Legacy businesses earn protection

Longtime businesses in San Francisco will get a boost and gain protection from displacement after voters passed Proposition J on Tuesday.

Prop. J won with 57 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results Tuesday.

Prop. J will create a fund for what are being called “legacy” businesses in order to help them stay in The City as costs increase and some longtime companies have been forced to find cheaper rents outside of town.

The City already has a registry of legacy businesses open to any business that has been in operation for 30 years or more and that is headquartered in San Francisco. To get on the list the mayor or a supervisor must nominate a business.

The new law creates a fund for businesses on the registry as well as for building owners who have rented to such businesses for a decade or more. The law would also redefine such businesses and nonprofits as having operated in The City for two decades or more and having contributed to the identity of their neighborhood while at risk of being forced out.

There are 7,500 businesses in San Francisco that meet the new definition defined by the proposed law.

Such businesses could get $500 grants annually for every full time employee in The City. Their landlords would also get a grant worth
$4.50 for every square foot of space rented.

The bill’s language states the new law will cost at first $1.2 million a year. Once expanded to all eligible businesses in 25 years it would cost $30 million.

But a controller report on the law says it could cost The City significantly more. The program would cost $3.7 million in fiscal 2015-16. Over the next 25 years the price tag is estimated to grow from a low of $52 million to $94 million if all such businesses register.

Still, the law will not force any future mayor or the Board of Supervisors to fund the program, instead putting the program’s funds into the the budget process.

The measure was put on the ballot by four supervisors: John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Eric Mar.

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