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Supervisor proposes first-year fee waivers for new small businesses

Supervisor Hillary Ronen is trying to ease the financial burden of opening a small business in San Francisco.

She has proposed a pilot program called First Year Free, which would grant fee waivers for registration, permit applications and licensing in a business’s first year of operation. At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Ronen said: 

“Each of these permits comes with a fee and right from the start, a new small business must apply for each permit with a fee, every single time.”

The District 9 supervisor said the program is designed to complement other city efforts aimed at helping potential small business owners, including voter-approved 2020 Proposition H that streamlines permitting and Mayor London Breed’s Small Business Recovery Act, which expands on Prop. H.

Ronen said:

“The legislation that I’m introducing today, First Year Free, complements all of these initiatives by removing the significant financial barriers that city fees create for prospective small business owners even before they open the doors.”

Ronen’s office estimates the pilot program will cost about $20 million.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who chairs the board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee and has signed on in support of Ronen’s initiative, said at the Tuesday meeting:

“We have an opportunity here to do something transformational to make it easier to drop every possible barrier when it comes to the cost that we control to support small businesses opening here in our city.”

At an earlier press conference, Small Business Commission President Sharky Laguana said:

“This is an incredible opportunity, particularly for those entrepreneurs who don’t have a lot of money who maybe previously could not have afforded to have started a business.”

Ronen said the legislation was inspired by Manny Yekutiel, who owns Manny’s cafe on 16th Street and recently joined the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board. Yekutiel, who is also a former member of the Small Business Commission, applauded the proposed legislation as a gateway for potential business owners who may otherwise be deterred by fees that can run upward of $30,000.

He said:

“This is going to help those people. Those are the people that we want to make it easier for and this legislation does just that.”

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