By Susie Steimle

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — As sky-high rents in San Francisco continue to squeeze out small businesses, leaving a rising number of empty storefronts, one lawmaker says the city needs to start cracking down on commercial landlords.

“I’m just watching this city become one cookie-cutter shop after another,” complained resident Megan Johnson.

Johnson is a San Francisco native. She has owned the Animal House Pet Supply store in Lower Haight for more than a decade.

But in the area around Haight Street and Fillmore Street, long standing local businesses like hers are getting fewer and farther between.

“Revolver just closed. Sanfrancyclone closed. Costumes on Haight is going out of business, which breaks my heart,” said Johnson.

District 1 Supervisor Sandra Fewer says the city hasn’t been tough enough on commercial landlords.

“I have seen storefronts vacant for almost two decades,” said Fewer.

Under current San Francisco law, landlords have 270 days — or 9 months — to fill their vacant spaces before being fined.

Fewer says that is too long of a leash.

“If they don’t want to rent out commercial space, then get out of the business,” Fewer.

SF businessman Avi Ehrlich says he could never afford the rent for his t-shirt and comic book shop on Haight Street.

“I believe this room is going for $7,500-$8,000 a month” said Erlich.

So Erlich is on a week-to-week lease, paying a quarter of that amount. When his landlord finds someone willing to pay full price, he will get kicked out.

But Erlich says for him it’s a good opportunity and an example of a symbiotic relationship between landlord and tenant in pricey San Francisco.

“There’s so many vacant storefronts everywhere that if landlords were required to have them be used by something, there would be cheaper rent and more cool stuff going on,” explained Erlich.


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