Some business owners around the current Occupy SF location on the Embarcadero are none too happy about the encampment. Now, a proposed relocation could bring the protesters, tents and all, to the Mission District. Local business owners held mixed opinions about the move, and most were skeptical.
“I don’t like the idea,” said Sharon Drummond, owner of Hotel Mirabelle at Mission and 15th streets. “We have enough problems around here already.” She added that the encampment’s proposed location is too obscure to make the group’s point, and would only serve to deter business in the community.
Representatives of Occupy SF are in talks with Mayor Ed Lee’s office about relocating the tent encampment from Justin Herman Plaza to a lot on the site of a former high school on Mission Street between 15th and 16th streets, the Chronicle reported on Wednesday.
The proposed site takes up one-third of the block and is separated from the sidewalk by a chain-link fence. The area around the 16th Street BART station also has a high concentration of single-room occupancy hotels and a high crime rate, according to police reports.
An employee at a nearby store who wished to remain anonymous noted: “It will kill business for us because customers will get harassed. The last thing we need is 400 people talking about things that no one here agrees with.”
Other store owners said they sympathize with the Occupy movement, but worry that the proposed encampment will exacerbate the community’s problems.
“This is a bad place already, but it’ll get worse,” said Najib Omar, who works at 777 Tarjedas Mart on the corner of 16th and Mission streets. Omar doesn’t think the encampment will deter customers, but he expects violence to break out between the protesters and local troublemakers.
“People will use it,” said Nesih Erkut, manager of the Dollar Only store on 16th Street between Mission and Valencia. He explained that some locals would take advantage of the chaos to commit crime and foment violence in the area.
Gregory Wood, owner of Forest Books on 16th Street between Mission and Valencia, disagreed. Wood isn’t worried about violence, and welcomes the encampment because he sees a link between his own independent bookstore and the Occupy movement’s grievances.
The point is not whether this will help or hurt business, according to Wood; the bigger issue is how the Occupy movement encourages non-corporate business models like his own.
Mojahed Abbas, who works at City Smoke and Gift at 18th and Mission streets, said he too supports the movement, but doesn’t think the Mission is the proper place for the encampment.
“Overseas they didn’t choose a neighborhood, they went to Tahrir Square,” he said, referring to the Egyptian uprising that led to the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. The Occupiers need a space that will be seen all over the world, Abbas said, adding that it’s the mayor’s office that wants them out of downtown.
Jason Lo, who owns Stagi Liquors on 16th Street between Mission and Valencia, says he is “OK” with the movement and doesn’t think it will hurt business, but can’t understand a Mission location. “[They] probably won’t get any coverage from it,” he said. “It won’t help them.”
Politics aside, a few local proprietors support the Occupy SF relocation for business reasons.
“Occupy or no, we’re looking for business,” said the owner of a local cafe who wished to keep his name and store anonymous, “and of course it will help business.”
For now, the proposed move is only in the discussion stage. It is not clear whether Occupy SF will agree to the new site or the mayor’s office and Board of Education would sign off on such an encampment.