 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm

As Lane used to say,Bump ^


obracer November 8, 2013 at 7:50 am

I also think the board looses credibility with ” wishy washy ” decisions, but it seems they are doing the best they can to balance the wishes of the community with the rights of the property owner.
“The board requests that more research on the neighborhood be presented and reported”
Absurd request !
What difference does it make if alcohol is sold at that location ? is everybody all of a sudden going to buy alcohol ONLY at that location ? are people coming from all around the county to buy alcohol at THAT location ? will MORE alcohol be sold because THAT location sells the same thing every other market or liquor store in OB sells ? don’t be ridiculous !
Weak argument, weak board, weak decisions.
Another reason for development services to ignore the decisions made by the Ocean Beach Planning Board.


Seth November 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I wasn’t there, but I can guess a little more on why this vote went the way it did. IIRC, the permit was recommended for approval something like 7-1 in the project review committee. So what changes in the general meeting?

Perhaps Mr. Ambert et al were able to better articulate their arguments in opposition, or perhaps the room full of people and/or their arguments had an impact on the board (which is the whole point of having public input in the first place).

Either way, it would seem that some legitimate issue was raised that could not be answered to the satisfaction of the board.

On the CVS side, they are corporate, but really not Wal-Mart or SDG&E or some slimy developer who are used to public opposition and who routinely send some polished PR rep to blow smoke up everyone’s butt at meetings like these. Their rep at the meeting was probably either some guy who does a couple of dozen of these all over the West Coast (almost none with community planning input or rabid opposition), or just some middle manager from the nearest corporate office who drew the shortest straw that day.

They show up with their building plans, some drawings and a sales pitch, and just maybe don’t have all the answers. Maybe it is about the percentage of alcohol sales or whatever, but in light of what Appletree is saying about likely not being able to make a profit with CVS/People’s/farmers market right in the area, the harder one for me would be him being asked if CVS is going to sell produce and meat at this location, and him saying, “I don’t know.”

Not saying that’s what happened, but in that hypothetical, shouldn’t an applicant be able to answer basic questions about their own proposal concerning issues that have an impact on the community? And in that hypothetical where they cannot do that, isn’t it perfectly acceptable for the board to tell them to come back when they can?

I don’t like wasting people’s time, but I think so. It’s not the board or the local residents applying for the permit, after all.


Dallas M. November 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Thanks for the wrap up. To be honest, I’m not all that against putting something like a Vons there as, for the most part, major grocery shopping means having to go over the hill. Would be nice to be able to just walk a couple blocks to pick up things like meat for a random BBQ or something. What I don’t see is the reason why CVS is trying to move in? OB has the Rite-Aid already for pharmacy/convenience needs and CVS already has two other stores close by. Apparently, they couldn’t answer either. Seems like corporate muscle just trying to move in on already claimed territory.


Steph November 9, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Dallas, the “corporate muscle” is indeed a threat to our local economy in that they are inherently competitive without remorse and tend to squeeze out local businesses. According to the OB Rag polls the OB community does not want to be a stage for big corporate competition, as we cannot afford the economic loss this may present for our small businesses. Not to mention it wont even provide the community with groceries or products which are not already available. Thank you for your input Dallas!


OB Dude November 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Dallas, a comment/observation to “What I don’t see is the reason why CVS is trying to move in”

OB has plenty of pizza parlors and bars that sell beer and restaurants that sell pizza and beer however; Pizza Port moved in just a short time ago….and nobody complained….about alcohol and crime etc

I just don’t get why this is such a big issue. You don’t like CVS don’t shop there.


John November 9, 2013 at 8:53 am

She’s not going to, and neither am I or a lot of other people who like Rite Aid and its local employees- and if we observe something that doesn’t seem kosher about CVS moving in we’re going to say something.
It would take a pretty short memory to not remember that a few years ago there was a Long’s drug store at W. Pt. Loma and Midway that had a great selection, low prices and people liked shopping there. CVS moved in at Midway and Rosecrans, across from Walgreens, obviously oversaturated the market, then bought Longs who were easy prey when their sales dipped.
CVS soon decimated the location, chopped the sales floor in half and what is there is priced much higher than their competitors.
I hope I needn’t explain further why there should be concern that CVS now wants to do the same thing to Rite Aid in OB.


Pat November 9, 2013 at 9:15 am

I guess even though I’m not crazy about formulated chain stores coming to OB, I’d rather have CVS there than have the building torn down. To me this is part of our cultural landscape. If we want to remain one of only a few of California’s authentic beach towns left. We must protect what’s left. Pat’s liquor is another property that concerns me, but as it is this site is probably not viable considering the price of property here at the beach. Hopefully we can find a balance. If it were to be developed into a condo project, I would like to see them built around the old store… but I doubt that would happen.


Debra November 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I agree with you, Pat. And I seriously wonder how many more condo projects our infrastructure is going to be able to handle.


Steph November 9, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I agree Pat and Debra, one of the biggest “Pro’s” to CVS coming into our community is that they have given their word that they have no intention of changing the structure of the building. Its unknown if this project were to be rejected if another project may result in a more negative result for the community than two pharmacies within 0.2 miles of eachother who offer very close to the same products and services. Its important for us to ask “well, what could be worse.”


Gail November 10, 2013 at 6:26 am

It seems to me that we have the most remarkable resource within our community to access fresh produce, wholesome baked goods and quality meat and seafood, and that is the already established Farmers Market. However the OB market is heavily weighted towards cheap street foods and dollar pizza. If the community would support ,purchase, and work with vendors who would bring healthier offerings to the Farmers Market, I believe we would attract more of that type of vendor. Meanwhile there is no way I am gonna drive over the hill to buy meat when I can get the best steaks in town plus hormone free chicken , outstanding deli selections, right here in OB at the Olive Tree.


OB Dude November 10, 2013 at 7:19 am

Bravo to working with the Farmers Market idea. Maybe the OBMA or perhaps the OBRAG could get a list of specials from each vendor and then publish this info before to get more to shop at the market and improve some of the prices.

If CVS wants the community support…all they need to do is sell medical marijuana.


Tyler November 10, 2013 at 9:09 am

I love Olive Tree but c’mon. Best steaks in town? Not even remotely close. Secils puts Olive Tree to shame. The chicken (raw) is also not my favorite.

Also, people don’t want to HAVE to shop for their groceries only on Wednesday afternoon and only be limited to what the vendors have. Not everyone can make it due to work and other commitments anyway.


nostalgic November 10, 2013 at 9:10 am

For people who DO have health insurance, CVS has acquired one of the country’s largest providers of prescription medication – the former Caremark. As a result, many OB residents will be happy to be able to process their medications close to home. As you have speculated on the motives of CVS, this is certainly one of them. As for NOT shopping there, the Caremark customers have no easy choice that I know of.


Debbie November 10, 2013 at 9:47 am

Several months ago the OBRAG ran a poll over 60% (http://obrag.org/?p=67447) said they would not miss Apple Tree..I take that as they would not miss a grocery store also otherwise there would have protests to let it say or community meetings to make sure the store relocated to Newport.

For those that drive, you can shop where you work or on your way home. For those that do not drive, Olive Tree market and the Farmers market are in town and the bus goes to Stumps. Maybe not ideal but better than nothing.

Convenience is nice but is isn’t always available or affordable. CVS might not be everyone’s ideal wish but the alternative could change that area forever.


nostalgic November 10, 2013 at 10:19 am

Do people still shop at the walkable OB People’s food store?


judi curry November 10, 2013 at 10:27 am

I don’t shop there anymore since I saw cockroaches climbing up the wall. I do a lot of shopping at Barrons – don’t shop at Henry’s – or what ever their name is now – since the Ian fiasco; sometimes shop at Stumps because I like their meat – but I could never wait until only Wednesday to shop for produce. Once again, IF CVS opens, the owner of the Apple Tree will open up a new grocery store in the old B of A building. As far as RX – there is always RiteAid. I personally prefer CostCo or even Ralphs. Like others, I can’t understand why CVS wants to come into OB with two other CVS within a 4 mile radius, unless it is to try and put RiteAid out of business.


nostalgic November 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm

CVS/Caremark customers do not have a choice for prescriptions. And CVS gets 68% of its income from this source, not alcohol.


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