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Lawless San Fransisco’s Mass Exodus Of Retailers Is Accelerating

ThePublica Staff

National retailers are closing their stores in downtown San Francisco and leaving the city en masse.

Nordstrom announced last week that they are closing two of their downtown San Francisco stores after 35 years. They will take with them Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth.

The company cites “rampant criminal activity” as a primary reason to close up shop.

Since 2020, dozens of shops in the downtown core have thrown in the towel. In 2021, Walgreens announced it was closing five stores in the city. The retailer was reportedly spending 50 times more on security for its San Fransisco locations than any others.

With recent changes to laws surrounding theft, security staff at these stores could do very little to stop rampant stealing.

Whole Foods joined Walgreens when it closed its flagship “Trinity” location early April because the store couldn’t guarantee the “safety of team members.”

Anthropologie’s Market Street location will also close on May 13.

Other retailers who have pulled out of the city include CVS, Uniqlo, Gap, and H&M.

About a quarter of storefronts are vacant in Union Square, the city’s premier shopping district. That said, that’s improved from around 35% vacancy last fall.

The little guys who depend on office workers for survival, like Fog City News, the 22-year-old newsstand, and Alexander Book Co., the 32-year-old bookstore, have also suffered due to the city’s rising crime, homelessness and general lawlessness.

While some have suggested the retailers are too cheap to stay in the city as costs rise all over, many of these companies cite the safety of their staff and rising theft as primary reasons for their departure.

San Fransisco has seen a tremendous influx of homelessness in recent years. In addition, as the city has defunded their own police, people have few options when it comes to reporting and preventing crime.

In addition, inflation is at an all-time high, supply chains are in shambles and there’s a labor shortage.

While the pandemic is widely regarded as the source of this downturn, it’s the economic policies of the California government that have kept anyone from recovering.

Retailers have long complained about San Francisco’s lengthy and complex permitting process. Not only that, but the rising wave of theft—since California will no longer prosecute petty theft—has led to record lows for any business brave enough to stay in California.

And to top it all off, remote work is here to stay, which means the downturn in San Francisco might be a permanent thing.

Looks like California has a one-way ticket on the “doom loop” express for economic growth.

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