About the Legacy Business Program

Legacy Businesses Anchor San Francisco Neighborhoods

San Francisco is a world-class city known for its many distinctive neighborhoods. Contributing to the uniqueness of the city are the people, architecture, streetscape, geography, weather, transportation, history, culture -- and businesses. San Francisco wouldn’t be San Francisco without its many independent, locally-owned businesses.

In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs remarked on the importance of neighborhood businesses: “The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts. It grows out of people stopping by at the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer and giving advice to the newsstand man, comparing opinions with other customers at the bakery and nodding hello to the two boys drinking pop on the stoop…”

Our neighborhood businesses – including retailers, service providers, manufacturers, nonprofit organizations, and more – are the places that give the city its character. They’re the bedrock of our communities and a draw for tourists from around the world.

Preserving our legacy businesses is critical to maintaining what it is that makes San Francisco a special place.

San Francisco Heritage’s Legacy Bars & Restaurants Initiative*

In 2013, San Francisco Heritage launched “Legacy Bars and Restaurants,” a groundbreaking initiative that invited users to experience the history of some of San Francisco’s most legendary eateries, watering holes, dives and haunts. The online guide was the first of its kind to celebrate iconic establishments that contribute to the culture, character and lore of San Francisco.

San Francisco Heritage inducted 100 restaurants and bars, located throughout the city, into the initiative. These businesses had achieved longevity of 40 years or more, possessed distinctive architecture or interior design and/or contributed to a sense of history in the surrounding neighborhood.

Threats to local institutions underscored the need to develop new strategies for protecting places with intangible cultural significance. “Legacy Bars and Restaurants” was the first step in documenting the city’s vast commercial heritage and promoting businesses that did not necessarily qualify for formal historic designation.

San Francisco Legacy Business Registry & Legacy Business Historical Preservation Fund**

A 2014 report by the City’s Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office showed the closure of small businesses had reached record numbers in San Francisco. Commercial rents in most neighborhoods had risen significantly. The report drew connections between the city’s high level of commercial evictions and skyrocketing rents. While rent control laws shield many residents from exorbitant rent hikes, no such laws exist for businesses. State law does not allow restrictions on commercial leases. An alternative effort to assist the city’s legacy businesses was needed.

Inspired by programs in cities such as Buenos Aires, Barcelona and London, Supervisor David Campos proposed legislation and a ballot proposition that would become the Legacy Business Program. It was introduced in two phases.

Phase one, which unanimously passed the Board of Supervisors in March 2015, created the San Francisco Legacy Business Registry. The registry is open to businesses that are 30 years or older, have been nominated by a member of the Board of Supervisors or Mayor, and in a hearing before the Small Business Commission, prove that they have made a significant impact on the history or culture of their neighborhood. Only 300 business can be nominated annually and all applicants must agree to maintain the historical name and essential business operations, physical features, craft and traditions of their businesses. The legislation is directly inspired by, and builds upon, San Francisco Heritage’s Legacy Bars & Restaurants.

Phase two asked voters to create the Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund, first-of-its-kind legislation that would provide grants to both Legacy Business owners and property owners who agree to lease extensions with Legacy Business tenants. Proposition J was placed on the November 2015 ballot. The fund would aid in the protection of the San Francisco’s famous historic small business. It was the first legislation in the nation to recognize notable small businesses as historic assets and incentivize their preservation. 

Through the Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund, Legacy Businesses on the registry may receive Business Assistance Grants of $500 per full-time employee per year, while landlords who extend the leases of such businesses for at least 10 years may receive Rent Stabilization Grants of $4.50 per square foot of space leased per year. The business grants will be capped at $50,000 annually; the landlord grants will be capped at $22,500 a year. For fiscal years 2017-18 and 2018-19, a Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment of 3.1% will be added to the grants. Additional CPI adjustments will be made every two years.

Proposition J, establishing the Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund, was approved by voters, with 56.97% in favor and 43.03% opposed.


How to Apply for the Legacy Business Program Registry

Are you the owner of a business that has operated in San Francisco for 30 or more years (20 or more if you face a significant risk of displacement)? Does your business contribute to the neighborhood's history and/or the identity of a particular neighborhood or community? Are you committed to maintaining the physical features or traditions that define your business, including craft, culinary, or art forms (e.g., business model)? If so, you could be eligible for inclusion on the Legacy Business Registry.

The registration process for the Legacy Business Program includes nomination by the Mayor or a member of the Board of Supervisors, a written application, an advisory recommendation from the Historical Preservation Commission and approval of the Small Business Commission.

To register, visit the Legacy Business Program Nomination & Application web page (http://sfosb.org/legacy-business/apply).

For assistance, contact Richard Kurylo, Legacy Business Program Manager, at legacybusiness@sfgov.org or (415) 554-6680.


[*Source: SF Heritage, http://www.sfheritage.org/legacy/]
[**Source: SF Heritage, http://www.sfheritage.org/legacy/legacy-business-registry-preservation-fund/]