Small-Business Owners in San Francisco Seek Assistance from Local Government

An experienced small business owner in San Francisco is facing the impending loss of his business because he’s been unable to secure a commercial loan from banks. Mark E. Sackett, proprietor of The Box SF, a meeting and events space in the city’s South of Market district, revealed that lenders are turning down his loan requests. He cited a looming February deadline to repay his business loan and no fewer than half a dozen banks rejected his loan applications.

Mr. Sackett received an offer, however, he deemed unfavorable as it posed a risk of putting his business under and didn’t align with his current business situation. He took out his retirement savings during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep afloat. His business, which employs hundreds of vendors, including caterers, florists, bartenders, and tech teams, also provides significant support to others who rely on him to stay employed.

The prevalent outlook is affecting not only Mr. Sackett but also other small business proprietors in San Francisco. He regrets observing boarded-up shops in the city that were once successful businesses, such as mom-and-pop corner stores. Furthermore, the business community received inadequate support and little recognition of its struggle.

The major roadblock he has faced is a perceived lack of interest and willingness from lenders to support smaller entrepreneurs. The recent increased media focus on San Francisco’s challenges, including calls for reform, has impacted lenders’ perceptions unfairly, according to Sackett. He feels that banks have acted selfishly and have failed to assess the low risk and success rate of his business.

Sackett also cited the city’s drug epidemic, crime, and escalating homelessness as contributing to the decline in its economic vitality. His frustration at the city’s inability to address these issues led him to join a local coalition, where he has spearheaded initiatives to improve life in his neighborhood, such as brightening the surroundings with greenery and lights.

With frequent graffiti attacks, theft of planted trees, vandalism at his business, threats and robberies around his vicinity, his safety and that of his business have been compromised. Incidents of drug abuse, crime, homelessness, and shoplifting crimes have bolstered his determination to prioritize making a difference in his neighborhood. Fentanyl has been linked to homelessness and increased drug use in the city.

A key factor contributing to the homelessness crisis is a 2018 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling prohibiting Western U.S. cities from clearing homeless encampments without providing shelter. Even with sizable investments from the city, Sackett stated, the issue has continued to worsen.

He called for collective action, urging people to vote for capable leaders and to hold politicians accountable to restore the city’s charm. His plea for support is also directed at the government, urging policymakers to recognize and assist small businesses, which are the backbone of San Francisco’s economy. He emphasized the need for everyone to engage and bring about actionable change to resolve the city’s problems.

Mr. Sackett’s heartfelt appeal to rally together and restore San Francisco to its former glory reflects a united effort to rescue one of the world’s most renowned cities. A brighter, prosperous San Francisco is on the horizon if the community joins forces to address the prominent issues that plague it.

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