November 4, 2013
Visa Is Moving Its Tech Team Out Of The "Void" And Back To SF
Having moved out of San Francisco and from 44,000 square feet at 595 Market Street in 2012, Visa has just signed a lease for 111,000 square feet at One Market Plaza and will be moving its engineering team back into the city.
In the words of J.K. Dineen at the San Francisco Business Times:
"…it seems that the company, which describes itself as a "global payments technology company," is heading back to the city to help with the recruitment of the young urban engineers who are increasingly unwilling to commute to a generic suburban office park devoid of culture or street life."
Visa's top executives will remain in Foster City and we'll let you know if The Foster City Chamber of Commerce responds.
First Published: November 4, 2013 3:30 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Visa top executives obviously don't care about culture or street life.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at November 4, 2013 3:54 PM
Street life--like homeless on the street?
Posted by: MoneyMan at November 4, 2013 4:44 PM
Wanna bet they started to bleed talent?
It's tough for companies today to find the right kind of people. We're changing from a society where people follow companies to one where companies will follow the people.
Posted by: lol at November 4, 2013 4:51 PM
Given that Visa Foster City is at the intersection of some of the worst rush hour traffic in the Bay Area, and located across the street from a Costco to boot, probably didn't help in the talent retention department.
Posted by: EH at November 4, 2013 5:20 PM
The top executives might have families with young children. They would likely want the suburban lifestyle of the peninsula counties. The young tech savvy talent required by Visa would prefer to live in the City. Glad to see that Visa picked a building on Market Street. Easy public transit access or bike lane commutes. Hopefully, they will not be adding private bus transports.
Posted by: SF Citizen at November 4, 2013 5:22 PM
Wow that had to be one pricey lease! Does anyone know if Visa still has any floors close by at 123 Mission or did Salesforce take all of those?
Posted by: GoodByeBadTimes at November 4, 2013 5:33 PM
The executives are smart enough to know what "Transit First" really means in SF.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at November 4, 2013 9:40 PM
"Visa was one of San Francisco's best known corporate brands"
Um, not really, Dineen. No one connects Visa with San Francisco.
"young urban engineers who are increasingly unwilling to commute to a generic suburban office park devoid of culture or street life."
Um, not really.
Visa engineers are not seeking culture during their coffee breaks. I worked down there five years -- on lunch, we were too busy enjoying the warm weather, walking the bay front trails, and enjoying amazing bird life to miss the 'culture'.
The real issue is we needed a car to work down there and that there is no functional transit system between city and the immense peninsula valley. The driving ended up being exhausting even tho only 20 miles south.
The double decker commuter busses everywhere have everything to do with absence of public transit and nothing to do with engineers wanting 'culture.'
Posted by: Invented at November 5, 2013 5:56 AM
If young engineers love the bayfront trails and warm weather then why do they live in SF? Hell, Newark would be just as good in that case.
The commuter buses are absolutely about people wanting to live in the City, and are a band aid on a terrible transit options to the Peninsula. And now we are seeing the logical outcome - businesses locating back in the City where their people want to be.
I just got off the phone with a friend living in Lamorinda, and he was telling me that he and his wife would love to move to San Anselmo b/c their house money would go further. Car-dependent locations will not fare as well as those situated near BART or other good transit options. Plan accordingly.
Posted by: rabbits at November 5, 2013 9:31 AM
Trust me, absolutely ZERO young engineers voluntarily live in Foster City. This place is a wasteland of suburban malls, tract homes, generic restaurants and ZERO hotties, just old, married and kids. If you're young and single, Foster City is akin to the second circle of hell.
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at November 5, 2013 9:39 AM
"The commuter buses are absolutely about people wanting to live in the City, and are a band aid on a terrible transit options to the Peninsula"
Totally agree with you and disagree with Invented but I often hear this criticism of Peninsula transit as if we just need to spend more and it will be better. It is almost totally a land-use problem not a transit problem. The reason this is important is because this same mentality leads to BART to San Jose which is a total disaster of transit planning. The only thing public transit can effectively serve is dense nodes. End of story.
Posted by: Zig at November 5, 2013 9:45 AM
I think BART is in a sort of 'build it and they will come' situation. It would be great if the cities they are planning service through (Fremont, Milpitas, SJ) would cooperate and upzone everything within a mile of the stations, but the absence of good planning doesn't mean we shouldn't build it. We'll end up with areas near stations like Walnut Creek, which is far from ideal but still serves the community better than being marooned in Cupertino.
Posted by: rabbits at November 5, 2013 9:51 AM
"Car-dependent locations will not fare as well as those situated near BART or other good transit options. Plan accordingly."
One big problem with BART is other than the line that follows highway 24 the stops are in inherently undesirable and often unwalkable areas. The system outside of a few areas was really designed as a park and ride commuter rail which is too bad. The San Mateo extension was just more of the same and the transit villages we build can't replicate organically developed downtowns
Posted by: Zig at November 5, 2013 9:54 AM
"but the absence of good planning doesn't mean we shouldn't build it."
Couldn't disagree with you more strongly. We live in a world with finite resources. San Jose and areas in the South Bay are served just fine with commuter rail for intercity travel. Simply BART=Metro system. BART is very expensive to built and has limitation that commuter rail doesn't (like the ability to skip stops and run express trains).
To my knowledge BART is the most sprawling metro in the world. That means we are either a leader in this area or we aren't doing it right. Which to you think?
Posted by: zig at November 5, 2013 10:04 AM
Peninsula transit could really work if
(a) Caltrain went all the way to downtown SF.
(b) There were 4 tracks (or at least passing zones) so that express trains could run to Palo Alto and San Jose and still co-exist with local service.
(c) Service frequency was improved to AT LEAST every 20 minutes if not every 15 minutes.
(d) Grade-level crossings were eliminated thereby eliminating a lot of the train noise for Peninsula communities. Those horns are audible for 5 miles and sometimes go all night when there are freight trains moving.
But no one really cares so this won't ever happen. We'll all just drive Tesla's to work in the same bad traffic for an hour or two every day.
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at November 5, 2013 10:07 AM
I am a frequent BART user, and while express trains would be nice, I find the service to be unmatched in its reliability and speed (labor standoffs notwithstanding). And again, we don't live in a world where the South Bay was developed along pre-WWII lines. It was, unfortunately, built to serve the automobile. But that doesn't mean that smarth-growth can't happen organically once the train runs through town. And I believe that we would see that happen very quickly. 880 is a mess, especially near 92, 84, and 237, and this is where the next BART leg would go.
Traffic has gotten so much worse now that the economy is moving again, no pun intended. The Bay Area needs (1.) more good regional transit like BART/Caltrain and (2.) more jobs/housing located near these things. The latter seems to be happening in spite of slow progress on the former.
Posted by: rabbits at November 5, 2013 10:22 AM
SF Bay Area ranks 19th in the world. It's not too bad. But our current problem is that it was designed to bring people from the East Bay to SF. The current tech need is different. BART should be expanded south on a parallel route, maybe following the 280 all the way with few stops so that you could go from SF to MV in less than 45 minutes.
Of course bringing the people AND the jobs in the City is much better. Build, build, build!
Posted by: lol at November 5, 2013 10:29 AM
total track length is not what I was referring to. Of course the London Metro is very dense with tracks. Sorry to post something with no source but I am at work at the moment and should be working. The idea though is how distant the terminal stations are from each other. BART is silly in this regard especially when compared to the station density.
You are simply wrong about your solution. Mountain View is not dense enough to support metro stations and it is bad public policy to spend finite transit dollars on getting a few thousand people to Google unless they want to pay for it. You would still need last mile shuttles for every employer and for anyone not living in the core of SF a park and ride lot. This is totally irrational.
It is really simple the world over. BART like METRO is for inner city stations. Low density suburbs and intercity travel is best served with commuter rail. Reverse commutes to suburbs is almost impossible to really serve because there is too many possible destinations.
Posted by: Zig at November 5, 2013 10:41 AM
"I am a frequent BART user, and while express trains would be nice, I find the service to be unmatched in its reliability and speed"
Compared to what? It is very suitable for trips of 20 minutes or less often standing. Why do we feel like we are reinventing the wheel here? This is transit planning 101 in the rest of the world
I don't disagree with the rest of what you say other than to point out a few things. When you spend billions on BART extensions to San Jose you starve money from more cost effective (and superior) solutions like Caltrain electrification and access to downtown. When you look at the recent BART extensions to San Mateo Co. you can't be anything but disgusted at the lack of controls over land-use which is local while BART investments is regional. Ridership is very poor because they rebuilt a mall in San Bruno and there is cemeteries and Big Box stores next to the SSF station.
Posted by: Zig at November 5, 2013 10:48 AM
@lol - total track length is a TERRIBLE measure of ranking systems in the world, because that means that you rise in ranking by building trains to nowhere (aka BART to SJ or BART to Livermore) rather than say, a line through a dense or heavily upzoned area that is only a short distance. Metros should serve dense neighborhoods, not try to win distance contests by building out into exurbia.
Posted by: anon at November 5, 2013 10:55 AM
OK, I guess I should not try and add to the conversation from Zig's post. No good deed stays stays unpunished as they say ;)
My take is that we should have both jobs and housing in SF. There's no easy transportation fix apart from a lot more tracks.
Posted by: lol at November 5, 2013 11:02 AM
My take is that we should stubbornly cling to the status quo and have ever-more people stuck in traffic for hours burning gas and wasting their lives. It will be their punishment for not living in San Francisco or near a BART line.
This will motivate people to move out of SF and down to the Peninsula thereby freeing up housing for Real San Franciscans as opposed to those carpet-bagging Silicon Valley types.
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at November 5, 2013 11:09 AM
"When you spend billions on BART extensions to San Jose you starve money from more cost effective (and superior) solutions like Caltrain electrification and access to downtown"
BART is currently in a land grab, trying to cover as many miles as possible, to prevent other more efficient competitors (such as Caltrain) from gaining ground. For example, there was a Caltrain East proposal, which would have covered much of the same territory as BART to SJ is, but would have cost less than 1/10th of the BART to SF project.
Also, the billions being spent on BART to SJ would have been much more effectively on BART up Geary, and 4-5 infill stations in SF and the East Bay. These projects would increase BART ridership by 10-20%, possibly more. The 38 lines already cary over 50,000 people a day, there would probably be close to 100,000 if there were a BART line instead of the bus, and even more if the line went into the sunset via 19th Ave.
BART to SF will likely have much less than 50,000 per day when finished (projections are about 23,000 on opening day, and given BARTs history that is probably close to double what the real numbers will be).
On top of that, many of the areas that will be getting stations in the SJ line are well known to be strongly anti growth.
Anyway... glad to see Visa moving back to SF...
Posted by: lyqwyd at November 5, 2013 11:22 AM
"It will be their punishment for not living in San Francisco or near a BART line."
I guess in a sense it is a punishment for not supporting regional planning. But really BART extensions to San Jose is the status quo and will do nothing to fix the issues we have (nobody works in downtown San Jose). The whole thing is only going to cost 5-6 billion.
Posted by: zig at November 5, 2013 11:23 AM
Jimmy, a, b and d are already happening. There is even money already allocated for b and d. Aren't they busily grade separating Caltrain right now?
BART was originally planned to run down the median of 101 and stop at all the old commuter rail stops that are now served by Caltrain. The shortsighted voters of San Mateo County shot that one down, a mistake that their children are now paying for by having to sit in traffic.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at November 5, 2013 11:23 AM
There's no easy transportation fix apart from a lot more tracks.
I think we all agree on this. The point is that more tracks in exurban Alameda County (Livermore, the planned next BART extension) doesn't help. We need more tracks in the inner core, where other amenities are already dense.
Posted by: anon at November 5, 2013 11:25 AM
Visa news is great news for SF. Love it.
Even happier for those folks that can now commute in on BART (and I wouldn't be surprised if Visa does a Caltrain@4th/King-to-SFoffice shuttle).
Posted by: DanRH at November 5, 2013 11:38 AM
AFAIK the Caltrain improvements will be completed by 2037 or something. I'll be retired by then. Perhaps we could hurry it along and git 'er done by say 2018? Some sort of timeframe that's relatively short when compared to the lifetime of a human being perhaps?
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at November 5, 2013 11:44 AM
^Whoa, whoa, whoa Jimmy. People live near that Caltrain line where construction would have to happen. They'd probably prefer that construction not interrupt them since they only have 30 years left of working. 2-3 years of construction is a significant amount of that time. Better to find some way to improve things that inconveniences no one for any amount of time, or just leave things as-is without getting better.
Minor and temporary inconveniences are simply not worth "potential" gains that come from altering the status quo. Better to live with the devil you know.
(Huge helping of sarcasm, in case it isn't coming through in text)
Posted by: anon at November 5, 2013 12:08 PM
I don't care how many tracks you lay down, if they go to limited places, and don't connect.
Years ago I lived along the 38 Geary line and worked in Cupertino. Tried public transportation. And four days out of five, the connecting Muni bus to Caltrains would be departing just as the 38 stopped. So a gaggle of commuters, jogging in work clothes to Caltrains, and muttering.
I don't think Muni has improved since then. Transit First?
Posted by: Muddy at November 5, 2013 1:43 PM
Yeah but the people who live near Caltrain are renters and don't matter (to me). I even own a duplex by the train tracks down here. I'll sell it for $1.5M in eminent domain bucks and drink champagne while watching the bulldozers roll in!
(no sarcasm intended)
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at November 5, 2013 1:57 PM
^Many (most?) of the Geary merchants are renters too, yet have managed to delay rail on Geary for 80 years through similar tactics. I'd imagine that the renters in Palo Alto are even better at the BANANA game.
Posted by: anon at November 5, 2013 2:03 PM
The problem is having a big job center in Cupertino and you living on Geary
People think there is some magical transit answer to this spatial distribution but there isn't. Public transit can only serve dense nodes and if you are only going to have one it needs to be on the work side.
Posted by: Zig at November 5, 2013 2:10 PM
I actually think an intermediate and workable solution to the 4-track problem is to make the stations wider, and have the trains pull off to one side and let the express trains pass while loading and unloading passengers. That would represent a minimal disruption at least in San Mateo where the streets next to the tracks are basically alleyways anyway and the businesses on the east side of the tracks could be bulldozed and no one would care.
Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at November 5, 2013 2:13 PM
Why doesn't San Francisco Business Times interview Visa directly instead of speculating the motive of Visa's lease and alluring to the "young urban engineers" stereotype?
Posted by: Wai Yip Tung at November 5, 2013 2:34 PM
Well, as someone that has a technical job in Foster City (one block away from Visa) and lives in San Francisco, I can tell you that I'd be THRILLED if my company decided to open an office in the city.
Commuting SUCKS. Period. Car, bus or train, it just sucks.
Posted by: Gregg at November 5, 2013 3:57 PM
There are actually people on here defending the current state of mass transit? Wow.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at November 5, 2013 4:37 PM
Zig -- I agree completely with your remarks re: Land Use. But if SF claims that it has a Transit First policy, you'd think that transit would work.
The transit from SF to Cupertino failed on both sides. (I moved south for a while -- had work to do and didn't have time to tilt at windmills.)
So is SF doomed to lousy transit until it gets enough density? I'd love to move back to a Richmond District with higher-rise apartments on major thoroughfares and fourish-story buildings between -- sort of mini-UpperWestSide -- if it meant real public transit.
Posted by: Muddy at November 5, 2013 6:46 PM
San Francisco has a Transit First policy, the City of Cupertino most assuredly does not. San Mateo County has a Stop Transit At All Costs Policy. We really need regional governing bodies with real teeth. People really shouldn't be able to stop things in the common good because they are afraid they might be able to hear a train going by 10 miles away. That is one of the complaints in the lawsuit holding up HSR.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at November 5, 2013 9:38 PM
The best way to reduce your commute cost and time duration is to LIVE CLOSE TO YOUR JOB. If I worked at APPLE, I would certainly not live 50 miles north and then complain there is no good train service. Then to add insult to injury, You would want to strip away local control and dictate where new rail and roads are built? This would be like someone in Woodside demanding a rail line be built through Noe Valley.
I have found living close to work far more enjoyable and less expensive .
Posted by: InMenloPark at November 6, 2013 5:24 AM
^ or, you'd take the comfy apple-bus from SF to Cupertino.
Posted by: 49yo hipster at November 6, 2013 12:25 PM
^ or, you'd take the comfy apple-bus from SF to Cupertino.
Posted by: 49yo hipster at November 6, 2013 12:28 PM
"The best way to reduce your commute cost and time duration is to LIVE CLOSE TO YOUR JOB."
"I have found living close to work far more enjoyable and less expensive."
EXACTLY - could not agree more. In the past I made a choice to give up a walking commute and regretted it daily. Now that I have regained this advantage (live across the street from the office) I'm determined to hold onto it indefinitely.
Posted by: GoodByeBadTimes at November 6, 2013 6:21 PM
I suppose the trouble with living in Cupertino is that you have to live in Cupertino. First, it's not like it's cheap or something. The selection is as limited as San Francisco, if not more (though in a different way). But then, if you choose to walk to work, you'll stick out like a sore thumb. This isn't bad, per se, but it means that the environment will be designed for everyone but you. You'll have to cross roads where you're an afterthought. There won't be any shopping on the way home from work. You'll probably end up driving anyway-- and if you do, why bother living in Cupertino?
Posted by: Alai at November 7, 2013 1:49 AM
You're certainly right on about the shopping situation. Almost all retail business sit waaaay back from the street with a generous parking lot separating the two.
Yes Cupertino is another "cars first" city but it is pretty decent for cyclists. Lots of wide bike lanes form an actual network, unlike its neighbors to the east.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 7, 2013 9:24 AM
It's nonsense to suggest that people moving close to their jobs is somehow a way to optimize. People change jobs more frequently than they move, many households have more than one working person, and once you're a homeowner moving is extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming. The opposite argument makes more sense - that people should work where they live. But as a society we benefit from workforce mobility so an important goal of public policy is to expand people's job search radius. If we can't make mass transit viable (and given the decentralized suburban nature of Silicon Valley I'd argue that you can't) then the investment has to be in roads.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at November 7, 2013 9:34 AM
When I worked in the South Bay I rented a condo off University Avenue in Palo Alto and had the benefits of being close to work AND in an area where I could walk or bike to many shops and restaurants. I miss that neighborhood and the weather VERY much as I used to lap swim at the Stanford pool and enjoyed seeing the sun instead of fog all the time. The entire peninsula is not some wasteland as described. I used to bike through Portola Valley and Woodside, and enjoyed hiking in the hills and travelling to nearby destinations such as Felton redwoods, Santa Cruz area beaches, and surfing out of the way places like Pigeon Point.
When I got a position in San Francisco I moved north, but I am not sure my lifestyle is the better for it. To each his own.
Posted by: Missing Sunshine at November 7, 2013 9:57 AM
FDotN - transit viability is a political problem and could certainly work in the Bay Area. So long as there are people who claim that transit isn't/can't work and we should build more roads, we will remain in transportation stasis. Every time we extend roads and starve transit, viability gets kicked down the road.
The only true way forward is to ignore short sighted requests for roads expansion. They're more than just a temporary band-aid, expanding roads makes us even more dependent on a single mode.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at November 7, 2013 10:14 AM
Explain to me how a BART type system would work in the South Bay? And why would a smaller city like San Francisco feel it can dictate how the majority of the South Bay select to move around. It's too bad a small group of tech workers feel they should not only be able to live 45 miles from their work, but that tax dollars should build a multi billion dollar transit line so they can play city dweller at night. If they enjoy sitting on a bus staring at their phones for 2 hours a day and think that is a great lifestyle, that is their choice. There are plenty of fine neighborhoods on the Peninsula and South Bay that seem suitable enough for many of the Bay Area's wealthiest families. The geography of the Bay Area cannot change. The water and mountains will require people to eventually grow up and sacrifice hipness for better schools and being closer to work. I would buy an Eichler in Menlo Park if I were to work back south again in a heartbeat.
Posted by: anon at November 7, 2013 11:47 AM
"It's nonsense to suggest that people moving close to their jobs is somehow a way to optimize. People change jobs more frequently than they move . . . ."
That's a very broad generalization. In my 30-plus year career I've had five employers for an average of 6 years per employer, while I've moved a dozen times for an average of 2.5 years per residence - mix of rentals and mortgages. I've had the advantage of several walkable and bikeable commutes over the years and have never regretted making the moves that made those possible.
Posted by: GoodByeBadTimes at November 7, 2013 4:12 PM
Here is a good map of how BART could work, even with the damage that done to the system by the San Mateo County NIMBYs back in the 60's when they refused to join the system: What BART Could Be.
We need regional planning to make the whole area be able to move around. How would you like it if we tore down the 101 and only let locals use the bridges? That would be as asinine as your refusal to let train lines cross the county. Eminent domain still works for the most recalcitrant, in any case. The Federal Government has stepped in when necessary and might do so again if HSR is delayed any more.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at November 8, 2013 12:05 AM
NVJ - Wasn't the plan also scuttled by Marin residents, who didn't want the unwashed masses to have public transit into their tony little enclave? I like to bring up that point whenever I hear someone from Marin bitch about tolls on the GG Bridge.
Posted by: Fishchum at November 8, 2013 8:09 AM
After living in Chicago and NYC, what drives me nuts about BART is that there are not enough tracks to have express trains. I just cannot imagine riding BART all the way to San Jose someday with what would proabably be 30 stops along the way. I used to ride the Purple Line Express from Wilmette to Chicago that would basically bypass about 30 stations and only stop at 5 on the way downtown. I could beat any driver on any road by at least 30 minutes by riding this CTA train. I am not sure BART is the answer for all of the missing transit the Bay Area needs. This region is incredibly spread out and I think cars are going to be around for a lot longer than car-haters would wish. If I have a meeting in Palo Alto, nothing is faster than zipping down 280 in my car.
Posted by: anonandon at November 8, 2013 8:22 AM
anon, once again you're demonstrating great ignorance on a subject but that never seems to stop you from posting. First of all, enough with the "tech worker" moniker as if that somehow defines a specific type of person. For instance, I'd be a tech worker in your parlance and I've never written a line of code in my life. But among the companies I've worked for in the Bay Area, several are in the computer technology vertical. However, the most technical job I've ever had was for an old-fashioned retail company for whom I ran e-commerce. I've also worked for a not-for-profit company, again in a role that was more technical than the management job I now have in Silicon Valley.
In general, the people who commute from SF to SV are not the developers. Of course there are some, but I've used those commuter buses and the majority of riders are non-technical staff, even if the bus is from Google, eBay or Cisco. These are people who could be working at a bank or a healthcare company next month, and they probably lived in SF before they got their SV job. Why should they move to San Jose just because they work there? Should everybody who works in SF move to SF then? Or at least Daily City? But definitely not Marin or the East Bay because we can't have commuters clog our bridges, that's not what they were built for. Utter nonsense. "Tech workers" did not invent the long commute, you just blame them for this as well as $20/lb. coffee beans because you suffer from stock option envy.
In fact, the tech companies and their employees are the best thing that ever happened to Bay Area commuter traffic. Most of the big companies have opened offices in the city for the purpose of attracting city-resident talent. Hi-tech companies also pioneered the telecommuting concept. And the commuter buses are excellent. People do real work aboard the bus. They're equipped with wifi, so you work on the same laptop you'll work on once you get to your actual office, and you can have phone conversations with as much privacy as is afforded in a cubicle. It's not like riding a bus or BART or Caltrain which are a waste of time. Your productive work day starts when you board the bus and ends when you get off. Your effective commute is the time it takes you to walk between your home and the bus stop. Nobody who lives in SF and commutes on Muni has a shorter commute than those who have these mobile offices.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at November 8, 2013 8:42 AM