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London Breed pushes bond measure to bring back San Francisco tourists

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Embattled San Francisco Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, is proposing a bond measure to revitalize the city’s downtown premier shopping district in the latest effort to spark an economic turnaround

The area has historically been home to one of the largest collections of department stores, luxury boutiques, gift shops, and restaurants in America. The pandemic, widespread homelessness, retail theft, and open-air drug use have led to businesses leaving in droves and tourists keeping away. 

“We’re making investments and working together to transform downtown into a neighborhood that we can enjoy, for the people who work here, visit here, and live here,” Breed said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Breed added she wants to reimagine Powell Street, including the cable car turnaround at which she spoke, as a “retail and hospitality destination” and will pursue public space improvements on Hallidie Plaza and Maiden Lane to do so. Hallidie Plaza, a below-ground area visitors first see when traveling by public transportation, looks the same as it did in the 1970s. There have been ambitious plans to give it a makeover, but it largely remains the same today as it did several decades ago. 

Breed’s bond measure is being reviewed by the board of supervisors before it can be put on the November ballot.

Proposed designs for the renovation project will be released next week, NBC Bay Area reported.

The mayor’s plan, which includes legislation, investment, and new programs, will target downtown’s “HEART” — an acronym for hospitality, entertainment, arts and culture, and retail and tourism — problem. Funding will come from $15 million in new investments included in Breed’s budget proposal, as well as a $390 million bond measure on the November ballot. 

Breed’s plan calls for more public events to be held downtown, an improvement in public safety and street cleanliness, and policies to promote office conversions. It would also allow businesses to sell alcohol in designated entertainment zones, erect enhanced overhead lighting, and offer drastically reduced or free parking in the neighborhood.

“Of course, we want you to take public transportation and bike to downtown, but we know some of you won’t get out of your vehicle, and that’s OK,” she said. 

Critics claimed her plan lacks details and glosses over how much the initiatives will actually cost.

For example, a “24/7 neighborhood-based security presence to ensure a consistent, visible safety presence reinforced by proactive intervention and crisis response support” sounds ambitious, but Breed didn’t go into any specifics, including the costs, or provide a timeline for when it would be implemented.

Breed has been blamed for the mass exodus in the downtown area and is facing a tough reelection in November.

The push for an economic revival comes when San Francisco faces a massive budget crisis and Breed has called on city departments to slash their budgets by as much as 15%. 

Her two closest opponents, Daniel Lurie and Mark Farrell, have offered their own plans to help breathe life back into downtown.

Lurie, the heir to Levi’s, wants to streamline permit requirements to court new businesses and wants to double up on police presence in the area.

Farrell, who served as temporary mayor, wants to improve accessibility to the area, which means bringing back cars and parking. He is also pushing for tax incentives to attract new businesses. 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

A revitalization of the area would help not only large retailers but also small businesses, such as CK Contemporary Gallery, whose owner is Lauren Ellis. 

“We have the same conversations with people visiting from around all over the world, all the time,” she said. “It’s that they were told not to come. They were scared not to be here. They took off their jewelry before they arrived, and yet, they’ve had the most wonderful time. Isn’t this a beautiful city?”

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