Neighborhoods losing denizens’ cash

Herbert Ruth rents and runs a barbershop on San Bruno Avenue in Visitacion Valley, lives on Potrero Hill and says neither neighborhood has enough basic amenities.

“Most of these communities, they need things in their area,” the 31-year-old said. “There’s not many places where these people go out to eat.”

City officials, aiming to change that, commissioned a study that shows how neighborhoods, typically thought of as low-income, have the purchasing power to support shops and grocery stores.

“Inner-city neighborhoods have come to represent billions of dollars in untapped buying power,” said the study, which was conducted by Social Compact Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

In the Western Addition, residents spent $194.1 million in 2007 on retail outside of the neighborhood; the figure in the Excelsior was $141.7 million, according to the report.

Residents of the Tenderloin spent $32.9 million on retail goods outside of the neighborhood and spent $52 million in grocery stores outside of the downtown community, according to the report. The 20-plus-page report calculates measures of financial health for 12 San Francisco neighborhoods.

City officials hope to use the information to engage communities in conversation about how to tap into this previously untraced purchasingpower, said Fred Blackwell, executive director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.

The purpose was not to bring in big stores such as a Best Buy or Home Depot, but “capture the dollars” by spurring small-business investment in these communities, Blackwell said. “They clearly have more economic vitality than we thought before,” he said.

“It’s not just the Starbucks and the Safeways that think there’s enough business support,” Blackwell said. “Sometimes it’s the local guy that grew up in the Bayview that doesn’t think there’s enough business support.”

The report, which is also the foundation of The City’s appeal that the 2000 census count was low and cost The City $200 million in federal dollars, will be used to bring investment to areas that might not otherwise be considered, said Joe Arellano, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“Misperceptions and negative stereotypes associated with inner-city urban neighborhoods plus lack of dependable business-oriented data have been disincentives for investment,” Arellano said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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