Environmentalism isn’t just about hatred of humans but also making people’s lives on earth as miserable as possible. San Francisco’s Proposition H will change or relax the city’s business code making it somewhat easier for small businesses to spring up and survive after the city and state restrictions related to the coronavirus ruin the Golden Gate City’s economic climate. Only the Green Party has registered opposition to the ballot question.
San Francisco Voters Will Have a Chance To Undo Regulations Strangling Small Businesses
Prop H will make it easier for businesses to set up shop or readapt their space, all while preventing nosey neighbors from bringing everything to a halt.
By Christian Britschgi, October 22, 2020, Reason
San Francisco is famous for the miles of red tape and regulation that make it difficult to launch a business. Come November, voters will get a chance to take an ax to those innovation-killing restrictions.
On the city ballot this year is Prop H, a 100-page update of San Francisco’s commercial zoning and permitting regime that will make it easier and faster for entrepreneurs to get city permission slips to set up shop or readapt their space, all while preventing nosey neighbors from bringing everything to a halt.
“In an environment where we are on track to lose over half of our restaurants pre-COVID, we need to make it as easy as possible to start a new business and get it off the ground,” says Sharky Laguana, president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission and a backer of Prop H. “San Francisco is the hardest place, or one of the hardest places, to start a business in America. We need to become the easiest place.”
Small business owners in the city, he says, face a lot of headwinds, including high labor costs, high rents, and competition from e-commerce. Making everything worse is the lengthy amount of time it takes to get city approval for the most basic things.
One city government report from March 2019 found that it took an average of 260 days for businesses to get permits for making alterations or repairs to their space in the city’s Upper Market/Castro commercial district. More involved permits for conditional uses not automatically allowed by the city’s zoning code took almost a year on average, according to the same report.
Those delays cost time and money that many new businesses cannot afford. Worse still, business owners need permits for everything. Business owners have spent months trying to get permits to convert their business from one permitted use to another; including changing a clothing store to a falafel shop, and an arcade machine repair shop to an arcade bar.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight recently profiled the struggles of John Yu, who’s spent $150,000 and 16 months trying to get permission to set up an ice cream business in a long-vacant storefront already zoned for restaurant use. He’s been tripped up by permitting delays and the objections of a competing ice cream store down the road.
Prop H contains a number of reforms to help business owners like Yu.
For starters, city departments would have to issue permits within 30 days of a business in a commercial corridor filing a completed application, provided the business is seeking permission for something already principally permitted by the zoning code.
City departments will also have to perform concurrent reviews of permits so that business owners aren’t forced to wait for the Fire Department to sign off on their plans before the Health Department can take a look.
PHOTO CREDIT: Clipground