By Emmy Pasternak LRIS Outreach and Case Development Manager
In November 2015, this publication ran an article regarding a small business owner who had contacted BASF’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) for help in fighting an eviction. The Navarro family owned the Academy of Martial Arts & Bodybuilding Gym in San Francisco’s Mission District and wished to remain in the location it had inhabited for over 40 years. More than a place for people to work out, the studio was a gathering spot for the community and a haven for youth seeking a healthy, confidence boosting activity.
In March 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to create the Legacy Business Registry and Navarro’s gym was one of the first to apply. According to the Navarro’s attorney, LRIS Panel Attorney, Salvatore Timpano, “in making the Legacy Program available, the city is striving to maintain the character of San Francisco through supporting small businesses. The city created a streamlined process that offers benefits to business owners as well as property owners.”
Eligible businesses must:
• Be 30 years or older
• Have contributed to their neighborhood’s history
• Agree to maintain their identity, name, and craft
Once a business is granted legacy status, it maintains that status as long as the business remains in the city, even if it moves locations and is provided a rent subsidy based on the number of employees.
Unlike residential leases, commercial leases, often referred to as “arms-length leases,” allow for a landlord to provide a 30- or 60-day notice and then proceed with eviction. Timpano recommends small businesses enter into long-term leases and apply for Legacy Business status. The Legacy Registry provides benefits to property owners as well. Owners who offer a ten year or longer lease to a Legacy Business are eligible for a yearly grant based on square footage.
The Navarro’s business received Legacy Status in December 2016. Ultimately the landlord chose not to participate in the Legacy Program’s grant offer for property owners and the rental stipend was not enough to match the landlord’s increased rent demands.
As of the writing of this article, the Navarros are looking for a space to permanently reopen their studio. With the Legacy Status program and the rental assistance it provides, Timpano’s clients are very hopeful that an affordable space can be found so that their family business can continue to provide a place for the community to learn martial arts for another 40 years.
Read more about the LRIS program, download panel applications, and view attorney testimonials at www.sfbar.org/lris. You may also contact the LRIS Membership Coordinator, Yvonne Ng, at 415-782-8951 or firstname.lastname@example.org for direct service. LRIS is a revenue generating program, the proceeds of which help to support the charitable programs of the Justice & Diversity Center.