Five more small businesses have joined the city’s Legacy Business Registry, including two in the Mission: Dog-Eared Books and Zeitgeist.
The registry, which formally acknowledges selected small businesses for their impact on their surrounding communities, allows business owners the to apply for yearly Business Assistance Grants of $500 per employee (capped at 100 employees), and provides crucial leverage in negotiating long-term leases. Landlords who comply and give business tenants 10-year lease extensions may receive Rent Stabilization Grants of $4.50 per square foot (capped at 5,000 square feet).
The application process for the funds still needs approval from the Board of Supervisors, but Gloria Chan, a spokesperson for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said the funds will be distributed in February 2017.
The funding will provide much-needed assistance for business owners struggling to absorb the rising costs of San Francisco’s commercial rental market.
“Dog-Eared Books is a financially viable business,” said Kate Rosenberger, the owner of Dog-Eared Books, at a Small Business Commission hearing two weeks ago. “The new landlord [of her building] is, instead of renewing the leases to long-established, viable tenants, instead giving 45-day eviction notices and raising rent to as much as 5 times the current market rate.”
In an interview with Mission Local, Rosenberger said she is optimistic that the designation will help her secure an affordable lease.
Rosenberger first opened Dog-Eared Books in 1992 at 1173 Valencia. After a new landlord acquired the building, Rosenberger moved the bookstore to 900 Valencia, where it remains today. She recently opened a second location in the Castro.
Zeitgeist is not facing imminent displacement, but General Manager Gideon Bush said the funding will help “pay the bills.” As the bar’s 40-year anniversary approaches, management is working on other projects, Bush said, though he did not give specifics.
During the hearing on October 3, the owner’s daughter, Laura Burmeister, described the bar’s history as a welcoming space for a variety of people since it opened in 1977 under the original name, Rainbow Cattle Company.
“Hans Grahlmann embodied a lot of what you might recognize Zeitgeist for,” Burmeister said, referring to the original owner, who died in 1998. “There’s a mural in the backyard that is there to remember him, and we’ve tried very hard to keep [his] legacy in place.”
In order to obtain legacy status, eligible businesses must be nominated by a member of the Board of Supervisors or the Mayor – with a citywide limit of 300 a year – before submitting an application that includes documented evidence that operations have been ongoing for at least 30 years. Exceptions are granted for 20-year-old businesses facing imminent displacement, like Dog-Eared Books.
In addition to agreeing to preserve the historic name and craft, owners must demonstrate the business’s role as an indispensable part of the surrounding neighborhood. This was an easy task for the owners of Dog-Eared Books and Zeitgeist.
“The community support is here. Our neighbors, old and new, love and support us. We are an international tourist destination,” Rosenberger said at the hearing.
The Legacy Business Registry was introduced last year following a 2014 report by the City’s Budget and Legislative Analyst Office that showed small business closures had accelerated tremendously since 1992, coinciding with a steep increase in the value of commercial property. In March 2015, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to establish the registry, and in November, voters approved the launch of the Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund.
In addition to Dog-Eared Books and Zeitgeist, the Small Business Commission added Green Apple Books, the Booksmith, and Henry’s Coffee House to the registry last Monday.