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San Francisco voters on March 3 will decide whether to tax landlords who keep commercial properties vacant as a way to deal with the growing number of empty storefronts in commercial corridors.

The Board of Supervisors at a special meeting on Thursday voted 8-0 to place the measure on the ballot. Supervisors Catherine Stefani, Aaron Peskin, who sponsored the bill, and Rafael Mandelman were absent from the vote.

In a letter to the board, Peskin said:

“By introducing another element of risk for property owners considering whether to evict their tenants or impose extraordinary rent increases, the Storefront Vacancy Tax will give small businesses along San Francisco’s vibrant neighborhood commercial corridors new leverage in their lease negotiations.”

The supervisor pointed to a Budget and Legislative Analyst report that identified several reasons commercial properties remain vacant, including absentee landlords, speculative rent increases and lack of improvements to make storefronts attractive to rent.

Steve Rhodes San Francisco, Calif. voters will decide in the March 2020 election whether to impose a Storefront Vacancy Tax on commercial landlords that leave properties unoccupied.

If passed by voters with a two-thirds majority, the vacancy tax for landlords would start at $250 per linear foot of frontage in 2021. The tax would increase to $500 per linear foot of frontage in 2022 and $1,000 per linear foot of frontage after 2022.

Revenue generated from the vacancy tax would go into a “small businesses assistance fund” to help business owners impacted by blight and crime exacerbated by storefront vacancies, the legislation said.

Jerold Chinn

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