Stalled San Francisco grocery retailer sparks questions

Outside the 555 Fulton Street apartment complex. Photo: Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The bottom floor of a Hayes Valley condo complex slated to house Trader Joe’s grocery store remains empty, and city officials are beginning to wonder why.

What’s up: Supervisor Dean Preston this week called on the board to investigate the stalled project at 555 Fulton Street, which was due to be completed earlier this year.

Why it matters: The inclusion of an affordable grocery store was one of the top demands from neighbors when the 139-unit condominium building received approval some 15 years ago, reports the Chronicle.

  • The addition also allowed the developers to expand the scope of the project and build more units.

What you say: “If there are legitimate reasons not to move forward, let’s hear them. But a delay without a public explanation is unacceptable,” Preston said in a written statement. “This slot has been empty for too long and we want it activated.”

Flashback: Portland-based grocer New Seasons was originally scheduled to occupy the 29,000-square-foot space, but canceled its lease in 2018.

Remarkable: The local neighborhood association has accused the project’s developer, Z&L Properties, of dragging out costly updates that need to be completed before Trader Joe’s can move in, reports the SF Standard.

The Intrigue: Z&L Properties is partially owned by real estate billionaire Zhang Li, who was arrested last year on a warrant accusing him of bribing San Francisco officials to get building permits.

  • Mission Local reported that Zhang and the 555 Fulton Street project were at the center of the corruption case that led to the seven-year sentence of former public works director Mohammed Nuru.
  • Z&L also owns a 109-unit condominium complex in Hayes Valley on Oak Street that was completed over two years ago but is mysteriously vacant.

What’s next: Preston said he wants a hearing on the stalled Trader Joes next month.

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