Mayor London Breed and Ripple Founder Chris Larsen Announce New Neighborhood Merchant Corridor Funding Initiative: "Avenue Greenlight"
With an initial $1.7 million in private funding, locally focused grants will support merchant corridors in San Francisco through a variety of neighborhood cleaning, safety, and beautification projects
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and Ripple Founder Chris Larsen today announced the launch of a new philanthropically-funded initiative to promote small business economic recovery and community vibrancy in San Francisco. The initiative, “Avenue Greenlight,” will deploy privately donated dollars to San Francisco merchant associations to be used for projects to improve commercial corridors. Larsen, a San Francisco resident, business leader, philanthropist, and co-founder of locally-based blockchain payment system company Ripple Labs Inc., is contributing $1.7 million to launch the effort in partnership with the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations (SFCDMA) and other community stakeholders.
Over the coming months, all 34 of San Francisco’s merchants associations will individually receive a $50,000 grant of new resources allocated from Avenue Greenlight, starting with the Castro, Bayview, Chinatown, and Clement Street commercial corridors. Grants will total $1.7 million and will be administered in a tiered format with three to four new merchant association grants released each subsequent month moving forward based on diversity, equity, and inclusion considerations.
“Now more than ever we need everyone to step up and support their neighbors,” said Mayor Breed. “Getting through this pandemic is going to take all of us working to together, and Chris Larsen’s commitment to this city we all love serves as a great example for others to follow. Our small businesses are struggling and we are doing everything in our power to ensure that San Francisco comes out of this pandemic seven stronger than before. Supporting our commercial corridors with the programs funded by Avenue Greenlight, along with our ongoing City investments, will help keep small businesses intact and thriving.”
Avenue Greenlight is designed to respond to persistent challenges faced by commercial corridors, including the decline in business due to COVID-19 and the recent shift toward neighborhood-targeted property crimes. Avenue Greenlight complements the City’s ongoing efforts to invest in San Francisco neighborhoods and support commercial corridors. These efforts include San Francisco’s Invest in Neighborhoods Initiative, which seeks to strengthen small businesses, improve physical conditions, increase quality of life, and build community capacity. It also includes efforts like the City’s Shared Spaces program, which has created outdoor dining in neighborhoods all across the City, and which the Mayor has committed to extending elements of beyond the pandemic. The philanthropic model of Avenue Greenlight recognizes the need for collaboration across sectors in San Francisco to meet the needs of residents and recover as a city.
The impetus for Avenue Greenlight came from an acknowledgement on the part of Larsen that while San Francisco neighborhoods are composed differently, together they make up a truly special place to live and work, and that the success of the small business community is tied to the success of San Francisco as a whole. Small businesses are reeling as a result of compounding issues, many accelerated by the public health crisis. Further, many merchant corridors may not have the resources or ability to establish Community Benefit Districts.
The ultimate goal of Avenue Greenlight is to uplift local small businesses to help them adapt and recover from the current challenges. Direct investments like these $50,000 grants with wraparound support will help catalyze new thinking for how residents envision their neighborhoods, and result in improved safety, cleanliness, and community vibrancy and resiliency.
“Our neighborhoods are not created equal and many suffer from systematic barriers and underrepresentation,” said Chris Larsen. “I believe San Francisco is poised for an exciting new chapter when we bounce back from this pandemic, and it is this city where people will want to be. If we come together, move from empathy to action, tangible impact can be made from a modest infusion of private resources put directly into the hands of those who need it and know how to use it, and we will get there.”
As Avenue Greenlight advances each month with new rounds of grantees, the SFCDMA will evaluate progress and fine-tune elements of the program to ensure its effectiveness. Avenue Greenlight will also provide an online platform for local engagement, to generate new neighborhood projects, tell the story of San Francisco neighborhoods, and enable residents to participate in shaping the fabric of their communities.
The San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations Community Fund will serve as the 501(c)3 administrative partner and fiscal agent for Avenue Greenlight. The SFCDMA will determine the prioritization of grant recipients, manage the initiative’s day-to-day operations and direct communications with merchants and residents, and help guide each individual merchant association as they develop their local projects and create tailored spending plans for each corridor. They will also connect merchant associations to a range of City and nonprofit resource organizations throughout the city to support design and implementation.
“We applaud the commitment of prominent individuals like Chris Larsen to believe in our merchants, especially right now when they need it most,” said Maryo Mogannam, President of the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations. “We stand ready to work alongside Mayor Breed and Chris Larsen to support our diverse neighborhoods, and we are excited to roll out critical new resources in an equitable and creative way that energizes merchants and delivers community vitality for local residents.”
Avenue Greenlight funds can be used for a range of projects, including a merchant association establishing a 501(c)3 to provide infrastructure; developing beautification and public open space projects, parklets, public art installations, lightning, greening, growing the urban canopy, banners and crosswalk painting, environmental design; creating access to business growth capital, emergency funding for vandalism; conducting cleanliness surveys, sidewalk cleaning services, modern litter receptacles; expanding SafeCity community camera program and public safety ambassadors; and providing a funding base for a merchant association to leverage additional member dues, marketing and promotion for shop local activations.
In addition to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s long-standing programs to help businesses and Community Benefit Districts, the City has leveraged private funding to support businesses and neighborhoods throughout the city. In March 2020, Mayor Breed established City’s Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, which has raised $32.3 million and provided philanthropic funding for small businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, San Francisco has directed more than $24 million in grants and loans to support more than 1,200 small businesses, and has developed a $62 million plan to provide ongoing relief and recovery support to small businesses.
To learn more about Avenue Greenlight: avenuegreenlight.com