San Francisco City: Next 30 Years, SoMa Surges, Financial District Fades

By Sharon Simonson

The titanic shift of San Francisco’s jobs center from the city’s downtown north of Market Street to the South of Market neighborhood will intensify over the next 30 years.

Central Corridor San Francisco The Registry real estate
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In new draft land-use plans, San Francisco anticipates adding up to 64,000 jobs in a 20-block area that hugs 4th Street in SoMa—a third of the city’s new jobs. Another 25,000 jobs are expected near the Transbay station, also south of Market Street.

But in the same 30-year span the city expects as few as 5,000 new positions in its traditional downtown.

“There has been a 25 percent loss of jobs in the Financial District” over the last 30 years, San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim told the city’s Planning Commission Feb. 28. “It has the same amount of space as 30 years ago, but the job density is much lower. There is more space per employee versus 30 years ago.” In contrast, SoMa has seen more job growth than any other part of the city.

City planning staff now are remaking the proposed land-use map for the keystone of the SoMa district, the so-called Central Corridor: an area from 2nd Street on the east to 6th Street on the west and from Market on the north to Townsend Street on the south. The neighborhood connects the Transbay and East SoMa to Showplace Square, Mid-Market and the Mission in the west. It includes the South Park neighborhood, the Moscone Center, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Yerba Buena Gardens. It also includes Forest City Enterprises Inc.’s experimental 5M project.

A major impetus for the city land planning is construction of the 1.7-mile Central Subway extension beneath SoMa’s 4th Street, where work is to begin in late April or early May. When the segment is complete, proposed at the end of 2018, it is expected to carry as many as 50,000 passengers daily, making it one of the most heavily used transit lines in the country, said John Funghi, program director for the Central Subway project at the transit agency. Funghi spoke to the Urban Land Institute San Francisco.

Contrary to his expectations, which were that most of the travelers would use the line to travel north into the city, “riders are living in the city and riding transit to Caltrain to get to a job on the Peninsula,” Funghi said.

The hope is to have the new SoMa land plan in place by the end of next year, taking into account new subway stations at 4th and Brannan streets and at Moscone Center.

“[T]his area’s importance to San Francisco cannot be overstated,” the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association counsels in a January letter to the city about its Central Corridor planning process.

San Francisco is slated to add 190,000 jobs in the next three decades, according to growth estimates from the Association of Bay Area Governments. Seventy-five percent of them will be office jobs, the city estimates.

While the city has lost employment to the suburbs in the last 30 years, city staff believes their city will participate in the national reversal of that trend as urban centers attract in-migration for the first time since the Great Depression, Rahaim said. San Francisco City and County’s jobs numbers bottomed in 2005 at less than 396,500 and have grown since to not quite 450,000 at the end of last year, according to the California Employment Development Department.

The city’s most ambitious plans for SoMa’s Central Corridor propose up to 64,700 new jobs and approximately 12,000 housing units. SPUR says the city should be increasing density even more “[g]iven the enormous transit investment” that the neighborhood will enjoy.

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Presentation courtesy of San Francisco Planning Department

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