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Palo Alto to vet new grocer for old JJ&F site

Original post made on Aug 7, 2014

The developer of College Terrace Centre raised eyebrows earlier this year when he disclosed that his son will be in charge of the center's grocery store, but Palo Alto officials believe the new store could be as good as or better than JJ&F, the venerable market that once occupied the site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 7, 2014, 2:11 AM

Comments (21)

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2014 at 8:58 am

To the extent there is a problem, it is the absurdity of imposing a "grocery store" requirement for the development, rather than allowing the owner of the property and market forces to determine what sort of retail or service occupies the space.

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Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

To the comment about letting the property owner do what he wants. That is fine with me if he meets the zoning requirements. That is not the case here. In exchange for building what will probably be a monster, the city wants a growsery store for the community. My preference is to stop letting developers promise community benefit that soon evaporates. Let them build what they want but no zoning variances.

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Posted by Grocery retail IS rocket science.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

A developer with no grocery experience cannot be successful in the low-margin, highly competitive world of grocery retail. This is a very challenging and highly specialized area of retail.

Without a successful grocery, there is no public benefit. Granting zoning variances based on this plan is not a good idea.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:24 am

Is a Veterinarian grocer moving in or does the writer need basic English instruction? This isn't the first time I have noticed vet used when it should be vette.

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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:47 am

Neighbor, "vet" can be used in either sense, to describe the work a veterinarian does or to describe a thorough check on something. I've seen "vette" in Italian, and evidently there's a Dutch word as well. Or it can be used colloquially to refer to a Corvette. I've not seen in used in English otherwise; perhaps you can supply a reference or two.

Beware of questioning someone's basic English skills until you've checked some sources...

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:02 pm

> Palo will be no semblance of the vision we hold for it.

Unfortunately, no comprenshive land use policies/visions have ever been put out to vote, so most of the people (ie, voters) have ever had a chance to vote on any of these matters. The most of us have had the visions of a few activists shoved down our throats with little in the way of overturning, or endorsing, the City’s policies.

What’s missing from this story is some explanation of the right of the City to involve itself in this level of execution of the project. The fact that developer drank the Koolaide and sought a PC zoning probably gives the City some amount of influence in the projects impact on the neighborhood, and presumably in the so-called “public benefit”—but it seems that questioning the choice of general manager of the future store, as well as demanding all sorts of financial information, is way out of line.

Palo Alto would be a lot better off if PC zoning were removed from the Zoning codes. It’s the sort of thing that would make a good ballot initiative.

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Posted by Local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Better than JJ&F? Not a chance.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Retired Teacher: Thanks for your correction. I most frequently see the word as vette in this context so I was surprised to hear that vet is considered proper. Next time I will do more research.

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Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:25 pm

from the article:

"City planners note that the financial success of the new grocer is "a particular concern because the tenant has not been willing to share information about the personnel with grocery experience who would be engaged to help operate the business."

"In reviewing the plans, however, Brucia concluded that James Smailey's team of advisers have "qualified credentials to participate in managing and advising the owners of J&A Family market." The market's co-manager and CFO is someone with "extensive experience in the grocery business" who worked for his family grocery business, owned his own store and has worked with distributors and vendors. Another adviser has "extensive experience in retail stores," Brucia wrote."

The applicant is not willing to share the names of individuals they claim will be running the store???
Did staff insist? It is incredible to me that they would even consider moving forward without such information!

Are you kidding me? James Smailey has no grocery experience, his own company/father is in charge of enforcing the lease against himself/his son, the applicant won't even release the name of the so called experts in the difficult and competitive grocery field…..
( think Mollie stones, country sun , Traders Joes the farmers market all in the immediate area )
…and staff and the consultant staff hired are recommending letting this giant project go forward ???? Why?

Time and time again the public has been robbed of the so called Public Benefits of the monster PC developments; time for the city council to take a stand and say no without a thorough vetting of all the individuals, the business plan the lease.

Its not hard to imagine a situation where the residents are left with a small sandwich shop with a few necessities on mostly empty shelves and a happy property manager and family trust laughing all the way to the bank!!!

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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:50 pm

"What's missing from this story is some explanation of the right of the City to involve itself in this level of execution of the project. The fact that developer drank the Koolaide and sought a PC zoning probably gives the City some amount of influence..."

That's exactly what happened. And the neighbors partook of the Koolaid and believed Professor Harold Hill the Grocery Man. And the city took its sip, believing it could get a real public benefit.

Or more likely the city followed Smailey's script, ostensibly and ostentatiously demanding a grocery store in return for allowing this huge, hugely profitably development, while following its custom of omitting any possibility of enforcement.

Tough luck, CTers. You get the broccoli but no dessert.

Lesson: every PC zoning ordinance should be vetted by the voters in a referendum. The present system gives away our town's character for private profit, for no public return.

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Only takes about 3 seconds to google "vet" definitions.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2014 at 6:47 pm

I found JJ&F to be terribly dirty -- left and never came back. Anything would be an improvement.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2014 at 8:01 pm

@ Sparty

I guess we will start calling you Spartypants!

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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Annette is a registered user.

The developer used community affection to get a PC variance. In exchange the community was promised a regular neighborhood-serving grocery. That was (is) the deal. Maybe Smailey's son can deliver, but what happens if he cannot? Does Smailey get to return to CC, throw up his hands and say, "I tried, but competition is tough and the grocery requirement is an unfair burden that cannot be met"? Is he then released from the requirement to provide a public benefit? Was this the plan all along? It will be interesting to see how CC handles this request for a non-grocer to be accepted as a grocer.

@neighbor - you may not have had the pleasure of shopping at JJ&F when it was at its best. Once the development plan started the owners weren't inclined to invest in tenant improvements. That's understandable but the tired look wasn't in JJ&F's control. Also, I think the reason the community sought to "Save JJ&F" had everything to do with the Garcia family. They were great!

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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I found JJ&F to be dirty and had some bad experiences with molded cheese and stale bread... CT residents & activitist, please give the kid a chance & lets focus on the things that really matter.

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Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:02 am

ChrisC is a registered user.

Why can't we have a Piazzas in College Terrace? I wonder if any of the Piazzas have thought about it. That's such a great market.

Jimmy, I think the mold and stale bread must have been after the Garcia family sold JJ&F.

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Posted by Seaa-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 8, 2014 at 7:02 am

Food for thought

Why re-invent? Can the owner work with one of the recent successes grocery store operators?

- Bristol Farms
- Dean and Deluca cute little store
- Safeway cute little store
- Draeger Menlo Park like store to name a few. I bet there are half a dozen more.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:54 am

Why we are at it, why don't we vette the developer of Alma Plaza and his relationship with his grocer tenant, the one that filed for bankruptcy soon after opening, which is a public document and seems to say, according to another local paper that the developer-grocer relationship was less landlord-tenant and more backer-backee or worse; vette them and use that experience here, or do nothing, but look into it.

That story, Alma Plaza I mean Alma Village as prelude to JJ&F Plaza or whatever, is consistently reported with developer saying "I never collected a dime of rent from the guy, to help him" but could have more truthfully be reported as "I actually paid the guy to open his doors, with my profits from the upzoning on housing".

Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

Annette -- re: the dirty JJ&F store.

Despite his lease problems, the JJ&F market owner could have swept the filthy floor and taken rotten food off the shelf. That is pretty basic.

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Posted by Floyd
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:33 am

Bristol Farms. Now that's a great idea.used to shop at one in Palm Desert area.
better than Draeger's and Whole Foods by far.

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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 9, 2014 at 8:26 am

Thanks Floyd.

I have good experience with them.

Here is where I found Bristol Farms; they have multiple sizes; hope 2100 El Camino has good Sq Ft. for their sizes

Newport Beach - Medium size next to a big Fashion Island in another shopping center location across library

El Segundo/Manhattan Beach - next to nice homes/businesses 5 miles south of LAX; sort of our neighborhoods

Palos Verdes - Residential and up on the hill and a smaller one where they started the Company.

Could the right people call them ask if they are interested? They already have one across Union Street next door to Bloomingdales and Nordstroms on Market Street in SF.


I was a resident of Newport Beach and a worker at Hughes and Boeing where they had Bristol Farms and was in Walteria

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