Suit over Edgewood Shopping Center and its grocery store goes to appeals court

The Market at Edgewood. File photo.
The Market at Edgewood.

BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily Post Correspondent

Neighborhood residents are again rallying to preserve a grocery store in the Edgewood Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

As part of a 2012 agreement with Sand Hill Property Co. to redevelop the shopping center, the city required a 20,600-square-foot building at the site to be used as a grocery store for the life of the project.

But after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to the city for allowing the building to sit vacant, the developer took the city to court over the grocery-store requirement. The case has now made its way to the California Sixth District Court of Appeal.

The City Council discussed the case in a closed session on Monday (Aug. 12), but took no official action.

Edgewood Shopping Center, at Highway 101 and Embarcadero Road, currently has an operating grocery store, the Market at Edgewood, which opened in December 2017.

Although the market has been popular, “even popular stores face financial challenges in these times, and owner-run, community-oriented grocery stores are always particularly vulnerable,” neighborhood activist Jeff Levinsky said in an email sent to residents last week. The email was co-signed by Carla Carvalho and Lenore Cymes.

“If we want to ensure a grocery remains at Edgewood Plaza, the council must use the very best legal experts and file a forceful appeal,” wrote Levinsky, who urged residents to contact the council on the issue.

The grocery-store requirement arose from an agreement between the city and the developer that allowed the developer to include 10 housing units in the project in exchange for providing a grocery store.

Store sat empty for two years

The redeveloped Edgewood Shopping Center opened in 2013 with a Fresh Market grocery store as a tenant. But Fresh Market closed its Palo Alto store, along with its other California locations, on March 31, 2015. Fresh Market had a 10-year lease for the Edgewood building and kept paying rent, and Sand Hill Property let it sit empty for more than two years.

In ruling on the developer’s lawsuit over the requirement, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Peter Kirwan said in December 2017 that the city ordinance does not require the developer to ensure the continuous operation of a grocery store at the center. Attorneys for the developer had argued that the city required continued use of the building as a grocery store — not continued operation of a grocery store.

Kirwan also ordered the city to refund almost $250,000 in fines the developer had paid.

The city filed its appeal of the decision on Jan. 23. The city’s opening brief is due on Friday, according to the appellate court’s website.

Residents weigh in

The December 2017 court ruling was followed by a deluge of letters to the City Council in support of a grocery store at Edgewood Shopping Center — as well as maintaining the city’s ability to fine the developer if a grocery store is not operating there.

“According to the ruling there just has to be a space for a grocery store, but there doesn’t have to be a grocery story,” Cymes wrote at the time. “No matter how I twist it — what is the value of an empty grocery store?”

“It is a very valuable community asset and we risk losing it if Sand Hill has less incentive to maintain a grocery store at that location,” resident Robert Ruskin wrote.

In his email last week, Levinsky reiterated some of the concerns. The ruling, he said, “makes no sense and could well encourage more developer misbehavior.”

“The court’s ruling means we could once again have no grocery store at Edgewood Plaza, because the shopping center owners will have far less incentive to keep and subsidize a grocer if necessary,” he said. “Instead, we may hear that a grocery store no longer ‘pencils out’ and we’ll lose forever a major neighborhood resource.”

6 Comments

  1. The solution is entirely in the hands of residents.

    If everybody in the neighborhood commits to doing ALL of their shopping at the Market at Edgewood, the store will be so successful that the landlord would never even think of evicting them.

    The problem is that these “neighborhood leaders” talk out of both sides of their mouth. On one hand, they want a market there because it makes them feel good that they have a place to occasionally pick up a carton of milk when the need arises. But they’re going to continue shopping at Costco because of the prices and the selection.

    So I challenge residents. If you really want a market, sign a pledge saying you’ll do all of your shopping at the Market of Edgewood …

    • Draw a Venn Diagragram of all the places to shop in a 5 mile radius and you will find that this location is unboubtedly the most un- trendy location around. After living in inhe area for 30 years, people are more concerned about image or (value) by shopping at big box stores. After being a supplier to Costco, Whole Foods and other big retailers, I can tell you some one else is paying the price for your proceved value. llet your moral compass decide if you want to build a community or chase the $7 dollars on a shopping trip in the area of $2mm houses.

      Thx, community supporter. tK

    • Marie M: Your unfounded attack on neighborhood supporters of The Market makes clear you are part of the problem, probably driving your gas-guzzling SUV to Costco so you can buy a year’s supply of toilet paper at reduced cost. I regularly shop at The Market, usually walking (thus saving gas and emissions) — and yes, I have bought TP there. Why are you siding with developers who got the benefit of their bargain to construct dense housing but are trying to weasel out of their obligation to financially support a grocery store?

  2. This may not be the best place for a grocery store. Lucky decided to close this location. Larger supermarkets are able to offer more items and more competitive prices. Sure, it’s sweet to have a local grocer, but if the items are too expensive, I’ll skip it and shop at Costco.

  3. What are you talking about…….. do you not take into account that the developers sold 10 condo for about 3 mil each while the shopping center lost 75 parking places. And, we have had to fight SH all the way to have their agreements honored. And they are still trying to wiggle out of agreements in the courts

    Unless one shops for a family of 4-6, shopping at Costco is a waste of time. Not everyone needs/wants to shop at Costco. The Market has many many items at very competitive rates, a great variety of items that maybe only highend stores carry – as you call them….- and usually at better prices.

    It has been an honor to be able to be invovled with getting the market to open their doors and owners that want to work with the neighbors, work to create a community environment while running a business. The “park” has plenty of families and kids playing around. , Edgewood Center is alive, safe and profitable for several business – and the Market is the anchor. My appreciation to the owners for putting in some long hard hours to make their business trive and create a place to walk to for food needs without getting ino tothe car. And while I am at it, the guac and a slice of rasin bread to munch on while shopping is a welcome treat.

    To those who think only about the prices look carefully (and I live on a BUDGET) – am so grateful for the present grocery store. As noted by being selected a best in Palo Alto. If you find the store so distasteful, get in your car, spend the time and $$ on gas, enjoy the traffic and do your shopping…….but note how many people appreciate The Market.

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