Bay Area news service being pushed out of SF because of tech-fueled rent spike 

click to enlarge Bay City News Managing Editor Dan McMenamin and his co-workers will be moving from Fox Plaza in San Francisco to Oakland due to rent continuing to rise. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Bay City News Managing Editor Dan McMenamin and his co-workers will be moving from Fox Plaza in San Francisco to Oakland due to rent continuing to rise.

From the third-floor windows of the Bay City News Service -- the Bay Area's only regional wire service -- Twitter's blockwide headquarters can be seen along Market Street.

But BCN won't have the view for much longer.

The 35-year-old information service is moving to Oakland because rent is just too high in San Francisco. The surge of tech business generated by Twitter and others is driving up office rents and driving out some long established local companies like BCN.

"Our landlord here has proposed almost doubling our rent," said Wayne Futak, BCN's general manager. "We don't plan to change our coverage at all by being in Oakland, just fiscally it's less expensive."

The ripple effects from the tax break that kept Twitter in San Francisco is possibly having the opposite effects for BCN, which has been in its Fox Plaza offices for 25 years.

"We had a lot of trouble finding anything that was similar," Futak said of the search for offices in San Francisco. "The rents have just escalated here."

Futak chalked up the rental increases across town to City Hall's open-armed embrace of all things tech. As for the rents in mid-Market Street, well, Twitter has probably been a factor, he said.

But location will not impact its daily news output.

Dan McMenamin, the service's managing editor who has worked at BCN since 2008 and covered everything from a lost caiman to The City's Superior Courts (they never found the caiman, a type of alligator), says there will be no impact on their coverage from the move.

"We are a regional news service, so we didn't see a need to stay in San Francisco," he said, adding later, "I don't see it as a huge deal."

Aside from its San Francisco headquarters, it has eight bureaus in county seats across the Bay Area, he said. Any given day it provides about 100 newspapers, radio stations, television newsrooms and websites with 40 to 50 news stories and calendar items, said McMenamin. It doesn't expect that to change even if its main office is in downtown Oakland.

The two beat reporters in San Francisco, one at the Hall of Justice and another at the federal courts, will remain in place and BCN will send reporters across the Bay often to cover things in The City, where about 30 percent of its news comes from, Futak said.

Founded in 1979, BCN has been in its current offices so long there is even a resident green sweater, known simply as "the green sweater." No one has claimed it since it was abandoned on the coat rack sometime in the mid-1980s.

The small, no-nonsense office -- occupied by four staffers Tuesday afternoon -- seems to reflect the news service's only-the-facts-ma'am approach to news. Besides a row of black filing cabinets holding the clipping from before their archives went digital, a few news photos and a framed 1902 front page of the San Francisco Bulletin, its headquarters doesn't have the air of a place that will be missed.

As for its new offices, while slightly smaller, it will still have a view.

It's just of Lake Merritt.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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