Elimination of Redevelopment Agencies hurts small business 

Redevelopment agencies are on the verge of being eliminated in California, and disadvantaged communities will pay the price. Citizens don’t understand the Redevelopment Agency or its impact well — but a year from now, legislators may rue the day they acted so hastily to eliminate it without planning to continue its most basic functions or giving local communities an opportunity to weigh in.

The Redevelopment Agency has been a major source of funding for small-business development and job training in San Francisco, providing loans to small businesses and contracting with local nonprofits such as Urban Solutions, Renaissance Center and the South of Market Employment Center to deliver innovative programs. These organizations have had a tremendous impact, spurring job creation and the development of new businesses, and helping people overcome barriers to employment and find jobs.

On Sixth Street south of Market, Urban Solutions’ business attraction and retention efforts have led to a reduction in the retail vacancy rate from 43 percent to 9 percent. Thirty new businesses have opened on Sixth Street over the past seven years — businesses such as Miss Saigon Restaurant and Mi Tierra Market, that are meeting the needs of neighborhood residents and turning the street into a destination for people reluctant to set foot on Sixth Street. Urban Solutions has managed 103 façade- and tenant-improvement projects on 32 buildings with design services from nonprofit Asian Neighborhood Design. Redevelopment’s investment of $1.4 million in grants has been a catalyst for $3.5 million in private investment.

In the Bayview, from 2008 to 2010, Renaissance assisted residents in creating or retaining more than 200 jobs. In 2010, they served more than 500 clients, and five clients opened new storefronts along the Third Street corridor. Renaissance also founded a business incubator in the South of Market neighborhood in 1995 with funding from Redevelopment, which has served 142 clients since inception, 86 percent who are successfully in business today. In 2010, Renaissance and Urban Solutions helped businesses create 62 jobs.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency made terrible mistakes with urban renewal programs in the 1960s and ’70s, which were very destructive to the African-American community in the Western Addition, with long-lasting consequences.

Since that time, there has been a complete reversal of those practices. The Redevelopment Agency of today is building extensive amounts of affordable housing, funding the rebuilding of the Transbay Terminal as a regional transit hub, helping to develop Mission Bay as a biotech hub, and supporting basic services such as street cleaning and community guides in the South of Market area. Redevelopment staff is advised by diverse community committees, which review projects at a local level.

Local businesses, community organizations and community members have worked so hard to improve conditions in low-income neighborhoods. I for one will be sad to see this progress quickly unravel with a blunt cut to

Jenny McNulty is the executive director of Urban Solutions, a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses succeed. Urban Solutions has led economic revitalization efforts on Sixth Street with funding from the
San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.

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Jenny McNulty

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