Trader Joe's has cleared a hurdle to potentially move into the ground-floor space at the new 555 Fulton complex in Hayes Valley — bringing a much-needed grocery store to the neighborhood.

Hayes Valley, as you may know, has a strict ban on formula retail (along with several other SF neighborhoods), which means that any business with more than 11 locations worldwide has to apply for conditional-use permitting to operate there. As the SF Business Times reports, District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown has been working to get an exemption for Trader Joe's, and the Board of Supervisors' Land Use and Transportation Committee gave their initial sign-off a their meeting on Monday.

The 25,000-square-foot space at 555 Fulton was originally slated to be occupied by Portland-based New Seasons Market, in a move that would have skirted around the formula-retail issue. But neighbors have long been pushing for a Trader Joe's at the location, with talk of a formula-retail exception going back over five years. And when New Seasons decided to put the kibosh on its California expansion earlier this year, the window opened again for TJ's — which already has six locations in San Francisco, and 474 locations nationwide.

As part of the conditions for opening at 555 Fulton, TJ's agreed to accepts public-assistance vouchers as payment.

Now, as the Business Times reports, the full Board of Supervisors has to sign off on the exception for Trader Joe's, followed by the mayor, and then the chain grocer will have to head to planning to get their construction plans approved — and on and on it goes.

But maybe, just maybe, next year or the year after, there will be a Trader Joe's right in this central spot to serve Hayes Valley's many new and longtime residents who have been hoofing it to Safeway and Whole Foods for all these years. (Or just ordering groceries online like half the city seems to do.)

Back in 2010, a battle was waged to get Trader Joe's to move into what had been a Tower Records location on Market Street near Noe (now home to Barry's Bootcamp). But that deal was killed a year later after cries from the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association about potential parking issues and delivery-truck traffic, and after TJ's decided the location might be too "automobile-dependent" after all. The Castro has a formula-retail ban like Hayes Valley, but exceptions have been made for CVS and others.

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