SF's Financial District slowest in US to recover in post-pandemic phase, study shows

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Thursday, August 25, 2022
Study: Downtown SF slowest in US to recover in post-pandemic phase
A new report from a UC Berkeley study shows San Francisco's Financial District is last city in the U.S. to recover in the post-pandemic phase.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new report from UC Berkeley researchers shows the city's Financial District is not recovering quickly enough in the post-pandemic phase.

"It was very crowded in 2019 and now I see emptiness, but people are coming back," said Radha Talurie, San Francisco worker.

According to a UC Berkeley study, people are not coming back fast enough to downtown districts across the state. In many cases, because workers don't have to.

Luz Pena: "What is the requirement where you work?"

Radha Talurie: "It's not really a requirement. It's up to us if we can come back or not."

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Among Americans with jobs that can be done remotely, 59% say they still are working from home much or all of the time.

Talurie says he likes the hybrid model, and chooses to go back to downtown San Francisco at least twice a week.

Researchers gathered data from cell phone GPS location and compared the movement from spring of 2019 to 2022.

Their data shows that out of 62 North American cities, San Francisco's Financial District is doing the worst in recovering.

Karen Chapple, UC Berkeley Professor Emerita, City and Regional Planning and her group led this study.

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"San Francisco downtown has been the absolute slowest to come back in fact it's last in the entire country," said Professor Chapple and added, "It was at 31% of pre-pandemic activity. Right when the lockdown happened in May 2020 and still two years after that is at the same level."

Michael Imperiale is the owner of Tricolore Caffe & Pizzeria located in the financial district. He is seeing the decline up close. At least five of his colleagues have had to close.

Luz Pena: "You are thinking about moving your business somewhere else?"

Michael Imperiale: "Hey, if it keep like this I have no choice. I cannot survive on making... I used to have 200 customers a day and now I have 40 customers a day. That doesn't make any business sense."

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Professor Chapple says more businesses closing and remote work will continue to impact the recovery process unless something changes.

"San Francisco needs to diversify. Needs to get a lot of different types of businesses downtown if it's going to be a 24-hour city and be what it was three years ago," said Professor Chapple.

We spoke to Masood Samereie, president of San Francisco's Council of District Merchants Association about solutions. He meets up with the office of the mayor once a month to strategize on post pandemic solutions for the recovery.

"Work live spaces. Like some of the lofts that we have converted and be utilized that way. Those are some of the ideas that have been thrown around and the other thing is convert some of them into livable spaces," said Samereie.

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