From the Financial District and the transit spine of Market Street to the theater and shopping destination of Union Square, the Yerba Buena arts and museum district, the iconic Embarcadero waterfront, key hubs like Moscone Center and Salesforce Park, and the emerging office and industry clusters along and south of Market and into Mission Bay, the foundation of San Francisco’s economy is centered Downtown.
At over $250 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), San Francisco accounted for more than a quarter of the Bay Area’s total economic output in 2022. More than half of the region’s record $30 billion in U.S. venture-backed business deals in 2021 went to San Francisco. Downtown has long been at the heart of this dynamic economy, supplying more than two-thirds of the city’s total jobs prior to the pandemic, and continuing to represent more than three-quarters of the city’s total GDP as of 2021. At the same time, Downtown-based businesses generated nearly half of the City’s sales tax revenue and almost all, 95%, of the City’s business tax revenue. This revenue funds many of the city’s key services such as public safety, cleaning, open spaces, transportation and many other essential resources.
San Francisco’s economy continues to grow - and quite significantly. From 2020 to the end of 2021, San Francisco’s economy grew by 14 percent, the highest rate of any large county in the United States. In 2022, the Bay Area was the fastest growing regional economy in the country. Office-based sectors have continued to grow in San Francisco, with more jobs in the Professional Services, Finance, Insurance, and Information industries at the start of 2023 than in early 2020. Meanwhile, the city’s transportation infrastructure makes Downtown uniquely accessible to the region’s high-skilled labor force.
Despite this growth, the shift to hybrid work patterns brought on by the pandemic has had immediate impacts on the workers and to Downtown’s business ecosystem, including our small businesses. The ongoing reduction in foot traffic combined with changes to demand for office space pose a threat to this ecosystem that was built up to support office-based businesses and workers.
In order to position San Francisco for the future, the City must put forward policies that respond to new economic trends and challenges head-on, while continuing to invest in the strengths and assets that are the core pillars of San Francisco’s competitiveness. Throughout history, San Francisco has reinvented itself to bounce back from seemingly existential threats, and this moment is another opportunity to do just that, starting where it always has, in Downtown.