Office tenancy in San Francisco commercial buildings is at a near-record high as The City continues to attract new companies due to its reputation as an innovative, healthy and enjoyable place to do business. Thirteen major buildings are being constructed or are under major renovation, which will add another 1.5 million square feet of workspace within the next 24 months. Seventeen more buildings are proposed that would add an additional 12 million square feet of space to the marketplace.
It is important to note that the added space will be a mix of office and residential units. The Financial District, South of Market and Mission Bay are fast becoming expanded and diverse residential neighborhoods — and very sustainable ones in which people can share resources and attractions. People need to live close to work, and doing so reduces fuel consumption caused by commuting from distant suburbs. It gives people more time to enjoy their lives — instead of fighting traffic.
San Francisco has a unique advantage compared to other downtown areas. People enjoy being in the city center, much as they do in other metro areas such as Boston; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Chicago; and Washington, D.C.
Development along the piers, including the proposed Warriors arena, will add to the vibrancy of our city’s 24-hour living zone of restaurants, entertainment venues, and educational, recreational and cultural institutions.
South of Market and, more recently, areas even farther south have been evolving since the late 1980s and must continue to accommodate healthy population growth, linked together by mass transit and necessary infrastructure.
And yet, economic growth and its consequent revenues for vital city programs are imperiled by conservative attitudes that perennially challenge growth in any form. In recent years, we have been fortunate to have many city leaders who understand that the growth of jobs and business revenues nourishes the entire city with tax and fee income, providing funding for services from Bayview to the Outer Sunset and everywhere in between.
The City needs to continue its support in helping developers gain entitlements to meet the projected demand in the coming years. The current support by the Planning Department is critical for commercial and residential permits.
The lack of affordable workforce housing may be the biggest development challenge The City faces. Housing costs are so high that even decently paid workers can’t afford to rent or own here. While we have made some progress, our failure to adequately and affordably house San Francisco workers creates environmental blight for the entire Bay Area. We are out of balance with the environment. Inadequate public transportation — from taxis to mass transit — further limits our development. We must encourage even higher density residential development along transit corridors.
San Francisco is becoming a fully integrated city, tying all its neighbors together in a common destiny. Will we find the resources and direction to all pull together — or pull apart?
Steven Ring is president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco. Marc Intermaggio is executive vice president of the association.