Richmond District small businesses say costs are crushing
Small-business owners in the Richmond District are struggling under high costs from taxes and fees in San Francisco, they told KQED news for a series of stories about the 2011 mayoral race.
KQED is still seeking voters’ views on what they want out of the city’s next mayor, for a project called Dear Mayor, but it also sent reporters to five San Francisco neighborhoods to highlight the needs and concerns of residents and businesses there.
KQED’s report from the Richmond District reveals small-business owners who feel that theyr’re paying far more in taxes and fees than their counterparts in other Bay Area cities, but not receiving any benefit back from City Hall.
“My business tax has gone up from 20 years ago,” Jesse Fink, owner of Toy Boat cafe on Clement Street, told KQED.
“From 40 dollars a year, now it’s about 800 dollars a year. I don’t know what more I’m getting,” said Fink, who is also president of the Clement Street Merchants Association.
A walk down any of the Richmond’s neighborhood commercial corridors — Geary Boulevard, Balboa Street, Clement Street — makes the effect of those concerns plain to see in storefronts that lie empty and some others that look like they’ll follow before too long.
That’s a situation shared by parts of the Sunset District, including a stretch of Taraval Street east of Sunset Boulevard, in spite of the bloom of businesses on several blocks of outer Judah Street.
Some storefronts on Taraval that have been vacant for years are just a stone’s throw from the offices of Small Business California, a small-business advocacy organization run by insurance broker Scott Hauge. Hauge told KQED that a City study on the costs of running small businesses found that it can be nearly 20 times more expensive to operate in San Francisco than in San Jose.
“The cost in San Francisco was $5,400, the cost in Oakland $930 and the cost in San Jose was $276,” for a business grossing $750,000 yearly, Hauge said.
Listen to KQED’s report on the Richmond: KQED_audio_mayor2011_richmond
City Hall is trying harder
Words that come easily on the campaign trail don’t always translate into actions once candidates reach office, but nearly every one of San Francisco’s 16 candidates has acknowledged the challenges facing small businesses and pledged to do something to ease the burden. And in spite of their concerns about taxes and fees, some neighborhood business owners told KQED they think the City is trying to do better to help mom-and-pops.
“I don’t find that they’re hostile to small business,” Fink said. “There’s a Small Business Commission that keeps getting more and more active, so I feel like the City is trying.”