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Saturday, January 23, 2021
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News + Politics The rich aren't leaving SF -- they own it

The rich aren’t leaving SF — they own it

Developers cry crocodile tears to win political points -- but in the end, planners may have to admit they bungled the future of Soma.


San Francisco, the Chronicle noted a few days ago, had a $6 billion massive development plan for Soma. The COVID hit, and it’s all on hold.

This entire effort had serious problems from the start – the amount of office space, and the new jobs that come with it, was way out of synch with the amount of affordable housing.

This vision for 88 Bluxome, like most Soma development, came at the cost of the city’s blue-collar history.

But two things:

Developers and commercial real-estate folks are starting to cry poverty, in an effort to convince voters not to support Prop. 15, which is the most important measure on the fall ballot, a change in Prop. 13, and San Francisco’s Prop. I, an increase in the transfer tax on high-end real-estate.

John Elberling, who has been watching real-estate in Soma for 40 years, says it’s all crap: “Of course there will be renewed growth at a future time,” he told the Chron. “This doom and gloom is BS.”

It’s political BS. The people who own big commercial real-estate in San Francisco aren’t leaving. Their tenants are having to leave, but they are holding on. As Elberling put it to me, “they aren’t leaving San Francisco. They own it.”

But there’s also this:

If the office market in downtown starts to collapse, and it turns out that the city doesn’t need as much office space or luxury housing, then San Francisco will have sacrificed thousands of blue-collar jobs in what was once a light-industrial area in the name of a vision that may never come to pass.

For years, city planners have taken the position that production, distribution, and repair jobs were less important than tech, finance, insurance, and real-estate offices.

So much warehouse and industrial space was demolished for the dream of highrise offices and luxury condos, with no concern about where the people who serviced those offices and condos would live.

Now maybe the planners will have to admit what a terrible mistake that was.

But of course, they won’t.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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