Some companies in San Francisco’s Mission District involved over visitors modifications, parking – NBC Bay Space

On Small Business Saturday this year, many independent retailers hoped for shoppers to walk into their storefronts and spend locally. In San Francisco’s Mission District, which is known for its unique shops and restaurants, some of those small businesses say it’s getting tougher for their customers to access the neighborhood.  

On Valencia Street in the Mission, there’s no shortage of local, independent retailers hoping to lure in holiday shoppers. Hopes are high that after pandemic lulls, more people will come out to stores. The National Retail Federation forecasts more people in the U.S. will shop this year over Thanksgiving weekend than ever before.

But at the Five & Diamond fashion shop on Valencia Street near 16th Street, in-person business has been slow.

“I would say it’s down a little bit, it’s definitely down,” said Benja Ellis, the House Manager at Five & Diamond.

Other shops on the Valencia Street corridor told NBC Bay Area the same thing.

Ryan Smith, store manager at Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street and 20th Street noted that Black Friday sales this year were “down by a touch” from the previous year.

Ellis at Five & Diamond believes a major factor in this lull is the Mid-Valencia Bikeway Pilot Project. In August, this project brought changes between 15th and 23rd Streets, including a large bike lane in the middle of the street, restrictions on where cars can turn, more loading zones for cars, and restrictions on street parking.

“It removed a huge chunk of parking,” Ellis explained.

“So people cannot park, the parking signs are confusing, we get people coming in every day [saying] ‘Can I park here? When can I park here?’ people are getting ticketed,” Ellis said.

Randy, who lives in the Mission and declined to give his last name noted that when looking to park on Valencia now, “you gotta go around and around, now you gotta go one block up, make a left, make a right — it’s just a big issue.”

Randy said he’s noticed the impact of these traffic changes on local businesses.

“Even the coffee shop down the street there, I’ll walk down there and it’s like two or three people [inside],” he said.

Randy added he would rather see the money visitors pay towards parking tickets spent on local businesses instead.

SFMTA has heard these frustrations from businesses and residents.

In a blog post on November 21, it said:

“In response to the concerns of struggling local businesses, we are temporarily adjusting the type and duration of many of the loading zones on Valencia Street between 15th and 23rd streets and on several side streets (18th, 19th, 20th, 22nd) to create more general parking availability in the neighborhood.”

Specifically, the agency is temporarily turning more of the new loading zones into parking. It said 34% of those new loading zones will now be available as general parking after 12:00 p.m. and 82% of those new loading zones will be available as general parking after 6:00 p.m.

SFMTA says these temporary changes will be in effect while the agency weighs what changes to make permanently in early 2024.

At Five & Diamond, Ellis said they haven’t noticed the impacts of these temporary changes yet.

Staff at the store hope shoppers still consider spending their holiday dollars with Valencia Street businesses.

“Support local business, get out and see what’s out there, there’s some beautiful shops out here on Valencia, amazing one-of-a-kind items, it’s really worth checking out,” Ellis said.

Ellis said in addition to consistent parking, they want to see city leaders work together to make it easy and safe for shoppers to access small businesses.

There’s still time left in the holiday shopping season, and many shoppers told NBC Bay Area on Saturday that they had not started their holiday shopping yet.

Joel Swann, who lives in the Mission, said he might buy gift cards to local restaurants this holiday season.

Swann, who likes to walk and take public transit, said he enjoys doing holiday shopping in person.

“I think there’s nothing like being able to scope out things on your own and just the adventure of being able to try out different neighborhoods,” he said.

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