San Francisco’s Fight to Save Small Businesses
The recent closure of historic businesses has prompted City officials to seek legislative change to help protect them. Currently, San Francisco can landmark a building, but not a business. That may soon change due to legislation proposed by David Campos and the nonprofit, San Francisco Heritage.
The two are working to create a registry of historic local businesses that will be protected against being swallowed up as the city expands.
The registry, which if fully instated would be the first in the country, would create a list of “legacy businesses,” or restaurants, retailers and manufacturers who have been in business at least 30 years, and have “contributed positively” to their neighborhoods.
The program would allow for financial motives to dissuade property owners from selling their businesses. The city is also considering extending historic tax credits to buildings that house these legacy businesses, according to SFGate.
Knowing When to Pull the Plug
Although the act of “saving small businesses” seems to be up there with “American Dream” and “Joe the Plumber” rhetoric, how will we know when enough is enough?
It is difficult to say what exactly makes a business a “positive” neighborhood contribution. Does a business qualify simply because it has been in place for thirty years? What if the original owners have since passed, and the new owners have a completely different way of doing business? What if the changes of San Francisco have made the business a shadow of its former self? When will we know when to pull the plug?
Phil Lessor, a consultant that works with developers and retailers in the Mission, told SFGate that the registry will “limit the number of uses and opportunities for the building and the building owner.” He argued that by protecting these businesses, will give the building owners a “monopolistic power,” where some businesses will inevitably be delivering an inferior product, at a higher price, and thus, wouldn’t continue being the place locals once loved.
The Foggy Future
As the development boom and the population increase show no signs of slowing, San Franciscans can expect the trend to continue, at least for the time being.
The development boom is not isolated to Downtown or the Mission either. Even the Sunset, and the Hunter’s Point Shipyard, as well as other unlikely candidates, are set to be converted into mass urban space too – often mixes of residential and office spaces.
But as we make room for a new San Francisco, we can only hope that when the rush of city expansion slows down, we don’t come out of the fog realizing we got rid of everything that made us call this our home in the first place.