Twitter workers' return could make big difference for downtown SF businesses, expert says

BySuzanne Phan via KGO logo
Saturday, November 12, 2022
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Whether Twitter workers return to the office or not, the downtown foot traffic could make a big difference for businesses in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Elon Musk issued a stark warning to Twitter employees to return to the office. Whether workers want to come back or not, could make a big difference for local businesses that count on that foot traffic.

At Twitter headquarters in Downtown San Francisco, is a store open to the public. Chris Foley is the owner of The Market.

Pre-pandemic, Foley had 6,000 customers a day. He said 50% of them were Twitter employees. Now, The Market only sees 20% of their original shoppers.

He said it's been a painful road to recovery. Foley has been able to get by with help from federal relief money and with support from his landlord.

MORE: Meeting audio reveals Musk told Twitter staff either return to office or 'resignation accepted'

As for the massive Twitter layoffs last week...

"I know a bunch of people from Twitter and it's brutal," said Foley. "The day Twitter got bought. There were a lot of tweeps down here. And they were worried about what's going to happen."

Now, there's more reason for some workers to be worried.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk says all employees are expected to be in the office at least 40 hours a week. And any request to work remotely must be personally approved by him.

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"Do I think that's pretty tough? Yea. Do I think that people coming back to work is good? I do. But, I think they should have a transition back to work. Not be so brutal," said Foley.

Carlos Delal is a tech worker in the city. He's not 100% behind retuning to the office.

"I don't necessarily agree with that. But I do like that there are more people -- or the idea of more people -- returning to the area," said Delal.

Sean Randolf is the senior director of Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

MORE: Twitter's chief information security officer, head of integrity and safety quit amid company turmoil

"Downtown San Francisco needs people coming back to the office," said Randolf.

According to Randolf, the office occupancy rate right now is about 38% -- given all our tech and professional services workers working remotely.

"That's based on key card swipes of people coming into offices. It doesn't mean they're in all day, every day. It means they're coming in at some time during the week. These are mostly hybrid workers," said Randolf. "We've been slower at coming back to the city in San Francisco than almost anywhere else in the country."

Randolf said Musk bringing people back to the office could change that.

"If you were able to bring the workers back to the office, that would be a huge benefit for Downtown San Francisco in particular. Whether he could actually pull that off is a little hard to say because tech workers have resisted for a long time now. But on the other hand, with so many layoffs happening right now, perhaps there's more leverage on it," said Randolf.

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