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    Two Visions of America by Don Jans

    Why Businesses Are Leaving San Francisco

    By Evan Symon, California Globe

    ‘Anywhere is a better option for businesses right now than San Francisco’

    The Monday closure of San Francisco’s flagship Whole Foods supermarket is just the latest in a long string of both chain and small businesses in the city. Crime, drug use, and economic factors unique to San Francisco, have led many business owners to worry about their future in the city and where they could possibly relocate to.

    For many, the look to move outside the city has been years in the making.

    “Before COVID we were looking for a way out just because of the rent costs,” Lucy Chen, a restaurant co-owner in the city, said to the Globe on Tuesday. “And we don’t want to go. We’re third generation here and part of the vibrant Chinese-American community here. The hills, the streetcars, the fog. I mean, it’s great.”

    “But after that 2008 recession, when everything picked up again, prices started going up. And crime. Crime was always there, but it started getting worse. Our restaurant was robbed in 2015, and the police did what they could, they really did, but it felt like something was holding them back. All of that just screamed at us to get out. My brother lives in San Diego, and I have a sister outside of Sacramento, so we were looking there, as well as Las Vegas and Boise if you can believe that. Then the pandemic came and it kind of anchored us here. All the money we had for the move was put in to keeping above water.”

    “So that’s where we are, and where many others are too. A stationary store a few doors down from us managed to stay open despite Staples and Amazon. But they moved out, not because of them, but because homeless people started congregating around their store and it scared away customers. This is the reality of San Francisco. Ask any store owner here, and you will hear how they want tougher laws back.”

    Another business owner, Alexei Volkov, concurred.

    “We have been robbed many times, often people try and take razor blades or detergent and run out,” Volkov told the Globe. “Last year a woman tried to run out with a lot of baby formula during a time of shortage. And what did the police do? They caught them and everything, but the next week, there they were outside the store again.”

    “This time next year I’ll probably be in Stockton. I’m finishing up a lease agreement there. I just want to live in a city with justice, where people who steal don’t keep coming back. I can also talk to you about drug addicts here, but I don’t want to keep you on the phone for an hour.”

    Crime, Homelessness, High Prices, Drug Use

    A small business owner who helps advise new owners on where to go, Helen Dawson, told the Globe on Tuesday how she breaks it down for people in the city.

    “Ok, say you want to open a convenience store,” explained Dawson. “You got all the licenses and everything, all the agreement and contracts, and just need to find a place. If you want a place with lower crime like Pacific Heights or Marina or Russian Hill, you need to worry about the cost. Buying is expensive, rent is expensive, and having a convenience store there might not make it. Same with tourist heavy areas. If you go cheaper, then you need to be concerned more with crime. Wealthy areas are also hard hit, as we just saw with Whole Foods and those recent attacks, but if you want to open up in, say, the Tenderloin? It won’t be pleasant.”

    “Drug use too. There is a lot of open drug use in the city, and they can come in the stores too. Oddly, if you have a lower end store, you can actually benefit from them. If you have ever gone into a convenience store in a low-income area, you’ll see a lot of socks, spray cans, shoelaces, small plastic roses in a glass tube, and other seemingly random items on the shelves that sell fast, but look into it a bit, and you’ll see why those all sell really well because they are used by addicts to get high in one way or another. Homeless are also customers in some ways, as they get cheap food items, but at the same time, they can also contribute to the crime in the area. Depends on the person.”

    “As for police coverage or getting help when you need it? The SFPD tries, but they aren’t really reliable because they’re stymied on what they can do and there’s not enough of them right now.”

    “So, right now, it’s either pay a lot for a place that’s somewhat better, or risk being robbed more and generally being in a depressed area. That’s the lay of the land right now. The city is wondering why so many businesses are leaving, and it’s because they’re screwed no matter what they do. Anywhere is a better option for businesses right now than San Francisco.”



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