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San Francisco officers, enterprise homeowners disagree on Powell Avenue Promenade Refresh plan


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — This week, the San Francisco Union Square Alliance will host an invite-only session for local businesses to talk about revitalization efforts on Powell Street. But not everyone agrees the multi-million dollar Promenade Refresh is the way to go when it comes to improving San Francisco.

If perception is everything, the state of Union Square depends on who you ask.


“It’s night and day from when we came out of the pandemic,” said Marisa Rodriguez, CEO of the Union Square Alliance.

“We have one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” said Jon Handlery, Union Square Hotel president and CEO.

“Um, today it looks okay,” said Steve Rizzo, GM of Hotel G.

It’s a topic that’s top of mind for city officials and local business owners who are attempting to figure out how to revitalize Union Square and change the city’s ‘doom loop’ reputation, including following the announcement that Macy’s plans to sell its Union Square location sometime over the next three years.

MORE: How will Macy’s closure impact SF’s Union Square? Experts offer clues

One of those revitalization efforts is the Powell Street Promenade Refresh, which will replace existing aluminum parklets with a new design.

“This is the gateway to San Francisco. I can’t think of a more important place to put resources to ensure that the downtown will recover,” said Rodriguez.

The idea is to make the promenade more inviting so that retailers will return filling empty storefronts.

“Improving it and making it more inviting is going to be beneficial for any business or hotel,” said Handlery.

But where one Union Square hotel CEO sees a solution, another Union Square hotel GM sees the wrong problem being addressed.

“Because that’s not solving the problem at all,” said Rizzo.

MORE: Hilton SF Union Square, Parc 55 owner stopping payments on loan, firm announces

Rizzo believes city officials should focus their efforts and money on addressing what he says he sees outside Hotel G on Geary Street, including vandalism, shattered glass, addiction and offensive street behavior.

All of which he says have led to comments on his paid social media ads like, “Watch out for the needles on the ground,” “Wear your hip waders, the human excrement is at least knee deep,” and “Don’t go to SF.”

“We won’t see a return of tourism the way we had seen in 2019 and prior until we clean up our city completely,” said Rizzo.

“I think you know he’s right. I think resources need to be spent towards those things I think they’re absolutely important. I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. I think we need to be focused on addressing those issues and then also doing what we can to also improve the rest of community so we can continue to be a thriving city,” said Rodriguez.

The President and CEO for Handlery Union Square Hotel often picks up trash he sees on Geary Street.

“Pride, is not something that you wait for the DPW to come by and clean it up, pride is you want your street to look inviting because you’re proud of the city, so show it,” said Handlery.

MORE: SF March ballot measures will tackle revitalizing downtown, public safety, drug crisis

And while everyone wants San Francisco to be known without infamy.

“I think the question is are we seeing some steps in the right direction? I think so compared to two years ago,” said Alex Bastian, president and CEO of the Hotel Council.

“The image that we allowed to occur in San Francisco in 20 and 21, it’s gonna take time to change that,” said Handlery.

Agreeing on how to get there might not come as easily.

“If you’re really not addressing what the true situation is and what the problems are, we’re then selling something that we can’t deliver,” said Rizzo.

The Union Square Alliance meeting is Wednesday, March 6. It is by invite-only and not open to the public or to the media.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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