October 31, 2013

San Francisco’s Key Economic, Building, And Transportation Trends

San%20Francisco%20Commerce%20and%20Industry%202012.gif

The summary bullet points from the Planning Department’s just completed 2012 Commerce and Industry Inventory for San Francisco which covers a 10-year time-series of data, including population, employment, wages, business growth, retails sales, government expenditures/revenues, building, and transportation trends:

• Employment, the simplest key indicator of economic activity, grew 5% in 2012 to 586,250 jobs (27,250 additional jobs versus 2011) while the unemployment rate fell to 7.8% from 8.6%. [Editor's Note: As plugged-in people know, the unemployment rate in San Francisco is now under 6% and employment is up by 16,600 jobs on a year-over-year basis, up by 49,400 since 2010.]
• The number of business establishments increased slightly in 2012 to 55,470 firms, 0.4% growth over 2011.
• Workers’ earnings in the San Francisco economy increased to $49 billion, almost 9% over 2011, with average earnings per job increasing to $83,500 per worker, up 1% since last year.
• Building permit applications increased by 7% over 2011 levels to 24,300 applications in 2012 and the estimated value or spending those projects represent in terms of project cost (not all of which will be spent locally in San Francisco) increased to $4 billion, or 16% over 2011. [Editor's Note: San Francisco's current construction pipeline.]
• Taxable retail sales increased 4% over 2011 levels, to $16 billion in 2012.
• City revenue was $4.26 billion in 2012, up 3% over 2011. City expenditures were $4.06 billion in 2012, up 7% from last year.

San Francisco’s population was estimated to have hit 825,100 in 2012, up 1.5% from 2011, with daily transit ridership at roughly 664,326 trips, up 1.1% since 2008 with ridership on the 9-San Bruno line up 25 percent since 2008 and the most used transit line in the City with 59,900 daily trips. The 38-Geary is the second most used Muni line in the city with 55,000 daily trips.

The full report will be presented to San Francisco's Planning Commission next week.

San Francisco’s 2012 Commerce and Industry Inventory [sfplanning.org]
Unemployment Drops In San Francisco, But Employment Drops As Well [SocketSite]
The 48,000 San Francisco Units In The Works By Neighborhood [SocketSite]

First Published: October 31, 2013 8:45 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Compare some bus single bus lines in SF to the whole VTA lightrail system daily boarding of 33,600.

There is no doubt in my mind a subway could be built on Geary with upzoning and some mechanism to capture some of that increased value if the City had the political will.

Posted by: Zig at October 31, 2013 9:43 AM

Zig-and while we're at it, extend BART from Colma under 19th Avenue all the way to Marin County. Then extend it from the Bay Bridge under the Embarcadero to intersect with the 19th street route. Traffic problems solved.

Posted by: MoneyMan at October 31, 2013 10:05 AM

Zig-and while we're at it, extend BART from Colma under 19th Avenue all the way to Marin County"

No sorry this is absurd and impossible to justify

Posted by: zig at October 31, 2013 10:17 AM

A GEARY subway would greatly greatly enhance the city. way way more needed than the subway extension through chinatown.

i wish the city would save every penny, even from the 50K bike projects, and put it away for a Geary subway. not having this planned is something that the city should be ashamed of. this would also add a lot of money and new developments along the Geary corridor. new developments could be charged a subway tax. i would personally be willing for the city sales tax to be increased to supplement as well

Posted by: Spencer at October 31, 2013 10:36 AM

Zig: it's only half absurd. The western section of the city needs better transit. BART should run down Geary then turn south along Park Presidio and down 19th Ave to Daly City. The existing MUNI light rail lines can act as feeders to the new BART line. I have to take the L train from 29th Ave to Montgomery every day. It ain't a fun ride (60 min this morning). However, if I could walk up to Taraval and 19th Ave and catch a scheduled BART train my commute would be much better. Also, it would benefit transit-oriented development along 19th Ave, especially the Park Merced plan. Finally, BART would give riders a much-needed option when there's a MUNI meltdown in the Market St. subway. Hey, just having a station in or near GGP is reason enough to get people out of the cars and on transit.

Posted by: Mark at October 31, 2013 10:43 AM

San Francisco is a boom and bust economy and it will wont change. It's not different this time.

So, here hoping that for once the City will use the boom generated surplus to

(1) BUILD reserves,
(2) INVEST in capital spending whether its the Geary line or whatever really make a difference and at the same time that it will..
(3) NOT ramp up payroll related spending so that the surplus disappears in a hurry. again.

I know unfortunately the politics of pushing for this kind of agenda now are marginal, memories are short.

But the Real Estate boom will crash, it the nature of a cycle, and only real question is when and how hard. Our employment base build up is highly concentrated on migrant tech workers; high wage, high spending, low community connection, leave as fast as arrived when trouble comes.

PS one unfortunate part of Planning capital-logic right now is that the transit spending will be concentrated where NEW development is located (mitigate new impact logic) and will make chronically under-served densely populated area like Geary corridor stay that way.

Posted by: Louis at October 31, 2013 10:58 AM

Yes, agreed. Let's improve transit along Geary, 19th Ave, etc. thus encouraging a more equitable distribution of new development from Eastern Neighborhoods to Western ones.

Posted by: hal at October 31, 2013 11:27 AM

I know most people don't want freeways in the city, but you could convert 19th Avenue into a below ground freeway with cross streets on ground level. It cuts down the noise from the cars and improves traffic flow for the cross streets. Of course it would be nightmare of a construction project since the road would have to close for construction.

Posted by: MoneyMan at October 31, 2013 12:08 PM

Zig: it's only half absurd."

Heavy rail to Marin is way more absurd than BART to San Jose which is really dumb

Posted by: zig at October 31, 2013 12:19 PM

Of course it would be nightmare of a construction project since the road would have to close for construction.

No, it wouldn't have to. You can bore an auto tunnel in the same way as a subway tunnel. They're building one in Seattle under the downtown right now with no impacts along the tunnel route (only at the beginning and ending of the tunnel).

Posted by: anon at October 31, 2013 12:27 PM

"But the Real Estate boom will crash, it the nature of a cycle, and only real question is when and how hard."

I'd like to see a chart but my sense is the booms are very steep and the "crashes" pretty mild on SF and the Peninsula


Posted by: Zig at October 31, 2013 12:46 PM

City expenditures up 7%. Anyone wanna guess how much of that is going to non-profits?

Posted by: City Expenditures at October 31, 2013 1:04 PM

We hardly had a real estate crash here a few years ago. More like a mild correction.

Prices are still way up in the desirable neighborhoods.

Posted by: Futurist at October 31, 2013 1:08 PM

I think that was an actual crash. 25%+ decreases. Places sitting 1Y+. Of course it wasn't the 70% collapse of LV or Stockton, but we're talking Billions of dollars of equity that disappeared (and then re-appeared), and a big enough proportion of foreclosures to spook everyone.

Posted by: lol at October 31, 2013 1:15 PM

No, I would call it a correction.

Noe, Glen Park, Dolores Heights, Diamond Heights, Pacific Heights and most of Upper Market fared quite well then.

Posted by: Futurist at October 31, 2013 1:56 PM

10% is a correction. 25% is a bit more than a correction. Especially when it happens in less than a year's time. The market was at a standstill for a few months and even the most bullish admitted the fact, like fluj who ended his famous stance "San Francisco never really took a price hit and it won't, either.". When an ultra-bullish recognizes a correction, it's a typical sign that the panic "flash bottom" of a crash has been realized.

Posted by: lol at October 31, 2013 2:12 PM

No stance. Merely a flippant comment, in the context of the Four Seasons development, a luxe condo development that he was out of his element talking about. That lots of bears pounced on it and had fun with it and trolled with it, like you, doesn't make it a stance. The stance was more like, "something is bound to give but it isn't here yet, other than d9 condos, d10, and the worst of d3."

Then during the horrible crash because of the triple tsunamis of foreclosures, ARM resets, and subprime driven short sales, you had things like Cole Valley appreciating throughout the downturn. Except none of that happened save Cole Valley appreciating throughout the downturn. And SF money migrating southward into neighborhoods like NV, BH, GP, Potrero Hill, and the mission.

Posted by: Anon at October 31, 2013 2:29 PM

"BART should run down Geary then turn south along Park Presidio and down 19th Ave to Daly City"

would prefer it to go all the way to the beach.

an underground highway under 19th sounds great. its such a shitshow now. I would even support an above ground freeway. it keeps traffic off the city streets and makes it safer and faster

Posted by: spencer at October 31, 2013 3:11 PM

@spencer: the subway line can certainly split at Geary/Park Presidio with one part running south and another all the way down Geary to the beach. I'd be curious to know ridership statistics on the 38 line west of 25th Ave.

A freeway, either under or above ground, will never fly in this part of town.

Posted by: Mark at October 31, 2013 3:28 PM

The Geary Street merchants have aggressively opposed all transit improvements on Geary Street for fear that the construction would hurt their businesses.They have been very effective and thus it is problematic whether the Geary BRT will ever get approved. A subway? Out of the question.

Posted by: MSTBLD at October 31, 2013 3:28 PM

@MSTBLD: I know. It pains me to read about Geary merchants in their suburban strip mall setting complaining about transit improvements. Granted, there are a lot of independent businesses lining Geary (and Clement), but Taraval has mostly independent merchants too and a streetcar line runs the length. I don't like shopping or dining on Geary because both parking and transit suck. However, I'd visit the area more often if it had better transit.

Posted by: Mark at October 31, 2013 3:49 PM

San Francisco often seems manage to get through major national or international real estate corrections much better than other locales.

But then we have our own local, homebrew form of real estate correction, often much more effective in there own way, and many say we are long overdue for the next one:
1906 Earthquake
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

Posted by: redseca2 at October 31, 2013 4:03 PM

Noe took a pretty big hit in the downturn, dropping 20-25% from peak to trough. At the peak in summer 2008, SFH were selling at $900/sq foot. At the trough in the winter of 2009 prices had dropped to about $700/sq foot. Then prices went up slowly to about $800/sq foot in early 2012 and then suddenly rocketed up to $1000/sq foot.

I didn't follow any other neighborhood as closely, but the other ones near here (The Mission, Bernal, Glen Park, Mission Dolores) all followed a very similar pattern.

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at October 31, 2013 11:31 PM

Agree with NoeValleyJim...there certainly was a real crash in NoeValley and environs. What WAS selling was selling at a 20-25% discount from peak, and virtually nothing was selling in the higher price ranges because jumbo loans were nearly impossible to come by at the height of the panic. What saved this, and most areas of SF (except the Southeast quadrant) was that there were relatively few foreclosures and seemingly not a lot of forced sales...it seems like most folks were able to hold on until the market came back, and then some.

Posted by: curmudgeon at November 1, 2013 9:31 AM

"The Geary Street merchants have aggressively opposed all transit improvements on Geary Street for fear that the construction would hurt their businesses."

The merchants' concern is valid but short-sighted. Long term the effect of improved transit will actually improve business by allowing more people to travel there easier.

So what is really going on with the Geary merchants? Are there a large proportion of them who are older and ready to retire who won't be in business long enough to reap the benefits of improved transit?

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 1, 2013 10:06 AM

So what is really going on with the Geary merchants? Are there a large proportion of them who are older and ready to retire who won't be in business long enough to reap the benefits of improved transit?

In a word, yes. At some of the Geary BRT meetings several of the merchants explicitly stated this, even though some were not even that old. Stuff along the lines of "I've got 25 years of business left, don't screw up 10% of that."

Posted by: anon at November 1, 2013 10:14 AM

Perhaps the impacted merchants could be compensated for the dip in revenue. The property owners will be the big winners especially if their parcels are zoned for taller heights. So maybe the property owners need to reduce rents during construction. It seems fair that the winners should compensate the (temporary) losers but I've got no idea how to legally ensure that the equity redistribution occurs.

San Jose basically killed off the remainder of their struggling downtown merchants when LRT was constructed. Nearly three decades later downtown SJ still hasn't fully rebounded to its glory days. It is on a track towards much higher property values and the merchants there are doing much better than before LRT.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 1, 2013 10:28 AM

MoD, interesting idea.

One issue with many mom-and-pop merchants is that they have very little cushion to absorb a 25, 50 or 75% loss in business during the couple of years of a major transit upgrade.
Cue the outcry from the Polk Street merchants on a fairly minor change in their street's layout. If losing less than 10% of parking makes you go over the hill then what does that tell you about your business model?

If SF is serious about 2 of its key policies: #1) transit first and #2) localized restrictions on formula retail, it should offer cheap financing for the non-formula merchants to absorb a hit like this one. One idea: zero-interest for 2 years then 2 or 3%, with no payment required until the work is complete. With better transit would come a potential increase in business and the merchant could pay off the loan more easily. After all merchants will benefit from it, they should pay for it too. But they should be accommodated.

I am usually against ad-hoc tax breaks or subsidies to private businesses. I am also against the city organizing the subsidy of private citizen by other private citizen (MoD's suggestion) for something the city wants but cannot afford to implement (I am looking at you, rent control).

But a financing facility would be a good compromise.

Posted by: lol at November 1, 2013 10:53 AM

While I think the merchants have a reasonable position, as many businesses failed during the original BART construction project along Market St., it's also very self interested, as a subway along Geary (and ideally out along 19th Ave) would have a tremendous beneficial impact to tens of thousands of people.

But as the construction would impact many businesses severely I would suggest direct monetary compensation to the business owners by the city.

First I would exempt them from payroll and other business taxes, and possibly sales tax, during the construction (which would allow them some nice marketing options. Additionally I would give them tax credits for 2/3 to 3/4 of the difference between the average gross revenue of the preceding 3 years and the gross revenue during the construction.

This would cost the city nothing out of pocket, would help many of the marginal businesses last through construction, and would compensate the businesses for much of the lost revenue they would experience.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 1, 2013 1:56 PM

Well, lyqwyd, if these merchants' revenues collapse, tax incentives would not help much. It's mostly a cash flow issue I think.

Posted by: lol at November 1, 2013 2:13 PM

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm not sure that opening the taps of public money to the merchants is a good idea. Wouldn't places in other areas have a legitimate complaint that they need "compensation" after the subway is built, since it would likely shift people from other areas to now-more-convenient Geary businesses?

It seems to me that if you open a business along a major artery that has had plans for a subway for 80 years that you'd include that in with your expected business plan and set aside money accordingly. I really don't like the precedent that infrastructure improvements should be made significantly more expensive in order to pacify all those who would be temporarily inconvenienced. We're doing more and more of this (implicitly through more expensive boring methods over cut-and-cover in every place, and now explicitly through stuff like this), and I don't think it bodes well for the future.

Posted by: anon at November 1, 2013 2:17 PM

@lol

True, but tax credits are quite valuable (far better than deductions), and go right to the bottom line. While their revenue may collapse, their take-home net is kept up (not completely, but a strong benefit) since they are no longer paying some of their taxes. Combine that with eliminating sales taxes, which would be a strong incentive to bring shoppers in spite of the construction noise, and it will mitigate much of the downside of the construction.

I'd also be fine with straight cash payments to the merchants during construction, but I think that would be a hard sell anywhere, much more so in SF.

My main point is that if the city were to make some serious efforts towards mitigation, many of the merchants would likely stop their complaining, and those that still did would have a much less legitimate stance.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 1, 2013 5:39 PM

@anon

"I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm not sure that opening the taps of public money to the merchants is a good idea."

I understand the concern, but it winds up being more expensive in the long run to not keep the businesses alive. And remember, this is not giving them money, it is giving tax credits, but there would be no tax income if the business fails, so there's really no loss to the city.

Mid market was effectively destroyed by the BART construction project, and is only now, 4 decades is it showing signs of recovery.

Think of all the lost tax revenue that could have been generated if they had found a way to keep mid market alive during the construction. We are talking decades of lost sales, payroll, and property tax revenue, combined with dramatically increased policing expenses.

I can certainly understand a merchant's (and neighborhood) fear of construction along their street. While I can understand the fear, I believe that infrastructure improvements like a BART subway are necessary, but we should do our best to keep neighborhoods and businesses from being ruined in the process.

I believe the costs would be minimal in comparison to the overall budget of a Geary subway, which would cost billions of dollars, the tax credits would probably be in the tens of millions, 1-2% of the overall project, and would not actually cost the city anything.

"Wouldn't places in other areas have a legitimate complaint that they need "compensation" after the subway is built, since it would likely shift people from other areas to now-more-convenient Geary businesses?"

Not legitimate in my mind, as there is no way to know how the subway will affect other areas. For all we know it will bring more people in from outside the city, improving business for all. Not to mention that neighborhoods naturally wax and wane over time. So I don't think there would be any legitimate claim on those grounds.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that a subway project would destroy businesses along the path of construction, unless it were done as a bore, which would cost 2-3 times more than cut and cover construction. It's far cheaper to give a tax credit than to spend 2-3 times more in construction costs.

Additionally it's equal treatment for all, any area that gets affected by a major construction project, gets the tax credits.

Lastly, think of all the money that's being wasted trying to work around the merchants concerns, on a half-assed BRT project. We've already spent millions, and we haven't even started, or approved, the project, which will cost hundreds of millions more if it is ever built.

We might as well try to get a proper subway if we are going to be spending so much time and money.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 1, 2013 6:00 PM

Fair enough, lyqwyd. I'm certainly open to the idea.

I would caution that the problems in the mid-Market can't all be blamed on BART construction. Many other city policies contributed to its decline and especially the fact that it never caught back up. Also, there were numerous other nationwide trends that affected other similar areas in similar ways that didn't have a subway rip up the street.

That said, I don't think we'll ever see another cut and cover subway built in the Bay Area, unfortunately. Precedent has now been established that disruption on the surface must be minimized at all costs (see the extra billions spent on a bored BART tunnel through low density neighborhoods in San Mateo County - where it wouldn't have even disrupted a street because the tunnel was through open land!). If a subway comes to Geary, it will be a deep bore tunnel, guaranteed.

Posted by: anon at November 1, 2013 6:52 PM

Mid Market was already a SRO area but the improvement in living standards and transportation in the 50s and 60s made this lifestyle obsolete for office workers. They became empty and run down. Now this area has many Care Not Cash residents. Theaters also suffered from the decline of live entertainment when TV took over our living rooms.. I don't think Bart construction could do much to bring this area lower than it was already.

Posted by: lol at November 1, 2013 7:33 PM

Mid Market was in decline before BART, and there were certainly policies enacted that were harmful, but the ten years of unmitigated BART construction killed almost every business around, and was the death blow for the neighborhood, and is what removed it as a destination from the minds of every resident of the bay area. A lot of the resistance you see today to infrastructure projects is due to BART.

Now in the long term, and for the region, it was totally worth it, but there were other ways they could have done it that would have been far less destructive.

@anon

I hope you are wrong about the cut and cover option being dead, as I think it means there will never be a BART extension along Geary, but I do fear you are right.

Posted by: lyqwyd at November 1, 2013 10:12 PM

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