By Susie Steimle

SAN FRANCISCO – Business owners in San Francisco’s North Beach are raising awareness about an increase in vacant storefronts this year.

“In this neighborhood, we have 38 commercial spaces,” Daniel Macchiarini, President of the North Beach Business Association said.

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His family owned jewelry shop on Grant Avenue has been a staple in the neighborhood for more than 70 years. He says it’s difficult to watch local businesses struggle to stay open in North Beach.

“Its been hard on all of us,” Macchiarini said.

He believes it’s a combination of factors that are causing an increase in vacancies, from online shopping, to ongoing construction and seismic retrofitting. He wants the city to compensate local businesses who are put out for months at a time by required seismic retrofits.

He also supports streamlined permitting, but wants to keep strict zoning laws in place. Macchiarini says without the strict zoning, large corporations could move in.

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“It would completely change the character of North Beach. There would be no reason to come up here. You could stay at your strip mall in Wyoming and go to your Starbucks,” he said.

“We haven’t seen things get better and if we don’t take action we cant expect things to be different,” Danny Sauter, President of North Beach Neighbors says.

Sauter supports Mayor London Breed’s plan to cut red tape and make it easier to open businesses in this neighborhood, while still keeping chain businesses out.

“There are things that haven’t stood the test of time and should be changed to make it easier to open a small business,” Sauter said.

City data indicates 1,073 complaints about vacant store fronts in 2019 compared to 507 in 2018. Part of that increase could be tied to an ordinance passed in March that requires landlords to register vacant properties, fines quadruple for failing to report that data to the city.

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Both Macchiarini and Sauter agree the ordinance is a good first step, but they both think more needs to be done to keep storefronts from shuttering.