A proposal before the Board of Supervisors, spearheaded by Eric Mar, could further complicate things for chain retailers seeking space in San Francisco. The new guidelines, which go to a vote next week, add to the already complicated landscape of formula retail rules in the city which vary somewhat neighborhood to neighborhood, and would add Mid-Market to the list of neighborhoods where chains won't be welcome.
As the Examiner reports, the new law will require any chain retailer looking to open a store of 20,000 square feet or more to hire a consultant to conduct an economic analysis as part of their application to the city, showing their potential impact on neighboring business. This adds to the burden on retailers who already have to seek out special permits to move into any neighborhood corridor under a 2006 ordinance.
The definition of a chain will remain a store that has 11 or more locations, however the new law would revise that to include international locations a change that was inspired entirely by the hubbub over Gant moving into Hayes Valley last year. (Gant had fewer than 11 U.S. stores at the time, but more than that if you included Europe.)
Got all that?
As it stands, chains are banned outright in Hayes Valley, North Beach, and Chinatown, while elsewhere around town chains typically have to go through a conditional-use approval process. In places like the Mission, therefore, chains are likely to get run out of town, like Jake Spade was last year. The Castro currently has a weird zoning rule that allows chains only if there is a less-than-20-percent saturation of other formula retail within 300 feet of the property. That rule was used to allow a new CVS to come in at Market and Noe, and to reject a proposed Chipotle last year in the former Home restaurant space.
The trouble is that this still doesn't sound like a clear, citywide policy, and retail brokers will be quick to point out that large, ground-floor spaces such as those being built in new residential buildings are not that well suited for little mom-and-pop operations.
Eric Mar told the Ex, "There is no shortage of chain stores in San Francisco. There are 1,250." And Scott Wiener already supports the new law saying it "will provide an even stronger and better process than we already have."