Halfway through 2012, things are still looking bright for San Francisco. Key economic indicators, such as employment and commercial real estate, continue on an upward trend. According to a recent survey, Bay Area business executives remain relatively optimistic about the regional economy, and 31 percent of local CEOs say they plan to hire. Even The City’s elected leaders are doing their part to keep the focus on jobs and the economy.
Today, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce released our Mid-Year Paychecks & Pink Slips scorecard ranking the performance of the Board of Supervisors on its actions to create jobs and grow the economy in the first half of 2012. According to the report, the board votes in favor of job and economic issues 80 percent of the time, down only 2 percentage points since 2011. Seven supervisors increased their scores since the last report, and overall the board receives a B– grade for its voting record from January to June.
The board’s recent actions on economy-related legislation will clearly benefit small businesses. A $1 million infusion to The City’s Small Business Loan Fund will help many entrepreneurs expand operations and grow employment. The easing of the permitting process for local restaurants will provide neighborhood eateries with the flexibility to innovate. And the long-needed legislation clarifying the process to designate landmark buildings will help keep local businesses from falling victim to the NIMBYists (not in my backyard) who far too often stymie economic growth.
San Franciscans will also benefit from the final approvals of key waterfront developments such as the America’s Cup and the 8 Washington project. The final contract approved by the board to bring the America’s Cup to San Francisco will invest $10 million to $18 million in Port of San Francisco infrastructure while generating significant jobs and economic activity for the region. The approval of the long-awaited 8 Washington project will create 140 permanent jobs and generate more than $1 million for The City annually. If the negotiations with the Warriors recently approved by the board are successful, our city will also gain a new landmark arena delivering economic gains from NBA games, conventions, concerts and events.
While these are all encouraging signs, several critical issues that will have even greater impacts on The City’s long-term economic trajectory will soon come before the board.
Chief among them is business tax reform. Later this month, supervisors will take up two competing proposals to transition The City from a payroll tax to a gross receipts tax. While any change to the current tax code will create winners and losers, the priority now should be on creating a system that is broad-based, fair and equitable. This, above all other issues, will have the greatest effect on The City’s ability to retain and attract business — and jobs.
The board will also vote soon on California Pacific Medical Center’s plans to create two state-of-the art, seismically safe hospitals at St. Luke’s in the Mission and at Cathedral Hill on Van Ness Avenue. Approval of this project is not only critical to ensuring the safety and adequate capacity of our hospital system, it will create 1,500 new construction-related jobs, inject $2.5 billion into The City’s economy and deliver $1.1 billion in added investments for transit, housing and other services.
The City is moving in the right direction. Mayor Ed Lee is paying attention to the economy and is responsive to the needs of employers. The board continues to vote in favor of the economy on the majority of The City’s most important job-related issues. Now, we must keep our focus for the remainder of the year and for the future of our city.
Steve Falk is the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.