News & Research Archive

Why San Francisco is so Great

Jun 14, 2012

San Francisco got its start as a missionary city when Mission Dolores was founded in 1776 and then gained worldwide recognition during the Gold Rush of the 1800's. Once the Gold Rush ended, San Francisco became the west coast financial hub of the United States, seeing banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America start here.

The city was nearly destroyed with the 1906 earthquake but rebuilt into the headquarters for major steam ship companies. In 1849 San Francisco opened its first brewery and built a reputation as the West Coast center for beer companies. At one point, San Franciscans were consuming more beer per citizen than in any other city in the United States.

Later still, San Francisco became the headquarters for major coffee companies such as Hill Bros, MJB, and Folgers. I can still remember the smell of coffee for blocks around Harrison and the Embarcadero at Hill Bros and Folgers coffee plants.

San Francisco supported many other industries with the likes of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Chevron and Shell calling the city its home. San Francisco was considered the west coast leader in printing at one time.

During WWII ships were built here and major military bases were located in the Presidio and Hunters Point; not the mention the hundreds of buildings used to build parts for the war effort.

Fast forwarding to more recent times, San Francisco ignited the start of the dot-com industry.

An interesting fact on all of these historical points is that the city eventually lost all of these businesses or they now contribute to only a small portion of the overall financial makeup of our city.

San Francisco's ability to continuously re-invent itself is a major achievement. Cities all around the United States are looking for new identities in order to survive the loss of industries that once brought great success and prosperity. This week, Detroit may run out of money and it is a sad sight for our country to see the city that brought the automotive industry to greatness now a shadow of itself.

Despite its many difficulties as a city, San Francisco has always managed to forge ahead and evolve again and again. We have major problems like any city plus the added threat of natural disasters in the form of earthquakes. We have a transient population base that out numbers natives born here. Families keep moving out of the city. Housing is extremely expensive. Our government is known more for hindering business growth than helping it. Yet we continue to grow and evolve.

I am a native San Franciscan; I grew up here and stayed to raise my family who are also still here as the next generation. In 1989 after the last great earthquake, my wife and I came very close to moving our family to Seattle because we didn't know whether San Francisco was the right place to raise a family any more. I am confident that we made the right decision to stay. I tend to be far more moderate in my political beliefs and it frustrates me to see San Francisco run not by natives, but by politicians who have lived here only a short while. I believe that to hold up in this city, it is important to have grown up here and understand how it operates before one can lead it.

The reason that San Francisco can survive amidst rapid changes and continue to grow is because this city has always been the city that could. It's that simple. People come here and believe and this has worked since the early days when Father Sierra first came to this area and believed as well.


Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 27 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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