History Reveals Checkout Lines at Bernal Safeway Have Been Ridiculously Long Since 1972


Remember how the Citizens of Bernalwood recently took up cyber-pitchforks and -torches to complain about the ridiculously long lines at the Bernal Heights Safeway on Mission Street at 29th?  And remember how we hoped — naively, perhaps — that perhaps maybe someone at Safeway corporate might hear our gnashing of teeth, and take pity upon our sad souls, and remedy the situation?

Well, don’t count on it.

Recently, while browsing through a back issue of the Bernal Journal from 1972, your Bernalwood editor was darkly entertained to find an impassioned article complaining about… the ridiculously long lines at the Bernal Heights Safeway!

I wish I was kidding about this, but I am not. Behold, a time capsule from 43 years ago, written by Bernal Journal reporter “Vera Disgruntla” (click to embiggen):

1972_Souvenier Edition

The similarities between this Bernal Journal article from 1972 and the comments section of Bernalwood’s recent post about the Bernal Safeway are comical in their utter sameness.  Here’s a depressing excerpt pulled from the 1972 article shown above:

One man has vowed never to shop there — he gets his meat at the Pioneer Market dry good at 30th and Mission Market, and fresh fruits and vegetables at the Farmers Market at the foot of Bernal Hill. Another man goes once a week to the Marina Safeway. A woman told me she and her husband always drive the five minutes further to get to the Diamond Heights Safeway, where, because they never have to wait to check out there, they actually save time! These may be the only real alternatives.

But I am still mad – for me, and everyone around here who continually has this frustrating time waste wait at our store. The faces in the lines seem to say, “it’s always been like this; we’ve ALWAYS had to wait.”

So there you have it. Long lines have been a fixture at our local Safeway since even before 1972, and after 40+ years, it would seem that Safeway management still does not give a flying Fig Newton about the problem. But hey, at least they’re consistent.

In light of these facts, Bernalwood would now like to officially propse the following:

1) Let’s bulldoze this Safeway, since it so obviously suffers from intergenerational corporate indifference.

2) Let’s save that cool Taoist Safeway mosaic, for posterity, or for use in a replacement structure (see below).

3) Let’s build a few hundred units of much-needed housing on this long-neglected site, with the new ground-floor space dedicated to a more modern supermarket (something kind of like that new mixed-use building that was recently erected on Ocean).

4) While we’re at it, let’s get serious about asking BART to build that 30th Street infill station they’re thinking about again. Hurry up, please.

… because really, after banging our Bernalese heads against the walls at this Safeway for five decades, it may just be time to give up and try something else.

And in the meantime, you can read the rest of that 1972 issue of the Bernal Journal (PDF). Here’s another blast from the past from that same issue, featuring a shout-out to all the party people on Mullen and a handy guide to your Precita Park merchants of yesteryear:


IMAGE: Bernal Heights Safeway, via Google Earth


32 thoughts on “History Reveals Checkout Lines at Bernal Safeway Have Been Ridiculously Long Since 1972

  1. I’m at a point where I don’t really ever need to go to Safeway (as a Lengua-adjacent person Church Produce + Drewes + Bom Dia + Blue Apron take care of just about everything) but I’ll go to the Diamond Heights Safeway before the Bernal one every single time as it’s always faster to make the drive and not have to wait in line. The last FOUR times I’ve tried the Bernal Safeway I’ve either poked my head in and said “F*** that” or had gotten my stuff, saw the lines and walked out.

    Knock it all down. Fill 3/4 of the site with mixed-use retail & apartments, and the other quadrant would be a plaza for the BART stop.

    So let it be written…

  2. Mustafa has put up another art piece on the hill for about a week. Thought you could let folks know.

    Julie 39 Ellsworth

    Julie Kendall, EVP-Managing Director IT Risk & Control Svcs CISA; CRISC; RABQSA-Info Security Mgt Sys Lead Auditor; ISO 27001 Lead Auditor 415-615-2219 Julie@kaipartners.com

  3. A new mixed-use development would be great, but a Whole Paycheck would be a poor substitute for a mainline market like Safeway. I wonder if the BART line would prevent underground parking, though…

      • I endorse the Bernalwood salient, with the proviso that it most absolutely NOT be a Safeway. You are mistaking symptom and cause here. Safeway is a miserable, cynical corporation that wants the very worst for its customers, that it holds in the very lowest regard. They are just big enough to put everyone who would care out of the food business, and then they go to sleep and tell you to get in line. Do you think their executives would ever feed their children that crap?

        Controlled-burn the thing. It’s the only way to rid the site of the tonnage of maggot carcass that has accumulated in the plumbing below.

  4. Hi Todd,

    I was just at Safeway the other day and the lines were way to long as usual. Out of 9 checkouts 4 were open. I asked to see the manager, who never came out and after waiting for 10 minutes I finally walked out.

    I like your proposal. So, who do we send your official proposal to? How do we get the ball rolling? Can you explain the process to us?

  5. I caved and went there Monday night at 9:30. The lines were actually worse than I’d ever seen them. Even witnessed a couple of epic customer meltdowns. It’s like that old nemesis you’d forgotten… then they showed up with a friend and it all came flooding back.

    Safeway is the #1 food retailer in SF (and most of the West Coast). If they can’t operate a store that treats customers with respect, then get out of the way and let someone else do it.

    Might as well plug Harvest Hills now, they got 90% of what I need. Great produce and the time and aggravation saved makes it worth it. If I had a whole family to feed, and without a car, this might not be the case. Those are the people that deserve better.

    Again, nothing against the employees. The two checkers on duty handle the crowds better than you might expect.

  6. I would _absolutely_ trade this Safeway for a BART station. Let Good Life, Harvest Hills, Big Lots, and the smaller produce markets on Mission pick up the slack.

    • I love the idea of an infill station at 30th as well, but the study on it ten or so years ago concluded that it would be too difficult to make it ADA compliant. Basically, the tunnel under Mission at that location is at a grade greater than 1%, which is the maximum grade a station platform can be under the ADA. Makes sense as a matter of policy, but it would apparently be too expensive to redo that part of the tunnel to make it level enough for a station.

  7. If its long lines that bug you, head to the Good Life. Frankie and his crew are hyper about opening registers any time the lines get longer than 1-2 deep. I really appreciate it.

    • yeah I ship at the GL a couple times a week. It’s pricey, yes, but it’s so much closer than the schlep to Safeway and like you said, Frank is on top of things. We try to keep Safeway for that “well we gotta do it” shopping like big/heavy items and certain things we’ve grown addicted to (the grapefruit flavor Refreshe soda water…so good). The other fun Safeway activity is playing the “whom can I stalk in the parking lot so I can get their cart?” game
      And while GL is pricey, at least it doesn’t move into ‘laughable’ territory like Canyon Market. oy.

  8. I finally broke the Safeway habit by going to a combination of farmer’s markets, Avedano’s, Walgreen’s, and (for better or worse) Good Life, and occasional trips to Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Trader Joe’s. I used to frequent the Potrero location, where things were just as bad in the evenings – god help you if you got there after 9pm.

    But I’ll admit I’m lucky I can afford that flexibility, and it’s amazing that Safeway passes up all the revenues I brought to those alternatives. Beyond that, it’s a moot point since I’ve recently moved to Vancouver, WA where (guess what) the service at my local Safeway is also slow.

  9. I tweeted a photo last time I was there – I was in the express lane, two people ahead of me just quit and left their baskets (with perishable stuff like chicken) on the floor and left. Then the checker just walked away. JUST WALKED AWAY. More than 5 minutes passed before Jennifer (“Front End Manager”) noticed and came to resume checking people out. No one picked up the abandoned baskets – I wonder how much raw meat is abandoned and restocked on the regular there. Yuck.

    • While conceptually a TJs there sounds good, as another neighbor commented on the previous ‘Safeway lines’ post: there’s no way in the world I’d want the traffic and congestion it would bring to the neighborhood.

  10. Tear it down . Build housing on top. Parking – not much – underground. We need housing, and a grocery store in La Lengua.

    • A grocery without parking is about as useful as a house without plumbing. Sure we can get all back-to-nature but in modernity people drive to the grocery and back so their ice cream isn’t melted by the time they would have trudged home.

      If the city wants to punish driving at all costs, they will have to ensure groceries are within short walking distances (and efforts…in hilly SF) for every residence home to every age group and physical condition. Idealism run amok as usual.

      • What Peter said!

        Do something like the WF on Ocean. Parking underneath. Store on ground floor. Residential above. That would be lovely.

  11. Pingback: Bernal Architect Designs Affordable Housing That’s Beautiful | Bernalwood

  12. BTW does everyone know that this is one of the only markets where Safeway owns the property it sits on? All the others in the Bay Area are rented space. Plus it’s one of the few that making a profit soooo don’t hold yer breath for anything new unless someone comes along with a super fantastic major proposal. back in the day they were approached for a build out of affordable housing over a new Safeway with underground parking and they nixed that idea with no opening for negotiation.

    • Interesting. An argument for Georgism. When Safeway has to pay rent, they are forced to provide at least a minimal quality of service, but when they don’t, y’all can suffer.

  13. Pingback: Then and Now: 111 Years of History on Virginia at Mission | Bernalwood

  14. Pingback: Bernalwood 2015: The Year in Superlatives | Bernalwood

  15. Pingback: D9 Candidate Josh Arce Proposes 30th Street BART Station and Housing Plan | Bernalwood

Comments are closed.