Mayor promises help for Ocean Ave. merchants


The mayor says this is somewhat unprecedented -- just one week after fire swept through a row of small businesses on Ocean Avenue in the Ingleside neighborhood, the city is making an all-out push to help the owners rebound.

"It's already hard enough to recover, so we need to make it easier for them; whether it's a building permit, a planning process, working with public works, public health," Lee said.

One building housing three businesses has to be demolished. The city is trying to ease that pain.

"If they want to rebuild it essentially the same shape and size that it is today, that can happen quickly; there's no notification process, no hearing process," San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim said.

The commercial corridor has been improving in recent years. Merchants have formed a community benefit district, a new bank is coming in and they have the first full-service grocery store in years.

"It's changing for the better but I feel sad for my neighbors and friends that they got hurt," Hossam Kaddoura, from Java On Ocean Avenue, said. His business is down the block from those that burned.

The mayor says the rapid response to that disaster exemplifies what he calls his "invest in neighborhoods" strategy that has gotten an economic boost from the city's recently approved budget.

Merchants are just anxious to see some tangible results. Carmen Carrizales is still in shock after her shop, Lili Knit, a mainstay on the block for more than 40 years, was destroyed.

"I just feel it's part of my life and you see there's nothing left," she said. "I hope everything [Lee] says is true."

The fire chief announced Tuesday that the cause of the fire was work being done on the roof of one of the buildings.

The fire did at least $3 million in damage and spread to 10 businesses.

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