The Noe Valley Voice • October 2013 9
A Lot of Stale Air In Real Food Space CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
ex-employees claimed the store was closed and they were fired to thwart a unionizing effort. The National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of the workers, and in 2009 Nutraceutical announced that it had agreed to a settlement. In the interim, Nutraceutical purchased the property as part of a legal settlement with the Allens, and, at the neighborhood’s prodding, made inspections and minor repairs to the increasingly dilapidated building. Sergio Diaz, now president of Fresh Organics, told the Voice in 2007 that the company intended to tear down the building and replace it with a mixed-use project, including a grocery store, community space, and residential units. Since then, the long economic recession, the opening of Whole Foods Market across the street, and the strained silence from Nutraceutical have cast doubt on those plans. Pool? Theater? Brew Pub?
Neighbors responding to Persyko and Gabel’s poster display had a wide range of suggestions for the space, most involving some sort of community use, such as a cultural center, art studio, or co-working or hacker space. Many favored sports or entertainment uses, including a swimming pool, movie theater, game arcade, roller rink, or new location for the recently shuttered Lusty Lady peep show (this actually got more than one vote). Several wanted a hardware store to replace Tuggey’s, and some thought the Elizabeth Street Brewery needed a new home. A food court was a popular choice, and a few locals wanted to see Real Food reopen. Condos received both positive and negative mentions. “I’d personally like to see a combination of retail, community space, and lowcost housing, but it’s up to the community to work that out,” Persyko told the Voice. “Nutraceutical owes the community a lot for leaving a hole in the heart of
Many 24th Street pedestrians stopped to read the broadsides taped to the empty Real Food storefront over Labor Day weekend. And some left their comments on the 10-year vacancy.
Noe Valley’s main street. It should give the building to the city for community use.” “The community is divided over what type of resolution is best,” added Debra Niemann, executive director of the Noe Valley Association–Community Benefit District. “I hope we can find a way to move past the issues that divide us and agree on a solution that brings activity back to that part of the neighborhood. Perhaps a small movie theater, three storefronts, or a restaurant, all with hous-
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ing above, would be welcome and would do well.” Utah Holds the Cards
But before such a community discussion can begin in earnest, Nutraceutical must be willing to come to the table. District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener says he has attempted to broker a mutually acceptable deal—following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Bevan Dufty, who tangled with the company for years. “I, as well as others, have been trying
to get a higher-level meeting with Nutraceutical for quite some time,” Wiener told the Voice. “A few months back, I put out a call to some folks in the business community for any connections high up at the company. Word spread, and someone was able to facilitate contact with the CEO.” Nutraceutical CEO Bill Gay has agreed in principle to meet with the supervisor and a delegation of community representatives, but there is no set date or agenda, according to Wiener. Gay and Diaz did not return phone calls and emails from the Voice seeking an update. In June 2012, the Voice Rumors column reported that Carol Yenne, past president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, had recently been in touch with Diaz, who told her that the company wanted to move forward with a simple renovation rather than a major redevelopment. But some won’t believe it until they see actual work at the site. “I’m skeptical about Nutraceutical doing anything now when they haven’t done anything for 10 years,” said Persyko. As of late September, the city’s Department of Building Inspection website showed no outstanding permits for electrical, plumbing, or construction work at 3939 24th St. The most recent permit, for repair of water damage and improved disability access, was dated April 2007. Oscar Mata, who was recently seen cleaning the building, said he had been hired by Fresh Organics merely to maintain the empty storefront. He said he knew of no specific plans for remodeling or reopening the store. “Real Food continues to be a very frustrating situation for the neighborhood and for me,” said Wiener. “I’m hopeful that this escalation will result in more productive conversations about getting the company to do something with the space, rather than letting it sit there vacant. If they don’t, then my hope is that they will sell the building. But they need to do something.” 䡲
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Published on Oct 1, 2013