SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - It's no secret that skyrocketing rents are forcing many mom and pop shops out of San Francisco.
One strip of the city's Castro neighborhood has been particularly hard hit. Locals say Church Street isn't what it used to be.
Hank Lim, the owner of Church Street Cafe, says he barely recognizes his street anymore.
"The last ten years I've been here one store at a time closes down," said Lim. Neighbors say it's due to greedy landlords who've doubled rents, shuttering a string of businesses including Sparky's Diner where the monthly rent *was* between $8,000- $12,000 a month.
"And then when they double it," said Lim," you can do the math, it's between $16,000- $24,000 a month. Who can afford that?"
Sparky's demise mimics that of Church Street Flowers, Crepe Vine, a rug store, a jewelry store, Chilango Restaurant, Rikker's Liquors, and Snow Bright Cleaners, which will close in two weeks after 55 years in business.
"It's pretty sad actually seeing all these places go under. I think it's reflective of what's happening to the Bay Area as a whole," Theresa Granucci of Thorough Bread & Pastry.
A group of Castro merchants says its holding a meeting January 31st with Veritas Investments, the property management company that owns a lot of the buildings around here to try to come up with a solution to preserve the neighborhood's character.
"Corporations are the only ones that can afford [businesses]now and something's gonna give on it," Robb Schaller of San Francisco.
Verve Coffee now takes sits where a sunglass store used to be, the rent is reportedly shot up from $9,000- $18,000 a month.
"It feels like this block here is like a family to me and each person each of the businesses goes away, it feels like there's a part of me that's missing," said Lim.
A marijuana dispensary called The Apothecarium and photo laboratory Photoworks are other businesses in the building managed by Veritas that were squeezed out but managed to find new spaces in the neighborhood.
Many merchants that remain on Church and Market Streets say they're on month-to-month leases which are unreliable.
"I think that uncertainty for a business owner really also puts a great uncertainty on the backs of employees as well," said Granucci.
Multiple attempts by KTVU to reach Veritas were unsuccessful.