Why San Francisco Needs Prop H

San Francisco Chronicle’s story last week about a store owner trying to open an ice cream shop in the Mission explains all the reasons why San Francisco needs to pass Proposition H. This small business owner has already lost over $150,000 from trying to open his shop and will still need to wait months only to learn that his conditional use permit may or may not be approved. After which he will still have  no clear picture – or even assurance – if or when he will ever be able to open his ice cream shop in San Francisco. 

As a commercial real estate broker, I have two retail deals I have just finalized that will require what should be an over-the-counter permit. However, we just learned our architect won’t be able to have an appointment with the city permit department until mid-January 2021.  We were expecting to get our over-the-counter permit and complete all work necessary to open both businesses by the first of February. Assuming we get approval during our meeting, we will consider ourselves “lucky” to open by May 2021. A several month delay may not mean much to the City, but for us, it means contractors will not work until we get the permit, the tenant will have several months of additional carrying costs with no income, no rent for the landlord, and another store is being closed and vacant on Mission St. for many more months than is necessary (or really even justified.)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors are simply unwilling to make the necessary changes to substantially reduce the over-regulation we have created for our business owners. All of these rules and regulations were originally intended to support small retail businesses.  Instead, it has done completely the opposite. The City has stopped retailers from considering renting spaces because of the uncertainty of the permit process and costs. 

Proposition H will do the following:

Streamline The Permit Approval Process

  • Permits will be issued in 30 days or less
  • Streamlined neighborhood noticing
  • Expedited inspections
  • Additional reviews will be expedited without additional cost to owners

Fill San Francisco’s Vacant Storefronts

  • Restaurants can secure permits within 30 days (currently, it takes 12 months)
  • Vacant storefronts in commercial corridors will be brought to life with arts, activities, and nonprofits currently struggling to survive.
  • Upper floors will house professional service small businesses like lawyers, accountants, etc.

San Francisco leadership has more to do to help retail thrive once again in our city. We must also eliminate formula retail restrictions.  We have countless large spaces that remain vacant. We need to invite larger retailers who want to come to San Francisco and open stores in our neighborhoods. With the already devastating impact online retail has on  “brick and mortar” stores, the enemy of local retailers is NOT a formula retailer.  Rather, it’s their friend– helping driving foot traffic to smaller local shops at a time that they desperately need the most. 

Formula retail is not part of Prop H, but is so important to save retail in San Francisco. I urge our Board of Supervisors and Mayor London Breed to make these changes, NOW, before it’s too late.