Today’s Headlines

  • More on BART’s ‘Fleet of the Future’ Delays (SFExaminer)
  • BART Cops Cleared in Shooting (SFGate)
  • Winter Walk to Return to Stockton Street (Curbed)
  • Empty SF Retail (SFChron)
  • Tourists Experience SF’s Low Points (SFChron)
  • SF Proposes Providing Lawyers for those Facing Eviction (Curbed)
  • Football Player Backs Lime Bikes (EastBayTimes)
  • Richmond’s Cap n’ Trade Greening Grants (EastBayTimes)
  • Experimenting with Future Cities (Curbed)
  • Uber Planning to Buy More Self Driving Cars (SFExaminer)
  • Commentary: Gas Tax Already Bringing Improvements (EastBayTimes)
  • Commentary: Caltrans Fails Pedestrians Again (MarinIJ)

Get state headlines at Streetsblog CA, national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • p_chazz

    Everyone complains about vacant retail spaces in SF, and yet they support living wage and oppose formula retail and alcohol sales which keep the spaces vacant. So then they blame the landlords!

  • GregKamin

    And yet the kneejerk “blame the landlord” line slips so easily from their lips. Along with blame the developer, banker or realtor, of course:

    “Supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin say they are exploring ways to pressure property owners to fill up their empty spaces.”

    First they pass laws that deter commercial lets, then they punish those most disadvantaged by those same laws.

    Don’t forget Healthy SF as well, and of course the zoning/permit extortion game.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    That’s because the landlords are taking all the money in this economy. Landlord income is at record highs. Worker wages are not.

  • thielges

    Richmond’s “wellness trail” funded by Cap and Trade grants looks like a great project. However it is unclear what the public will receive in return for that three million for Phase I. The final draft describes a lot of stuff. Hopefully phase 1 isn’t just the purchase of a bunch of public art which won’t have much effect on reducing CO2. Or worse, the result might be just more planning documentation with no real change on the ground. Does anyone have more clarity on what Phase I entails?

    And please don’t fund a smartphone ap as part of this project. Unless there’s plans to fund that ap’s development for years into the future, the money spent on such an ap will be thrown away as the ap becomes outdated and useless.

  • mx

    There’s an easy solution to vacant ground floor retail spaces: lower the rent. If you spend years failing to rent a space, you’re charging too much. “But we’re charging market rate” the landlords say. Well, that’s only because the local market involves letting so many units sit empty for years. Not every restaurant space has to be filled with a super expensive
    prestige project. Landlords forced the sandwich/hambuger/fast
    food/florist shops out of the Market-Van Ness area, and now everything just
    sits empty in the hope a celebrity chef comes long to open a 10,000 sqft restaurant on its way to a Michelin star. Not everything in this city is going to be a Michael Mina.

    Vacant retail is a blight on the Central Market neighborhood. Landlords should view retail rents as an investment in the communities where they operate rather than holding out for the business owner who makes a bad decision and overpays.

    I realize this is politically impossible, but I do wish oh so much the city could use its clout to get the state to exempt us from all ABC requirements and manage our own alcohol permitting.

  • p_chazz

    Typical kneejerk “blame the landlord” reaction. Actually it’s because the City has put so many mandates on small businesses that they can’t afford to do business–Healthy SF, living wage, that only formula retail can absorb the cost.

  • mx

    Are there a lot of examples of formula retail trying to move into vacant spaces along Market and failing to secure a CUP because of neighborhood or Planning Department opposition?

    There are over 4,000 restaurants in the city, most of them non-chain. Yes, many fail, and the overall number may be shrinking somewhat, but it’s demonstrably not entirely impossible to have a restaurant in this city. There’s plenty of room for a conversation on how the city’s business mandates are impacting the restaurant business in positive and negative ways, but if a space is sitting unleased for four years, why is the landlord not being unrealistic about its value?

  • GregKamin

    The problem with commercial leases is that they are long term – much longer than residential leases. They can be anything from 5 years to 20 years. So that initial rent that looks high today may be a peppercorn rent in 10 or 15 years – imagine what the rents set in 2000 look like now.

    So landlords are reluctant to rent for less than market because they are locked in. At the same time there are some pretty nice tax benefits for a loss-making vacant property, which can be used to offset gains elsewhere. The decision to leave a unit vacant can make business sense.

    Of course, you see the same thing with residential units if they fall under rent control. Landlords can and do leave them vacant rather than risk getting a “lifer” tenant. I’ve read that thousands of such units are held vacant, perhaps tens of thousands.

    Ultimately tenants determine rents, via their collective demand. A landlord is a fairly passive participant – rather like an auctioneer.

  • Stuart

    There have been quite a few instances of well established businesses being forced out by massive rent hikes when their leases come up, and then the space sitting vacant. In areas where there is already vacant retail space.

    It’s hard to see that and believe that landlords don’t share any of the blame. Claiming that landlords aren’t a factor doesn’t seem any more productive that blaming everything on them.

  • mx

    This is an important point, and thank you for making it. At some point though, the question is what does “less than market” really mean. Because if you’ve had a place vacant for four years and nobody has leased it, are you really offering market rent?

    The market has settled on a price that is high enough to leave a lot of spaces vacant. There are valid economic reasons for that (as you say, long-term leases, potential tax benefits), and also a question as to how much a 700-unit apartment complex really cares about renting out a retail space whose rent is going to amount to a tiny fraction of the complex’s total revenue. But it’s ruining neighborhoods.

  • p_chazz

    Chipotle at Church and Market and Trader Joes at Noe and Market come to mind as recent examples of formula retail being rebuffed. As others have mentioned commercial real estate leases are long term, and so a landlord doesn’t want to get locked in at a low rate. It may be to her benefit to take a tax loss on the property in order to offset gains on other properties.

  • Flatlander

    Lots of criticism for people who are stuck on “compassionate” solutions to the homeless, but what exactly is the “non-compassionate” solution that would work so much better? Round them up and throw them in jail? Do we honestly have the police and legal resources and jail space for that? I also don’t think there’s legal precedent for sending them out of town, either. Letting them die in the streets? Wouldn’t that impact our hospitals?

    I’m open to not exactly rolling out the welcome mat for homeless here, but it’s not clear to me that there’s a solution, heartless or not. As long as our winters are survivable outside, we’re going to have homeless.