Mayor Breed and Board President Peskin Announce Plan to Address Small Business Awning Compliance

Actions will support bringing small businesses into compliance after flood of complaints targeted properties in Chinatown, the Richmond, and the Haight
February 28, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London N. Breed and Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin announced they are working on legislation to create an amnesty program for existing awning owners who are out of compliance. The goal of the program will be to create a path people can follow to come into compliance before any enforcement action is taken, except in the case where there are urgent life safety issues.   

Over the last several months, many small business owners have been subject to enforcement related to their awnings allegedly being out of compliance with certain codes. Specifically, between November 1 and February 23, the City’s Department of Building Inspection (DBI) received 179 anonymous complaints about illegally installed business awnings throughout San Francisco. By comparison, during the same period last year, the building department received just five complaints about illegally installed awnings. 

This program will require legislation that the Mayor and President Peskin have asked the City Attorney to draft. In the meantime, the Department of Building Inspection will deprioritize enforcement against complaints of awnings being out of compliance, except in the case of urgent life safety issues requiring immediate action. DBI will also delay compliance on enforcement for 180 days for any issues of notices of violation, except for in the case of urgent life safety issues. 

“This is one of those prime examples when complicated compliance issues can far too often break the small businesses that are already struggling in our city,” said Mayor London Breed. “While it’s important that we address life safety issues, we also need to create a friendly environment for mom-and-pop shops to thrive. That is why city departments must continue to work together on looking for meaningful ways to support our merchants, including streamlining complex permitting processes, and having active conversations with impacted merchants to provide them with clarities on what to do. I look forward to working with President Peskin to create a path for our small businesses to come into compliance.” 

“We’re pleased to work with the Mayor to provide immediate relief to our already beleaguered small business owners so they can focus on rebuilding their businesses as workers and visitors return to the city,” said Board President Aaron Peskin. “Meanwhile, we will ensure that departments create a pathway to bring unpermitted awnings into compliance in a way that is easy to understand and sensitive to the needs of the small business community, especially immigrant-owned small businesses which have been disproportionally targeted.” 

San Francisco is working hard to support our small businesses, through improvements to city processes related to opening and operating a business, and this recent issue with awning compliance is another opportunity to do so.  

“This program is a huge step toward supporting our small business community so they can continue to focus on running their small business and serving their customers, “said Katy Tang, Executive Director of the Office of Small Business. “Our team is available to support businesses in navigating the process of compliance, and we encourage businesses to reach out to us for assistance.” 

“We are committed to working with local businesses to resolve these issues while ensuring public safety,” said Department of Building Inspection Director Patrick O’Riordan, CBO. “Fortunately, we haven’t seen major safety concerns and believe this legislation will provide additional tools to support the community.”  

The city is hosting a workshop for merchants to learn more about the permitting process for the installation of storefront awnings. The workshop is being held on Monday, March 6 at 1:00 pm at Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Clubhouse, 830 Sacramento Street. The event is in partnership with the Office of Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the Department of Building Inspection, the San Francisco Fire Department, the Planning Department, and the Office of Small Business. It will be available in English and Chinese.