2018 North Beach Neighborhood Commercial District Vacancy Survey

June 26, 2018

Hearing increased questions from their membership and the community at large about the health of the North Beach business district, three neighborhood organizations have collaborated to produce an updated commercial survey for the North Beach Neighborhood Commercial District (NBNCD).

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Since the NBNCD was established in 1987, this survey has proven to be a useful tool to document changes in the district’s business mix and track vacancy trends. Past surveys also have helped champion legislation affecting the district, including banning chain stores or “formula retail” and halting the loss of ground floor neighborhood-serving stores to banks and offices.

This survey, a joint effort from North Beach Business Association, North Beach Neighbors, and Telegraph Hill Dwellers, found the 2018 vacancy rate to be 10.25% - more than double the rate in 2015.

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The survey did not include the commercial storefronts affected by the St. Patrick’s Day fire (659 Union St.) or the commercial storefront at the newly constructed Palace (1731 Powell St.).

A closer examination of the 38 vacancies reveals the following:

  • Nearly 20% of vacant storefronts have been displaced due to citywide seismic retrofit mandates.

  • Nine storefronts remain in the same condition that they were in when the 2015 survey was conducted. In other words, about 25% of vacancies have been vacant for 3+ years.

  • Commercial storefronts belonging to two specific property owners make up 21% of vacancies.

  • 79% of vacant storefronts are zoned for non-restaurant uses, such as specialty grocery or retail sales and services. Storefronts zoned for a Limited Restaurant, Full Restaurant, or Bar use represent 21% of vacancies.

  • In 2014, The Board of Supervisors adopted legislation requiring property owners to register their vacant buildings with the Department of Building Inspection. In 2018, only one property owner registered a vacant commercial storefront in all of District 3.

  • 13 storefronts are not open but are currently under lease. Eight of those storefronts are in various stages of construction for new businesses. The remaining five storefronts are unauthorized uses of the space (e.g. for storage).

The North Beach Neighborhood Commercial District has faced a variety of tests over its first three decades. Noting this drastic rise in vacancies, we are actively developing recommendations to curb the loss of businesses and fill storefronts with neighborhood-serving businesses. 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.