San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors wants to place a new tax on landlords to help reduce the large number of vacant storefronts in the city. The so-called “vacancy tax” goes before voters in March 2020. It will need two-thirds approval to become law.
Most major neighborhoods in San Francisco have a problem with vacant ground-level retail space. Retailers have suffered due to the increased costs of doing business, dwindling foot traffic, and a strenuous permitting process. Empty stores can create an eyesore in the neighborhood, which reduces shoppers in the area.
If approved, the measure would levy a fee on landlords based on the space and length of time their ground-floor storefront has been empty.
For properties that sit empty for six months at a time, the tax would be:
$250 per linear foot the first year
$500 the second year
$1,000 for each year after
San Francisco landlords can apply for an exemption from the vacancy tax for various reasons.
A similar tax was put into effect in Oakland, where voters approved a fee on property owners and landlords of vacant land occupied fewer than 50 days per year. The tax rate was $5,000 for commercial spaces, and $3,000 for residential lots. A variety of exemptions from this tax exist for special circumstances.