The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed new legislation that will hopefully make it simpler for small businesses — especially restaurants, galleries, and non-profits — to move into ground-floor spaces on Market Street in and around the Castro.
The legislation, announced in a release Tuesday afternoon, comes after months of discussion about the city's worsening retail vacancy epidemic, especially along Market Street above Van Ness, and in North Beach.
In March, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman commissioned a report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst's Office that found Upper Market retail vacancies had gone up from 8.5 percent to 12.9 percent between 2015 and 2017. The report further found that the area had more onerous conditional-use permitting requirements than nearby Hayes Valley or Valencia Street — even though all three neighborhoods have similar bans on formula retail.
It also found that it took, on average, about a year for a business to receive conditional-use authorization from the city, which is only one of multiple permitting requirements in a queue that can take multiple years.
The new ordinance changes the zoning along Market Street between Castro Street and Van Ness Avenue to make "restaurants, arts activities, and some nonprofit types principally permitted on ground floors."
The ordinance does not do anything for the neighborhood-wide retail vacancy issue in the Castro, where nearly a dozen spaces sit vacant on Castro Street and 18th Street.
Says Mandelman in an announcement, "It shouldn’t take years to open a small business in San Francisco.” He adds, “The legislation won’t be a silver bullet for all of Upper Market’s vacancy concerns but it’s a meaningful attempt to help small businesses succeed in a neighborhood where we desperately need them to succeed.”