By David Chin
On September 15, in a press conference located at the shoe store, “Footprint,” on Taraval, Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar announced the launch of a new program aimed at helping small businesses that have been vandalized or broken into. The program, called the “Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant Program,” plans to offer either $1,000 or $2,000 to small businesses victimized by break-ins or any sort of property damage caused by crime.
The program specifically targets all businesses in San Francisco with annual revenues less than $8 million with the intention to provide relief money to cover the cost of damages including, but not limited to, stolen goods, shattered windows, and graffiti. To receive relief, businesses must first report vandalism to police and to call the number 311, and show receipts for related expenses.
Vice President of the Taraval Merchant Association People of Parkside Sunset Grace Garza, who also owns Carla & Co. Hair Studio, also attended the press conference and said, “[I feel] sad for the victims but happy that there is relief money if targeted by such an event. important to mention the program not only helps the morale of the business and its workers but also our corridor & neighborhood as well.”
District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar brought the idea to fruition after Footprint owner Michael Hsu came to him with the suggestion. Michael Hsu came up with the idea of the program after his business was burglarized twice in one night in February of this year.
With $1 million allocated, the program is set to greatly benefit countless businesses across the city. Mar listed some businesses that have already been victimized, including the following located in the Sunset district alone: Footprint Shoe Store, Foam Tea House, Antigua Coffee, Mr. Bread Bakery, Twisted Donuts, Pineapple King, Nomad Cyclery, and Frank’s Floral. These businesses have recently been hurt by crime within the city, and these examples are limited to only the Sunset District painting a picture of how much of a problem business break-ins are in this city.
Of the examples, Foam Tea House and Frank’s Floral stand out in their degree of devastation. Foam Tea House was vandalized three times this year, according to Mar. Police reports suggest the vandalism at Foam Tea House may have been racially motivated as it’s an Asian-owned business. Frank’s Floral, located on Irving, is an 87-year-old business that recently burned down as the result of an arson crime. According to their website, Frank’s Floral is temporarily closed and unable to process orders, but they plan to undergo repairs and have set up a remote system of processing orders.
The crime wave has been especially difficult for Asian-American businesses because they’re targeted as evidenced in the 20 burglaries in Chinatown. Mar displayed concern within meetings about dozens of businesses in the Sunset District corridors.
The Captain of the San Francisco Police Department Taraval Station, Nicholas Rainsford, also acknowledged the break-ins during the press conference attributing “30 or 40 incidents” in the Chinatown and Ocean areas. Their investigation drew conclusions that most of the crimes were “driven by prejudice.”
Garza said that Sunset neighborhood business and residents had set up a volunteer foot patrol, called Sunset Squad. She also said, “I do think that the city’s efforts are going to curtail this type of crime or make a difference. It definitely helps.”
Recent construction along Taraval have further made business difficult, obstructing the flow of business. Garza said, “Yes, it was necessary. Construction alone made a huge impact and it scared a lot of businesses away. That [along] with the closing of the Great Highway, the pandemic closures, and now burglary and vandalism [has made things harder]. It’s a ripple effect and we’re in it together.” She added that small business were “what San Francisco was created on.”