News & Research Archive

San Francisco: The Ever-Evolving, Ever-Growing City

Apr 25, 2014


San Francisco: The Ever-Evolving, Ever-Growing CityJoe Alioto was Mayor of San Francisco from 1968 to 1975. During that time, San Francisco witnessed the fastest change to its skyline as office buildings and hotel projects began filling in the San Francisco downtown area. Alioto was accused of "Manhattanizing" San Francisco and many locals including local columnist, Herb Caen, were incensed at the loss of old San Francisco's "small town" charm.

By 1985 opposition to this growth of steel and concrete structures were successful in passing Proposition M, which limited office construction to 975,000 square feet through a beauty context that allowed both city and public participation in which developments would be allowed to be built. By that time the office market already collapsed and since then virtually no office space has been built until now.

Today, any clear view of the city's skyline is strewn with gangly construction cranes as workers scurry to build more housing and offices that can accommodate the labor needs of cash-heavy companies in San Francisco. With over four million square feet of office space that is either already under construction or in the planning process, this is San Francisco's largest office boom since the early 1980's. The problem is that with the carryover of past office space, there is over 1.2 million square feet planned beyond the limits of Proposition M.

In addition there is over 4.5 million square feet of residential development planned that has no protection from Proposition M. Therefore, between residential and commercial developments, you have over 8 million square feet of development in the works.

What that means in terms how this will change San Francisco is unbelievable. Based upon an average of 180 square feet per person in each office development, that means you are looking at over 40,000 new employees to fill all of the office space. Additionally, 1.5 people are able to live per 800 square feet which means San Francisco can hold close to 8,500 new residents.

If all of these developments actually get built, this will raise San Francisco's population to close to 950,000 residents, which is about 150,000 more people since 2004. Given that San Francisco is only 47 square miles, the city's population has skyrocketed to a 20 percent increase, which is especially huge for the already-congested metropolis that has little horizontal space left to grow.

You might already be feeling pressure and having the discussion between the "haves and the have nots," which is understandable. How do you add 40,000 new employees and only 8,500 more housing opportunities to a city that is already experiencing massive shortage of affordable housing?

As a local born-and-raised San Franciscan, I can't help but wonder, "What is our city about to become?" It certainly sounds more like New York than our little city by the bay that Herb Caen loved so much.

Photo Credit: davidyuweb via Compfight cc


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 29 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,

Contact Us

Name must not be empty
Please provide a valid email
Message should not be empty




TCN Worldwide