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Think that rising crime doesn't chase retailers out of cities? Check out San Fran.

San Francisco’s Dying Downtown

Major retailers continue to flee the culture of lawlessness.

James Freeman, WSJ

May 3, 2023 12:30 pm ET

The politicians of San Francisco finally decided to normalize trade relations with the United States. But there remains an urgent need for them to ensure public safety before normal commercial relations disappear entirely from the City by the Bay.

The major retailers fleeing the city’s downtown have been so numerous that last weekend the San Francisco Chronicle felt compelled to publish a map so readers could keep track of the exodus. Roland Li and Adriana Rezal also reported new additions to the list of retail refugees:

Also closing are Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack and a neighboring Saks Off 5th store, adding to the retail exodus seen with global brands like Uniqlo, Gap and H&M.

Annie Gaus and Kevin Truong note the significance in the San Francisco Standard:

The closure of Nordstrom at Westfield San Francisco Centre in Downtown, a major department store that anchors the city’s shopping district, has real estate insiders and locals wondering what the future holds for the beleaguered mall.

As for the owners of the mall, the Chronicle’s Chase DiFeliciantonio reports today:

In an email statement, a Westfield spokesperson said the “planned closure of Nordstrom underscores the deteriorating situation in downtown San Francisco. A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area.”

The statement said that Westfield mall owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield “has actively engaged with City leaders for many years to express our serious concerns, which are shared by our customers and retailers. We have urged the City to find solutions to the key issues and lack of enforcement against rampant criminal activity” and that the current situation was “not sustainable for the community, or businesses, and we are hopeful the City will implement the changes that are so urgently needed.”

Ms. Gaus and Mr. Truong of the Standard have more on the conditions in the neighborhood:

The Whole Foods had made regular emergency calls since it opened in March 2022 for a mix of medical crises, assaults and other incidents; in September of last year, a man fatally overdosed in a bathroom at the grocery store.

Last week, a Walgreens store next to Westfield mall was the scene of a fatal shooting after a private security guard allegedly shot a shoplifter.

The Standard reporters also quote an anonymous manager of a restaurant in the mail:

The restaurant has had its mall location open for only about five months, but the manager said the business had already experienced alarming incidents along with concerns about high rent. She described one incident where a homeless man grabbed one of her serving utensils and flung hot curry at the business owner.

“If I [hadn’t] run, he [would have burned] my body,” the manager said. The man went on to burn another person with hot soup, she said, but the security guard was reluctant to apprehend the man.

“’If I touch the guy, maybe my company will fire me,” the business owner recalled the man saying.

San Francisco’s leftist politicians may want to view all of this as “basic city life experience.” But perhaps the business flight will motivate them with the fear that soon they may have no one left to tax.

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