Letters from our Readers: Commission just trying to help ailing landlords 

Regarding the Monday story “Fed-up merchants pitch empty-storefronts fine,” I would like to make a few clarifications and corrections.

As a member of the Small Business Commission, I can assure that we have no intention of producing legislation that would escalate fines on owners of empty storefronts.

Our study is targeting the most egregious examples in each neighborhood commercial corridor, those storefronts which have been vacant for many, many years and are often simply not for rent.

We are still only in the discussion stages of legislation that might help us track these types of vacancies and impose a modest yearly fee to register long-vacant storefronts with The City.

Our initial outreach to the owners or agents of these blighted vacancies has not produced any response as to how we might help these owners to rent their spaces. We are now in the process of further outreach to these owners before pursuing any other courses.

We are extremely aware of the tough economic times we are in and have no intention of trying to penalize the many commercial property owners who keep up their properties and make a sincere attempt to rent their properties at a fair
market rate.

Kathleen Dooley, Small Business Commission member, San Francisco

Misguided fine proposal

As a small-business owner on a Visitacion Valley street with several vacancies, I see the positive benefits of active storefronts as opposed to long-vacant ones. Active storefronts enliven the street and curb blight, while each vacant storefront represents a lost opportunity to support local jobs and increase the tax base. However, I could not support the fining of property owners simply because their storefronts are vacant.

There are countless reasons why storefronts become and remain vacant. The City would be better served by first attempting to understand why a property owner in our market-based society chooses against steady rental income. Follow this investigation with fact-based incentive programs that support local entrepreneurs and property owners. Use an informed carrot and not a punitive stick.

Russel Morine, San Francisco

Curious estate-tax case

Recently, San Francisco Democratic stalwart Walter Shorenstein passed away. The estate tax — due to the Bush tax cuts — is zero in 2010. But it goes back to the Clinton-era level of 55 percent beginning in 2011. Since Shorenstein was a major supporter of the Clintons and since the Clintons believe the rich don’t pay their fair share, I wonder if the Shorenstein family will voluntarily agree to pay the Clinton-era estate tax, or will they just enjoy the Bush tax cuts on their father’s estate?

Richard Beleson, San Francisco

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