Chase looking for a local home

Chase hopes to take over the former Esrik Cleaners space.

Chase — formerly Chase Manhattan Bank and now the consumer banking unit of JP Morgan Chase — hopes to open a new branch bank at 2429 California Street.

At a neighborhood meeting on September 27, representatives of the bank presented plans for a banking office fronted by a secure ATM lobby next door to Mollie Stone’s in the longtime home of Esrik Cleaners. The cleaners closed last year and the building has since been expanded and renovated into two storefronts.

In the past, Chase was largely an East Coast bank. In 2008, the company came to the West Coast after it acquired the banking operations of the failed Washington Mutual Bank.

“In 2008 Chase had no branches here,” said Greg Endom, real estate director for Chase in San Francisco. “Now we have 23 — but there are some very dramatic holes.” Endom said the bank will be opening new branches to fill those voids. “Some will be downtown, some will be in the neighborhoods,” he said.

Endom said Chase already has 2,500 customers in this neighborhood not being adequately served by its existing branches on Polk and Chestnut Streets.

“They hope in three or four years they’ll have 50 branches in the city,” Endom told neighborhood residents who attended its pre-application meeting, which was required before the bank can apply for a conditional use permit to occupy the space. “They’re not going to not be a good neighbor.”

Neighbors questioned whether the bank was the right fit for the location.

“I’ve heard a lot about why this is good for Chase,” said Paul Wermer, a director of the Pacific Heights Residents Association. “But not how it contributes to the neighborhood. It’s not clear to me that having a bank here is the best use of this property.”

Joan O’Connor, a director of the Fillmore Merchants Association, said many local merchants had been pleased when the cleaners was rebuilt as two retail spaces. Their reaction when they heard Chase wanted the space, she said, was, “Oh no, it’s another corporate place. The rents are gonna keep going up.”

Chase architect Young Wong presented plans for combining the two retail spaces in a $1.75 million project he said would be “nicely and tastefully done.” He said it would be better for the neighborhood to get one long-term commercial tenant than two retail tenants who might not survive. “It actually makes more sense,” he said, “not just for the tenant, but also for the neighborhood.”

Wong and Endom both said they would work to revise their initial plans so that the bank, if approved, puts a friendlier face to the street, rather than merely a locked lobby of ATM machines.

“How do we do something different?” asked Endom. “That’s our job. It’s a challenge we have to try to figure out how to solve.”

Endom said Chase is aware it needs to find ways to contribute to the community, but offered no specifics. “What can we do to be a part of the neighborhood?” he asked. “I don’t have the answer yet.”

  • SF_Gal

    Not sure why, but this doesn’t bother me.

    I live across the street and the space(s) have been empty for a long time AND they’re both quite large, so I always assumed it would end up being a chain-type store. A Gap or Pottery Barn would’ve broken my heart, but Chase Bank? Not so much. I think it will actually help out the small locally owned shops that will surround it.

    Full disclosure, Chase is my bank and it will be a major convenience to have one across the street. I had been toying with the idea of switching to Wells for the convenience factor alone, and now I won’t.