Staffing Issues Get SF's Legacy Business Program Off To A Slow Start

Though it was approved by voters last fall, San Francisco's Legacy Business Registry program is off to a slow start. Plenty of businesses have been nominated, but only 16 have completed the application process, and none of those applications have been processed so far.

The bulk of the problem, we learned, is that the legislation didn't include funding for a staffer to administer the program, and Board of Supervisors only recently approved the creation of a position. But the job listing won't go up until possibly as late as June.

Back in November, the city's voters approved Proposition J, which created the Legacy Business Preservation Fund, by roughly 57 to 43 percent. The program's goal is to save iconic neighborhood businesses that are threatened by rising rents and displacement. Businesses can apply to be named to the Legacy Business Registry, which will offer marketing, branding and promotion, and they and their landlords can also apply for grants.


Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Cafe has been nominated for the Legacy Business Registry. (Photo: rulenumberone2/Flickr; cropped)

Businesses and nonprofits are eligible if they've been around for at least 30 years, have been nominated by a Supervisor or the mayor, and can prove in a hearing before the Small Business Commission that they've made a significant impact on the history or culture of their neighborhood. The full eligibility criteria, as well as details on the application process, are online.

"I absolutely believe it will help small businesses and historic businesses in San Francisco preserve their status," said Dan Macchiarini, who co-owns Macchiarini Creative Design in North Beach with his father, Peter, and daughter, Emma. He was an early supporter of the ballot measure. "Small businesses know this will help them stabilize their rents and help them preserve their businesses, so there’s been a huge response."

According to a press release from Supervisor Aaron Peskin's office, annual costs for the fund "are projected at $3 million for the first year, with an estimated annual new appropriation to the Legacy Businesses Fund of $3 million per additional year." But the measure didn't specifically fund a staffer.


Toy Boat Dessert Cafe in the Inner Richmond has applied for the Legacy Business Registry. (Photo: Stephen Jackson/Hoodline)

Macchiarini said it was "disturbing" to find out that the program has been stalled because no one is available to run it. Another business owner, who asked not to be named, told us the slowdown could endanger some businesses that are currently trying to renegotiate their leases.

The grant program for business owners allows them to apply for grants based on their number of full-time employees, while the program for landlords allows them to apply for grants based on the square footage of the business. 

Specifically, legacy businesses on the registry are eligible to apply for an annual grant of $500 per full-time equivalent employee. Property owners can apply for an annual $4.50-per-square-foot grant if they extend 10-year leases to legacy business tenants.  Annual grants are capped at $50,000 per legacy business (the equivalent of 100 full-time equivalent employees) and $22,500 for building owners (a maximum of 5,000 square feet).

Caffe Trieste has been nominated for the Legacy Business Registry. (Photo: Nathan Falstreau/Hoodline)

On April 19th, the Board of Supervisors approved a full-time position at the Office of Small Business for a program manager to administer the Legacy Business Registry. However, that job opening has to work its way through controller's office, mayor's office and human resources before it posts, hopefully no later than mid-June.

With a staffer still at least a month or two away, Regina Dick-Endrizzi, executive director of the Office of Small Business, explained that she hasn't yet had time to work on the program herself. She told us that she's already been doing double duty, handling her own job as well as that of the senior policy analyst commission secretary, a position that was only recently filled.

"Our office has been short-staffed, so there’s been very limited time," she told us. The Small Business Commission has instructed her to deal with the Legacy Business Registry "as there is time," but "unfortunately, there has been very little time, due to the vacancy." Now that the secretary position has been filled, easing her schedule a bit, she'll reach out to all of the applicants next week.


Fog Hill Market has been nominated for the Legacy Business Registry. (Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline)

Macchiarini was surprised to discover that his check for the $50 application fee, dated January 7th, hasn't been cashed. Dick-Endrizzi said that was intentional: "I’m not going to process the checks until I’m ready to actually have the applications start the official process." She said she's working with the Historical Preservation Commission to finalize what that process will be.

Two Jacks/Nik's Place in the Lower Haight has applied for the Legacy Business Registry. (Photo: Andrew Dudley/Hoodline)

Though Dick-Endrizzi said she hasn't had time to fully comb through every application, she's already noticed that "some don't have supplementary documents to help show their historical component as a legacy business." The third section of the application asks for businesses to provide a written narrative and historical documentation, but in a few cases, business owners provided only recent photos. Prior to applying, she suggests that business owners look for old photographs, original menus, photos of notable people at their business and the like.

"Only 300 businesses can be nominated annually, and all applicants must agree to maintain the historic name and craft of their businesses," according to the legacy business page on SFHeritage.org. (Incidentally, SFHeritage includes an online map listing San Francisco's Legacy Bars and Restaurants, but this is not the same as the Legacy Business Registry.)

Dog Eared Books in the Mission—and soon in the Castro—has applied for the Legacy Business Registry. (Photo: Shane Downing/Hoodline)

Earlier this month, Peskin held a press conference at VIP Coffee and Cake Shop on Broadway to announce that he had nominated the shop for the registry, and to share information with Chinatown businesses about how to apply for the program. Along with VIP Coffee and Cake, Peskin has nominated all of the following District 3 businesses to the registry, with more in the works:

  • Brownie’s Hardware, 1563 Polk St.
  • Caffe Grecco, 423 Columbus Ave.
  • Caffe Trieste, 601 Vallejo St.
  • The Cinch, 1723 Polk St.
  • Fog Hill Market, 1400 Kearny St.
  • Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, 56 Ross Alley
  • Gypsy Rosalie’s Vintage & Wig Shop, 1222 Sutter St.
  • The Humidor, 1 Embarcadero Center
  • Macchiarini Creative Design, 1544 Grant Ave.
  • Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café, 566 Columbus Ave.
  • Pier 23 Café, Pier 23
  • Sam Wo713 Clay St.
  • Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Café, 12 Williams Place
  • Swan Oyster Depot, 1517 Polk St.
  • VIP Coffee & Cake Shop, 671 Broadway
  • Yone Bead Shop SF, 478 Union St.

Ben Bakshi, owner of The Humidor, which was nominated for the Legacy Business Registry. (Photo: Geri Koeppel/Hoodline)

Dick-Endrizzi sent a list of all the nominated businesses that have officially submitted applications. They are:

  • Community Boards, 601 Van Ness Ave., Suite 2040
  • Gilmans Kitchens and Baths, 228 Bayshore Blvd.
  • Doc’s Clock, 2575 Mission St.
  • Dog Eared Books, 900 Valencia St.
  • Eros, 2051 Market St.
  • Image Conscious, 147 10th St.
  • Lone Star Saloon, 1354 Harrison St
  • Macchiarini Creative Design, 1544 Grant Ave.
  • Pacific Café, 7000 Geary Blvd.
  • Pier 23 Café, Pier 23
  • Precita Eyes, 2981 24th St.
  • Ruby's Clay Studio & Gallery, 552 Noe St.
  • SF Party, 939 Post St.
  • Specs' Twelve Adler Museum Café, 12 Williams Place
  • Toy Boat Dessert Café, 401 Clement St.
  • Two Jacks Nik’s Place, 401 Haight St.

Dick-Endrizzi urges all businesses who meet the registry's qualifications to apply, even if they don't need to apply for a grant—they can still benefit from the marketing and branding program. "We have a lot of legacy businesses that I think will not be in need of the fund, but we want them on the registry," she said.

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Staffing issues get sf s legacy business program off to a slow start