San Francisco’s empty storefronts could soon be filled with artistic activities and social services, as well as programs to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced laws that create special permission from the Planning Department for temporary use to allow nonprofits and artistic activities to operate from empty storefronts across town.
The concept was inspired by the large number of empty shop windows in San Francisco and the displacement of many artists and nonprofits. It would give them more places to operate temporarily as they are looking for a long-term situation in the event of an eviction.
The proposal was unveiled in February before the COVID-19 pandemic hit San Francisco.
Amid the pandemic, Ronen changed the proposal during the Board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee on Monday to extend the permissions allowable measures to “COVID-19 recovery activities.”
Legislation defines these activities as housing, employment and financial support services, as well as food distribution, testing and bathroom services.
“This legislation aims to provide an efficient solution by introducing a new use-permit option that allows nonprofits that provide arts and social services to operate in unused vacant storefronts across the city,” said Ronen. She also said it would “bolster” the city’s COVID-19 response.
Legislation empowers the Planning Department to approve the temporary permit for an initial period of up to two years with a possible two-year extension for a total of four years.
A memo from the planning department said the legislation would “provide opportunities for nonprofits and relief agencies to temporarily settle in the neighborhood with the populations they serve while avoiding delays caused by bureaucratic hurdles.”
The planning commission unanimously approved the proposal on June 25, recommending the changes that Ronen had made on Monday.
Audrey Merlone, a senior legislative planner in the Planning Department, told the Commission that the process of reviewing and approving the requests could only take 15 minutes.
The planning note noted that artistic activities, as defined in the planning of the code for dance studios and ceramic workshops, “are critical to ensuring that residents have access to arts education, creative spaces and artistic performances, but often are not only restricted according to rental costs, but also according to zoning controls. “
Art activities are permitted on the ground floor of business districts in regulatory districts 1, 4, 5, 10, and 11, according to the memo.
Artists and their organizations would have “a temporary space across town that could prevent an evicted art activity from leaving town while it searches for another permanent location, and residents of regulatory districts who have not allowed art activities in their NCDs To give the opportunity to experience the benefits of an art activity in their neighborhood, if only temporarily, ”the memo states.
Due to changes, the legislation had to stay on the committee for another week. Full board is expected at its July 27 meeting.
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