Proposed pilot program would encourage new small businesses by waiving city fees

As businesses reopen throughout San Francisco, and the state, a city supervisor on Tuesday called for legislation that would waive...

As businesses reopen throughout San Francisco, and the state, a city supervisor on Tuesday called for legislation that would waive fees for new, small businesses opening up as the city recovers financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The First Year Free program, which would operate on a pilot basis if approved, would waive business registration, permit application, and licensing fees, among others for new establishments.

According to Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who authored the legislation, the proposed one-year pilot program will help ease barriers for small businesses, create new jobs, and breathe new life into the city’s commercial corridors.

“Right now, opening a restaurant in San Francisco requires about 20 different permits. A retail could require about 11. Each of these permits comes with a fee and right from the start, a new business much register for a permit that comes with a fee, every single time,” she said.

“I want this to be a message to new, small businesses; we value your contributions and we recognize the obstacles before you and we are here to make it easier for you to open up in this great city,” she said.

Supervisor Matt Haney supports the legislation.

“We want to make it as easy as possible to open a small business in San Francisco. Our commercial corridors and so many of our storefronts continue to be shuttered and yet we still are putting up barriers in front of small businesses,” he said. “As we think about our recovery, we have to center our small businesses.”

Sharky Laguana, president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission, called the legislation “brilliant.”

“This is exactly the kind of thinking we need in San Francisco. It is, so far as I know, the first city that I have heard of to take such an extraordinary step to help our new businesses start,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity particularly for those entrepreneurs that don’t have a lot of money who previously couldn’t have afforded to start a business, and of course this is of critical importance and help to our existing because we need our commercial corridors to be full and vibrant and healthy and this is a big step to filling all of these vacancies.”

According to Ronen, the First Year Free pilot program would cost the city $20 million.

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