The city of San Francisco is renowned for its history and charm and its vibrant art galleries, restaurants and street life. San Francisco, like other interesting cities, did not gain its uniqueness by government edict. Unfortunately, those who control San Francisco apparently believe government now is the only thing standing between their fair city and a look-alike suburb anywhere in the country.
The Board of Supervisors passed a bill that would, in essence, ban chain stores from certain chic neighborhoods. The mayor has yet to sign it but the board has enough votes to override a veto, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
To survive legal challenges, the proposed law doesn’t ban the chain stores outright. Instead, it tries to limit the location of “formula retail stores” — stores with more than 11 locations — by outlawing the sale of “standardized merchandise” and “standardized signage,” according to the article.
The goal is to foster interesting locally owned stores in hip areas, rather than Starbucks, Old Navy and other national chains that pay high rents to locate in prime locations.
Yet customers, perhaps especially those in trendy San Francisco, are savvy enough to make intelligent choices. If a locally owned coffee shop is doing a good job, then people will flock to it and the shop will thrive.
Discriminating against chain stores will only offer artificial protections to some local businesses, limit opportunities for business owners and workers and restrict the choices of customers.
The San Francisco rules are fairly arbitrary. What is standardized merchandise? Surely, the courts will be forced to decide.
Ironically, some localities give tax breaks and subsidies to the same stores that San Francisco and some other cities are trying to chase away. Both ends of the spectrum are wrong.
Businesses should be free to locate where they choose, with no hindrances nor any special help from government. Customers deserve the ultimate decision-making power, not politically motivated public officials.