In an effort to curb the trend of landlords leaving retail spaces vacant for years on end in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors voted this week to establish a dozen new Neighborhood Commercial Districts (NCDs) that will fall under a new vacancy tax law that's on March primary ballot going before voters.
Sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the Storefront Vacancy Tax was approved back in November to go on the ballot in March as Prop D. The law would tax landlords $250 per linear foot of street frontage of a vacant retail property in its first year of vacancy, and that goes up to $500 per foot in the second year, and $1000 per foot every year after that. Under the law, Castro landlord Les Natali, for instance, would have ended up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city for leaving the Patio Cafe space empty for over 15 years (where Hamburger Mary's is now).
The law only applies to retail in established NCDs, so in order to give it some teeth outside of the districts the city already recognizes, the Board voted on a separate ordinance Tuesday, sponsored by Peskin, establishing 12 new NCDs that include areas like Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights and Third Street in the Bayview, which previously were not official NCDs.
There were already 28 NCDs citywide, so the new group brings that total to 40. In vacancy-plagued places like the Castro, for instance, NCDs already exist for Upper Market, and Castro and 18th Street, and the same is true for places like North Beach and Hayes Valley. As Peskin aide Lee Hepner told 48 Hills this week, "We are really trying to hone in on what makes these existing vibrant retail corridors pulse — and now every district in the city will have one."
The board will be holding a special meeting next Tuesday, January 21, which would normally be a holiday, in order to take a second vote and pass the legislation in time for it to take effect before the March 3 election day. (California, for the first time, will be voting in a presidential primary on Super Tuesday on a relatively early date, meaning your primary vote may actually matter this year.)
"Virtually all of us have seen storefront vacancies increase along our most vibrant commercial corridors," said Peskin in a November statement. "While some of this can be attributed to the rise in online shopping... [there are] other factors, including absentee landlords, speculative rent increases, and failure to rehabilitate or improve commercial space to attract community-serving tenants."
The new vacancy tax would address that, and will now apply to shopping districts across the city.
The new list of NCDs:
1) Inner Balboa Street NCD – District 1
2) Outer Balboa Street NCD – District 1
3) Bayview NCD – District 10
4) Cortland Ave NCD – District 9
5) Geary Boulevard NCD – District 1
6) Mission Bernal NCD – District 9
7) San Bruno Ave NCD – District 9
8) Cole Valley NCD – District 5
9) Lakeside Village NCD – District 7
10) Lower Haight Street NCD – District 5
11) Lower Polk Street NCD – District 6
12) Inner Taraval NCD – District 7
Image: RW18 via Flickr