San Francisco business advocates concerned about image change with new area code 

click to enlarge The 415 area code is expected to run out of numbers by October 2015.
  • The 415 area code is expected to run out of numbers by October 2015.

An area code is not only three digits, but also a valuable brand identity.

That’s according to the Small Business Commission, which is worried about the impacts of proposed changes to San Francisco’s 415 area code.

The commission specifically opposes the idea of splitting up The City, with eastern San Francisco having one area code and the western side, Marin County and northern San Mateo County having another. It is advocating that Marin County transition to the 628 area code — it currently shares 415 with San Francisco — with the northern Peninsula adopting the same 650 that’s used farther south. And then when 415 runs out of numbers, a new and distinct San Francisco area code could be created.

The commission weighed in on the matter in a Jan. 14 letter to Mayor Ed Lee. It comes after the California Public Utilities Commission said the 415 area code will use up its numbers by October 2015. The state agency is considering different scenarios and asking for public comment.

The Small Business Commission said the geographic split would exacerbate the impression businesses on western side of The City already have that they are not as important as businesses on the eastern side, “which typically sees the majority of the attention by policymakers, including such things as tax credits.”

The letter said “the biggest cost to San Francisco businesses is to lose the brand identity of the 415 area code.”

During a recent meeting, Small Business Commission member William Ortiz-Caragena joked, “I feel bad for all those who got a tattoo on various body parts.” He added that he wanted to “keep 415 at all costs.” As an alternative, he suggested moving to a four-digit code using voter districts.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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