Downtown SF faces 20% drop in foot traffic since omicron, as major companies delay return to office

San Francisco has seen a decline in car and foot traffic since omicron was first detected in the city in December.

Stephanie Sierra Image
Saturday, January 15, 2022
Will San Francisco's Financial District ever bounce back?
San Francisco has seen a decline in car and foot traffic since omicron was first detected in the city in December.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's been eerily silent in San Francisco's financial district over the past month, ever since the highly-contagious omicron variant hit the Bay Area.

"Omicron certainly made us take a step back here," said Rodney Fond, the President of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Fong says there's been a 20 percent drop in foot traffic downtown since the first case of omicron was detected in the city in early December.

RELATED: Has SF hit rock bottom? Former mayor says city's 'humanitarian' ethic is to blame for recent issues

"We've seen that dip in the downtown corridor, and that's largely from offices and tourism taking a temporary time out," he said.

The temporary time out, is now reflected on the roads.

Data from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission shows there's been roughly a 12 to 13 percent drop in Bay Bridge traffic moving into the city over the past month.

"We're seeing a drop, but January typically is a slower month in general," said John Goodwin, an MTC spokesperson. "It's still clearly a dip...likely due to omicron."

VIDEO: San Francisco turned ghost town? Here's how empty the city really is

Walking through San Francisco's South of Market and Financial District feels like a ghost town, as 90-percent of the city's workforce is working from home and people are leaving the city.

Goodwin says the current traffic volume on the Bay Bridge is comparable to this time last year during the peak of our delta surge.

Michelle Londono, who works at an IT consulting company in San Francisco, expects that to be the norm.

"In January, we actually asked everybody to work remote from home," said Londono. "I think most companies will be considering that in some form moving forward."

According to data compiled from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, 15 percent of companies will stay remote permanently, another 15 percent won't return, and more than 50 percent are adopting a hybrid model.

RELATED: Omicron brings new challenges to SF as hundreds of city workers are in quarantine

"I know many of those companies have made those plans to come back to the office and are now pulling back," said Fong. "We're trying to stay hopeful."

Major tech companies like Facebook have pushed backed their return to the office until late March. Airbnb announced their return is delayed even further until September. Meanwhile, stock trading app Robinhood is giving most employees the option to go fully remote permanently. PayPal was originally scheduled to return to the office in January but informed employees this week remote work status will be an option until further notice.