Keeping tabs on vacant business spots 

San Francisco economic officials hope to roll out a new technology within the next few months that will help The City keep tabs of vacant commercial properties so they can better attract business to those areas.

A new survey of low-income businesses and entrepreneurs shows that one of the biggest needs in San Francisco’s business climate is a universal tracking system that better connects potential tenants with vacant commercial space.

With an unemployment rate at nearly 10 percent and vacancies plaguing high-profile shopping areas, officials say now is the time to help usher in new businesses quickly.

“We have people looking for spaces, but we don’t have effective tools to connect them,” said Jordan Klein, project manager with the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

This is exactly why the Castro district started its own business assistance program, helping businesses that are looking to move into the neighborhood.

The program — with just two part-time employees — is one of the most proactive in The City. Once a month, the staff holds tours of buildings to show brokers potential spaces that are, or will be, available for rent, officials said.

But these types of efforts to help businesses find a location are spotty throughout San Francisco, said Amy Cohen, director of neighborhood business development for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

“We are aware of a lot of vacancies in many neighborhoods, so we need to determine best way for The City to help,” Cohen said.

This is good news for San Francisco Small Business Commission members who have seen their own problems with vacancies citywide. This year, commissioners launched an aggressive campaign to crack down on chronically vacant properties that have created blight, crime and nuisance in neighborhoods.

Kathleen Dooley, a local business owner and commissioner, wants property owners to be held accountable for neglecting their vacant sites, making them a nest for squatters and other criminal activity.

The commission wrote letters to these properties owners asking them if they needed help reactivating their sites, Dooley said.

“We did outreach and tried to contact the owners and we never received a single response back,” Dooley said. “We have been working on this.”


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