Focus turns to scuzzy area

City officials want to throw more money at some of the biggest problems in the South of Market area: blight, crime, vacancies and unsavory businesses.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency has been working to turn around Sixth Street, one of the more troubled spots in the neighborhood where panhandlers and drug dealers are prevalent. The agency dropped more than $1 million in forgivable loans and has helped to attract 20 new businesses, including the Passion Cafe, and invested in new lighting, sidewalks and storefront facades.

But despite the best efforts of the agency, the three most prominent intersections with Sixth Street — Howard, Market and Mission streets — remain dilapidated.

Officials believe bigger incentives — higher loans and more grant money — will motivate new businesses to move there, said Mike Grisso, senior project manager for the Redevelopment Agency.

Next month, the Redevelopment Agency Commission will consider increasing the forgivable-loan amounts from $70,000 to $200,000. Also, it would reduce the forgivable-loan period from 15 years to five years, and increase grant amounts for facade improvements.

High rents coupled with persistent crime and blight are making it difficult to draw new businesses even with incentives, merchants say. The money for the loans comes from taxes generated within the project area, Grisso said. This year, the Redevelopment Agency has more than $4.2 million to work with.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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