SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/BCN) — Mayor London Breed and other San Francisco city officials announced the launching of a new grant program on Wednesday that aims to help small businesses recover from vandalism done to their storefronts.
The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant program will provide between $1,000 and $2,000 in financial relief to businesses for repairing and restoring the damages, depending on the total cost incurred.
Vandalism has become an increasing problem for businesses, many of which are continuing to recover from financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve never had a problem like this before,” Eric Lam, owner of Pineapple King Bakery on Irving Street, told KPIX 5. Lam said recently a number of Asian-owned small businesses in this corridor have been targeted, including his.
“They climbed in through the windows above,” he said, pointing to the top of the door.
In surveillance video Lam provided to KPIX 5, two men appeared to be taking items out of the bakery. A few hours later, the store was burglarized again.
“As a business owner, we can only play defense,” said Lam, who has owned the bakery for almost a decade.
For the bakery, it mean installing a new security gate that covers the entire store-front – including all the glass – at a cost of more than $10,000.
Recently, police arrested two men in separate vandalism cases in which both were accused of smashing the windows of numerous businesses throughout the city.
Back in June, officers arrested Steven Gaffney, 43, accusing him of breaking the windows of several businesses in the Mission and Taraval neighborhoods. Police estimated the total cost of the damages done by Gaffney was over $35,000.
To cover the cost of fixing the windows of businesses allegedly vandalized by Gaffney along Ocean Avenue, the Ingleside Merchants Association resorted to raising donations online.
In another case, in August, police arrested Derik Barreto, 36, accusing him of breaking the windows of at least 20 establishments, in some instances using a slingshot, pipe, or hammer. Because Barreto allegedly made remarks during his arrest indicating he targeted the businesses because he believed they were Chinese-owned, the District Attorney’s Office later filed hate crime allegations, in addition to 33 other charges, against him.
“Opening and operating a successful small business in San Francisco was becoming increasingly difficult, and the pandemic has made it that much harder,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “It has never been more critical for us to provide support to our small businesses in every way that we can, which not only means making it easier to open and operate a small business, but also providing relief when they face challenges.”
The program was put together by Breed’s office, the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and Supervisor Gordon Mar.
According to Mar, his office was able to help secure an initial $1 million in funding for the program.
Mar said, “During the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in burglaries and vandalism in every neighborhood targeting small businesses already struggling with unprecedented economic challenges. As we work to prevent these crimes and strengthen safety on our commercial corridors, we must also respond immediately to provide relief to mom-and-pop businesses with direct and tangible support as they recover from these incidents.”
At Wednesday’s news conference, Mar went on to say, “This is just providing relief to the businesses and supporting them in their recovery, but we really need to look at how we can prevent, what steps the city can really take to prevent these types of crimes from impacting our small businesses.”
In addition to helping repair broken windows and other forms of vandalism, the fund will also help businesses to make other security improvements like updating alarm systems, replacing locks, new security gates and new lighting, among other enhancements. The improvements, however, are available on a first come, first served basis, depending on funds, city officials said.
Eligible businesses for the program include those that have a gross revenue of less than $8 million and also can provide proof of damages from vandalism since July 2020. The funding, however, won’t be used to replace stolen goods and doesn’t cover damage to shared spaces.
Lam said he is going to apply for the grant. Even if he gets the maximum amount, he acknowledged it would only cover a small portion of his losses.
“Turns out it costs much more than we thought too, so they need to do more to prevent these things from happening again,” says Lam.
Katie Nielsen contributed to this report.
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