Roughly $50,000 will be distributed to each of San Francisco’s 33 district merchant associations, including Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA) and Dogpatch Business Association (DBA), as part of a $1.7 million donation from Chris Larsen, founder of the blockchain company Ripple. The funding is being provided through the Avenue Greenlight initiative, a partnership between the City and philanthropists intended to help businesses as San Francisco reopens.
In a related effort, PDMA has applied to the City’s Shared Spaces Program to partially close 18th Street between Connecticut and Mississippi streets. The closure will enable expansion of outdoor dining space for Plow SF, Farley’s Coffee, and other 18th Street enterprises and create an intermittent makeshift pedestrian plaza.
“Our small businesses are struggling, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure that San Francisco comes out of this pandemic even stronger than before,” said Mayor London Breed in a press release. “Supporting our commercial corridors with the programs funded by Avenue Greenlight, along with our ongoing City investments, will help keep small businesses intact and thriving.”
“This is such a unique opportunity,” said Maryo Mogannam, president of the San Francisco Council of District Merchant Associations (CDMA), through which funds will be distributed. “People always want to help small businesses but are not sure how. This grant will allow us to move fast, at the speed small businesses need assistance. There is no deadline per se, as to when each association must spend the money by. We will discuss a timeline with each applicant.”
“Fifty thousand dollars per neighborhood is a staggering amount in comparison to the relatively meager budgets funded by our membership dues,” said Mark Dwight, DBA board member and Rickshaw Bagworks founder. “We hope to invest the funds in low-maintenance, long-lasting communal assets, such as outdoor furniture and a public art installation.”
According to Dwight, DBA might collaborate with the Dogpatch and Northwest Potrero Hill Green Benefit District for “additional financial leverage, expertise and creativity. We are discussing projects that can enhance our public spaces to attract locals, and ultimately tourists, to visit our neighborhood restaurants, bars and retailers.”
“We’d like to use the money to identify commercial corridors with street banners and perhaps brand the neighborhood with attractive signage,” said Keith Goldstein, PDMA president. “We also hope to increase internet access and social media outreach to welcome customers as the City reopens.”
During the public health crisis, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFTMA) implemented Slow Streets – erecting signage and barricades to minimize through vehicle traffic – on Mariposa from Kansas to Mississippi streets, and Minnesota from Mariposa to 22nd streets. SFMTA may make these sections permanent, deploying resident and user surveys to assess whether Slow Streets restrictions are effective, identify operational issues, and determine whether there’s support for post-pandemic restrictions.
According to Goldstein, PDMA wants 18th Street to be closed from 4 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The Association may use grant funds to hire a monitor and create signage.
“We’d be thrilled to extend our way of safe and socially distanced gathering. We’d offer more seating in the closed part of 18th Street near our café and the nearby parklet,” said Amy Hillyard, Farley’s Coffee co-owner. “We’d like to host popup shops for makers, as well as potentially have a hopscotch area, live music, and family-oriented activities.”
According to Robin Abad Ocubillo, Shared Spaces Program director, the designated area of 18th Street has narrow sidewalks. Closing it to vehicles will give pedestrians more room to circulate. Abad-Ocubillo said that municipal staff will collaborate to create a site plan for temporary street closures to ensure vehicles are diverted appropriately.
Closing segments of 18th Street, such as between Connecticut and Texas streets, won’t impact public transit service. “The 22-Fillmore bus line no longer runs along 18th Street in Potrero, but…on 16th Street. The intersection of Connecticut Street and 18th Street would remain open. There would be no impact to the 55-Dogpatch bus line between 16th Street and 20th Street,” said Abad-Ocubillo.
He said the City expects businesses to enforce physical distancing and face covering rules.
“Within [the] state of emergency, Shared Spaces permits are issued in six-month increments. The current batch [will expire] at the end of June 2021. If it seems likely the state of local emergency will continue past June 2021, then permits for compliant operators in good standing would be extended yet again,” said Abad-Ocubillo.
In March, Breed introduced legislation to make Shared Spaces a permanent program, with permit fees deferred until June 2022. Future fee costs haven’t been announced.
CDMA and many southeastern district merchant associations have never previously received a charitable donation. In 2019 and 2020 some associations received grants from Google.org, Google’s nonprofit arm. PDMA was awarded $1,500 in 2019, which it used to fund operations. DBA was given $1,500 in 2020.
“It has not been used yet, as our association has been dormant during the pandemic,” said Dwight.
“Fortunately, PDMA is already set up as a 501(c)(6), a tax-exempt nonprofit. We do not have to make legal changes to our organization’s status to receive and use the money,” said Goldstein. “The majority of our members are B2B businesses, such as consultants. We are looking into ways to spend the money that would benefit them as well.”
“Several of our beloved small businesses have closed permanently, including Triple Voodoo Brewery, Industrious Life, and Workshop, said Dwight. “Our commercial corridor is small, so every closure has a profound impact. With those closures we lost a few of our most active small business advocates. The rest of us have been hunkered down in survival mode. It will take some time for us to regroup. This funding opportunity will no doubt help restore optimism and provide some extra incentive to re-energize our Dogpatch Business Association membership.”
Ulrich “Ubi” Simpson is the creative director of Mi Cocina, Inc., a design company based at Pier 54 that creates kitchen and home good products made of denim. Simpson, a Cow Hollow resident, is glad Avenue Greenlight will benefit such businesses as Farley’s Coffee, which vends his products.
“Farley’s now carries a wide variety of our kitchen items from aprons, potholders, and napkins to knife rolls. When they are able to showcase what we create, our local community benefits,” said Simpson.
Alex Tamura, co-founder of Noble & Co., which makes scented soy wax candles, wants PDMA to use the funds to increase foot traffic on 18th Street. Farley’s Coffee also offers its products.
“Our company, founded by me, Haley Kannall, Julie Noble, and Will Noble, is based in Potrero Hill. All our candles are developed, poured, and packed right here in the neighborhood. We’re so excited and grateful to be showcased in a local business alongside so many other talented artisans and businesses,” said Tamura. “Holding open street events would give local makers the opportunity to connect with customers face-to-face.
Henry Karnilowicz is South of Market Business Association (SOMBA) vice president and owner of Occidental Express, a building codes consultancy. SOMBA is defined by SoMa’s boundaries; Market Street to the northwest, the Bay to the northeast, Mission Creek to the southeast, and Division Street, 13th Street, and Highway 101 to the southwest. SOMBA may invest in pole banners, street lighting, and security cameras.
“We’d like to have some of these elements tie into one another, like placing solar-powered lights that at night, would shine on the banners,” said Karnilowicz.
According to Karnilowicz, the area lacks a commercial corridor, although Folsom Street has started to emerge as one, with Sixth Street becoming an entry way into the City.
“As the money comes to use, we’d like to create a place to have events. One space we have for that is Victoria Manalo Draves Park at 16 Sherman Street. We’re looking at how we can bring people into this area. Another area we’d like to bring people to is the nightclubs and restaurants along 11th Street,” said Karnilowicz.
“In our neighborhood, all of our merchants have the same goals,” said Gwen Kaplan, Northeast Mission Business Association (NEMBA) president emeritus and chief executive officer of Ace Mailing Corporation. “This money will help us become more of a thriving business community.”
NEMBA is defined as the area bounded by Potrero Avenue and Capp, 13th, and 20th streets.
“We’re considering pole banners, street beautification measures, including Big Belly waste systems and planters, security cameras, and programs to feature our individual businesses,” said Kaplan. “We’re essentially the old warehouse district, with most areas being zoned for production, distribution, and repair. We don’t have many commercial corridors. For example, 16th Street is the throughway to Mission Bay. It would be absolutely impossible to close it for the Shared Spaces Program.”
The Mission Merchants Association (MMA) has more than 100 members in the area bounded by Highway 101 on the east, Sanchez Street to the north, Cesar Chavez Street on the south.
“The Mission Merchants Association is a 501(c)(6). We are set to receive and distribute funds once they come from the CDMA. We traditionally promote large events like Carnaval San Francisco, Cinco de Mayo, and the Cesar Chavez Lowrider Parade. We want to ensure big events like these are preserved. They draw many customers to the neighborhood,” said Tracey Sylvester, MMA board member and owner of EHS Pilates.
Sylvester said MMA may use Avenue Greenlight funds to hire artists to create murals and pieces to be featured on pole banners, advertise member businesses and association events, as well as showcase the small business community. She also wants to help enterprises post open positions on social media platforms.
“[Then we can] help connect the dots to reach underserved job seekers, such as clients of organizations with offices in The Women’s Building,” said Sylvester. “Some projects might be simple as funding clean-up events that compensate people for their work.”
As part of the Shared Spaces Program, Michigan from Marin to Cesar Chavez streets and Marin Street from Illinois Street to its easterly terminus is closed on Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m., and weekends 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. until June 2021, sponsored by The Midway, a 40,000 square foot live music venue.
Pictured – Left: Amy and Chris Hillyard, co-owners of Farley’s Coffee, showcase goods from their café and products made by local artists. PHOTO: Courtesy of Farley’s Coffee; Top right: The founders of Noble & Co, a Potrero Hill-based business that makes scented soy wax candles. Left to right: Haley Kannall, Julie Noble, Alex Tamura. Inset: Will Noble. PHOTO: Courtesy of Noble & Co; Lower right: Ulrich “Ubi” Simpson, creative director of Mi Cocina, Inc., surrounded by items from his denim clothing line. Courtesy of Ulrich Conrad Simpson