SF business leader says 'it's time' for workers to return as Financial District looks to rebound

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As we slowly emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, masks are coming off and other COVID-19 restrictions are going away -- But will office workers ever fully return to downtown San Francisco's once thriving Financial District?

"It was very bad, we were scared to come in, basically a ghost town here," said Jacques Oskanian.

Jacques Osaknian has owned a stationary store in San Francisco's Embarcadero Center for eight years. He's still waiting for many customers to return, some of them office workers.

"I never thought of shutting down our business. That's our bread and butter," she said.

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Now, there are encouraging signs like more people on the streets and more commuters in their cars, headed to work.

Google announced Wednesday it plans to start a hybrid work model on April 4. Bay Area employees must work three days in the office, the other two from home.

RELATED: Will San Francisco's Financial District ever bounce back?

"There's still a need for face-to-face interaction and creativity, looking forward to those companies coming back to San Francisco employees on the street with small businesses benefiting," said Rodney Fong, President and CEO of San Francisco's Chamber of Commerce.

Some workers are in no hurry to get back. Vic Leung is spending just one day in the office.

"I enjoy the people connection I miss it, it's a good hybrid for me," Leung said.

VIDEO: High-tech projection mapping aims to bring people back to San Francisco
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Friday the Downtown Community Benefit District, Downtown SF, kicked off "Let's Glow SF," its inaugural holiday projection mapping event.



Mayor London Breed is pushing for more employers to to bring workers back in the business district.

Mayor Breed's office released a statement, saying in part:
"The mayor has been working with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and talking to business leaders about announcing a shared commitment to return to the office... We will have more specifics soon... There is a lot support for San Francisco and bringing workers back, though we know things will look different moving forward to allow for flexibility in the workplace."

Experts say weekly office attendance is about 25 percent, with a slow uptick forward.

"Our calculations say buildings are ready and safe, now we need the right mentality. It's time to come back to the city," said John Bryant from Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco.

SF Travel reports a 20-percent increase in bookings at the Moscone Center since December, the busiest month is expected to be June.

RELATED: Hotels seeing higher occupancy rate near SF's Union Square

With more encouraging signs on the road back to normal, Jacques is optimistic.

"I see movement, things are going better and better," he said.

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