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SF election results: Vacant stores tax Proposition D leads [Updated]

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No empty promises on the proposition that aims to keep retail running in the city

An empty store with red and white signs reading “escape game” plastered in the windows.
Ads cover the windows of a former shoe store in the Financial District.
Photo via Shutterstock

[Update: On Thursday night, the latest tallies show that Prop D’s margin of victory was up to more than 69 percent, making it even more of a favorite to pass, although many ballot still remain uncounted.]

A plan to fill in some of San Francisco’s blighted vacant storefronts and raise money to help bail out struggling small businesses is ahead in the vote after Tuesday’s election in San Francisco. Although the count remains close enough that Proposition D is not a sure thing.

Very early Wednesday, the SF Department of Elections records 68.1 percent of tallied votes in favor of the measure. While that’s comfortably ahead of the two-thirds margin that the proposition needs, it could falter as election officials count more ballots.

If Proposition D becomes law, starting in 2021 it would charge owners of chronically empty SF storefronts $250 per linear foot (not square foot) for the first year that a retail unit remains vacant, $500 in year two, and $1,000 per foot every year after.

Fees collected would go into the city’s new small business fund, the establishment of which is a significant part of the carrot appealing to voters.

The SF Board of Supervisors voted overwhelmingly to put the vacancy tax before voters, but it’s the brainchild of Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who calls it a spur to push landlords to court retail tenants more aggressively.

According to the SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development, some commercial corridors have as many as 27.6 percent of storefronts sitting empty, sometimes for years on end, although the citywide average is significantly lower at about 12 percent.