I’LL TAKE HEADLINES FROM 1995 FOR $500, ALEX: Downtown San Francisco had a good run. Can it recover?
Downtown San Francisco is in distress. Indicators of urban well-being point in the wrong direction: office occupancy, BART ridership and retail foot traffic are down, as is the city’s population. Every week brings news of another high-profile exit: Recent closures include a Whole Foods flagship and Nordstrom, which announced the end of its 35-year run on Market Street due to changes in the “dynamics” of downtown. First Republic Bank, another San Francisco success story, went under after it couldn’t retain its wealthy customers and was sold to JPMorgan Chase. The future of its branches, the familiar green-and-gold presence downtown, is uncertain.
Now barely a day passes without the San Francisco Chronicle or another publication referencing a “doom loop” in the city. There’s a lot of finger-pointing, but no agreement about how to solve the actual issues, including the spiraling homelessness crisis, the unsustainable cost of living or a property crime rate consistently higher than that of similar metropolitan areas. If you see people smiling downtown, they’re probably tourists inside double-decker buses — and even that might be deceptive. Hotel occupancy rates remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels.
Like most people who had a good run for too long, San Francisco didn’t see it coming.
Ahh, but they did see it coming. They simply refused to change course: S.F.’s Homeless Legacy / Two decades of failure.
—The San Francisco Chronicle, September 7th, 2003.