SF moves forward to track, eliminate empty storefronts

San Francisco city leaders took a step toward tracking and ultimately eliminating empty storefronts in a unanimous vote on Tuesday. 

The board of supervisors approved the new plan, aimed at tracking vacant businesses and having the property owners pay a fee if they're left empty.

Currently the city doesn't officially count a business as vacant if it has a sign posted that the space is for rent, in some cases the storefronts are left empty for a decade or more.

The new rules would change that. "I think this problem is huge," said San Francsico Supervisor Sandra Fewer. "In my neigbrohood I have 156. I can't imagine what it's like in the Mission. I can't imagine what it's like downtown. I was just on Powell Street myself, shocked to see all those empty storefronts, with a for rent or for lease sign."

Fewer authored the new legislation requiring property owners to notify the city if their building is vacant for 30 days or more and pay a $711 registration fee.

The plan is aimed at first getting a realistic view of how many storefronts are left vacant and to ultimately get them opened again.        

Fewer said too often those buildings are written down as a loss for the owner for tax purposes meaning the empty store fronts can attract vandals and the homeless.

Some San Franciscans are happy to hear something is being done about vacant businesses and that they see them everywhere.

"It's depressing, because you know that the only reason why they're doing that is for gain," said Kirk Linn-DeGrassi from San Francisco.

Tuesday's vote is only one part of the city's plan. Supervisor Aaron Peskin is pushing for a plan that would tax businesses $250 per day if they remain vacant for six months.

Voters will have the ultimate say on that idea.