The CVS pharmacy chain has stirred up protests from about 350 Sacramento residents after it submitted plans to replace the Mercado Loco supermarket at 3710 Franklin Blvd. with a drugstore.
The Sacramento Children’s Home owns the property where Mercado Loco is located, and the nonprofit’s chief executive, Roy Alexander, told me it is not selling the land as several residents have posted at Nextdoor.com. The Mercado Loco lease expires in a couple of years, he said, and the children’s home is seeking a new tenant.
“When the previous tenant, the Lee family, had the Food King in there, what they did is when they left, they signed a contract lease with Mercado Loco,” Alexander said. “Basically, Mercado Loco is finishing out the term of the Food King lease. At the time that they took over the balance of the lease from the Food King, we told them that would be the term of the lease.”
Chang Hoon Yoon, the CEO of Mercado Loco, would not say much, but he told me that he had hoped to extend the lease. Besides its store in the North City Farms neighborhood, Mercado Loco also has stores in Roseville and West Sacramento.
The CVS plan calls for demolishing the current building and replacing it with a 16,500-square-foot structure that has a drive-thru for the pharmacy. Any deal between CVS and the children’s home would be contingent upon government approval. CVS Pharmacy spokesman Michael DeAngelis said: “At this time it would be very premature to comment on our plans at the corner of Franklin and Sutterville. The current tenant plans to remain until 2015. Given that, the earliest we could open a new store at this location would be 2016.”
One commercial industry veteran told me that a land lease with the largest drugstore chain in the United States would be a smart move for the children’s home because CVS would lease the land at a premium, build a new structure that will be a more attractive asset, and take care of all management and maintenance. Then, if the property ever reverted back to the children’s home, they would have a more modern property to attract a new tenant. Property developers make a healthy income on land-lease deals where they do nothing but collect rent.
The North Franklin District Business Association has no concerns about the change, but the idea of losing the independent Mexican food store has upset several hundred residents of Hollywood Park and Curtis Park. Sarah Singleton, a Hollywood Park resident for 10 years, launched a petition at www.change.org/petitions where 350 residents have registered their displeasure with a signature.
“There’s a drugstore on every corner,” said Singleton, a social worker and EdibleSacramento.com writer. “We don’t need any more drugstores. They just peddle a lot of junk. Mercado Loco really is a valuable asset there. … They have a butcher counter, food to go. I live really close to there and shop there myself.”
Bruce Pierini, a Curtis Park resident, spoke up for Mercado Loco on Nextdoor.com. He told me: “How many good ethnic markets that have fresh baked items and very good prices on meat and fresh produce do we have in this area? … It seems to me we’re underserved by that, and the diversity and local entrepreneurship and what I see as quality there speaks highly to retain that kind of tenant here and not to bring in a large corporate big-box kind of operation.”
Planning a city
As the CVS case points up, residents really can get passionate about plans for development in their neighborhood, and some people often feel caught off-guard and upset by change in the tiny part of the world where they felt they had control.
If you would like to know how you can keep abreast of the latest proposals for your neighborhood or for the city of Sacramento, then the Citizen’s Planning Academy might be for you. Over 11 weeks, city planners walk residents through how development projects are reviewed, the tools that city planners use and a range of other topics.
“The first four classes, we call them Planning 101,” said Helen Selph, an associate planner in the Community Development Department. “They cover the basics of the planning process, and then we start to get into more interesting issues, like how it works in the real world. We bring in some real developers to describe projects and walk them through what happened as they went through the process. Then they go and do other issues – smart growth, affordable housing, transportation planning, that sort of thing. It’s really designed for citizens, and we don’t look for people that already have some credentials or something like that.”
Selph said that some past class members have become so fascinated by the role of planners that they have gotten degrees and have moved to other cities to get jobs. There are only 30 slots for the academy, which begins March 3. The application deadline is 5 p.m. Jan. 13. To learn more, go to cityofsacramento.org, and look for the link to the Citizen’s Planning Academy under “City News.”