ENCINITAS — An online petition with just over 500 signatures is calling for the city of Encinitas to block a move-in date for Flock Freight, despite the company already establishing its presence in the city.
Flock Freight, a tech startup, aims to disrupt the shipping industry “by giving shippers top-tier shared truckload service and helping carriers maximize revenue with multi-stop loads.” The company uses proprietary algorithms to work with carriers to ship products more efficiently.
The petition, started by Erin McNalley last month, generated 511 signatures and says that the location — the former home of Whole Foods that closed in 2017 and is currently under construction to become a mixed retail and office space — could better serve the community as a grocery store.
McNalley writes in the petition that having Whole Foods in the space was the first time downtown Encinitas had a grocery store in 20 years.
“Residents could walk to get groceries for the first time since the natural foods market next door went out of business, decades ago,” McNalley wrote in the petition. “A tech startup with 400 employees does not have the same direct benefits for the residents of Downtown Encinitas.”
Flock Freight currently holds office space at the former site of the Nixon flagship store along South Coast Highway 101 after moving their headquarters there from Solana Beach earlier this year.
Jeff Lerner, the vice president of marketing for Flock Freight, told The Coast News it wanted to make clear it only is becoming a tenant in a development that is already in progress.
“We did not kick Whole Foods out of that space. That space has been vacant for four-plus years,” Lerner told The Coast News. “It’s a high-rent area with very few companies that were able and willing to take what is in fact not ideal space.”
Lerner described the space Flock Freight will be occupying in the development as the former meat counter at Whole Foods.
According to Lerner, the CEO of the company, Oren Zaslansky, is local to the city of Encinitas and much of the leadership of the company lives in and around the city of Encinitas. Lerner said they too have an interest in keeping Encinitas feeling like Encinitas.
“We want this to be home,” Lerner said. “We want to give back to the community. Our staff, we continue to shop locally whether it’s all the bars and restaurants or the partnerships we’re creating to support local community events.”
The company said it has been active with community groups and the city to make themselves a part of Encinitas.
Another issue raised in the petition is parking. With spaces limited in the downtown area, the prospect of adding more employees to the startup raises the question of if there is enough parking in the area to hold more employees.
Flock Freight said it has regular internal discussions about parking and incentivizes employees to take the train to work as well as provides stipends for them to purchase a bicycle or e-bike as a commuting alternative.
The company has created an email address for Encinitas residents to reach out directly to them about any thoughts and concerns they may have about the company’s presence in the city.
Lerner says residents can send emails to [email protected] and he would respond to their concerns.
Flock Freight representatives the current goal from the developer is to have them move into the office space by late October or early November.
The city of Encinitas has not responded to the petition.
The Coast News was unable to reach McNalley for comments on the petition.