Supes slash funds for S.F.small biz center

Plans for a one-stop shop that would help small businesses open in San Francisco were put on hold Wednesday after funding for the project was slashed by nearly $500,000.

In May, Mayor Gavin Newsom, along with City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, announced plans for the creation of a so-called Small Business Assistance Center to help prospective merchants navigate The City’s complex permitting process as well as receive business assistance.

The $630,000 in Newsom’s proposed budget to create the center at City Hall was part of the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office budget for the fiscal year beginning Sunday. The center was strongly supported by business advocates, who in recent years have clashed with the Board of Supervisors, criticizing members for placing too much of a financial burden on businesses by supporting legislation such as a health care spending mandate.

Members of the board’s Budget and Finance Committee refused on Wednesday to award the $630,000 to the department, instead placing only $150,000 on reserve for the center and directing Cisneros to come back to them with a more detailed plan.

Jim Lazarus, vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said the committee’s action essentially kills the center. He said the center would pay for itself because of the revenue The City would collect when new small businesses open.

There are 25,500 small businesses in San Francisco and 70,000 people who are self-employed. There are 4,000 registered businesses with 20 or more employees.

Jim Ross, a spokesman for Small Business Advocates, said the committee’s decision shows that small businesses “are continuing to be taken for granted by some members of the board.”

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who chairs the budget committee, questioned the need for the center. “Shouldn’t we be consolidating work force stuff rather than spreading it out into every department in The City?” Peskin asked.

“You would think that every storefront from here to the Excelsior was vacant because this function does not exist,” Peskin said. “That’s not the case. Sales tax is up, real property transfers are up. It’s not such a dire need.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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