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San Francisco financial district at night with the bay illuminated by the full moon. (Photo: CAN BALCIOGLU/Shutterstock)

Why Businesses Are Leaving San Francisco

‘Anywhere is a better option for businesses right now than San Francisco’

By Evan Symon, April 12, 2023 2:30 am

The Monday closure of San Francisco’s flagship Whole Foods supermarket is just the latest in a long string of both chain and small businesses in the city. Crime, drug use, and economic factors unique to San Francisco, have led many business owners to worry about their future in the city and where they could possibly relocate to.

For many, the look to move outside the city has been years in the making.

“Before COVID we were looking for a way out just because of the rent costs,” Lucy Chen, a restaurant co-owner in the city, said to the Globe on Tuesday. “And we don’t want to go. We’re third generation here and part of the vibrant Chinese-American community here. The hills, the streetcars, the fog. I mean, it’s great.”

“But after that 2008 recession, when everything picked up again, prices started going up. And crime. Crime was always there, but it started getting worse. Our restaurant was robbed in 2015, and the police did what they could, they really did, but it felt like something was holding them back. All of that just screamed at us to get out. My brother lives in San Diego, and I have a sister outside of Sacramento, so we were looking there, as well as Las Vegas and Boise if you can believe that. Then the pandemic came and it kind of anchored us here. All the money we had for the move was put in to keeping above water.”

“So that’s where we are, and where many others are too. A stationary store a few doors down from us managed to stay open despite Staples and Amazon. But they moved out, not because of them, but because homeless people started congregating around their store and it scared away customers. This is the reality of San Francisco. Ask any store owner here, and you will hear how they want tougher laws back.”

Another business owner, Alexei Volkov, concurred.

“We have been robbed many times, often people try and take razor blades or detergent and run out,” Volkov told the Globe. “Last year a woman tried to run out with a lot of baby formula during a time of shortage. And what did the police do? They caught them and everything, but the next week, there they were outside the store again.”

“This time next year I’ll probably be in Stockton. I’m finishing up a lease agreement there. I just want to live in a city with justice, where people who steal don’t keep coming back. I can also talk to you about drug addicts here, but I don’t want to keep you on the phone for an hour.”

Crime, Homelessness, High Prices, Drug Use

A small business owner who helps advise new owners on where to go, Helen Dawson, told the Globe on Tuesday how she breaks it down for people in the city.

“Ok, say you want to open a convenience store,” explained Dawson. “You got all the licenses and everything, all the agreement and contracts, and just need to find a place. If you want a place with lower crime like Pacific Heights or Marina or Russian Hill, you need to worry about the cost. Buying is expensive, rent is expensive, and having a convenience store there might not make it. Same with tourist heavy areas. If you go cheaper, then you need to be concerned more with crime. Wealthy areas are also hard hit, as we just saw with Whole Foods and those recent attacks, but if you want to open up in, say, the Tenderloin? It won’t be pleasant.”

“Drug use too. There is a lot of open drug use in the city, and they can come in the stores too. Oddly, if you have a lower end store, you can actually benefit from them. If you have ever gone into a convenience store in a low-income area, you’ll see a lot of socks, spray cans, shoelaces, small plastic roses in a glass tube, and other seemingly random items on the shelves that sell fast, but look into it a bit, and you’ll see why those all sell really well because they are used by addicts to get high in one way or another. Homeless are also customers in some ways, as they get cheap food items, but at the same time, they can also contribute to the crime in the area. Depends on the person.”

“As for police coverage or getting help when you need it? The SFPD tries, but they aren’t really reliable because they’re stymied on what they can do and there’s not enough of them right now.”

“So, right now, it’s either pay a lot for a place that’s somewhat better, or risk being robbed more and generally being in a depressed area. That’s the lay of the land right now. The city is wondering why so many businesses are leaving, and it’s because they’re screwed no matter what they do. Anywhere is a better option for businesses right now than San Francisco.”

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27 thoughts on “Why Businesses Are Leaving San Francisco

  1. Very sad but accurate article. California cities cannot have vibrant business districts and cater to the homeless, and law breakers too. It’s that simple. Without a municipal will to enforce laws and DA’s to prosecute the cities will continue to hollow out, decreasing the tax base and continuing the economic and social spiral down. Exhibit A and B? SF and LA.

  2. Businesses need to start escrowing their taxes and pay directly for the services they supposed to be getting. I heard that some businesses in the Castro have already started doing this (that would be a great story for the CA Globe to cover!). Nothing will ever change until the people take their power back and demand a civilized society. Personally, I won’t spend a dime in SF, I do all my shopping in Walnut Creek now. So sad.

  3. According to Mayor Breed, people are making crime a bigger issue than it is. She is blaming social media and eople with phone capturing the crime!!
    Let’s face it , S. F is a former shell of itself. It will only get worse before it gets better. In the meantime how many lives will be lost ? How many generational small businesses be lost?
    Clear out the politicians like Breed, Wiener and Haney then maybe S.F. will return to a vibrant city.
    I just wonder why one would one go from S. F. to Stockton? The crime rates and homeless issues are not so good there either. Lodi might be a safer choice.

    1. Cali Girl, this pretense by authorities of “crime, what crime?” as you referenced and as we saw elsewhere here on The Globe in another article about S.F. crime statistics is trending down here in the L.A. area, too.
      “Ignoring major problems has worked for us, the Dem/Marxists, in the past, so why not roll it all out again now when the situation if REALLY out of control?” — seems to be the gaslighting technique here.
      If these politicians can get their like-minded friends in the media (e.g. L.A. Times) to write it up that way some lunkheads will believe the written word (lies) over what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears. Of course the truth of the situation does need to be reported in our cities and state, because no one individual citizen or even group of individuals can know everything that’s going on. But thank goodness we still have sites where a person can piece together a somewhat accurate picture of reality.

      1. ShowandTell, you hit the nail on the head. It is gaslighting.
        The local newscaster tried to hold her feet to the fire but Breed as she twisted in the wind stuck to her story!
        The politicians are beginning to lose the local media. I was pleasantly surprised to see the newscaster push back on Breed today! The Mayor was not pleased.😂

        1. That is great to hear about the local media push back on Breed, Cali Girl.
          Nice boost, needed that. 🙂

  4. How times change the business person in this article wants law and order and moving business from SF to STOCKTON!!!!

    not long ago that would be shocking to say. It must be really bad when Stockton is safer than SF. I have to agree I feel safer in Stockton than SF – its weird to say.

  5. And what is in San Franfreakshow is ALSO metasticizing in downtown Denver… which has been aggressively poaching tech startups to migrate to Denver… the problems follow them….

    1. That’s interesting, CD9. Seems the same thing is happening in all the big cities; or at least the ones in purple and blue states. Blue State Minnesota and their even Bluer big cities of Minneapolis and smaller St. Paul have similar themes, I do believe. You might think it’s too darn cold there in the fall, winter, spring, for some of this stuff, but no…..

  6. Slapping a multistory mural of climate-brat Greta Thunberg’s smirking face on the side of a downtown office building, would make me never come back to work in downtown SF.

    Politics follows culture, and “climate change” is bankrupt culture.

  7. We hear all the complaints from businesses, big and small, in SF, and from residents afraid to leave their homes after dark, but do they realize that their votes put the Dims in office that have run this city for decades? SF is 95% Democrat! What will it take for them to realize that it’s Dims who have ruined this once-lovely city? Are there no San Franciscans with any common sense at all? It sure doesn’t look like it!

  8. Withold taxes until civilization returns. No one needs a spinless government to implement another Somalia in the neighborhood. Publish the names, addresses, and funding regarding the Mayor and the City Council Members and maybe transport the homeless and drug users into the backyards of the city officials.

  9. We visited California in the early 60s. Drove from San Francisco to LA. The most beautiful costal road in the world. Beautiful cities. So sad. Now live in the Catskills.

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