What If The Mission Had Its Own Government-Subsidized American Apparel-Style Clothing Manufacturing Plant?

Reader Will proposed something along these lines in the comments of another post:

Here’s an idea to move us beyond thinking just about what happens in one small store front: Why can’t San Francisco build it’s own version of American Apparel’s manufacturing plant right here in the Mission? That would be much cooler than an American Apparel retail outlet or a new boutique anyway, and it would create hundreds of jobs instead of just a handful. And they’d be better jobs. Maybe Bill Gates wants to do this. Now there would be a daily dose of irony.

Or better yet – the city should do this as part of their program for the economic development of the Mission. Some people might initially think it would be unfair because no clothing manufacturer could compete with the government aided business, but tell me – what clothing manufactures are there in SF anyway? One would be a lot better than none. And the people of San Francisco or a democratically elected Mission representative could control it. I wonder if MAC and the Valencia Street merchants would get behind that!


24 Responses to “What If The Mission Had Its Own Government-Subsidized American Apparel-Style Clothing Manufacturing Plant?”

  1. eddo says:

    Just like TimBuk2 did? And then up and leave to China when the going gets tough and you want to sell at REI, but still claim SF roots and the SF brand because a couple workers will still do high priced customized bags on order here?

  2. Glenparker says:

    Why would a government run clothing store be “cooler” then a private enterprise operation? And explain, please, how these jobs would be “better” than private sector ones? Let’s take a look at how SF runs a couple of its businesses: Housing; yep, public housing in SF is top notch. Transportation; we all know that Muni is a model transit system renown the world over. You talk about economic development of the Mission but when a clothing outfit tries to open a store in the neighborhood you all scream it’s not the kind of retailer YOU want. And if there are no clothing manufactures in the city it’s because SF is hostile to businesses.

  3. mark says:

    i vote yes.

    the main reason there are no clothing manufacturers in san francisco is that the land is simply worth too much to use it for manufacturing things, not because s.f. is hostile to businesses. but we certainly need jobs of this sort. i vote yes yes.

  4. natomahead says:

    the land is worth too much because sf is hostile to business. they tax the hell out of business so that they can then fund their own ‘clothing’ manufacturing and run it at a loss. SF was the birth place of american apparel (pun intended). Levi’s, Gap, Espirit, etc where all founded here. They all leave because of how expensive it is run a business in sf.

  5. mark says:

    that would make the land cheaper, not more expensive. the land is worth too much because a lot of people want to live here, and they will pay more to live here than people can pay to have a factory here, and the city is happy to facilitate that. and aside from that, do you really think levi’s and the gap would still be making clothing in san francisco if not for our city’s labor laws?

    they tax the hell out of business so that they can then fund their own ‘clothing’ manufacturing and run it at a loss.

    i thought someone had just proposed that. is it already happening? san francisco government sure moves fast these days!

  6. natomahead says:

    actually, SF property taxes, while on the raise, are actually lower than most major cities. however, the business taxes here are among the top 5 every year in the US. http://www.spur.org/documents/040201_report_01.shtm this report is from 2004. Money quotes:

    “San Francisco has the fourth-highest business taxes of any city in the United States after New York , Washington , D.C., and Philadelphia . ”
    “It is unclear which type of business tax is “best,” although payroll tax-the type of business tax currently levied by San Francisco-is uncommon and may have strong negative effects on wage and employment levels.”

    Oh, and I was being sarcastic about the ‘clothing factory’.

  7. jimbeam says:

    A government run clothing company would be a mistake. Instead, SF could create incentives for certain types of businesses to rent in the city. They could maintain high business taxes for certain types of companies and lower them for companies that provide manufacturing jobs, etc.

    Either way, the issue here is rent- American Apparel (much like Starbucks and Wal-Mart) has the ability to pay a shitload of rent, operate the store at a loss and drive out competition as other clothing stores in the Mission are unable to pay similar rent. This has an affect on all businesses in the Mission, not just Therapy or one of the other overpriced boutiques on Valencia. Do we want the Mission to look like Georgetown or Harvard Square in 5 or 10 years?

  8. mark says:

    i thought we were talking subsidies here, not government-run. but i guess that’s been kind of ambiguous.

  9. Glenparker says:

    Georgetown, Harvard Square? What SF neighborhood are those places located? Ohhhhhh….I see…you don’t want the Mission to become the place you ran away from.

  10. jimbeam says:

    Actually, no, I don’t want the MISSION to become another Chestnut Street (is that clearer? Most of us have, god forbid, lived in another city)

  11. Josh says:

    Where do you guys live?

    There ARE clothing manufacturers, and clothing factories in SF

    westinwear, for one

  12. SFDoggy says:

    Its not clear to me that AA would actually compete with the little boutiques on Mission St., so the fear that they would be run out of business is rather overblown. Also, the idea that chain stores run at a lose for years in order to destroy local competition has little basis in reality.

  13. Frederick says:

    that’s what I was thinking, too, sfdoggy. can someone explain why a chain store (any store, really) would operate at a loss just because it could? they could weather a storm alright, but it would seem if the store bombs they’ll close up shop. is AA just looking to score cool points by opening a store on valencia?

  14. zinzin says:

    come on, AA wants to open there because they will make money. and what the hell is wrong with that? a quick look at any of the ridiculous and useless boutiques along valencia will tell you that. i figure ritual is cleaning up on a $5 cup of joe, and lord knows paxton gate’s making money on whatever stupid crap they sell.

    fact is, the average commercial lease is 5 – 10 YEARS at least, and the rent hikes are specified over time. a company like AA isnt amateur in this department, theyre not going to pay more than they have to for rent in this economy, and there’s NO WAY they’re going to operate at a loss for more than a specific, planned period. these guys are in the business of making money, they’re good at it, and jeez louise, why is that such a problem?

    also, landlords are not in collusion, comparing rents with each other. “ooh, AA pays XYZ, now the precious shoe store has to as well”. NONSENSE! precious shoe store HAS A LEASE THAT SPECIFIES THE RENT.

    fact is, Prop G allows for EVERY SINGLE FORMULA RETAIL STORE that wants onto valencia to be examined. do i think smart & final belongs on valencia? no. costco? no walmart? no.

    but AA? it fits EXACTLY. and there is NO QUESTION (in my mind) that it will actually improve the hood by attracting business. AND, i bet they’d hire some local kids to work there, unlike these other stores.

    unfortunately, this isnt about AA. it’s about control, and it’s about politics, and it’s about people looking out for themselves and duping the sheep-like “progressive” masses into believing their stories of “cause” and “struggle” and “progressive” dogma.

    a white enclave has been built on valencia, and the shops there have a good thing, a willing & captive & sheep-like audience, and everyone’s very happy with the little insular lala land they’ve built up around themselves.

    this is no different than aaron peskin in north beach, its no different than the poverty pimps, it’s no different than any other selfish nimby movement.

    thing is, the sheep travel in herds.

    the whole notion that rents will be driven up is ludicrous.

  15. jimbeam says:

    I have a background in retail and this leads me to several things:

    1. AA will definitely operate the store at a loss for at least a quarter if not a half and that’s fine. It’s the cost of doing business.

    2. AA will attract other chain retail. It’s how this business works. If one store is successful in a neighborhood, the other retailers look to get in there and compete.

    3. This will certainly raise rent as more chain retail looks to open up on Valencia.

    I don’t feel super strongly one way or the other, but I guess I just wonder why there can’t be a space in the city where we don’t have chain retail. It’d cost me $3 to hop on BART and go to AA downtown or it’d be free to ride my bike. Does every neighborhood and every city have to have the same stores? Chain retail homogenizes neighborhoods and drives out non-chain retail. Look up the studies, it happens every single time. It’s why ordinances are in place to prevent it. People put a value on uniqueness. Does this mean that the current Valencia shop owners don’t benefit or might be against AA for reasons other than this? Of course not. Does this mean we should be ok with AA coming in, simply because we don’t like the motives of some of the people who oppose it? Probably not.

  16. Lynae says:

    Like Josh said, there ARE clothing manufacturers in SF. Westinwear’s a pretty decent-sized one. I’m pretty sure the clothes at Minnie Wilde were made here. And there are TONS of small businesspeople making clothes in their own private studios, homes, etc. and selling them at street fairs, in local boutiques (Ruby on Valencia sells clothes made by local designers) and online.

  17. Erik says:

    Which studies?

  18. zinzin says:


    1. right. most stores do. but not as a subversive act against other stores, particularly not in this economy. anyone, including the most insidious chain store from hell, wouldnt want to put the shops on Valencia out of business intentionally. that idea is a SHAM.

    2. isnt that what Prop G is for? a case-by-case look at all the formula retail that’s “attracted”? the dolt that runs therapy (wayne wanker or whatever) said “soon we’ll have Jamba Juices, Starbucks and Cheesecake Factories”. but, we never will. they’d never get past prop G. so again: FUCKING SHAM.

    3. this one really gets my goat. ALL RENTS RISE. every commercial lease i’ve ever seen (probably 50) has a specified schedule of rent hikes over the term. also, market rents rise over time, along with every other cost of business. these selfish fucks dont want to have their rents affected by new (potentially better run, potentially more relevant and useful) businesses? what happened to the businesses on Valencia circa 1990 when they all moved in? fact is, THESE EXACT BUSINESSES are the vanguard of twee hipsterism on Valencia…and THEY BROUGHT THE GENTRIFICATION. now they want it to stop? fuck em. and what about market forces? they improved the hood. OF COURSE rents are going up. there was no $5 coffee in the Mission before they came. there were no taxidermy mice. there were no couture shops selling handmade garments. selfish morons. the idea that AA will drive up rent IS A SHAM.

    after that, i think your points are well made. we dont HAVE TO like AA, and we dont HAVE TO knee jerk acceptance of their arriveal in the hood just becuase the anti-AA movement and its jack-ass leader is a complete lie, the worst kind of hollow SF “progressive” politicking in the tradition of our BoS.

    but in my opinion, business is better than blight. given the gating factor that is Prop G, there is NO REASON to keep AA out simply because it is a chain. AA fits PERFECTLY in the hood. folks will shop there. it’s very simple.

  19. zinzin says:

    in point 3 above, i meant to say “1999″.

  20. jimbeam says:

    I don’t know, it’s hard when you talk to guys who own businesses on Valencia, and have owned them for years and their main concern is an exorbitant increase in rent. Sure, rents rise, but they don’t double in a year, which is essentially what AA’s space would be doing.

    I think this is definitely what prop G is for and hopefully it will be clear that this isn’t a case where the chain store should be accepted. I’m more for a Walgreens or whatever than I am for AA. AA doesn’t really serve the community, it doesn’t provide anything that residents need and it won’t be providing a cheap source of clothes for the people who need them. At least Walgreens has a pharmacy.

    I also think the area around 16th and Valencia is different than the planned site for AA. Down this way the rent is cheaper, there isn’t the same preponderence of boutiques and you still have stores from hard to survive in businesses (Aquarius, Lost Weekend, etc.). These are the businesses I worry about because they can’t compete with a retail chain that might want to rent their current spaces.

  21. zinzin says:

    all fair points as usual. it’s really not a simple issue (though i like to make it out to be), i am just so consternated by the politicizing of it as an anti-corporate movement when actually it’s a nimby movement / spot-light grab….at least from the perspective of those politicizing it.

    far as the shopkeeps, on the one hand, well, i sympathize. i’m a business owner and damn if it aint hard to stay afloat every day.

    on the other hand, competition is inevitable, change is inevitable, increased costs are inevitable. and while i agree we could perhaps use some energy around 16th (this has been the case for 15 years)….those businesses you cite arent near 16th. they’re both ground zero of this sacred white enclave, between 22nd & 21st.

    truly, i love both of those. and i’ve spent plenty of $$ in both over the years. and i am romantic – as romantic as i ever get – about both. but they’re not “serving the community”…not selling anything anyone “needs” either. no more than paxton fucking gate.

    anyways, i still think that whomever chain might compete with lost weekend (blockbuster?) and aquarius (borders? um…??) would be kept out by Prop G.

    also, do we know that AA will be paying “double” the going rate in rent? how do we know that? i’ve not seen any actual figures. or is ti “double” what the last guy paid when the store was last leased (i think it’s been vacant literally for years).

    that said, if they are, the current shops have their leases to protect them against rate hikes. if it becomes an issue when the term is up, well, i think that’s the price of success. every single one of those stores had a hand in the shift the mission has seen… displacing the latino community, driving the hood as a shopping destination for the bridge & tunnel crowd, plying the creative culture class with fun ways to spend the expendable….

    i just dont understand why they should get a pass on market forces they themselves created, when a perfectly OK business – just as OK as any of them, anyways – wants to invest in our hood at a time when investment is super scarce, and at a time when, at least for now, it will unquestionable drive traffic, revenue and interest.

  22. zinzin says:

    erk. last paragraph:

    i just dont understand why they should get a pass on market forces they themselves created, when a perfectly OK business – just as OK as any of them, anyways – wants to invest in our hood at a time when investment is super scarce, and at a time when, at least for now, it will unquestionable drive traffic, revenue and interest

    but is being vilified to the degree they are.

  23. giant fur diaper says:

    To answer the question “what clothing manufactures are there in SF anyway?”

    There are a number of sweat shops south of market. they’re very low profile but they provide great dumpster diving.

  24. zomg says:

    Retail rents are NOT under any kind of rent control. Once your lease is up, landlords can raise your rent to whatever price they like. Especially if they have others courting them and offering more money. Yes, rents always go up, but there’s a difference between it tripling vs. having a 1% increase.

    As to those who say “businesses don’t run at a loss”, I’ll point you to amazon.com and others who ran for quite a long time at a loss (I’m still not even sure if the book section is profitable), and at this point have completely decimated the independent bookstore market.

    Jimbean is quite right.

    As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t like how the Mission is today, just move to the suburbs. :P