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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Smart Voter
San Francisco County, CA November 7, 2006 Election
Proposition G
Limitations on Formula Retail Stores
City of San Francisco

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 125,728 / 58.19% Yes votes ...... 90,353 / 41.81% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Yes/No Meaning | Arguments | Full Text

Shall formula retail use stores be required to get a conditional use authorization from the Planning Commission before opening in any Neighborhood Commercial District where formula retail use is currently permitted?

Summary Prepared by Ballot Simplification Committee:
THE WAY IT IS NOW: The City's Planning Code sets forth the uses permitted in residential, commercial or industrial zoned districts. The City designates certain areas as Neighborhood Commercial Districts (NCDs). The NCD designation can apply to areas such as an intersection where there is commercial activity or a neighborhood shopping district

The City regulates formula retail use in NCDs. Formula retail is a type of retail sales activity or establishment with eleven or more other retail sales establishments located in the United States. Formula retail establishments maintain two or more of the following standardized features: merchandise, storefront, décor and color scheme, uniforms, signs or trademark.

In most NCDs, formula retail use is permitted, but only after a neighborhood has received a public notice. The Planning Commission only reviews formula retail use upon request.

Formula retail is prohibited in the Hayes-Gough and North Beach NCDs.

In four other NCDs, the Planning Code requires a conditional use authorization for formula retail use before the establishment can proceed. A conditional use authorization for formula retail use requires that the Planning Commission conduct a hearing and consider the following criteria:

  • the number of other formula retailers in the NCD;

  • whether similar formula retailers are available;

  • whether the physical appearance of the proposed formula retail establishment fits with the existing neighborhood character;

  • how much retail space is vacant in the NCD; and

  • the existing mix of retailers in the NCD that serve the neighborhood and those that serve people beyond the neighborhood.

THE PROPOSAL: Proposition G is an ordinance that would amend the City's Planning Code for NCDs where formula retail use is currently permitted to require a Planning Commission hearing for approval of a conditional use authorization before an establishment can proceed. Proposition G would also allow the Board of Supervisors to adopt more restrictive criteria for conditional use authorization for formula retail or to prohibit formula retail in any NCD.

A "YES" VOTE MEANS: If you vote "yes," you want to require a Planning Commission hearing for approval of a conditional use authorization before a formula retail establishment can proceed in Neighborhood Commercial Districts where formula retail is currently permitted.

A "NO" VOTE MEANS: If you vote "no," you do not want to make this change.

Fiscal Impact from City Controller:
City Controller Edward Harrington has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition G:

Should the proposed ordinance be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would have a neutral impact on the cost of government. The ordinance requires the City Planning Department to issue a type of permit called a conditional use authorization to establish certain types of retail businesses. The City would incur staff costs to provide the analysis and planning that would be required, however, fees are collected from applicants to fully recover such costs.

This estimate does not address the potential impact of this requirement on retail businesses or the local economy.

Meaning of Voting Yes/No
A YES vote on this measure means:
If you vote "yes," you want to require a Planning Commission hearing for approval of a conditional use authorization before a formula retail establishment can proceed in Neighborhood Commercial Districts where formula retail is currently permitted.

A NO vote on this measure means:
If you vote "no," you do not want to make this change.

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Arguments For Proposition G Arguments Against Proposition G
Protect San Francisco's Neighborhoods and Strengthen our Small Business Community.

Yes on The Small Business Protection Act!

  • Large chain stores are not appropriate for every neighborhood.

  • Local residents often are not notified of proposed new stores.

  • Proposition G gives neighborhoods and residents a voice by requiring Planning Commission review of new chain stores in San Francisco's neighborhoods.

The Small Business Protection Act requires the Planning Commission to approve all new chain stores in the City's neighborhood commercial districts. It allows residents to voice their concerns at a Planning Commission hearing.

Proposition G allows residents to seek conditions on chain stores to address traffic impacts, congestion, parking, signage and other concerns. It allows small businesses to voice their concerns about competition and monopolization. A conditional use permit is the vehicle for addressing these issues.

Proposition G does not ban chain stores. It simply provides neighborhoods an opportunity to ensure that proposed stores conform with the existing neighborhoods' needs and to ask for amenities such as parking and appropriate signage.

Small businesses employ more than half of the City's workforce and are the linchpin of San Francisco's economy. Proposition G helps to ensure their survival by preventing monopolization.

San Franciscans deserve the opportunity to provide their input before these chains homogenize our neighborhoods and push out the City's small businesses.

Give local residents a chance to protect the unique character of their neighborhoods. Give neighborhoods a voice. Vote YES on Proposition G!

Aaron Peskin, President, Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval
Supervisor Tom Ammiano
Supervisor Chris Daly
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
Matt Gonzalez, Former President, Board of Supervisors
San Francisco Tomorrow

Rebuttal to Arguments For
If only the proponents of this ballot measure had followed their own advice. "Give neighborhoods a voice," they say. Did the proponents "give neighborhoods a voice" when they drafted this ballot measure behind closed doors without any public comment and without any public hearings? Did the proponents "give neighborhoods a voice" when they placed this measure on the ballot at the last minute on the day of the filing deadline? The answer to both questions is a resounding "NO".

Proposition G needs to be rejected and sent back to the Board of Supervisors with these simple instructions + "Do your job: (1) hold public hearings, (2) solicit neighborhood input, and (3) pass legislation protecting small business that meets the needs of all of San Francisco's neighborhoods."

We should no longer accept ballot measures that claim to protect small business or claim to protect neighborhood character, when in fact, these ballot measures are meager vehicles designed to advance a narrow political agenda.

Vote No on Proposition G!

Supervisor Sean R. Elsbernd, District 7
Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, District 2

Proposition G is a wolf in a sheep's disguise. Initially, who would not support the pleasant image of a measure designed to protect so-called small businesses and ensure neighborhood charm? Yet, after further study, the wolf reveals itself and Measure G shows its true colors as a measure that stifles small business development and further burdens the desires of neighborhoods demanding economic growth.

Requiring a blanket conditional use authorization for formula retail stores throughout San Francisco disrespects the unique character of each of our wonderful neighborhoods. Without question, some neighborhoods should have this kind of protection. But should all neighborhoods? In those neighborhoods in desperate need of jobs, economic and housing development, and commercial activity, should we blunt such opportunity by placing yet another huge hurdle in the form of conditional use authorization in the way. In other words, does one size really fit all?

Moreover, why is this measure even on the ballot? This measure very well could have been introduced as an ordinance for regular consideration by the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, and the Mayor. Such discussion would have allowed for full neighborhood input and allowed for the drafting of a comprehensive measure that meets everyone's needs. Instead, at the last minute, this measure was thrown on the ballot without any public comment or public hearings.

Beware of the wolf and Vote No on Proposition G!

Supervisor Sean R. Elsbernd, District 7 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, District 2

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
If you believe San Franciscans should have an opportunity to voice their concerns before chain stores move into their neighborhoods, Vote YES on G!

Too often, the City's powerful business interests prevail over the needs of our neighborhoods. Proposition G shifts the responsibility onto chain stores to collaborate with communities and demonstrate that proposed chain stores fit the needs and wants of a particular community.

Stories abound of chain stores sneaking into San Francisco neighborhoods without appropriate community notification. While corporations can employ lobbyists to help secure store locations, community organizations are often not notified of proposed chain store sites.

Proposition G establishes a reasonable hearing and permitting requirement for chain stores that wish to open in San Francisco neighborhoods. Requiring Planning Commission approval in the form of Conditional Use authorization increases community input before formula retailers enter any of the City's neighborhoods.

If a proposed store is a good fit for a particular neighborhood, the community can use the conditional use process to address the traffic and other impacts that may be caused by the chain store.

In those communities that feel they are well served by locally owned small businesses and wish to continue to support those businesses, Proposition G offers a real opportunity to voice their concerns before chain stores forever alter the character of the neighborhood.

Vote to protect San Francisco's neighborhoods and small businesses.

Vote YES on Proposition G

Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
Supervisor Chris Daly
Supervisor Tom Ammiano
San Francisco Tomorrow
SEIU 790

Full Text of Proposition G
Submission to the voters of an ordinance amending the Planning Code to add Section
703.4 to be known as the Small Business Protection Act and to require a conditional use authorization for the establishment of a formula retail use in Neighborhood Commercial Districts except those where such use is prohibited.

Note: Additions are italics; deletions are strikethrough.

Be it ordained by the People of the City and County of San Francisco: Section 1. Findings. This legislation supports and is intended to further the findings set forth in Planning Code Section 703.3(a)(1)-(9). Section 2. The San Francisco Planning Code is hereby amended by adding Section 703.4, to read as follows: SEC. 703.4. CONDITIONAL USE AUTHORIZATION FOR FORMULA RETAIL USES. (a) This ordinance shall be known as the Small Business Protection Act.

(b) Notwithstanding Section 703.3(d) and except for Section 703.3(e), establishment of a formula retail use, as defined in Section 703.3, in any Neighborhood Commercial District, as identified in Article 7, shall require conditional use authorization pursuant to the criteria of Sections 303(c) and 303(i) and be subject to the terms of Sections 703.3(g) and (i).

(c) Nothing herein shall preclude the Board of Supervisors from adopting more restrictive provisions for conditional use authorization of formula retail use or prohibiting formula retail use in any Neighborhood Commercial District.

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Created: January 4, 2007 09:40 PST
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