Expand protections for small businesses

Jake Spade controversy shows need for more reforms

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EDITORIAL Corporations and chain stores are crafty, and they can always find creative ways to get around whatever barriers that cities and counties erect to protect their local small businesses. And such barriers are important because most large corporations enjoy economies of scale, the ability to absorb sustained losses while gaining market share, and other unfair competitive advantages.

San Francisco voters and legislators have approved and expanded so-called formula retail legislative protections over the last decade, requiring stores with 11 or more locations that want to open in neighborhood commercial districts to obtain a conditional use permit, allowing the public to weigh in and city officials to reject disfavored projects.

But as we observed in last month's saga involving chain store men's clothier Jack Spade's planned move into the old Adobe Bookstore space on 16th Street near Valencia, it's still too easy for deep-pocketed corporations to make stealthy inroads into some of San Francisco's most beloved and sensitive commercial districts.

First, Jack Spade disguised its corporate connections in pulling a building permit, then it won over the zoning administrator by claiming only 10 stores (despite the fact that it's a national chain owned by Fifth & Pacific, aka Liz Claiborne, which also has a string of Kate Spade women's clothing stores), and then, even when activists and small businesses won the argument and a 3-2 vote by the Board of Appeals on Aug. 21, that wasn't the supermajority needed to overturn the flawed decision.

As they say in the neighborhood: That shit ain't right.

Clearly, something needs to change because Jack Spade isn't the first, and it won't be the last, corporate-owned chain store that wants to move into the Mission and other gentrifying commercial districts in the city, including Western SoMa (where development forces have been unleashed by the city's approval of its local area plan earlier this year), Hayes Valley, Polk Gulch, and the Divisidero corridor.

And when one deep-pocketed chain store moves in — a corporation that is willing to invest early in an up-and-coming neighborhood — it creates a strong upward pressure on commercial rents that forces out small businesses, nonprofits, and community-based organizations. And then residential rents follow suit.

Only governmental and political will can break this pattern, and it's a pattern that must be broken if San Francisco is going to retain its economic vitality. Study after study shows that small businesses circulate their revenues within the community instead of siphoning them off to Wall Street and the corporate headquarters, and that helps the overall local economy.

Flawed ideas about consumer choice and the supposed wisdom of the supposedly free market shouldn't distract San Francisco and other cities from focusing their economic development efforts on local small businesses, a sympathetic symbol that gets disingenuously trotted out in the rhetoric of Mayor Ed Lee and his allies even as he stacks the Small Business Commission with bankers and right-wing ideologues.

Now, with the Board of Supervisors back from its summer recess, is the time to redouble our efforts to resist corporate dominance. That should include support for Sup. Eric Mar's legislation to change the metrics for what's considered "formula retail," support for Sup. London Breed's efforts to expand protections in Hayes Valley and Sup. Jane Kim's similar efforts along Market Street, and consideration of changing the vote threshold for the Board of Appeals and giving neighborhoods more tools to resist stores like Jack Spade.

Comments

A small high-end chain with just a handful of locations nationally is exactly the kind of business we should be encouraging - selective, discriminating and attractive.

What would you prefer there? Yet another burrito joint? A liquor store.

The people of the Mission are perfectly adept at deciding where they would like to shop without you or anyone else telling them where they ought to shop. And it's funny how every time I visit Target, Best Buy or Starbucks, they are packed full.

But of course, you know best what is good for people, right?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

"those people."

I don't mind of the actual citizens are opposed to some operation like this, which in this time it seems to be the case, when it comes the newspaper that cried wolf...

Best Buy is worthless, expensive and crappy, go to Central Computer.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

named Adobe. Why are you denying the free flow of information?

Posted by marke on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

And didn't Adobe just move, not go out of business?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 6:41 am

"What would you prefer there? Yet another burrito joint? A liquor store."

Guest,

FYI, they're called taquerias. No one in SF calls them "burrito joints" and apparently you're unaware that taquerias are some of the most adored and treasured institutions in this city? Disparaging taquerias will never win you points for an argument in this city.

And the point is simply that the community should be able to have a say in how its neighborhoods are developed. The surrounding community should certainly have more say than a single landlord and a multi-billion-dollar corporation based on Park Avenue in New York City.

And obviously, we should be able to have a say beyond merely how and where we shop. The people with the most money shouldn't get more influence than those have less. Christ, when did shopping become the ultimate expression of free speech? Hint: it didn't.

Posted by Andy Blue on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

I don't know why, but I get the feeling when I read your post that you're one of those people who doesn't come from San Francisco originally, but seems to know what is best for it.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

them "Burrito Joints", so I'm also smelling bigtime fakery here.

Posted by anon on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

already there. It's just replacing one store that cannot afford the rent with another store that can.

And there are at least three other bookstores in the Mission, but no other Spade location.

Posted by anon on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

I totally agree! I think it is a huge mistake to lump Jack Spade into the corporate world. They do have a parent company, but they operate on their own. Jack Spade has a very unique style with a lending library and store build that preserves the existing look. No new facade, just a brighter, cleaner version. Exactly what that block of 16th street is in dire need for.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

Valencia St. already has a choice of better stores and the challenge now is to expand that to 16th and Mission St.

The Mission is so much better, cleaner, safer and more interesting than 15 years ago, and the trend is for that to continue.

Demographic changes make this relevant too - did you know that the SF zip code with the highest home price appreciation in the last year is 94110, i.e. the Mission. People are loving the changes there. You're even starting to see white children in the area - unheard of in the 1990's.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 8:58 am

the ultimate goal of any neighborhood. Especially when they are in strollers pushed by black or brown nannies.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 9:39 am

Do you prefer area's with no white children? For what reason?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

much more interesting was 15 years ago go back to DOUCHEVILLE!!!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

district because they are not a chain.

But if Hooters wanted to open on Market Street, that would be a problem.

Posted by anon on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

has a closed for remodeling sign, I won't be back.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

It's well known "spade" is a pejorative referring to The Blacks. When will The Guardian stop the hate speech?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

as is all too common, you once again have put yet another one of your narcissistically self righteous and ostensibly prophet washed feet in your mouth

here's the **real** origin of the phrase "call a spade a spade" which was born around a utensil, not a race of people

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=spade

note particularly that the phrase originated five thousand years ago, and black people were not colloquialised as "spades" until the 1920's

this misunderstanding is similar to another incredibly silly urban legend around the word "picnic" likely also dreamed up by white people who like to crow to a maudlin degree about how much they despise racism to make a big deal of themselves

look it up (as you should have done with the spade as spade reference, to save yourself embarrassment)

Posted by racer x on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

Crypto-racist concern trollery.

Posted by lillipublicans on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 12:40 am

"black" in Latin, and so has a kosher meaning as well as a slang meaning.

Posted by anon on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 6:56 am

troll barrier

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into nonsensical, petty, mean spirited, irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 7:26 am

It was the use of the derivative and derogatory version "nigger" that became unfashionable, and the perfectly good "negro" went with it.

Political correctness even replaced the useful and neutral epithet "black" with African-American, which is too much of a mouthful for reasonable people to ever use.

Posted by anon on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 8:35 am

troll barrier

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 9:10 am

perfectly good word becomes politically incorrect simply because an associated word is misused, or perceived that way.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 9:31 am

Seriously? You can't be serious. Race has nothing to do with this topic. It's simply referring to the subject of this entire article...JACK SPADE. Get off your boy cried wolf kick, not everything is about race.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 6:17 am

They claim that this is a store for affluent white people even though the neighborhood is predominantly hispanic.

That's a weird argument though. I do not expect every store in my neighborhood to be one that interests me, and if a hispanic store opens near me, I don't oppose it because it is not for white people.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 6:41 am

Great editorial, SFBG. Thank you.

Posted by Andy Blue on Sep. 11, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

Outrageous Prices and not opening after 7pm or holidays.

Think San Francisco is a lot more sophisticated than a small group of NIMBYs embracing vacant buildings left empty for several years and not generating tax revenue to support those liberal non-profits.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 10:50 am

And their opening hours sound fine to me, and gives their staff the chance of a normal life.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 10:55 am

Define "normal life".

I work from 9am to 6pm on a temp job with no benefits and a lot of taxes deducted from my paycheck and the independent stores shut down by the time I reach my home neighborhood. The weekends don't really allow any time to go from shop to shop to shop.

Only the chain stores open after 7pm and holidays. The employees there don't give me the stink eye as if I was going to shoplift something. The prices are within my price range.

Native San Franciscan trying to survive.

What's your excuse?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:08 am

Obviously some people have to work evenings and week-ends, e.g. bars, restaurants, emergency services etc. But it's not a bad idea to try and give people normal hours as much as possible, or at least pay them more for odd hours.

Most people can do plenty of shopping on the week-end, if that's what they want. And of course online. I just don't see the problem here.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:19 am

For a big city like San Francisco, Life does not end at 5pm or on holidays.
That is why I can not romanticize or embrace many local shops if a local person like me can not access their stores to purchase their goods.

To deny options, especially in a city where diversity includes some of the citizens working different hours and holidays, is not a good thing.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:36 am

does not match consumer demand, then it does out of business. That's how the market works.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:47 am

Unless Starbucks, Trader Joe's, CVS, Walgreens, McDonalds, and other "evil" chains get those customers the independent stores don't get because of their hours, selection, prices, and customer treatment...

then who is to blame?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:01 pm
Posted by anon on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

The Bay Guardian seems to support "my San Francisco small business way...or the highway"...which isn't too far from the truth...

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

It's part of a large national media conglomerate.

The rest is just lip service.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

Unless Starbucks, Trader Joe's, CVS, Walgreens, McDonalds, and other "evil" chains get those customers the independent stores don't get because of their hours, selection, prices, and customer treatment...

then who is to blame?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:58 am

Banks are not "formula retail" This is Eric Mar's attempt to gain traction for his next political job by pandering to Mission District residents. Because banks aren't forcing Mom and Pop banks out of business. Perhaps he should stick to Richmond District issues.

Posted by Richmondman on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

It's only the high-end ones Mar dislikes.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

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