Plan to tax vacant San Francisco storefronts revived

San Francisco leaders are expanding a plan aimed at getting more businesses to open throughout the city, and at the same time get rid of vacant businesses.

City leaders have been pushing for a tax in about 30 of the city's commercial districts aimed at getting businesses in as soon as possible and are now set to add a dozen more commercial zones to the mix.

If you walk down some of San Francisco's busiest streets, it's clear that there are hundreds of vacant store fronts throughout the city, attracting graffiti, trash and sometimes being used as impromptu shelters for the city's homeless.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed legislation a year ago aimed at getting the vacant businesses back open.

"They add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood, they add to the safety of the neighborhood," Peskin said. "Places that are abandoned and blighted are less safe, don't have lighting, attract graffiti."

Supervisor Peskin said too many property owners are pricing their rents too high. The initial plan calls for charging property owners $250 a day after six months of vacancy and included two dozen commercial districts throughout the city. The new legislation would add an additional 12 into the mix. Including the Bayview, Geary Boulevard and Cole Valley among others.

Some property managers have voiced concerns, saying often businesses sit vacant because of the red tape associated with opening a business in the city. Saying it doesn't make sense to penalize property owners who simply can't find tenants to open shop. 

But, Supervisor Peskin said the legislation is aimed at landlords with multiple properties that are sometimes kept vacant for months or even years. "There are many good landlords," said Peskin. "But every neighborhood has stories of bad landlords who are asking way too much money, who are kicking out long term businesses."

San Francisco voters will have the ultimate say. The new business districts will be included in Proposition D on the March ballot, it would need a 2/3 vote to pass.