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Small Business Commission Calls for Study of Super Bowl 50’s Impact on Businesses

The Small Business Commission at their Feb. 22 meeting supported legislation to mandate signage requirements for all-gender restrooms, continued discussion of the Affordable Housing Bonus Program and called for comprehensive study of the impact of Super Bowl 50 on small businesses.

Bathroom Signage Change

Carolyn Goossen, aide to Supervisor David Campos, presented a plan to establish all-gender toilet facilities through a signage change for the “convenience and safety of all people in San Francisco.”

The proposed legislation requires that the signs on any single-occupant restroom facility be changed to accommodate all genders.

Restrooms that serve multiple people will still be allowed to be gender-demarcated.

Commissioner Paul Tour-Sarkissian sought to know whether a business would be required to install additional restrooms to meet the law. He was assured that the legislation would require no alteration of physical space.

Commissioner Irene Yee Riley asked why the legislation would be included in the Police Code and not the Building Code.

“The Police Code was chosen because there’s some precedence, we have some other provisions in the Police Code that are enforced by the Department of Building Inspection” such as the Noise Ordinance, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Disability Carla Johnson said.

Also, Johnson noted, the Building Code is statewide and would be more difficult to modify.

The commissioners unanimously voted to support the legislation.

Affordable Housing Bonus Program

The Planning Department’s Kearstin Dischenger presented amendments to the Affordable Housing Bonus Program designed to give “more protections to small businesses.”

The program’s exclusion requirements are intended to protect renters and historic character. Dischenger outlined the proposed small business protections, including giving businesses the right of first refusal, making them eligible for a small business relocation fee consistent with federal requirements, minimum 18 month notification of development and the right of the Planning Commission to require retail use in any project or to reduce the size of proposed new retail spaces to ensure small business tenancy.

“The biggest challenge for small business owners is going to be uncertainty,” Commissioner Mark Dwight said about the 240 sites identified by the Planning Department as potential program sites. “Is this at least a peek at sites that are candidates [for development]?”

“No, there’s no definitive in or out, whether you’re on a list or not, just like there isn’t today,” Dischenger said. The AHBP will rely on private development transactions with no direct public subsidy other than the extra story allowances for projects that have up to 30 percent affordable units.

Commissioner Tour-Sarkissian noted that the City Attorney’s office should look into possible ramifications of business space restrictions. For instance, if a business previously occupying a 3,000 square foot space faced a move into a new 1,200 square foot space in a newly developed building. He urged a strong standard for eligible businesses to be able to collect a relocation fee with no trouble or exceptions.

Commissioner Miriam Zouzounis agreed with Tour-Sarkissian, adding that a tax credit program could be used to pay relocation fees and urged the Planning Department to explore that possibility.

Dennis Antenore, president of Friends of City Planning, spoke during public comment about the Planning Department’s estimate of 240 soft sites likely to participate in the program.

“There are many, many other soft sites within the affected areas, even with the exclusions that have been proposed,” Antenore said.

Jim Lazarus of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce urged the commission to support the legislation, citing the need for affordable housing in the city.

“Small businesses and all employers need to be concerned about where the employee of the future is going to live,” Lazarus said. “Is that employee going to live in San Francisco, or close by, or is that employee going to be taking transit from the Central Valley to get to your workplace?”

The commissioners were hesitant to take action.

“Once the cat is out of the box, or the bag, it’s going to be hard to turn the ship around,” commissioner Ortiz-Cartegena said, expressing the concern that businesses and residents would inevitably be displaced by AHBP.

The commission unanimously moved to continue the discussion of AHBP.

Super Bowl 50 Recap

“We lost out due to overstaffing with the large amount of people we were expecting that we never saw,” Kim Kobasic, owner of the Brickhouse Café & Saloon and member of South Beach-Mission Bay Merchants Association said, “and we also overstaffed because we were fearful that some staff wouldn’t make it” to work with predicted traffic and transit impacts related to Super Bowl 50.

Kobasic also said that her business turned away thousands of dollars in potential catering business revenue in expectation of a rush that never came. Before the event, she met with a representative from the Super Bowl Host Committee who warned about traffic impacts and “swarms” of people overwhelming businesses.

The South Beach-Mission Bay Merchants Association conducted a survey of exactly how businesses were impacted. Commissioner Dwight, whose messenger-bag business reportedly also had poor sales at the Ferry Building during Super Bowl 50, said that the commission would like to see the survey expanded citywide in conjunction with a comprehensive report on the event’s small business impact.

Meeting Recap

  • The commission voted to support Supervisor David Campos’ proposed legislation to mandate all-gender signage for single bathroom facilities citywide.
  • Commissioners made recommendations to Planning Department staff regarding the Affordable Housing Bonus Program, emphasizing high standards for securing relocation fees for businesses displaced by development.
  • Rhe voted to take no action on AHBP.
  • South Beach-Mission Bay Merchants Association presented results of a survey showing that businesses were negatively impacted by Super Bowl 50.
  • Commissioner Dwight called for citywide study of Super Bowl 50 business impacts.

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