SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Faced with a spike in the number of empty storefronts in San Francisco, Mayor London Breed is vowing to cut the costs and the red tape for businesses to open new retail locations in the city’s neighborhoods.

With the Citywide Storefront Vacancy Strategy unveiled by Breed and Supervisor Vallie Brown Monday, city officials hope to fill vacant retail spaces, which have been emptied due to shifting shopping trends and slow sales.

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“We are committed to helping our local small businesses adapt to major shifts we are seeing in the retail industry,” Breed said in a statement.

“The permit fees, the taxes, the things that they pay to the city. All of the different layers of things you need to do to open a business. It’s almost impossible and so many people give up because it is all so expensive,” Breed said Monday.

What exactly should or will be done to cut the red tape and make it easier for retail to grow is still under review, but Breed is clear on her goal.

“Getting rid of our bureaucracy, making it easier,” Breed explained.

She may also take a fresh look at the city’s current limits on chain stores moving into neighborhoods.

“A grocery store, for example, in a low income neighborhood,” Breed said.

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The Mayor is also setting aside $1 million to for subsides, consultants and legal assistance for small business.

But one area that will likely remain a challenge is parking. For years the city has been chipping away at street parking to make way for more bus and bike lanes.

Lack of parking was one reason why Michael Gardner is closing Siegel’s Clothing in Mission Street, a business that he has owned and run for 42-years.

“The frosting on the cake was red zone. The bus zone came and they took out a third of the parking on Mission Street,” Gardner said. “When this store closes, there will be seven empty stores on this block.”

Still, Gardner said he supports the Mayor’s effort.

“Finally, someone is listening,” he said.

The storefront strategy was created from findings in a report published in February from the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development on the challenges facing San Francisco’s small businesses.

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