Small Business Challenge to launch in May / Trash project shows early promise

It's Wednesday, April 14th.

Hey there, San Francisco. 

This is neat. On Wednesday, Mayor Breed announced the Small Business Challenge, which asks residents for 30-days in May to shop exclusively at local outposts. 

That means no Amazon orders, no Taco Bell, and for groceries, maybe go to Gus’s instead of Safeway. The idea, as you might have guessed, is to help support local businesses that were hurt by the pandemic. 

“We’ve done a lot, but of course it’s not nearly enough to keep everyone in business,” Breed told the Chronicle’s Heather Knight, who cited a recent study in her story that found 50.3% fewer small businesses in San Francisco were open now compared to January 2020. (That number doesn’t specify whether the closures are permanent, but it was one of the highest in the country, Knight said.) 

You can listen to the full conversation with Breed on the Chronicle’s Total SF podcast

I liked the mayor’s response to her three favorite local spots: The Ice Cream Bar, Sloat Garden Center, and Crystal Way, a shop in the Castro that sells “All Things Healing and Transformative,” according to Google. Who woulda known that Mayor Breed is into crystals?! 

As for the origin story for the challenge, Manny Yekutiel (the owner of Manny’s) told me today that the idea started in a text thread a couple of months back between him, Entertainment Commission President Ben Bleiman, and Small Business Commission President Sharky Laguana. 

But it was Laguana who ran with the concept and made it a reality, Yekutiel said, equipped with its own hashtag (#SmallBizChallenge), website, and petition to “take the challenge.” 

“We wanted to make it competitive. Like, who can last 30 days without shopping at all at a major chain?” Yekutiel said. “This is the time for San Franciscans to wrap their arms around small businesses that they love. And the challenge is one fun way to do it.” 

And with that, onto some news… 

If we look at attendance numbers for Giants’ games as an indication of people’s propensity to “get-back-out-there,” the picture could look a little worrisome. 

For the Giants’ home opener against the Rockies on Friday, 7,390 fans filled 8,900 available seats at Oracle Park. On Saturday, 6,176 fans showed up. 

By Monday, against the Reds, there were only 3,662 fans in attendance, and on Tuesday, about that same number. “It feels like a high school game,” one attendee told the Chronicle. 

Of course, as the Chronicle’s Giants’ reporter Susan Slusser pointed out, there are several factors at play here. Weekday games have always been tougher to draw a crowd and as a result, teams try to do things like offer group ticket sales— something they cannot do today. People might also be hesitant to take public transportation and the other option of driving and having to pay $50 for parking near the stadium might not be that attractive either. 

Then there’s the hurdle of either needing to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-test taken within the past 72-hours. For the unvaccinated, the spontaneous decision to head to the ballpark is no longer an option. 

Hopefully, with yesterday’s news that all adults in the city are now eligible for the vaccine, that changes soon. 

Quick bits: 

  • 🕺 The city will do away with its 11 pm curfew for restaurants and bars on Thursday. (Broke-Ass Stuart

  • 🍁 MedMen, the “Apple Store” of cannabis shops (with a troubled history), is set to open its first San Francisco location in Cow Hollow. (SF Weekly

  • 🏊‍♀️ All the city’s public pools are scheduled to reopen by mid-June, the Recreation and Park Department announced earlier this week. Some pools, like Mission Community Pool, have already welcomed swimmers back. (SF Gate

  • 🥖 There’s a Muffuletta pop-up that’s just getting going in the city called Sandy’s. It looks like its first round of sandwiches is already sold out for this Saturday, but we should all keep an eye out for Sandy’s next outing! (Eater

And finally… After picking up trash around my apartment for a week or so, I had an idea. What if we split the city up into a bunch of little areas on a map, got people to pay one or two or ten dollars a month to keep those areas clean, and then hired people to actually do the cleaning? 

Enter James Thompson, a Mission resident who’s already doing pretty much exactly that with a project he started last year called Clean Streets

(Btw, isn’t this one of the coolest parts about living in San Francisco? Smart, creative people all around us who are already executing on our half-baked ideas!) 

With Clean Streets, residents decide how many days each week they’d like to have someone pick up loose trash on their block. Thompson provides a quote for how much it will cost to “activate” and the person can decide to either pay it all themselves or ask their neighbors to pitch in. People can also donate money each month to have the trash picked up in neighborhoods around the city that need it most. 

Thompson told me the project almost pays for itself right now and so far, he has enough work to employ one person almost full-time. When he posted the job listing to Craigslist last year, Thompson got hundreds of responses, which he said was “touching” and “really affected him” to see how many people in his neighborhood were looking for work. 

I know this isn’t a perfect solution (it doesn’t address all the root causes of our trash issues) and in a perfect world, the city would make our streets shine (with all the money we pay in taxes). I totally get that. But still, I’m pretty fired up about Clean Streets and think it’s a solution that can stand in where the city falls down.

I’m excited to see where it goes. 

That’s all for today! Real quick, though. While we’re talking trash, I wanted to say… How about an SF Minute trash clean-up? I’m thinking of keeping it low-key to start and I hope to do these pretty consistently (every week or every other week?), so don’t feel bad if you can’t make this one. 

But if you’re interested, I’ll be at the corner of Pierce and Oak Street (near the Frederick Douglass Plaza sign) at 8 am this Friday (4/16). We’ll clean (and chat) for 45-min or so. And we can pick a different neighborhood next time. 

Maybe shoot me a note ( if you’re planning to come, just so I have an idea of how many people will be there. 

Also, I’ll supply bags, but if you need gloves, let me know. Also, if you want a bucket (which I sorta prefer over bags) let me know. I’ll make a hardware store run tomorrow to pick those up for people who want them. 

Okay! Talk soon. - Nick B. 

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