Vacancies on Haight Street

  • PDF

By Christin Evans, HANC Board

Are all the storefront vacancies you see on Haight Street part of the normal turnover or is there something else happening along the commercial corridor?  The answer, of course, is both.  

Currently the most visible vacant storefronts you can spot are on the 1600 block where both Haight Street Shoe Repair and Kids Only (kids clothing & toy shop) were located.  Both of those businesses saw retirements nearly 2 years ago but the building owner has failed to list either space for rent.  Why?  With two levels of housing above, the building is listed in the city’s Soft Story Retrofit database and requires a foundation upgrade by the city’s deadline for Tier 4 buildings: “STATUS: Permit Required by 9/15/18” reads its entry on the city’s program website.


But the Soft Story retrofit is only one of the reasons behind the vacancies. Following the closure of American Apparel, the building owner across the way has two vacancies.  Word is that he is asking an unreasonably high rent.  As new storefronts have become available across the city at the base of the new housing complexes, you’d expect prices would start to drop.  Commercial rents skyrocketed in the past 2-3 years prompting a ballot measure to protect Legacy Businesses.   But as more spaces have opened up, some landlords have continued to hold out for peak market pricing.

Finally, there is another reason which is probably a contributing factor but not yet fully understood.  Shopping malls across the country are shuttering as consumer habits are shifting more and more online.  However, some of the newest retailers to open on the Haight corridor (Dolls Kill, Pink Dolphin, Nice Kicks, Black Scale, Diamond Supply) are web-first businesses opening some of their first physical stores.  Thus we are seeing a shift where businesses which can afford higher rents have a multi-channel strategy which counts part of the cost of a physical brick and mortar store as brand’s marketing.

If neighbors are concerned about vacant storefronts, they should report them to the city.  See for information on how to make a report. The city relies on a complaint based system to identify vacant storefronts which have failed to register and pay the annual $711 filing fee.  Fees collected are supposed to be put towards the additional costs the city absorbs in managing nuisances such as graffiti abatement and the added sidewalk cleaning services required when a tenant isn’t regularly doing the upkeep. A recent audit identified that the vast majority of storefronts are not registered.  So without community pressure, rent-seeking landlords are likely to hold spaces vacant for longer periods and thus a less vibrant Haight Street.


You are here: News Blog Vacancies on Haight Street