Supervisor looks to limit liquor licenses

A proposed measure would prohibit liquor stores from being on “every corner” in San Francisco, according to the supervisor that wants it on the June ballot, but critics say the restrictions could have unintended consequences.

Proposed by Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, the measure would prohibit new liquor stores from opening up within about two blocks (500 feet) of other liquor stores, schools and children’s recreation centers.

There are nearly 900 businesses permitted to sell liquor for off-site consumption in San Francisco, about 450 more, Sandoval said, than allowed under a 1998 state law that caps permits at one per 1,250 city residents.

The state law does not require The City to reduce the number of permits, but stipulates it cannot add more.

“San Francisco has the highest concentration of liquor stores per capita in the entire state of California,” Sandoval said, blaming the businesses for creating problems in San Francisco’s poorest communities. “I think it will reduce violence and improve community safety.”

Bruce Livingston, executive director of Marin Institute, an alcohol-industry watchdog organization, said the measure would be effective in reducing social ills.

Sandoval originally proposed a 1,000-foot restriction, which would effectively ban any new liquor or wine store in The City, according to a report on the measure created by The City’s Office of Economic Analysis.

Deputy City Attorney Cheryl Adams said such a ban could create legal concerns, since the state regulates the sale of alcohol.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd told The Examiner that he had concerns about using the ballot to change The City’s planning code.

Similarly, Rich Hillis, a deputy director in the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, called liquor license decisions “a complex issue that probably shouldn’t be handled through the ballot.”

“Are we sure we want to forever ban any new wine shops in Fisherman’s Wharf through a ballot initiative?” Hillis said.

Marsha Garland, executive director of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce, said that it would be an “impediment for business” and that while liquor stores may be a problem in Sandoval’s district, they are not in North Beach.

On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee voted to send the measure to the full board, which is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to put it on the June ballot — the same ballot in which Sandoval is up for election in a race for Superior Court Judge. Six votes are needed for approval.

jsabatini@examiner.com

By the numbers

» 867: Number of businesses selling alcohol for off-site consumption

» $757: Average amount each San Francisco household spends on alcoholic beverages annually

» 500: Feet required between liquor stores under the proposal

Source: City Controller — Office of Economic Analysis

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