The Tenderloin Business Coalition, a group of business owners in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, petitioned the city to refund all of the the businesses’ sales and property taxes from 2022. According to the business owners, San Francisco is not doing enough to prevent the illicit drug market in their neighborhood.
In August, small business owners in another neglected San Francisco neighborhood, Castro, threatened not to pay their city taxes and fees for similar reasons.
The group argued that the thriving drug trade and rampant homelessness in the area are driving away customers and causing their businesses financial hardship.
“The result is a catastrophic loss of revenue for the small businesses that are vital to the health and safety of the neighborhood,” the Tenderloin Business Coalition’s petition stated. “Due to this untenable situation, businesses are closing and there is a real and palpable fear that the neighborhood is now on the verge of collapse.”
As of Wednesday, the petition received more than 110 signatures from business owners in the neighborhood.
Dan Williams, the Tenderloin Business Coalition leader and owner of an independent theater and restaurant, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We’re putting so much of our own money into cleaning up and security, but we’re getting no real help with our tax money.”
“The open-air drug market needs to be addressed by the police, but we see no strategy. And if there is one, it isn’t working,” he added. “We want our money back.”
According to Williams, business owners in the Tenderloin neighborhood cannot afford to keep their businesses open much longer without significant action from city officials.
“We held on through the pandemic. We held on through the shutdowns,” he stated. “We held on for more than two years. But we can’t hold on for another two years of this. It just looks hopeless. We’ve got months, not years.”
The group requested a meeting with the city’s mayor, London Breed (D), “to discuss her plan to take back the streets from the drug dealers and produce permanent results.”
In September, Breed agreed to send more police to the Tenderloin district. While Williams recognized that the action did help to improve the safety of his neighborhood, it did little to change the public’s negative perception of the area. According to Williams, customers are still “scared” to visit the area.
“The image of the Tenderloin is that it’s a forsaken place,” he noted.
Jeff Cretan, a spokesperson for Breed, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the mayor “has been clear on the need to end open air drug dealing in the Tenderloin.” Cretan noted that Breed met with local police on Wednesday to discuss the situation.
“The mayor knows this is challenging work,” Cretan said, “and she is partnering with the district attorney, who is focused on bringing prosecutions and supporting the police department to make the arrests.”