San Francisco, CA – Mayor London N. Breed today announced a comprehensive plan to reinvigorate Downtown and reposition San Francisco as the Bay Area’s economic hub and a global anchor for commerce during the State of the City Address. The Roadmap to Downtown San Francisco’s Future includes nine strategies to respond to emerging economic trends and capitalize on the City’s strengths to keep Downtown vibrant, focusing on key priorities such as offering a clean and safe environment, fostering a resilient workforce, and attracting new industries.
San Francico’s thriving office economy, prime geographic location, rich history as well as world-renowned culinary, cultural, and entertainment offerings, attracted over one million daily visits to Downtown prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a $250 billion annual gross domestic product (GDP) (2022), the City accounts for more than one quarter of the Nine-county Bay Area economy, 79% of which is produced by office-based industries concentrated in the Financial District, the Embarcadero waterfront, East Cut, SoMa, Yerba Buena, Mid-Market, Union Square, and into Mission Bay.
As the gateway to the Asia-Pacific, Downtown San Francisco serves as a global anchor for national and international companies. Prior to the pandemic, the Downtown area provided nearly 70% of the jobs in San Francisco and generated the majority of the City’s tax base and revenue. The pandemic caused a shift to remote or hybrid work patterns in business centers across the country, including San Francisco, that has impacted Downtown’s business ecosystem that was built up to support office-based businesses and workers, including our small businesses.
In order to position San Francisco for the future, the City is putting forward policies that respond to new economic trends and challenges, while continuing to invest in the strengths and assets that are the core pillars of San Francisco’s competitiveness. This plan will require a mix of legislative changes, investments, and administrative programs to support new and ongoing initiatives.
“San Francisco’s Downtown is the economic driver for our City and our region,” said Mayor London Breed. “While things have shifted profoundly during this pandemic, we also know that San Francisco’s innovative and creative spirit remains as strong as ever. This Roadmap builds on our values and commits San Francisco to a clear economic vision to carry us forward. This will take work and partnership with our business leaders and workforce, but I know that working together we can build a stronger, more resilient future for Downtown and our City.”
The Roadmap is comprised of nine strategies and nearly 50 initiatives, to include:
- Ensure Downtown is clean, safe, and inviting
- Improve street conditions and grow Healthy Streets coordinated response programs.
- Attract and retain a diverse range of industries and employers
- Build a resilient economy and support businesses in key sectors with tax relief, incentives and explore business tax reform.
- Facilitate new uses and flexibility in buildings
- Assess the potential for conversion of office to residential and other uses and amend the Planning Code to maximize the flexibility of Downtown zoning.
- Make it easier to start and grow a business
- Provide direct recovery assistance for new businesses and reduce the time, complexity and cost to open new businesses and other ventures.
- Grow and prepare our workforce
- Implement the Mayor’s Housing for All strategy to deliver housing for our workforce and provide training programs that prepare San Franciscans for employers’ shifting needs.
- Transform Downtown into a leading arts, culture, and nightlife destination
- Explore the creation of an Arts, Culture and Entertainment (ACE) Zone and continue to support public space events and activations that showcase local talent and culture to draw people to Downtown.
- Enhance public spaces to showcase Downtown
- Complete transition of Shared Spaces to a permanent program and continue adding new design elements in public spaces.
- Invest in transportation connections
- Make Downtown travel easier and faster and establish strategies for long term financial stability for MUNI.
- Tell our story
- Develop a comprehensive branding campaign to reclaim San Francisco’s narrative into the future.
“San Francisco is the future. We’re a forward-thinking City that continues to evolve by harnessing the strengths of our diversity, culture, and beauty. We remain a world class city by inventing new ways for San Franciscans to pursue opportunities that reflect our values,” said Kate Sofis, Executive Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “The Roadmap to Downtown San Francisco lays the ground work to reimagine our Downtown with nine key strategies and nearly 50 initiatives. It leverages impactful economic tools and policies that will advance Downtown San Francisco’s role as the global anchor for commerce, arts, and culture.”
“Downtown's future is San Francisco's future. As we recover from the pandemic and revitalize our City, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to chart that path. I share Mayor Breed's vision of a safer, cleaner, and greener downtown––a destination where residents, visitors, and workers will want to spend time. Let's come together to get the job done,” said Rodney Fong, CEO and president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
"We are energized by Mayor Breed's dedication to the recovery of downtown San Francisco. From day one, the Mayor has been a key partner fully recognizing the essential role downtown plays in our City's vitality", said Marisa Rodriguez, CEO of Union Square Alliance. "We at the Union Square Alliance are steadfast in our commitment to work alongside the Mayor and the City to ensure we emerge from the pandemic stronger. We look forward to continuing our partnership and building momentum towards a brighter future for our City."
“BOMA San Francisco applauds Mayor Breed for her bold vision to spur the economic recovery of downtown San Francisco. We are grateful for Mayor Breed’s partnership with the business community to bring new businesses, office workers, and visitors downtown. The mayor’s plan will provide needed incentives that will encourage future economic growth for our city,” said John Bryant, CEO of Building Owners and Managers of San Francisco (BOMA).
Key economic data
- San Francisco’s office vacancy rate was 25% by the end of 2022.
- As of January 18, 2023, office attendance* is up 43% from 18% in January 2022.
- In August 2022, SF Travel forecast 21.5 million visitors in 2022, up 26% from 2021, but down 18% from the record high of 26.2 million in 2019.
- BART ridership to the four Downtown stations in 2022 (24 million) climbed 85% from 2021 (13 million) but is down 69% compared to 2019 (78 million).
- The number of passengers at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) went up by 73.1% in 2022 compared to 2021 but it’s still 26.6% below 2019 numbers.
*Average number of office workers entering their work building. Percentage is based off February 2020 pre-pandemic attendance.