The GrowSF Report: "Healthy SF mandate" funds sit unused

PLUS: Many SF businesses are keeping their parklets

9 hr ago

What You Need To Know

Here’s what happened around the city for the week of January 23, 2023:

- "Healthy SF mandate" funds sit unused
- Many SF businesses are keeping their parklets
- Local couple stuck in permitting limbo — home wrecked by squatters
- City hiring gets a speed boost
- What can S.F. public schools learn from Long Beach Unified?

"HealthySF mandate" funds sit unused

Ever wondered what "SF Mandate" on your restaurant bills means? Well, like too many things in San Francisco, it means government inefficiency and dysfunction. The sales tax is supposed to go to employee healthcare benefits, but in reality over $700 million is sitting in an unused government bank account.

Mission Local published a searchable list of all businesses that have had to pay in to the account in December of last year, and if you work at any of them, you may be entitled to a refund. Act quickly, because accounts will be closed starting in April 2026 and the funds will be taken by the city!

Thank you to David Horowitz at Mission Local for the instructions to find out if San Francisco owes you money:

To find out if you have funds, former and current employees who’ve worked in San Francisco or at the airport can fill out the enrollment form here and wait one to three weeks; if an account was created in your name, completing the form will finish the account’s creation and grant you access to your funds.

Alternatively, people can contact SF City Option at (877) 772-0415 or [email protected], or ask their current or former employers.

Many SF businesses are keeping their parklets

In a victory for small businesses and customers alike, many outdoor dining parklets will remain open, despite the increasing burden of the city’s rules, regulations, and fees. However, the numbers aren’t as rosy as we’d like: prior to the new rules the city had over 2,000 parklets. Now we’re down to 700.

What started as a free program to help small businesses weather the pandemic, the city now charges $2,000 per space per year. The new cost and compliance burden means that only about 50% of businesses are going to keep their parklets open.

The city received 702 parklet applications, of which 592 are renewals. This means more than half of the parklets that existed before the new rules have been shut down due to cost and regulatory burden.

As the adage goes, "this is why we can’t have nice things." The city has once again grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory. We should just let small businesses operate and get the city out of the way.

Local couple stuck in permitting limbo — home wrecked by squatters

"I really imagined a home here," he said, surveying the gorgeous view from his large back windows and the small businesses on Cortland Avenue he thought he’d walk to regularly.

"It’s heartbreaking, you know?"

Ben Jiang and his wife, Jennifer Sun, purchased a fixer-upper in Bernal Heights in October 2020. However, their dream home quickly turned into a nightmare due to endless issues with the city’s permitting process. To top it off, squatters moved in and turned the house into a drug den.

Despite their efforts, the city has failed to help. Now, they're expecting a baby and have given up on San Francisco. They have already bought a house in Millbrae, quickly obtained permits for a remodel, and begun the work. San Mateo County will be the family’s forever home.

Nothing in their plans was very major, but they ran up against the peculiar Bernal Heights "special use district," approved by the Board of Supervisors in 1991, that governs even the smallest changes to homes in the neighborhood — down to the allowable width of curb cuts and garage doors.

Even Planning Department officials find the code confusing, but changing it requires another vote of the Board of Supervisors.

To make San Francisco friendly to families, we *must* make it easier to remodel and redevelop homes, and we should never tolerate squatters taking over private property. To make these changes we’ll need a majority of pro-growth Supervisors on the Board, which we can make happen in 2024.

City hiring gets a speed boost

You would think a Berkeley-educated Ph.D. in astrophysics would have no trouble getting a job with the city. But city bureaucracy stands in the way of too many good things, including good people.

The City’s hiring process can take nearly a year (255 days, according to the City) to fill even crucial roles. That’s a far cry from the weeks that many local tech companies take to fill roles, and helps explain why the city has an existential-crisis-level staffing shortage: nearly 5,000 unfilled jobs (about 14% of the total labor pool).

It simply shouldn’t take this long to hire anyone.

But the good news is that SF leaders are taking this seriously. Mayor Breed is helping shepherd reforms through our byzantine processes that will shorten average hiring times from 255 days to just 100. Still, 100 days is far too long to ask prospective civil servants to wait. And she has an unexpected ally in Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who calls the current system "broken."

We’re tracking these civil service reforms and expect to have a lot more updates through the year! If you’re not already subscribed, click that button so you can stay up to date!

What can S.F. public schools learn from Long Beach Unified?

Why is the San Francisco Unified School District falling behind Long Beach Unified when we have fewer socioeconomically disadvantaged students and more money?

Sure, as School Board Commissioner Matt Alexander points out, Long Beach has half the central staff bloat compared to SFUSD. But it’s more than years of putting money in the administration pockets rather than in teachers and classrooms.

"Community engagement and parent participation are metrics used to assess a school district’s success, according to the District Readiness Index — and Long Beach scores high, or has ‘strong foundations,’ whereas San Francisco lacks those foundations."

Connection and trust? Long Beach has been working at it for years. San Francisco is still trying to find it.

Your Action Plan

Now that you know what’s happening, help us shape what happens next:

GrowSF Happy Hour on February 15

See you there! Don’t forget to RSVP

Celebrate San Francisco

There’s a lot to love about our city. Here’s what makes it great:

Free admission to SF Zoo on Thursday, Feb 2

Celebrate Groundhog Day on Thursday, February 2nd with free admission to the San Francisco Zoo!

Arc'teryx film fest: For the Love of Winter


Thursday, February 2, 2023
Reception: 6:00-7:00PM
Films: 7:00-9:00PM


Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
3301 Lyon St
San Francisco, CA 94123


The Arc'teryx Film Tour is coming to San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Theatre! All proceeds from ticket sales go to supporting Keep Tahoe Blue.

Arc'teryx Athlete Krystin Norman, one of the stars of the feature film 'Nexus,' will be emcee.

The night will start at 6PM with music by DJs Mishka and Trevern and interactive booth set ups from Keep Tahoe Blue and CMH Heli-Skiing, followed by the film screening at 7PM. Purchasing a ticket automatically enrolls you into a raffle to win Arc'teryx gear plus a free beverage!

All tickets are General Admission. We recommend arriving early to get your preferred seat!

Buy $10 tickets here

SF International Arts Festival is back

Jyotsna Vaideeswaran of Samudra Dance Creations. Photo: San Francisco International Arts Festival

WHEN: June 8 - 18

WHERE: Brava Theater on 24th Street and Project Artaud near 17th & Alabama

The SF International Arts Festival is back and better than ever with an awesome ten-day program filled with dance, music, theater, and literature. This year, they're celebrating their 20th anniversary and showcasing the amazing talent of Bay Area artists. They'll be exploring the changing demographics of the US, with a special emphasis on Black, Asian, Filipino American, and Latino artists.

The first week will feature performances by Lisa Frias, Liz Duran Boubion, Ensambles Ballet Folklorico de San Francisco, the Las Almas Trio, and more. The second week will be filled with Juneteenth celebrations with Gamal Chasten, Diamana Coura West African Dance Company, and the Oakland ensemble Put Ur Play On, and programs of Indian classical dance by Samudra Dance Creations and Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose.

It's been a tough couple of years with the pandemic, but the festival's director, Andrew Wood, said it best: "This festival represents a collective stepping out for the local arts community. These are the people who have been here working all along." So, let's support our local artists and have a blast together at the festival!

Read more at the SF Chronicle’s Datebook, and subscribe for updates at

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