Target, Walmart, and jobs


New development projects in San Francisco, no matter how bizarre or inappropriate, always round up supporters who talk about jobs. Building housing for multimillionaires on the waterfront? Hey -- it creates jobs. Bring chain stores into the city? Jobs. Tax breaks for tech firms? Jobs.

But there's increasing evidence that big-box retail like Target doesn't create jobs in a city like San Francisco. In fact, the big chains destroy more jobs than they create, leading to greater unemployment and economic problems. Sup. Eric Mar has been looking into the impact Target -- which has a store downtown and wants to open one on Geary and Masonic -- will have on the neighborhoods, and he told us recently that the preliminary figures show a net LOSS of 1,300 jobs to San Francisco. And that's just in the first year.

Target kills small businesses. Small businesses employ more San Franciscans than any of the largest employers in town. And the number of jobs destroyed by cut-throat competition from the chains exceeds the number of (minimum-wage) jobs created by big box.

Dana Woldow, in the course of writing about school food, gets into some of this in some detail, citing research showing that Wal-Mart kills more jobs in cities that it creats. Wal-Mart, of course, creates jobs that pay so little that its employees often go on public assistance to make ends meet.

Look: You can build a nuclear power plant in Golden Gate Park and create construction jobs. So the argument that development creates jobs for the building trades is almost circular logic. You can't defend a project that will have a terrible long-term impact on the city just because some people get employed constructing it.

And it turns out that you can't defend the Malling of San Francisco on the grounds that it creates permanent jobs, either.

I'd like to see an analysis of the net impact -- over, say, five years -- of how tax breaks aimed at individual companies, like Twitter, on the city's employment picture. Because tax breaks cost jobs, too -- public-sector jobs. Not saying Twitter is a net jobs negative, but we ought to know the entire score.