Welcome to the North Beach Business Association
North Beach Business Association is a non-profit mutual benefit organization committed to enhancing and promoting business throughout North Beach, beautifying and preserving our business district and neighborhood, and striving to make North Beach a more inviting, enjoyable, safer place to work, live, and visit. We work actively with North Beach neighborhood groups to create a more healthy and attractive community of which we can all continue to be proud.
All types of businesses and business professionals are welcome and encouraged to join.
Promote community partnerships and to facilitate growth and prosperity of our neighborhood.
Utilize the diverse talents and skills of general members and those who volunteer on the board of directors.
We are not a charitable organization but we do offer a limited amount of grant partnerships. You can get started by applying for a Community Grant from the North Beach Business Association. Contact us for further information and any questions you may have.
Big SFNBBA-CCDC Victory As Stockton Street At Union Square Reopened After 7 Years
Major Artery To North Beach & Chinatown Opens After Years Of Lobbying Efforts
Here at the SFNBBA, we get a lot of work done for our North Beach merchants, and the local business community overall. You may have seen our recent article outlining a few of those accomplishments, just over the past year.
But by its very nature, a lot of what we do is behind the scenes. So I thought it would be a good idea to give you a closer look at a recent victory, one that goes well beyond our neighborhood’s borders: the reopening of Stockton Street at Union Square after years of construction closure. I sat down with Fady Zoubi of Caffe Trieste, former SFNBBA President and longtime board member, for the story.
Joe Bonadio: On Thursday, you attended the ceremony for the reopening of Stockton Street at Union Square. Can you tell me a little about that?
Fady Zoubi: Lower Stockton Street, the part that runs between Geary and Market Streets, was closed seven years ago for the construction of the Central Subway.
It has literally been closed for seven years?
Yes, actually a little more than that. There was a promise made nearly ten years ago, that this part of Stockton would be reopened as soon as construction was complete. This was important, because it’s a main artery for people in Chinatown, North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf to get to the freeway,
Towards the end of 2015, when I was interim President of the North Beach Business Association, I was approached by the President of Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), Phil Chin. He asked me for my thoughts on the reopening of Stockton.
Why had it not been reopened?
At first, because construction was still ongoing. If you recall, five years ago it was still a big hole in the ground over there. But it was promised to Chinatown, and to the people that arranged for Central Subway to be built, that this stretch of Stockton would be reopened–both for cars and public transportation.
But CCDC had heard talk that the block was not going to be reopened.
Because during the latter part of the construction, it was being used as an open space and walkway for events in Union Square.
A little Union Square land-grab.
Exactly. I think it was shortly after Rose Pak passed away when the members of CCDC reached out to the North Beach Business Association. They wanted us to support them, and put our weight behind the effort to reopen it.
The way I see it, North Beach and Chinatown are partners. Everywhere you go in the world, if there’s a Chinatown, there’s a Little Italy next to it.
So this was just one more interest that we shared.
Right. So I took it to the board, and they agreed. We needed Stockton Street to be open for our delivery trucks, for our residents and visitors, and to relieve some of the congestion on surrounding streets.
So we began attending all the meetings of Chinatown Trip and CCDC. The San Francisco Hotel Association was part of it, Union Square Business Improvement District was on board, and Chinatown Tenants Association as well. We all had meetings on a weekly basis, discussed it, and met with representatives of the MTA until we finally got a written commitment that it would be reopened.
So it actually reopened on Friday [February 22nd]?
Yes. Traffic is finally flowing, and the 8 line is already running. More lines will follow soon.
How long did this lobbying process take?
Oh, nearly three years. But we did it.
A Glimpse Of What SFNBBA Does For North Beach Businesses
Blowing Our Horn: SFNBBA Accomplishments For 2018
In keeping with our history of support and leadership for the commercial district of our neighborhood, the North Beach Business Association has assembled a quick report detailing a few of our organizational accomplishments for 2018. This is a partial list, but it will give readers some idea of the breadth of our efforts for the neighborhood.
NEIGHBORHOOD BEAUTIFICATION AND CLEAN UP
- Continued funding and enhancement of decorative street lighting in our commercial district, including street pole lighting, Columbus Avenue holiday lights, and cross street lighting on Grant Avenue and Green Streets;
- Continued funding of hanging flower baskets in the district;
- Ongoing work with North Beach Citizens, SF Department of Public Works and Recology to create and implement a 6-point plan to clean and sustainably maintain streets in our our commercial district. Included in this plan is the installation of “Big Belly” garbage cans, as well as ten cigarette butt containers (already installed) to help minimize the amount of cigarette waste on our streets.
MITIGATION OF NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK WATER RECLAMATION PROJECT
- Negotiated with Rec and Park to create a landmark letter of understanding for the upcoming Washington Square Park water reclamation project. This letter stipulates concessions for our commercial district by limiting the duration of the project to six months in contract; limiting the use of street parking by contractors and their crews; preventing the spread of dust and dirt; and limiting the use of streets by trucks hauling away debris and dirt from the project.
MITIGATION OF OVERALL CONSTRUCTION WORK
- Continued to work with our district supervisor to address the ongoing problem of continuous street work and seismic upgrades, work which has displaced businesses and inhibited visitors and residents from patronizing our shops. Through SF DPW, we have also identified 203 active public and private construction permits in our commercial district. Accordingly, we are negotiating with city agencies to review and coordinate these projects, and limit them to work that has been deemed necessary.
COMMERCIAL VACANCY ISSUE
- Worked with Supervisor Peskin’s office to bring attention to vacancy issues caused by owners who neither maintain their storefronts nor choose to lease them, a primary cause of commercial vacancies and blight. In January of this year, we participated in a press conference on this issue at which legislation was proposed to address this problem. This action received widespread interest in the city at large, and prompted a movement to encourage other districts to follow our lead, increasing pressure on landlords to make their storefronts available for lease–or face penalties.
- Completed the most up-to-date vacancy study of our North Beach neighborhood, with the help of North Beach Neighbors and Telegraph Hill Dwellers (work we’ve been doing with THD for many years now).
- Worked with Chinatown to extend a tourist shuttle bus from the Embarcadero up Broadway to Chinatown and North Beach, a much-needed service due to debut this year.
EVENTS AND ENTERTAINMENT, NORTH BEACH FESTIVAL, WINE WALK, FIRST FRIDAYS
- Continued upgrades to our signature North Beach Festival, including new attractions such as Circus Bella, which help draw new visitors to our neighborhood;
- Created a North Beach Wine Walk, bringing hundreds of new visitors to North Beach;
- Continued to sponsor and work with galleries for our monthly First Fridays events.
OUTREACH AND COORDINATION WITH FILM COMMISSION
- Strengthened our dialogue with the film commission, with an eye to garnering greater participation and coordination of North Beach merchants with future film projects.
At SFNBBA, we look forward to continuing and broadening our work to maintain the vibrancy of our commercial corridor, efforts which benefit both merchants and residents alike. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous year, and we'll see you in the neighborhood!
North Beach Commercial Vacancies Prompt Action: Enough Is Enough
Supervisor Peskin, Community Leaders Address Errant Landlords – EVENT
As perhaps the most unique neighborhood in San Francisco, North Beach has for decades been a lively cultural hub, chockablock with shops, restaurants and bars. But in recent years, we’ve seen a disturbing trend: ground-floor commercial vacancies, often on blocks that have historically been some of our busiest. Columbus Avenue between Green and Greenwich is the prime example.
Exacerbated by the ubiquitous soft story retrofits (which have also emptied their share of storefronts, albeit temporarily), these vacancies have fostered a false atmosphere of decline in North Beach. Shuttered businesses do not encourage repeat visits, and only beget more shuttered businesses. Worse yet, these fallow conditions continue to discourage other small operators from moving to North Beach. It’s a vicious circle that threatens to sideline one of the most vital commercial and cultural enclaves in our city.
As the stewards of small business in North Beach, the SFNBBA is seeking solutions that will get new tenants into these spaces–and ultimately, put more boots on our sidewalks. And high on our list is holding errant landlords accountable.
On Wednesday, January 23rd at 1:00 PM, we are taking the first steps to publicly expose just one such group of landlords: Good Earth Realty, owned by Jeffrey and Sophie Lau. For the last decade, Good Earth has been part of a small group of landlords who have held up to 21 percent of commercial storefronts off the market in North Beach.
On Wednesday afternoon, we will join Supervisor Aaron Peskin at 527 Columbus Avenue near Green Street, where commercial units have been kept off the rental market for nearly a decade. The press will be in attendance, and Supervisor Peskin and SFNBBA board members are expected to speak about the need for these commercial landlords to do their part to restore the commercial rental supply in our neighborhood–and the well-being of our commercial district. It’s not complicated: we are simply asking that property owners offer their vacant spaces for rent, and at a reasonable market rate.
In addition, we will be working with San Francisco Board President Sandra Lee of District One–where Good Earth Realty has also held commercial storefronts off the market for long periods.
We ask you to join us on Wednesday, and to please spread the word about the event through your network. Your attendance will help guarantee a proper level of attention to this issue, a problem we will all benefit from solving. For the health of our business community and our common neighborhood, we look forward to seeing you there!
Community Action: Resolve The Vacancy Crisis
Wednesday, January 23rd @ 1:00 PM
527 Columbus Avenue
(just north of Green St.)
SFNBBA Wins Neighborhood Protections In Face Of Washington Square Park Closure
Procedural Victory Over Rec & Park Will Minimize Impact On North Beach
In a hopeful turn of events, the SFNBBA has won a significant victory in the battle over the impending closure and resurfacing of North Beach’s beloved Washington Square Park. After an epic round of lobbying on the part of Board President Dan Macchiarini and others, a struggle that included a legal appeal to the city, San Francisco Rec & Park has signed a letter of understanding that stipulates the agency’s commitments to curbing negative impacts to the neighborhood.
The document, signed by Toks Ajike, Rec & Park’s Interim Director of Capital & Planning, made very specific commitments, including plans for dust and noise mitigation, traffic and pedestrian safety, parking impacts, and archaeological oversight. The timing of the project has been cut from twelve to six months, with incentives in place for early completion and penalties for delays beyond six months.
This is no small concession, and its impact may not be limited to North Beach. The agreement creates a positive, proactive example for neighborhoods across the city who feel the need to challenge disruptive or ill-considered development. The fact that the SFNBBA and our allies managed to wrest this agreement from Rec & Park shows that with a little elbow grease, the agency can be held accountable. As San Franciscans, we can protect our neighborhoods from insensible and harmful construction.
So the park closure will go forward, and February of 2019 is the current start date. But we are looking at a much prettier picture than where we started: with a twelve month project term and zero mitigation plans. Now we’ve got a relatively firm six month duration, along with a realistic and comprehensive plan for minimizing the problems that inevitably result from this type of work.
A warm thank you to all of our allies in this fight. Here at the SFNBBA, we’ll continue to follow planning for this project every step of the way, making sure that the interests of North Beach’s citizens and merchants are protected. We’ll have updates here soon, so make sure to bookmark this page and come see us again.
Empty Spaces: New Report Sheds Light On North Beach Vacancies
SF City Officials, Landlords Face Scrutiny Following Report On Vacancy Crisis
July in North Beach is always a little bit of a conundrum. This is when San Francisco’s legendarily ambivalent weather kicks in with full force, so that we’re never entirely sure whether to expect sweltering, socked-in or both in the same day. Wealthier folks tend to leave town in search of more common summer climes, and the pace of things in the neighborhood slows to a saunter.
This year, we’ve got several factors complicating the mix, however. Top of the list is the vacancy crisis, and this month we received some new data on the problem. According to the new report conducted by the SFNBBA in cooperation with Telegraph Hill Dwellers and North Beach Neighbors, the numbers are jarring: over the past three years, the number of vacant ground-floor commercial spaces in the neighborhood has doubled.
North Beach’s commercial vacancy rate now stands at 10.25 percent, an unacceptable number in one of the most desirable districts in the city. There are several factors contributing to this, including ongoing retrofit work in many spaces and the St. Patricks Day fire, which took out an entire block of businesses at 659 Union Street.
But a closer look at the numbers is revealing. Seismic retrofits actually account for merely twenty percent of the current vacancies in North Beach. Over a third of the 38 vacancies are leased, including eight that are undergoing improvements of one kind or another.
But landlords seem to be at the heart of the problem: fully 25 percent of the vacant storefronts have sat unoccupied for over three years, and forty percent of them are simply not for lease. What could account for this? One explanation is simple greed. Landlords’ unrealistic expectations has them holding out for rents that are too high for today’s market conditions.
The rise of online shopping has wrought a sea change in the business environment, and for brick-and-mortar retailers, there seems to be no looking back. This is happening throughout the city and across the country, and landlords admittedly have a challenge on their hands. But they also have a responsibility to their communities to offer reasonable market rates for their commercial spaces. Empty storefronts are good for no one, as we are seeing, and they do nothing but deter business and drag down property values.
The city needs to apply the proper pressure to these errant landlords, both enforcing current laws more carefully and exploring penalties for those owners that neglect their communities in this way. There is one statistic that fairly jumps off the page in the study: over twenty percent of the vacancies in North Beach are properties either owned or managed by just two people: realtors Helen Tam and Sophie Lau. It would seem the city has a good place to start.
Ongoing construction work, and its attendant dust, congestion and parking misery, is another major factor impacting the neighborhood. The severe disruption caused by the Central Subway work at the old Pagoda Theater space was a headache that many neighborhood businesses clearly couldn’t handle, and many threw in the towel. City officials need to understand how destructive this unceasing construction is to merchants, and the community at large. They must coordinate with North Beach to reduce the overall number of street projects.
The SFNBBA has worked for years to encourage businesses to open locations in our neighborhood. Cole Hardware, a family business in San Francisco since the 1920s, has been our most obvious success: We worked with Cole for over a decade to find a suitable space for their store. And they’ve delivered on their end, demonstrating that if you provide a great customer experience, people will come and shop.
As the picturesque center of our great city, the North Beach commercial district should be a thriving shopping resource for both locals and visitors. Although we face real challenges, the neighborhood is resilient. At the SFNBBA, we see North Beach as the vital, prosperous dining and shopping destination that it historically has been, and that it should be. And with our continued work, along with the help of city officials, our landlords and our citizens, we envision a bright future.
It’s Always Sunny In North Beach: North Beach Festival Weekend Is Here
The Nation's First Street Fair Returns To The Streets Of North Beach
Time does rush past. And as you can tell by the proliferation of t-shirts and sundresses on our sidewalks, Summer has just about arrived. Festival season is fully underway at this point, and this weekend it’s time for the granddaddy: North Beach Festival, set for this Saturday and Sunday, June 16-17.
Ours is America’s very first outdoor festival, and this will be North Beach Festival’s sixty-fourth year. If the last few days are any indication, the weather should be breezy and sunny, fitting conditions for what is typically North Beach’s best party.
The 64th Annual North Beach Festival
For the uninitiated, the North Beach Festival is an oversized street fair, a lively combination of the traditional and modern that draws people from all over the Bay Area. Though the events focus on the trapezoid of Columbus Avenue, Grant Avenue, and Green and Vallejo Streets, the revelry sprawls across the entire neighborhood, with 125 arts & crafts vendors, twenty gourmet food stands, live music and more. There are always those that wish to eschew the crowds, but I’ve been living here for a dozen years, and I never miss it.
The festival kicks off with the traditional blessing of the animals, to be held, as always, at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi at 610 Vallejo Street. And for those of you out there with young children, as in years past there will be a kids’ chalk art area. For a few bucks, you can purchase a square of the street and let your kids get creative. We provide the chalk, you provide the kids, and we let inspiration take its path! It’s a great way to get the kids involved in the community, and into the spirit of the celebration.
Of course, there’s more than enough diversion for the adults: two stages of live entertainment, beer and wine gardens, poetry readings, and more. And as a special treat, Circus Bella, now in its eleventh year, will be returning: the single-ring circus troupe includes trapeze, rope walking, and a dazzling 9-person juggling act.
And let’s not forget, all of this takes place in North Beach– the coolest neighborhood in the city, any day of the year.
SF Rec & Park Squares Off With North Beach Over Park Closure
On a more serious note, as we reported here recently, San Francisco Recreation & Parks has been quietly planning to close Washington Square Park for a period of six months to a year. This closure is slated to begin at the end of this year. Despite the agency’s claims of outreach and the sheer scale of this proposed project, most people in the neighborhood still don’t know about this.
The SFNBBA invited a representative from Rec & Park, Project Manager Levi Conover, to our board meeting on June 5th. Our goals: to apprise him of our opposition to this plan, and to find a way to delay the work until a more acceptable time. We told Conover of the near-constant construction we have endured in North Beach, and reminded him of the recent fire on Union Street and the ongoing vacancy problems on Columbus Avenue adjacent to the park. We also learned that the irrigation work, while important, is not exactly urgent.
According to Conover, he met with Supervisor Aaron Peskin yesterday to address these objections, leading to “some progress.” Many in the neighborhood aren’t entirely comfortable with these assurances, and there has been talk of a filing an appeal to the park closure.
We reached out to Rec & Park to find out exactly what their plans were. Connie Chan, the agency’s Deputy Director of Communications and Public Affairs, responded: “the Department will again reach out to the community to further discuss neighborhood impacts, and possible mitigations to the impacts before moving forward with the project construction.” To us, this sounds a lot like “details aside, this is happening.”
We believe that Rec & Park generally means well. But they don’t live, work or own businesses here. We’ve already lost too many small businesses. This neighborhood is healthy, but it needs a break from the construction–or it may not be much longer.
For more info, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get involved, and tell Rec & Park and our Supervisor that you don’t want our park to be closed for a year, contact Levi Conover (email@example.com) and Aaron Peskin, District 3 Supervisor (firstname.lastname@example.org). And we'll see you at the Festival!
Partners & Resources
Partners & Resources
Working Solutions - Capital. Consulting. Community.
Working Solutions - Capital. Consulting. Community.