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After months of discussing possible overhauls, the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to relatively moderate changes to San Francisco's formula retail policy on Tuesday. Though the Planning Department had pushed for increasing the number of store locations required for formula retail regulation from 11 to 19, the Supervisors stuck with the tried-and-true 11-store trigger.
The big change is the geographic scope of the law: Chain store restrictions will now apply to stores that have 11 or more locations worldwide, SF Gate reports. Under the approved legislation, retailers that exceed the worldwide 11-location cap must apply to the city for a conditional use permit to operate in a protected neighborhood like Cow Hollow or the Fillmore corridor in Pac Heights. (That process typically takes four to six months —longer in the case of the Fillmore Rag & Bone— and costs tens of thousands of dollars.) The legislation also requires any prospective formula retail business that is 20,000 square feet or greater to conduct a study gauging the proposed store's impact on the city's economy, including employment, wages and commercial rents.
While this is a resolution to the tired 11-versus-19 stores debate, it's by no means the end of what Supervisor Eric Mar refers to as "thoughtful tinkering" with the chain store laws. Next up, Mar wants to work with the Planning Department on complementary legislation that would allow the city's medium-size retailers to grow without facing the full gauntlet of formula retail obstacles.
Do the changes make shopping in San Francisco better? Worse? No different at all? Who knows. Let's just hope that the international stipulation doesn't scare away that rumored Isabel Marant boutique. Marant has only 2 stores in the U.S., but 18 worldwide, so she now falls within the formula retail category.