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Businesses take action with first Advocacy Day at City Hall

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San Francisco City Hall, seen Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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An unprecedented cross section of San Francisco’s business community joined forces on Monday for the first-ever Business Comes to City Hall Advocacy Day. Nearly 100 attendees were invited by 23 organizations convened by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce representing the broad business community in City Hall.

Businesses of all sizes and industries were represented, including small and minority-owned business associations, manufacturers, hospitality and tourism representatives, health care providers, the tech industry, neighborhood merchants, retailers, housing advocates and commercial real estate managers.

Mayor Ed Lee gave welcoming remarks to start the day and expressed his intention to keep San Francisco a safe, sustainable and thriving city for all. Board of Supervisors President London Breed and members of the Board of Supervisors presented their policy objectives for the coming year. Attendees also chose between a variety of panel discussions with agency heads, including homeless czar Jeff Kositsky, John Rahaim from the Planning Department, Ed Reiskin from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Tilly Chang from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, Treasurer Jose Cisneros and Mohammed Nuru from Public Works, among many other city leaders.

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In addition to the unique opportunity to interface with city leaders, participants advocated for the 2017 San Francisco Business Agenda, the result of a close collaboration between the Chamber and our partner organizations. Our advocacy agenda reflects the business community’s priorities to maintain a thriving economy and low unemployment rate.  Key areas include:

Housing

Maintaining a thriving economy is more than just keeping the unemployment rate low. It’s about solving our housing crisis to provide homeownership opportunities for middle-class families, immigrant communities and first-time home buyers. This means upzoning certain areas to increase the number of units with affordable set-asides for residential and commercial use. We are not going to keep families, our African-American and Hispanic communities and a strong workforce in this city without building taller along transit corridors that have been historically underutilized.

Safe and Civil Sidewalks

Tourism generates $9.3 billion in economic activity, creates 77,000 jobs and contributes $738 million to the General Fund each year. In order to keep San Francisco a desirable destination for tourists and conventions and a thriving city for business, we must keep our city streets, sidewalks and parks clean. A multi-pronged approach that addresses cleanliness, crime and homelessness as separate issues is necessary. The business community remains a proponent of creating a Neighborhood Crime unit with enhanced foot patrols, and maintaining full San Francisco Police Department staffing for a consistent police presence to deter crime. In addition, we need to help people living on our streets transition to secure housing. The first step is funding additional emergency shelters and mental health programs with more treatment beds. And we must open more temporary shelters to move tent encampments off our sidewalks.

Enhance Mobility

The business community is calling for a downtown traffic plan to manage and enhance mobility and ease the movement of people and goods across The City. As our population grows, so does the need to improve public transit. We must secure funding for Caltrain electrification with a rail tunnel to the new Transbay Transit Center, as well as the Central Subway expansion to increase accessibility for all areas of The City — especially connecting industrial areas to regional public transit.

Encourage Economic Growth 

Neighborhoods are the heart of San Francisco. The City must continue to support neighborhood economic development through public-private partnerships, supporting Shop Local programs, promoting opportunities for small and minority-owned businesses in underserved neighborhoods and streamlining the permitting process for merchants.

What happens at City Hall has a direct impact on the business community, yet the constraints of running a business often preempt the ability to interface with our elected representatives. Employers who are responsible for almost 600,000 jobs, a 3 percent unemployment rate and more than $1.7 billion of direct General Fund tax payments annually should have a seat at the table.

Dee Dee Workman is vice president of public policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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