Green Apple Books is one of 70 local businesses designated as a legacy business in San Francisco. (Courtesy Mark Pritchard/Flickr)

Green Apple Books is one of 70 local businesses designated as a legacy business in San Francisco. (Courtesy Mark Pritchard/Flickr)

SF working out kinks of Legacy Business Program

Escape from New York Pizza. Green Apple Books. Zeitgeist.

While the names of such businesses are likely highly recognizable to most San Francisco residents, they share a lesser-known and unusual similarity as well: They are among 70 local businesses, to date, designated as a legacy business by The City under a first-of-its-kind program that launched last summer.

Following a 2014 report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office that found small businesses were closing at record-high numbers in San Francisco, city leaders looked for ways to protect such businesses from the skyrocketing rents and increasing number of commercial evictions.

The first phase of the Legacy Business Program, approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2015, established the creation of a registry for businesses that are at least 30 years old. Currently, the mayor or a member of the Board of Supervisors must nominate a business for it to be considered, but city officials said last week they are considering opening that avenue to others.

“We have heard from [the Historic Preservation Commission] that [it] would like to see a more diverse array of applicants, including those businesses that might be lesser-known, those representing underrepresented groups or neighborhoods, or those who may not have as much resources or not be as connected to local elected officials which are required to nominate a legacy business,” Desiree Smith of the Planning Department said Wednesday during an informational update on the program at the Historic Preservation Commission.

The update before the body that recommends approval for businesses to join the legacy registry — which is subject to approval by the Small Business Commission — further discussed how the Planning Department has budgeted for new full-time staff position that will be dedicated to the planning and Historic Preservation Commission review of legacy business applications. That position is in addition to the full-time Legacy Business Program manager who was hired by the Office of Small Business after the program was established.

There was also talk Wednesday of simplifying the application process.

“Planning staff believes there are ways to edit down the application or change the language to make it more easily understood,” Smith said.

Stephanie Cisneros, a preservation planner for the Planning Department, said three supervisorial districts with the most legacy businesses are District 3 (including Chinatown and Nob Hill) with 12, District 9 (including the Mission) at 14, and District 5 (including the Fillmore) at 10.

There are no legacy businesses in District 11 (including the Excelsior), and just two each in District 7 (west of Twin Peaks) and District 4 (the Sunset), according to Cisneros.

The second phase of the program was approved by San Francisco voters to create the Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund, which allows businesses to receive grants of $500 per full-time employee per year. Landlords who extend the leases of such businesses for at least 10 years may receive rent stabilization grants as well.

To date, 51 legacy businesses have applied for and received business assistance grants.
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