A long troubled but still very active and popular Safeway location in the Fillmore neighborhood is slated to close in early March, with the site being sold to a residential developer. But this means that the only full-service grocery store in the Fillmore is disappearing, and residents of the neighborhood will have no nearby grocery options, potentially for years.

Safeway announced the closure Thursday, and as the Chronicle reports, the company has entered into an agreement with Align Real Estate, which plans to redevelop the entire 3.68-acre property into a mixed-use development with potentially thousands of units of housing.

The site is zoned for 130 feet in height, or around 13 residential stories, but a developer could build higher by taking advantage of the state's density bonus program.

The Safeway site, which was part of the highly controversial and derided first redevelopment of the Fillmore in the 1960s, encompasses a large parking lot flanked on three sides by the grocery store and two strip shopping centers with office and residential above.

Safeway issued a statement saying it had "proudly served the Fillmore District for 40 years" and that "decisions like these are never easy, nor are they made without a great deal of consideration."

“San Francisco has struggled with housing shortages and Safeway sees this as an opportunity to positively impact the community and to be part of a solution to bring much needed housing to the city,” the company says.

Mayor London Breed issued a statement saying, "This is a real and rare opportunity to add a significant amount of new homes in this part of the city, and even a new grocery store, and it shows a real interest in investing in housing in San Francisco."

That new grocery store likely won't arrive for at least four or five years, however, and Safeway said it has no immediate plans to be a part of the project. Breed suggested that neighbors could enjoy the new Trader Joe's that's expected to open later this year at 555 Fulton Street, however that is more in Hayes Valley, and that's cold comfort to anyone who lives in Japantown or the blocks surrounding this long-established store.

The nearest Safeway will now be the Church and Market location, 1.1 miles away.

Up Geary Boulevard, a Whole Foods is also expected to take over the former Best Buy location at Masonic.

Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes this Webster Plaza Safeway, said he only learned of this sale this morning, and he tells the Chronicle, "We are extremely concerned with the potential loss of this grocery store in the heart of the Fillmore, and especially the possibility of losing it as soon as March, which we view as unacceptable."

That statement hints that the Board of Supervisors could maybe try to strong-arm some sort of extension for the store, given how long development timelines are in this city. But we'll see.

Preston seems to have had a hand in keeping CVS from closing its store in the Lower Haight — CVS reversed its decision there last month, within a week of announcing it.

Safeway has been closing some stores in the local area, though it is also opening others in new locations. The company announced the closure of its under-performing Bay Street store near Fisherman's Wharf last spring, and in November it closed a Santa Clara store that had been open for 67 years. A new store in South San Francisco, meanwhile, just broke ground in 2022, and is expected to open this year.

The Fillmore Safeway had some recent trouble with theft via its self-checkout area, a problem that it ultimately solved by removing the self-checkout area entirely. (The Castro location makes those in self-checkout scan their receipts to exit the area.) And the Fillmore location sparked controversy last year when it began blasting classical music in its parking lot for several days in order to deter loitering, annoying many neighbors until it was shut off.

Photo: Google Street View