Ordinance requiring property owners to register, pay for vacant storefronts takes effect

An ordinance that requires commercial property owners in San Francisco to register and pay annual fees for having vacant storefronts took effect Monday, according to the office of city Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer.

The ordinance, authored by Fewer, aims to restore life to neighborhood corridors by mandating that property owners of ground-floor storefronts register the property within 30 days of becoming vacant and pay an annual fee of $711.

"When you have commercial property owners holding multiple storefronts vacant for long periods of time, that hurts all the other small businesses in the area who rely on vibrant commercial corridor to attract customers," Fewer said in a statement.

Property owners who fail to register and pay the annual fee will be subjected to a penalty fee of $2,844.

In addition to the annual fee, property owners are required to obtain an annual inspection report from a licensed professional, paid for by the owner, to confirm the storefront's interior and exterior meet code 

Vacant storefronts currently being offered for lease are required to register and pay the fee, Fewer's office said.

"The enforcement mechanisms in this legislation are vital to addressing our vacancy problem head-on and complement ongoing efforts to streamline permitting and increase retail flexibility so our small businesses can thrive," she said.

"Owners must proactively register and maintain their vacant storefronts, and ensure they are not adversely impacting the vibrancy of their commercial corridor. With these tougher requirements, the city is providing owners with stronger incentives to fill the vacant spaces with available business opportunities -- incentives we urge them to take advantage of and support neighborhood prosperity," said Department of Building Inspection Director Tom Hui.

Property owners can find more information about the ordinance at the website www.sfdbi.org.