Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Hillary Ronen Join Small Business Community to Announce Extension of San Francisco's First Year Free Program

Proposed legislation will add a third year to the popular program that supports small businesses by waiving most fees when starting or expanding a business
February 15, 2024

San Francisco, CA – Mayor London N. Breed today joined Supervisor Hillary Ronen, City leaders and members of the small business community at El Mil Amores, a Mission neighborhood restaurant and recipient of the City’s First Year Free program, to highlight the importance of the program for thousands of small businesses in San Francisco.  

Earlier this week on Tuesday, Mayor Breed and Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced legislation that will extend San Francisco’s First Year Free program through June 30, 2025. The legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisors Stefani, Mandelman and Engardio. 

The First Year Free program waives first-year permit, license, and business registration fees for new and expanding small businesses. Most businesses are automatically enrolled and see relief immediately. Since Mayor Breed launched the First Year Free program in 2021, approximately 6,211 businesses have enrolled, of which 3,947 are completely new, and the remainder are existing businesses adding a new location.  

In total, the City has waived more than $2.58 million in fees since the program started. 

“When we launched First Year Free, we set out to ensure San Francisco's small businesses received ample benefit, support and cost-savings during the setup phase, a crucial time when businesses are not yet able to generate revenue," said Mayor London Breed. "By extending this program, we are lowering barriers to entrepreneurship in San Francisco and supporting thousands of small businesses. I want to thank Supervisor Ronen for her continued partnership to ensure the success of this program for our vibrant small business community.” 

“In the 2.5 years since the First Year Free program launched, it has proven itself to be impactful for both new and expanding small businesses,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “Extending the program for an additional year is a win for entrepreneurs that extends to our commercial corridors, neighborhood vibrancy, and overall economic vitality.” 

“First Year Free has provided immediate and substantive relief to new businesses, without any red tape,” said Treasurer José Cisneros. “From the beginning our goal was to provide a seamless citywide experience to access the program for time-strapped small business owners, and that effort can continue with this extension.” 

New and expanding businesses with $5,000,000 or less in San Francisco gross receipts annually are eligible for the program. When an individual registers a new business or a new business location with the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector, they are automatically screened for eligibility into First Year Free. For those eligible and who agree to sign up, enrollment is immediate. Individuals receive an email and letter confirming they are part of the program. Permitting agencies confirm eligibility and fees are waived on the spot.  

Waived fees include: 

  • Initial year business registration fee (for new businesses only) 
  • Application, inspection, and one-time permit fees 
  • Initial license fees 

“When I first started my online wine club and shop, opening a physical location was a dream, but also a risk,” said Tala Drzewieski, owner of Tala Wine, a boutique wine shop and bar, tea lounge, and café that opened at 4625 Mission Street in the Excelsior in June 2023. “First Year Free saved my business thousands of dollars while we were renovating our space and preparing to open. It helped give me an edge as Tala Wine got up and running.” 

“My dream of having a restaurant came true,” said Andrea Alfaro, owner of El Mil Amores restaurant in the Mission “I walked in to the Office of Small Business not knowing what to do or how to start, but was able to get through the permitting process quickly and benefit from the First Year Free program.” 

First Year Free is led by the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector, with support from the Office of Small Business and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Participating City Departments include the Department of Building Inspection, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Public Works, the Entertainment Commission, the Fire Department, the Planning Department, and the Police Department.  

Additional Efforts to Support Small Business 

This legislation and extension of the First Year Free program is integral to Mayor Breed’s Roadmap to San Francisco's Future. One of the nine strategies is to make it easier to start and grow a business, by creating transparency, streamlining processes, and building out systems to support new businesses opening in San Francisco. 

Mayor Breed has advanced a broad range of small business reforms as part of this strategy:  

  • Passage of Prop H in 2020 and the Small Business Recovery Act in 2021. Since the City began implementing Proposition H and the Small Business Recovery Act in 2021, over 4,500 businesses have benefited from changes that allow 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, Department of 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. 
  • In January 2024, the City enacted legislation that made over 100 changes to the Planning Code to ease business 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   

More information about San Francisco’s First Year Free program may be found on this page