Small and Mighty

How small businesses can reinvent downtown San Francisco

Policy Brief
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Small businesses are treasured community assets and provide pathways to economic security for many Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian entrepreneurs and their families. Today, small businesses in San Francisco face multiple challenges: a notoriously complex regulatory environment, rising costs, and a slow economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges are even more acute for small businesses in downtown San Francisco. Downtown still has not recovered the office and visitor customer base that previously supported retail, restaurant, and personal service businesses. As a result, small businesses downtown are grappling with higher operating costs and shrinking revenues. At the same time, the increase in vacancies downtown could allow the city to incubate and grow small businesses.

In the last three years, the city, civic leaders, and nonprofit organizations have taken steps to help small businesses succeed, but much more needs to be done. Our research, drawn from a literature review and interviews with city staff, small business owners, and nonprofits, pinpoints seven interventions that would make a difference.