Chain stores targeted again

San Francisco continues to roll up the welcome mat for chain stores as the Mission and Bernal Heights could become the next two neighborhoods to enact bans on such stores.

In 2004, the Board of Supervisors adopted its first-ever ban on chain stores — those businesses more than 10 locations nationwide — in Hayes Valley, followed by a ban on chain stores in North Beach. In 2006, 58 percent of San Francisco voters, or 125,728, passed Proposition G, which required all chain stores that want to open up in The City to go through a special permitting process that involves a public hearing at the Planning Commission and allows any permit issued to be appealed and voted on by the Board of Supervisors.

San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, a public-policy think tank, has expressed concerns about the impact of the restrictions. Defining chain stores as 11 or more locations could punish local business that grow, the restrictions could result in storefronts remaining vacant for longer periods of time, and prompt chain stores to simply stop trying to open up in San Francisco, according to Agon Terplan, SPUR’s economic policy director.

A ban or restriction will not create the vibrant commercial corridors if the city does not have in place a strong business attraction program, Terplan said.

The voter-approved measure was first tested this year, when a Starbucks wanted to open a location in the Richmond district. Community opposition prompted the Board of Supervisors to overturn the permit, blocking Starbucks from opening.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced legislation on Nov. 13 that would prohibit chain stores from opening in the neighborhood commercial area of the Mission district. Ammiano said “chain stores are kind of drooling over where they might expand to next” and if there are “too many,” the Mission’s uniqueness and those favorite local businesses would be lost.

On Nov. 20, Ammiano introduced legislation to expand the proposed ban to include the neighborhood commercial area of Bernal Heights.

Local business owners in areas including Hayes Valley and North Beach speak glowingly of the impacts of the chain-store bans.

Russell Pritchard, co-director of the Hayes Valley Merchants Association, said, “It’s extremely vibrant. It is so with all sole proprietorship businesses. It keeps the neighborhood intact as a unique and individual neighborhood. If chain stores come in, it just becomes all the same.”

While the Board of Supervisors will consider banning chain stores in two more neighborhoods, a citywide ban seems unlikely.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who had yet to review Ammiano’s legislation, said that in some cases, chain stores “can be very useful and make a good contribution in some parts of The City. You don’t want to over do it.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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