Legislation could give help to manufacturers

As San Francisco’s rebounding manufacturing industry feels the commercial rent squeeze partly spurred by the flourishing technology sector, a series of planning code amendments were introduced Tuesday to bring some relief.

The effort builds on a 5-year-old plan that imposed zoning controls to preserve industrial space in San Francisco’s eastern neighborhoods.

“Most cities around the country are looking for ways to develop and eliminate their remaining industrial space,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, who introduced the legislation Tuesday along with Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor David Campos. “We are unique here in San Francisco. We recognize that if we are going to support and maintain a diverse city and a diverse economy that we need to be supporting this particular sector.”

The legislation, among other things, seeks to allow small manufacturers to share retail space and permit self-storage facilities to be rebuilt. It also encourages development of so-called small enterprise work spaces that fit the needs of business incubators. In addition, the ordinance would incentivize the development of new production, distribution and repair space in vacant or under-developed parcels. The industry has been growing in recent years, according to data provided by SFMade, a group of local manufacturers. This year, employment grew by 12.9 percent for a workforce of nearly 4,000, of which 75 percent are said to be city residents, according to a report from SFMade, whose membership includes 512 companies.

“This legislation responds directly to feedback, from our member organizations, about the needs and challenges facing manufacturing businesses in The City today,” said SFMade Executive Director Kate Sofis. “While the sector is thriving in many ways, a sometimes overly burdensome regulatory process and a critical lack of affordable, functional space are challenges we hear about from light-industrial businesses in San Francisco on an almost daily basis.”

Cohen noted that the manufacturing industry has become more diverse over the years. “It’s not only just large industrial factories, we have hundreds of small craftsmen and women making things from soaps to lotions to chocolate and designing designer messenger bags.”

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