SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — City officials and local groups are working to get financial help to the businesses and residents displaced by the massive five-alarm fire in Bernal Heights Saturday that damaged six buildings.
Mayor Ed Lee’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development has activated the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund, created following another large fire at 22nd and Mission streets in January last year.READ MORE: Twitter To Pay $809 Million To Settle Class Action Lawsuit Brought By Investors
The fund, administered in partnership with the Mission Economic Development Agency, or MEDA, can provide emergency capital of up to $10,000 to businesses in the critical weeks after a fire or other disaster.
A total of $150,000 is currently available through the fund, which is intended to provide a financial bridge until businesses can access insurance funds or other loans.
Around nine businesses suffered fire or water damage in Saturday’s fire, city officials said today. Two buildings, including the Cole Hardware building at 3312-3316 Mission St. where the fire originated, have been ordered demolished.
“We will do whatever we can to help get these small businesses get back up and running as soon as possible,” said Todd Rufo, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
Gabrial Medina, MEDA’s policy manager, said the organization hopes to distribute funds to affected businesses within about two weeks.
MEDA will also be working with groups including Causa Justa::Just Cause and the Mission SRO Collaborative to distribute funds collected through other fundraisers for fire victims, including a Gofundme campaign spearheaded by activist Edwin Lindo that has raised more than $33,000 so far, Medina said.
Around 57 residents were displaced by Saturday’s fire, half of them from the Graywood Hotel, a building with mostly single-room occupancy units at 3308 Mission St.
While the city’s Human Services Agency does have a staff member providing some help in finding housing, Medina said there is little financial aid available for residents displaced by fire and no established structure for distributing donations to those residents.READ MORE: KPIX Original Report: SF Mission Bay Sidewalks Sinking But City Won't Fix 'Private Property'
MEDA began developing such a structure in the wake of the January 2015 four-alarm fire at 3222 22nd St., which killed one person and displaced 60 residents and 36 small businesses, and is now serving as a “central repository” for many donations, Medina said.
“We make sure that 100 percent of the funds go the residents, and any costs like credit card processing fees, MEDA is donating,” Medina said.
Even with a massive influx of donations, however, Medina said displaced residents will likely not get all that they need.
“They’ve lost everything they have, most of them,” Medina said. “Even things we take for granted, like toothbrushes.”
The city’s high rents also pose a “huge barrier” to those hoping to stay, Medina said.
Even a large check for thousands of dollars can amount to only a month or two’s worth of living expenses. And while tenants have a right to return to their former homes, delays in repairs and reconstruction mean many are forced to give up and go elsewhere before that becomes possible.
Information on the Gofundme fundraiser is available at https://www.gofundme.com/2a6gsws. Gofundme collects a service charge for donations.
The Mission Bernal Merchants Association is also fundraising for affected businesses at http://www.mbmasf.org/ and MEDA is accepting donations directly at medasf.org.
A number of local businesses are also hosting fundraisers for fire victims, including Doc’s Clock on June 24 and the El Rio on June 30.MORE NEWS: Motorcyclist Airlifted To Hospital After Crash Near Bethel Island
Businesses affected by the fire can contact Nathanial Owen at MEDA for more information on the relief fund at (415) 282-3334 ext. 153, email@example.com. For more information on the fund, please visit: oewd.org/disaster-relief.