Beauty market

SF grocery store closed after ‘serious’ rodent infestation in neighborhood

Health inspectors temporarily closed a grocery store in Glen Park on Wednesday after finding signs of rodent infestation that the store owner blamed on a neighborhood-wide rat problem.

A Public Health Department inspection of Canyon Market found rat droppings on food, vermin nesting holes and other evidence of a “severe rodent infestation,” according to a report obtained by The Chronicle. A complaint to 311 triggered the inspection.

Health officials ordered the store to close immediately while employees worked to plug the holes.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes Glen Park, said in a Tweet late Thursday that Canyon Market had reopened.

Store owner Janet Tarlov described the forced closure as the culmination of a years-long standoff with a resident who she says leaves large piles of birdseed near the Glen Park BART station, located near of Canyon Market, despite efforts by Tarlov and others to alert health. civil servants with unsanitary practice.

Tarlov, who is president of the Glen Park Merchants Association, said she had been in communication with health department officials since 2020, when she said the resident started throwing “20 to 30 pounds of seeds for birds at the same time in the parking lot of the BART”.

“We were begging for help,” Tarlov said.

The health department said in a statement that it is investigating all complaints “regardless of the source of the rat infestation.”

The department said it placed rat bait in Glen Park’s sewer lines ‘to rid the area of ​​rats’ and ordered a local hardware store to stop supplying bird seed to the resident . The department also said it was “working with the landlord where the bird feeder lives…to provide health services to the tenant who feeds the birds.”

Mandelman called the forced closure of Canyon Market “completely unfair” and said the problem was not limited to just one store. Mandelman said his office has been trying to get the health department and others to address the issue “for months.”

“There’s a rat problem in the neighborhood, and it appears to be linked to someone handing out massive amounts of birdseed every day,” Mandelman said in an interview Thursday, adding that the resident was quoted by the “at least once” policy. ”

“The health department’s response was totally inadequate except to punish the person who sounded the alarm in the first place,” Mandelman said, referring to Tarlov.

Hilary Schiraldi, president of the Glen Park Association, started noticing more rats in her yard two years ago and said the problem has since grown.

“It’s not just the store — it’s the whole neighborhood,” she said.

On Wednesday, shoppers outside Canyon Market were “flabbergasted” and “appalled” by the forced closure of “the anchor of the shopping corridor”, said Marian Dalere, owner of nearby beauty salon Dalere’s.

Dalere said the Glen Park rat infestation is common knowledge in the neighborhood, where residents have started organizing volunteer cleanups in conjunction with the nonprofit organization Refuse Refuse San Francisco.

The cleanups collected up to 40 bags of “needles, trash and dead rats” in a single day, Dalere said, in a bid to stem the problem that many believe is fueled by frequent seed spills for birds.

“We’re really trying to clean up the neighborhood because of that birdseed lady,” Dalere said.

Tarlov said he first noticed the local resident using a small cart to unload piles of birdseed at the doors of restaurants in the neighborhood in April 2020, when the restaurants were closed due to pandemic restrictions.

“I saw her drop huge amounts of birdseed in several places in front of all the closed restaurants,” Tarlov said. “I thought, ‘This is terrible. Restaurants are going to have rat infestations.’ »

When Tarlov told the resident to stop, Tarlov said the resident spat at him in retaliation. Tarlov said she believed the resident had also started leaving ground tortilla chips in front of the store’s loading dock.

Tarlov said she reported the incident to the police and “immediately started trying to work with the health department.” In addition to contacting health department officials, Tarlov said she also contacted BART to deal with large piles of birdseed that were appearing near the BART station and its adjacent parking lot.

She thinks the rodent problem in Canyon Market stems from its proximity to the train station. “The distance, if you’re a rat, is probably only 100 yards,” she said.

Tarlov said health department officials told him a mental health specialist was assigned to the resident leaving birdseed in the neighborhood.

But in recent days, her “good faith” communication with officials, she said, broke down due to what she described as government inaction. “We have a serious problem here,” Tarlov said. “No effective action has been taken” by health officials.

Nora Mishanec is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @NMishanec