Jul 18, 2023 - Business

San Francisco launches new grants to address vacant storefronts

A vacant storefront on West Portal Avenue in 2019. Photo: Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Vacant storefronts have become commonplace in San Francisco, but a new grant program aims to help reverse that trend.

Driving the news: Mayor London Breed on Monday announced the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) will provide $4 million in grants to help small-business owners obtain new commercial leases and train entrepreneurs on a variety of topics, including financial management and business development.

Why it matters: San Francisco is still trying to recover from the pandemic's effect on business closures, office vacancies and dwindling foot traffic in downtown.

  • Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay Area saw a lower rate of new business applications last year than it did in 2021.

Details: Small businesses can apply to receive up to $25,000 for their first storefront or up to $50,000 to expand to an additional location.

  • Entrepreneurs interested in business training can apply for grants between $5,000 to $50,000.

Context: Last January, the city began taxing property owners and commercial tenants in 32 districts throughout the city for having vacant storefronts.

  • Retail vacancies occur when "a property owner or landlord fails to actively market a vacant retail storefront to viable commercial tenants and/or to offer the property at a reasonable rate," per the law.

What they're saying: Breed, in a press release, said the grants are part of the city's strategy to fill vacant storefronts, revitalize San Francisco's economy and "bring energy to our merchant corridors."

  • "Our local entrepreneurs can really help drive our recovery," Sarah Dennis Phillips, OEWD's executive director, told the San Francisco Chronicle,

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