The coffee rush. The lunch rush. The columns of headphone-equipped tech workers rushing in and out of train stations. The lanyard-wearing visitors who crowded the sidewalks when a big conference was in town.There was a time three years ago when a walk through downtown San Francisco was a picture of what it meant for a city to be economically successful. ...“This area was always packed with people,” recalled Maria Cerros-Mercado, a Mixt manager who built her career in food service downtown. “People would get off the BART, buy coffee, buy this, buy that. There was always just so much walking.”Today San Francisco has what is perhaps the most deserted major downtown in America. On any given week, office buildings are at about 40 percent of their prepandemic occupancy, while the vacancy rate has jumped to 24 percent from 5 percent since 2019. Occupancy of the city’s offices is roughly 7 percentage points below that of those in the average major American city, according to Kastle, the building security firm....“Imagine a forest where an entire species suddenly disappears,” said Tracy Hadden Loh, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies urban real estate. “It disrupts the whole ecosystem and produces a lot of chaos. The same thing is happening in downtowns.”The city’s chief economist, Ted Egan, has warned about a looming loss of tax revenue as vacancies pile up. Brokers have tried to counter that narrative by talking up a “flight to quality” in which companies upgrade to higher-end space. Business groups and city leaders hope to recast the urban core as a more residential neighborhood built around people as well as businesses but leave out that office rents would probably have to plunge for those plans to be viable.Below the surface of spin is a downtown that is trying to adapt to what amounts to a three-day workweek. During a recent lunch at a Mixt location in the financial district, the company’s chief executive, Leslie Silverglide, pointed to the line of badge-holding workers and competition for outdoor tables.It was also, she noted, a Wednesday — what passes for rush hour. On Wednesdays, offices in San Francisco are at roughly 50 percent of their prepandemic levels; on Fridays, they’re not even at 30 percent....In a typical downturn, the turnaround is a fairly simple equation of rents falling far enough to attract new tenants and the economy improving fast enough to stimulate new demand. But now there’s a more existential question of what the point of a city’s downtown even is.The city, and business groups like Advance SF, are trying to reframe the urban core as a more residential and entertainment district that draws from throughout the region and may in the future involve the conversion of office buildings to residential use.
Half commercial leases expire 2025 https://t.co/XGY5c8LCil— cfMC FEROX cfmceroz 🎄🍔🐭📼 the palimpsest lover (@FontForever) December 18, 2022
This is what we used to think about downtowns:
The 18-story structure has been home to tech companies, concerts and even a very famous gangster’s operations. Now it, could signal the future of downtown San Francisco.https://t.co/Heg0cT5PVO— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) December 22, 2022
And of course, this:
PETULA CLARK— Michael Warburton (@MichaelWarbur17) December 18, 2022
DOWNTOWN (1965) pic.twitter.com/ZSMH5XUoHG
Cow: Is this bus going downtown?— PUNS (@ThePunnyWorld) December 17, 2022
Driver: Depends on whether or not you have moo-la.
Cow: I’m late to work Craig… pic.twitter.com/j6KPUL9F0H