Despite new business openings, long-term retail vacancies continue in the Upper Haight

Despite new business openings, long-term retail vacancies continue in the Upper Haight
Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline
By Camden Avery - Published on August 08, 2018.

Though the rates are nowhere near as staggering as in North Beach—where, we reported this summer, commercial vacancies have doubled in three years—the Upper Haight continues to face a substantial number of continuing and new retail vacancies for such a high-traffic market.

By our count there are a total of 19 business storefronts currently closed on Haight Street between Central and Shrader, not counting storefronts on adjacent cross streets.

Of these 19, five are in the midst of new construction, including the former Diamond Supply Co. (1560 Haight), and three businesses (RVCA, the soon-to-be Borderlands Books, and Anthem) currently undergoing renovation with reopenings on the horizon.

But despite the recent arrivals to the street, like Topdrawer and Bing & Boba, a host of vacancies in the Haight's core retail corridor have persisted for two years or more—like the former Kids Only and Haight St. Shoe Repair.

And at least one new vacancy on the street—the former McDonald's, at 730 Stanyan—will continue to loom large until the city determines how best to occupy the site until its eventual reincarnation, as affordable housing, breaks ground in the next three to five years.

Over the course of the next two years, many retailers expect vacancies to increase as the city shuts down the Upper Haight's sidewalks for a long-term series of structural improvements under the transit and pedestrian realm project.

A similar infrastructure project recently completed in the Castro resulted in as much as 40 percent sales loss, according to some merchants, and was seen as partly to blame for a surge in retail vacancies there last year.

Bruce Becker, whose 14-year business Earthsong closed earlier this summer, cited the pending business loss in his decision to wind down the business.

"The road situation was the final coup de grace," Becker told Hoodline.

Firras Zawaideh, whose store Liquid Experience has been in operation since the 1930s, said that while he couldn't speculate about the impact of streetscape work on business, he felt that vacancies had seen an uptick.

"I do know that there are going to be a lot more," he said, citing the impact of the new menthol ban on head shops and smoke shops. "The Haight's different."