Impact of Rents & Zoning on Downtown Businesses

Probably the thorniest issue impacting the diversity of downtown businesses is the high cost of rents. If the challenge of managing the price of housing in a capitalist system is difficult, the mere idea of managing commercial rents is almost impossible to fathom - especially from the perspective of what government can or should do.

I would also like to begin a conversation with the community about changing downtown zoning rules to encourage a balanced mix of businesses. If we can prevent, say, head shops or porn shops from opening downtown, perhaps we should consider other restrictions to ensure that downtown business reflect the values of the community. For example, should we tighten the restriction on wine tasting rooms to one per BLOCK, not just block FACE? I've also heard frustration from locals regarding realtor offices, especially since they always seem to be empty - Perhaps we should limiting the number of those businesses as well?

Here’s a really radical idea I’ve heard - How about creating a "Good for Healdsburg" zone type, which would ONLY allow businesses that score high on the "Good for Healdsburg Business Index”? While this idea is intriguing, I highly doubt it would gain any traction among the business and real estate community.

With restrictions like these on the types of businesses that can be located within the downtown zones, we would essentially be reducing DEMAND, which should have a downward pressure on price, which would also help to encourage business diversity. Landlords, of course, would be very unhappy with restrictions like these, so who knows whether we as a community would be able to agree to them.

Finally, with the passage of Measure R, I would push for growth in the SUPPLY of retail space in the form of ground-floor retail units in multi-story downtown housing projects, particularly with spaces that can be configured for specialty “micro” tenants who wouldn’t be burdened with a large rent for space they don’t need.


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