Emergency responders were called to a recently shuttered Downtown Whole Foods at least once a week on average during the first six months it was open, according to data from the San Francisco Fire Department.
Data obtained by The Standard shows that a Downtown Whole Foods that opened in March 2022 and abruptly closed this week was the site of several overdoses, psychiatric episodes and other emergencies during its first six months of operations.
The fire department was dispatched 35 times to the Whole Foods at 1185 Market St. between the time it opened in March of last year and October 2022, according to the most recent data immediately available. Those calls were a mix of overdoses, medical emergencies and other disturbances such as reports of assaults and people bleeding at the high-end grocer.
One September 2022 overdose resulted in the death of a 30-year-old man named Steven Clark, who is remembered by family as an award-winning clarinet player who suffered from mental illness and addiction, according to his obituary.
The Whole Foods opened in March 2022 in close proximity to U.N. Plaza, a longtime hotspot for the city’s behavioral health crisis.
Foot traffic in the area has also declined during the pandemic as many workers for nearby companies opted to work from home. The Mid-Market area is now home to a glut of office vacancies, reflecting a broader downturn centered on Downtown.
After operating for a little more than a year, Whole Foods abruptly closed the Market Street location, citing employee safety concerns as a cause.
A former supervisor for the grocery chain, who didn’t want to be named, told The Standard that they believed the closure stemmed from both public safety concerns and a lack of employee parking.
Several customers said that they had witnessed people looting the store while they shopped; another employee who worked at the Market Street location said that an entire pallet of wine had once gone missing.
“When I heard that they were going to have hard liquor, I knew that it was going to be a nightmare,” said the employee, who didn’t want to be named due to Whole Foods’ media policy.
On Tuesday morning, dozens of would–be customers unsuccessfully attempted to enter the store and many voiced discontent when they realized that it had closed.
“It’s a crying shame; it hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Jamie DeJesus, who said he lives next door and uses a wheelchair to get around.
DeJesus said that the closure is a major blow to him because Market Street often becomes too crowded with drug activity for him to go to other supermarkets.
“I think it’s sick,” he said. “This hurts bad.”
David Sjostedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org