North Beach commercial vacancy rate doubles in 3 years

Commercial vacancy rates in North Beach have more than doubled since 2015, according to a new joint survey conducted by three neighborhood organizations. 

After increased queries from the community about long-term commercial vacancies, the North Beach Business Association (NBBA), North Beach Neighbors (NBN) and Telegraph Hill Dwellers (THD) looked at businesses in the North Beach Neighborhood Commercial District (NBNCD) to identify potential trends and possibly offer solutions. 

"We're really proud of the work from all three organizations to shed more light on the health of small businesses in our neighborhood," President of NBN Danny Sauter told Hoodline via email. 

The last survey of its kind was conducted in 2015, however, after the establishment of the NBNCD in 1987, previous surveys have "proven to be a useful tool to document changes in the district's business mix and to track vacancy trends," according to a joint statement from the organizations. 

500 block of Columbus Ave. | Photo: Google

"Past surveys also have helped champion legislation affecting the district, including banning chain stores, [also known as formula retail], and halting the loss of ground-floor neighborhood-serving stores to banks and offices," the statement continued. 

So far this year, the survey concluded that the neighborhood's vacancy rate sits at 10.25 percent, more than double the rate in 2015 with 38 total empty units. In 2015, the vacancy rate was approximately 4 percent.

The survey did not include commercial storefronts impacted by the St. Patrick's Day fire at 659 Union St. or storefronts at the newly constructed Palace housing development at 1731 Powell St.

2018 North Beach Neighborhood Commercial District Vacancy Survey.

A closer look at NBNCD's vacancies, according to survey results: 

Nearly 20 percent of vacant storefronts have been displaced due to citywide seismic retrofit requirements. Nine storefronts representing 25 percent of total vacancies have remained vacant since the neighborhood's last survey in 2015. 

Seventy-nine percent of vacant storefronts are zoned for non-restaurant uses, such as specialty grocery or retail sales and services. The remaining 21 percent are zoned for limited restaurant, full restaurant or bar use. 

Thirteen storefronts are currently not open, but have been leased. Eight of those storefronts are currently undergoing renovations for anticipated new ventures. The remaining five business storefronts are being used for unauthorized uses such as for storage, according to the study. 

Additionally, 21 percent of vacant commercial storefronts in the neighborhood belong to two property owners, according to the report. 

785 Columbus Ave. | Photo: Google

Also of concern, said the authors of the study, is the failure of property owners to register long-term vacancies with the Department of Building Inspection under an ordinance adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2009 and a similar measure in 2014 for commercial properties. 

According to DBI, owners of properties that are vacant for 30 days or more are required to register them with the department. A spokesperson for DBI told Hoodline via email that there are currently only two property owners in District Three who have registered vacancies with the Department, with 40 vacancies  yet to file. 

"Noting this drastic rise in vacancies, we are actively developing recommendations to curb the loss of businesses and fill storefronts with neighborhood-serving businesses," the joint statement continues.

"We look forward to and encourage a robust conversation with both those in the neighborhood and in City Hall to ensure that North Beach retains its historical character while opening its doors to businesses that enrich the community."

We've reached out to District Three Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the neighborhood, but have not heard back. 

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North beach commercial vacancy rate doubles in 3 years