San Francisco launches vandalism fund to help targeted businesses with repairs, damages

San Francisco businesses can now get help recovering from acts of vandalism thanks to a fund set up by city leaders.

Business owners said the funding could be critical to staying afloat after a tough year economically and being victimized by vandals. They said the funds will help them pay the insurance deductible and keep their doors open after being targeted. Businesses can access up to $2,000.

In February surveillance cameras captured burglars using a blow torch to break into Footprint, a shoe store located in the city's Sunset District.

Owner Michael Hsu said in addition to the thousands of dollars in merchandise stolen from his business, he was also left with damage to his clothing store.

"It was in the tens of thousands of dollars, including the merchandise that they took," Hsu said. "As they had a good amount of time to go around and pick what they wanted."

On Wednesday Hsu received a pair of checks from the city to help cover his losses after he approached District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar to suggest a fund for businesses like his.

The supervisor pointed to a floral shop on Irving St. that was burglarized and suffered a suspicious fire a week ago as just one of several businesses recently targeted by burglars and vandals.

"Unfortunately that's a lot of businesses throughout the city, and particularly in our residential neighborhoods that during the pandemic we've just seen a surge," said Mar.

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant will give as many as 500 businesses up to $2,000 apiece to help pay for things like deductibles and security upgrades.

San Francisco police said they're working hard to track down those responsible, and just last month arrested a suspect who had allegedly been targeting Asian-owned businesses.

"From the investigation and that arrest we were able to learn that it was basically one person. And that was one person that was responsible for upwards of 30 or 40 incidents," said Captain Nick Rainsford.

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Mayor London Breed said those responsible have to face serious consequences.

"The fact is that we have to make sure that we are doing everything we can in this city to hold people accountable," Breed said.

For his part, Hsu said he's happy to receive the funds and is committed to staying in business in the neighborhood he grew up in.

"I think every little thing will help. Being a small business owner, nothing is easy, but it's part of being able to pivot during tragic times and you just make it out of it," Hsu said. "You'll find some way to survive."

This grant program is just the latest offered by the city to help businesses weather the COVID pandemic. San Francisco has made more than $52 million in grants available for businesses and has been waiving fees and streamlining the permitting process in an effort to support struggling businesses.