San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced that San Francisco is improving services for small businesses at the new Permit Center as part of Small Business Week. Located at 49 South Van Ness Avenue, the Permit Center houses multiple City agencies, making it easier for people to fulfill their permitting needs for a variety of projects, such as establishing a new storefront or building housing.
These improvements include locating support services from the Office of Small Business in the Permit Center, launching a Small Business Inspections Ambassadors Team to provide proactive outreach service to those going through the permitting process, removing a burdensome requirement to create new architectural drawings even when no construction is being done, and strengthening review and tracking of small business application under Prop H, the City’s streamlined permitting process for small businesses.
“Small businesses and the people behind them are such an important part of our city and our neighborhoods, yet they often fight a battle on a regular basis against complicated regulations and bureaucratic red tape,” said Mayor Breed. “With a team at the Permit Center dedicated to helping small businesses navigate the challenging permitting process, we are not only offering comprehensive support but also real-time solutions that will help San Francisco become the best city to open and operate a small business.”
Office of Small Business in the Permit Center
Small business permit specialists are available at the Permit Center Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to noon and 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Those with non-permitting small business inquiries can visit the City Hall office (room 140). The Office of Small Business can also be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (415) 554-6134.
Small Business Inspections Ambassadors Team
Department of Building Inspection (DBI) is also dedicating a team of inspectors to assist small businesses that may experience issues right before opening a storefront to resolve problems more efficiently and allow businesses to open their doors more quickly.
Prop H Improvements
Mayor Breed announced improvements to the review and tracking process of small business permit applications under Proposition H, which was passed by voters in 2020 to allow more businesses to receive over-the-counter permit approvals and for permit approvals to take place within 30 days. These improvements include better collaboration between agencies such as DBI and the Planning Department to track projects eligible for expedited review under Proposition H through dedicated staff to support small businesses.
“Before signing a lease or pulling a permit, we encourage small business entrepreneurs to connect with one of our small business permit specialists so that we can set them up for success,” said Katy Tang, Executive Director of the Office of Small Business. “We are here to lay out the roadmap for the unique journey ahead for each business and help them thrive and fulfill your dreams in San Francisco.”
Currently, customers can access services on the second floor of the Permit Center from departments, including DBI, Planning Department, Department of Public Health (DPH), Public Works, Recreation & Parks, Fire Department, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and the Entertainment Commission. The Permit Center, which opened in 2020, was designed to put customers’ needs first by consolidating multiple agencies and improving the way City departments collaborate with each other.
The services at the Permit Center come as San Francisco celebrates its 18th Annual Small Business Week from May 2nd to the 6th with a full schedule of events honoring and supporting small business owners. Programming will focus on meaningful resources and information for small business owners at every point in their small business journey. It will be filled with networking opportunities, business-building workshops, and inspiring content, the week-long event serves to educate and empower entrepreneurs who are getting started, growing businesses, and staying in San Francisco. More information can be found at sfsmallbusinessweek.com.
Small businesses represent 95% of the businesses in San Francisco, and they collectively employ nearly one million people. Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Francisco has invested over $63 million in grants and loans to support more than 3,000 small businesses. The investments reflect the City’s commitment to ensuring a more equitable recovery and inclusive future economy.
“The pandemic has left us with too many vacant storefronts all over the city,” said Sharky Laguana, President of the Small Business Commission. “Making the permitting process as easy and painless as possible is critical to refilling those storefronts. Small business support at the Permit Center is a huge step forward that will help San Francisco’s economic recovery.”
Since fully reopening in July 2021, the Permit Center has seen over 12,000 unique customers and provided over 117,000 services. On average, 200 customers visit the Permit Center daily. 600 services are administered at the Permit Center, including issuance of permits, payment transactions, and providing consultations before permitting begins. Approximately 98% of issues are resolved on the same day and under four hours in a single transaction.
About the Office of Small Business
The Office of Small Business, a division of the Office of Economic & Workforce Development (OEWD), is the City’s central point of information for small businesses and supports entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey, including starting, staying or growing in San Francisco. The Office of Small Business’ mission is to equitably support, preserve and protect small businesses in San Francisco by providing high quality direct services and programs, driving practical policy solutions, and serving as a champion for San Francisco’s diverse small business community.