Small businesses shutter in SF's Union Square due to skyrocketing rents

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Big crowds were seen Tuesday in San Francisco's Union Square.The shopping district with big-name, high-priced stores also has smaller businesses closing shop.

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Jean Francois Drageon owns CAlParRio travel services. The view of Union Square from his office on Geary Street speaks for itself.

"I can see the Christmas tree and the cable car and it's a pleasure for me to come to work in the morning," said Drageon.

The constant flow of shoppers makes it look like business is booming in Union Square. Still, Drageon's days running his small travel agency are numbered.

"I've been here in the building for five-and-a-half years now and unfortunately the owner is going to retrofit the building," said Drageon.

He says staying in Union Square isn't a realistic option.

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"I have a good deal here but what I will have to pay is three times the price. I've been looking around and it's outrageous," said Drageon.

Drageon has watched Union Square change. The change is not kind to small stores and restaurants. Closed businesses such as Lefty Odoul's Restuarant have become a common sight alongside the high-end shops and department stores that also occupy the Central San Francisco location.

"Just being on Union Square it makes a statement and looks good on paper," said Drageon.

Drageon recalls another small cafe that left recently because of skyrocketing rent.

"It was so expensive, it was $40,000 -- they couldn't afford it. They just said forget it," Drageon added.

That business said so long. The rent rose to $40,000 a month , that's nearly a half million dollars a year just to stay open in Union Square.

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