SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – San Francisco small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open.
Today, city leaders, including Supervisor Aaron Peskin, held a rally to support one of those businesses – Cafe Sapore in North Beach – after it was recently served an abrupt eviction notice.
This comes a day after city leaders heard Peskin’s proposal for a storefront vacancy tax that could be placed on the March ballot.
Supervisor Peskin says its main goal is to fight the growing number of empty storefronts across our city.
It would tax building owners who won’t lease their commercial spaces to small businesses and try to give those businesses leverage in negotiations.
But not all business owners are on board quite yet.
Evictions, empty storefronts, and businesses closing – all problems plaguing San Francisco’s small business community.
“It’s been death by a thousand cuts in the last 10 years here but we’re trying to do life with a thousand band-aids,” Ben Bleiman said.
Bleiman owns “Tonic” bar on Post Street.
Over the last decade, Bleiman’s watched many neighboring businesses close their doors for good.
“It is a very very difficult place to have a small business based on a lot of the factors that the city government has put in over the last ten years,” Bleiman said.
Last week, he sent a letter to city board supervisors, urging them to help save small businesses.
On Thursday, Supervisor Aaron Peskin discussed his proposal to tax building owners for vacancies, and not leasing their commercial spaces to small businesses.
The goal – to help businesses like Cafe Sappore in North Beach that was recently served an abrupt eviction notice after more than 20 years.
Bleiman says it solves a small part of the bigger problem.
“I think there’s a very small portion of the landlords in SF who are exploiting tax law to leave vacancies open and to take a tax reduction,” he said. “While I think the city could do a lot more by also examining its own policies. Excessive fees and taxes that businesses go through, to me that’s the main factor keeping new businesses from moving into storefronts.”
The tax proposal imposes a $250 tax per square foot on empty commercial storefronts in the first year, a $500 tax the second year and a $1000 tax per square foot in the third year.
“If you are open but your neighbors vacant in the same building as the landlord, then you’ll just get the bill so that is a concern of mine,” Bleiman said. “But I do think we should compel the small percentage of bad actor landlords to act.”
Now the vacancy tax includes some exemptions including natural disasters and construction periods for earthquake retrofits.
City supervisors will vote Tuesday on that tax proposal, which could then make its way to the ballot in March.
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