Earlier this week, it was announced the SFPD is coordinating with the Office of the Mayor to prepare for any unrest that may descend on downtown come Election Day. Now, many SF businesses are boarding up ahead of Tuesday as well.
Government buildings, retailers, and restaurants in Bay Area cities have been paneling street-facing windows with plywood over the past week. Though, as Election Day nears, a certain haste to cover up businesses with plies of wood veneer has come over San Francisco this weekend.
According to the Chronicle, the Union Square Business Improvement District is estimating that 75 percent of stores in Union Square will board up by Sunday. Even the ground floor windows at Salesforce Tower were secured before the weekend; the Walgreens next to the 1,070-foot-tall building still remains boarded up from May's George Floyd demonstrations; luxury retailers like Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus were also seen assembling plywood walls, along with nearby Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee locations.
“Given the heightened attention and emotion around this year’s election, many businesses out of an abundance of caution are boarding up their entrances and windows in case of public unrest or protests across the political spectrum,” says Karin Flood, executive director of the Union Square Business Improvement District, to the newspaper. “Given events of this past spring and summer, it is not an unexpected precaution.”
After the summer's BLM protests and demonstrations, with some in the Bay Area evolving into riots, SF businesses have stayed steadfast in protecting their buildings. (That Walgreens shouldering Salesforce Tower we mentioned prior has, in fact, stayed boarded up since June.) However, some storefronts in San Francisco's downtown area are staying open and unboarded, regardless.
“You never know what’s going to happen during a protest, but usually aggression is toward big corporations, not small restaurants,” said Marc Schechter of Square Pie Guys in SoMa to the Chronicle, adding that "they'll take their chances."
Schechter is correct in saying that small businesses are usually spared from looting when rioting breaks out. During the protests in Oakland and San Francisco this May and June, the vast majority of vandalized business were large enterprises — local Target and Macy's stores were subjected to widespread looting, as were retailers like Marshalls and Ross; large banks had windows busted out and luxury car dealerships, too, sustained millions in damage and stolen property — but small businesses remained mostly intact. And the ones that were affected by looting saw their communities rally to help them in the following days, weeks, months.
Regardless of whether or not you discover that your favorite downtown business is boarded up this weekend... vote.
SF residents having difficulty casting their ballot or visiting a polling station on (or before) Election Day can utilize the City's Deliver the Vote campaign, a nonpartisan initiative between San Francisco and the nonprofit Shanti Project to help San Francisco residents unable to leave their homes cast place their vote in the upcoming election.
Image: Pedestrian walking by a boarded up business on June 05, 2020 in San Francisco. (Courtesy of Getty Images via Justin Sullivan / Staff)