Is San Francisco Doing Enough to Keep Out Chain Stores?

A city law enacted in 2006 was intended to protect San Francisco's independent stores from the spread of chain - or 'formula' - stores. Stacy Mitchell explains the gaps in the current law and the efforts of one city Supervisor to tighten it.

While "No other large American city has done as much to check the spread of chain stores as San Francisco," enduring fears that an influx of chain stores will "erode the city's distinctive character" and "weaken its economy" have some concerned leaders, like Supervisor Eric Mar, who chairs the city's Land Use and Development Committee, looking into ways to tighten the city's formula business policy.

So what about the law isn't working? "While the law has deterred some formula businesses from applying and blocked permits for others," writes Mitchell, "dozens have either won approval in neighborhood business districts or opened in areas of the city not included in the policy. Target, for example, has been granted a permit to open a store in one neighborhood business district and has another in the works in a zone not covered by the policy."

According to Mitchell, Mar plans to introduce legislation in the coming months to address some of the perceived loopholes. "He envisions adding new criteria for large formula businesses that would take into account their large market areas and include a comprehensive economic impact review. He also wants to expand the law to cover more of the city's commercial districts."

"Mar has already helped fix one part of the policy that has long vexed some neighborhoods: branches of big banks are not counted as formula businesses. In June, the Board of Supervisors passed Mar's measure to bring banks under the policy, much to the relief of people living in areas where Chase and Bank of America have opened dozens of branches, leaving less space for other types of stores."

Thanks to smitchell

Full Story: How San Francisco is Dealing With Chains


building block set

NEW! Build the world you want to see

Irresistible block set for adults when placed on a coffee table or desk, and great fun for kids.

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Stay thirsty, urbanists

These sturdy water bottles are eco-friendly and perfect for urbanists on the go.
Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

The Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs is the only comprehensive ranking and listing of graduate urban planning programs available.
Starting at $24.95