Mayor Breed Signs Legislative Reform Efforts to Support Small Businesses, Fill Vacant Storefronts, and Bring Live Music to the Neighborhoods

Reforms will make 100 changes to the Planning Code to make it easier to open and operate small businesses and waive fees for entertainment permits and streamline other approvals
December 14, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London N. Breed signed two pieces of legislation to support San Francisco’s small businesses, fill vacant storefronts, and encourage thriving neighborhoods. By making over 100 changes to the Planning Code to ease the permitting process for small businesses and by eliminating fees and streamlining rules around entertainment permits, San Francisco is continuing its progress to make it easier for small businesses to open and to thrive.  

These ordinances sponsored by Mayor Breed advance the goals laid out in her Roadmap to San Francisco's Future. One of the plan’s nine strategies is to make it easier to start and grow a business. Simplifying City processes while reducing cost will encourage more businesses to start and remain in San Francisco.   

Mayor Breed signed the legislation at Pasta Supply Co in the Inner Richmond, which has benefitted from previous small business reforms that streamlined its opening process, including Proposition H, adopted by voters in 2020.  

“We continue to remove the barriers that get in the way of small businesses being able to open, take root, and thrive in our neighborhoods,” said Mayor London Breed. “Our goal is to be a city that says yes, and that starts with getting rid of the barriers and rules that too often lead to no. By changing our laws, eliminating fees, and focusing on keeping our neighborhoods safe, we can have thriving merchant corridors across San Francisco.” 

The Small Business Reforms legislation will facilitate easier permitting for small businesses, encourage economic recovery and growth, and fill commercial vacancies in San Francisco. Under the legislation, over 100 changes to the Planning Code will serve to ease restrictions across five main categories: 

  • Allow more business uses on the ground floor 
  • Lift restrictions on bars and restaurants 
  • Incorporate new liquor license for music venues 
  • Remove certain public notice requirements 
  • Enable priority processing for nighttime entertainment, bars, and restaurants 

The Entertainment legislation will provide important relief to San Francisco nightlife and entertainment businesses by waiving permit fees so that businesses may continue to offer outdoor music and entertainment activities they began during the COVID-19 pandemic using the City’s innovative “Just Add Music” (JAM) permitting program. In addition to this waiver, this legislation will also adopt numerous reforms to streamline the bureaucracy around entertainment permitting, saving business owners time and money by removing unnecessary referrals and hearings. 

Both ordinances were signed into law today and will become effective in 30 days.  

Mayor Breed’s Small Business Agenda 

These new laws build on the significant small business reforms Mayor Breed has advanced over the last three years, including the passage of Prop H in 2020 and the Small Business Recovery Act in 2021. Since the City began implementing Proposition H in January 2021, over 3,500 businesses have benefited from the program, which allows more commercial projects to be processed within a shorter timeframe, in what’s known as “over-the-counter," when permits applications are processed immediately upon submission.  

The City also opened the Permit Center in 2021, which offers 23 distinct service areas through the Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection, Department of Public Health,  Public Works, among others. By centralizing services in one place, customers can move between permitting departments efficiently, resulting in a better experience and improved government function. Since the start of this year, the Permit Center has served an average of 191 customers per day and provides on average 531 services daily.     

Mayor Breed’s recent budget extended First Year Free, which waives the cost of initial registration fees, initial license fees, first-year permit, and other applicable fees for qualifying businesses. Since the First Year Free program started in 2021, approximately 5,724 businesses have enrolled, of which 3,640 are completely new, and the remainder are existing businesses adding a new location. The City has waived more than $2.38 million in fees since the program started.