SF is not the only CA city struggling with downtown recovery; mayors collaborate on solutions

Luz Pena Image
Tuesday, April 9, 2024
CA mayors collaborate to find solutions for downtown recoveries
During the first legislative hearing on California's downtown recovery, Mayor Breed addressed the conditions of downtown San Francisco.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- As some of California's top mayors met to discuss how to help downtowns across the state recover after the pandemic, another store closed its doors inside the Emporium Centre San Francisco, previously known as the Westfield Mall.

Luz Pena: "Did you know the Sephora store closed today at the mall?"

"Everything is closed. Wow," said Diane Sawyer, who was shopping at the mall.

Sephora is one of many stores that sit empty now inside the mall.

Safety is one of the factors why Jane Humphrey stopped coming here.

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Shuttered storefronts and office vacancy rates are hitting over 35%. However, there are signs things may finally have bottomed out.

"I don't feel safe coming to San Francisco because there is a lot going on. The crime," said Humphrey.

During the first legislative hearing on California's downtown recovery, Mayor Breed addressed the conditions of downtown San Francisco.

"We can no longer rely on five days a week and 9-5 employment," she said. "Remote work has led to historic office vacancy rate of over 36% in our downtown which has led to a major drop in foot traffic."

Mayor Breed said crime has actually gone down.

"Property crime is down another 32% and violent crime is down 14%," she said.

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Sacramento and Long Beach's Mayors joined Breed in exposing what their downtowns are also experiencing after the pandemic.

"We have experienced challenges with respect to our recovery," said Rex Richardson, Mayor of Long Beach.

Some of the solutions come in the form of legislation that could transform downtown. One of them is SB 1227 by California State Senator Scott Wiener.

"We need to make it more diverse with office and housing," said Senator Wiener. "In this bill, we are giving the city an expedited way to issue these permits. We are of course working on funding. Public transportation for MUNI and BART stations. I have another piece of legislation to allow the city to create outdoor entertainment zones which could be very beneficial to downtown."

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These are solutions that the Bay Area Council says are crucial.

"This legislative package that she is talking about today are extremely necessary," said Rufus Jeffris with the Bay Area Council. "They are going to be helpful in attracting investment. There has been a lot of talk about the opportunity with some of the property in downtown San Francisco to look at live sciences and some university settings. Those are the type of activities we need to be looking at."

Back at the capitol Marisa Rodriguez, CEO of Union Square Alliance, said this meeting gave her hope.

"We are seeing conversations with our state leaders. I'm here in the Capitol right now. We are also seeing that with our local leadership," she said, adding,"We are seeing businesses come in. A huge restaurant and bar boom in Union Square. We are actually expecting quite a few more announcements of new restaurants this year and into next year."

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