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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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More bad news for downtown San Francisco

Uploaded: Jun 15, 2023
The other shoe keeps dropping in downtown San Francisco.

This week the owners of the 1.2 million-square-foot Westfield San Francisco Centre announced they were giving the mall back to their lenders. The center’s anchor since it opened, Nordstrom, has announced its closing the store permanently when its lease expires at the end of July. Once Nordstrom closes, only about half of the center will be leased compared to more than 90% in Westfield’s other U.S. malls.

The news got worse on Wednesday when Century Cinemark disclosed it is closing its theater complex after today. The lease for more than 52,000 square feet expires in September.

News outlets have reported that other tenants are likely re-evaluating their presence in the center given these closures so don’t be surprised to learn of more closures because the foot traffic magnets will be gone.

The numbers that Westfield disclosed showed just how poorly downtown San Francisco is faring versus other markets. Westfield also owns Valley Fair in Santa Clara and San Jose. San Francisco Centre totaled sales of about $455 million in 2019 compared to $298 million in 2022.

By contrast, Valley Fair sales, helped along by the opening of the Italian-themed food hall, Etaly, soared 66%.

The San Francisco Centre surrender to the lender fits with the broader strategy of the corporate owner, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, to exit the United States market and focus on Europe. The Westfield-Brookfield partnership owes $558 on a mortgage that was originated in 2016 when the center was valued at $1.2 billion.

It’s anyone’s guess what it would sell for today.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff put the San Francisco situation in perspective when he observed that downtown San Francisco real estate had been tightly focused on the knowledge workers in the class A office buildings and it needed to diversify if it is going to recover.

Ken Rosen, chairman of the UC Berkeley Haas Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, was blunt, “We’re not even close to the bottom yet.”
Numbers in this post come from articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Business Times.

Today is the deadline for the state Legislature to submit a budget if it wants to get paid for its “services.” Not surprisingly, legislative leaders cut a deal over the weekend and the budget bill is scheduled for a final vote today.
One key element that made transit advocates happy was tapping into the “cap and trade” funds to pull them into the budget picture for transit. Agencies such as BART and AC Transit have warned they could be in a “death spiral” if they have to reduce service to cut costs because ridership hasn’t recovered to pre-lockdown numbers. It’s also worth nothing that ridership already had started to slip before the pandemic.
The deal taps $3 billion for 19 agencies and gives operators the flexibility to spend it on operations. Halting capital expenditures until the downtown situations become clearer is necessary. Spending more than $6 billion to tunnel into downtown San Jose or spending billions to connect CalTrain to the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco is foolhardy in today’s uncertain environment.
The model of moving thousands of workers into downtown San Francisco office buildings may well be obsolete. It’s time to move slowly, particularly on capital expenditures.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Tyler Hayes, a resident of Danville,
on Jun 15, 2023 at 9:13 am

Tyler Hayes is a registered user.

The COVID pandemic is the primary cause for the subsequent closures of various retail and office establishments.

Work at home options and the convenience of online purchasing have negated the need for traditional on-site workers and in-person shopping.

America will simply have to adapt to these changes in sociological patterns and economic downturns.

Posted by Kyle Beckham, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Jun 15, 2023 at 12:42 pm

Kyle Beckham is a registered user.

The progressive policies embraced by San Francisco governance are primarily responsible for these abysmal conditions.

Instead of incarcerating criminals, San Francisco authorities released a sizable number of them and now they are back on the streets.

Instead of cracking down on homelessness, San Francisco officials looked the other way and now San Francisco has become mecca for transients, most of whom have substance abuse or mental health issues.

Unless San Francisco cleans up its streets the current conditions will remain the same.

Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jun 15, 2023 at 9:30 pm

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

I concur Kyle. And guess who's leading the path to ruin? The very same clown that wanted to defund the police: Mayor Brown.

She's attempting to make up for lost time but is way too late. She doesn't know what to do, so she's starting to lash out at people.

She needs to go.

Posted by Malvina Reynolds, a resident of another community,
on Jun 16, 2023 at 1:05 pm

Malvina Reynolds is a registered user.

@Malcom Hex
London Breed is the current mayor of SF.
Were you referring to Jerry Brown, the former mayor of Oakland?

Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Jun 17, 2023 at 3:35 am

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

@Malvina: Take a look back snd you will see that I referred to the mayor as a she - hence, Mayor Brown.

Posted by DublinMike, a resident of Dublin,
on Jun 18, 2023 at 10:32 pm

DublinMike is a registered user.

So, Tim, what does your commentary have to do with our local situation?

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