Empty storefront concerns in Richmond District

San Francisco Richmond District Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer has launched a program to count vacant businesses. The hope is knowing how many there are will be the first step in rebuilding small business corridors.

On one stretch of Clement Street, KTVU counted no less than five vacant businesses.

While Clement Street buzzes with active residents point out that a lot of the storefronts in this bustling neighborhood are empty. 

"It affects the community," said Victornia Mycue. "I feel it also affects the safety, you know, because of the blighted building there."

And it's a critical issue for the neighborhood, Fewer said. 

"When you have vacant business, especially along thriving corridors, it actually adds to blight, but it also doesn't let the commercial corridor meet its full potential for vibrancy," said Fewer.

Fewer added that the Department of Building Inspection said a no comprehensive count had been done, so the supervisor partnered with a neighborhood blog to count vacant businesses. That count found more than 125 commercial vacancies in the Richmond, something that can bring down business for everyone. 

"We are trying to keep these small businesses alive along these corridors because they're actually the backbone of my district," said Fewer.

The Clement Street Merchants Association and business owners say a combination of retiring business owners, high rents, and an overall high cost of doing business in San Francisco has led to many of the vacancies.

Alissa Anderson owns Foggy Notion and just relocated to Clement Street from one of the side streets. "I was looking for a location for my business with more foot traffic on Clement Street," said Anderson.

She's re-opened her doors on Clement Street and said, while there are more people coming and going, closed businesses up and down the street slow everyone's growth. 

"It's a business space that is not creating any foot traffic for the other businesses in the neighborhood," said Anderson.

Fewer said this isn't an issue specific to the Richmond. The same story is being repeated throughout the city. Supervisor fewer says getting an accurate count and a sense of the scope of the problem is the first step toward bringing in new business.