News & Research Archive

Getting Through San Francisco's Growing Pains

Mar 09, 2015

San Francisco Mission DistrictIn the late 1950's San Francisco's population swelled to 895,000 people. This was the "high water" mark of growth that took off after World War II ended and soldiers from around the United States came here the end their world campaign only to not go home, but begin a life in San Francisco. The baby boomer years occurred and families grew rapidly, creating a need for more housing, more schools playgrounds and services. By the end of the 1960's our population saw an exodus of families leave San Francisco for the suburbs and our population sank to under 600,000.

Today, San Francisco again is experiencing a boom in its population, fueled by its title as an innovation tech hub. People and companies from around the world want to come to San Francisco to work and live, causing a building boom to occur not seen in generations.

Growing is good for any city and would be an answer to most American cities struggling to not only grow, but also maintain the economy that they have now. However, San Francisco has different political forces representing different points of view on the question of how San Francisco should grow and who benefits and who loses in the growth cycle.

Government typically reacts to growth, rather than predicting a surge and proactively plan well ahead of progression. Supervisor Campos is now proposing a moratorium on new housing construction in the Mission to halt what he sees as the gentrification of the neighborhood.

The Mission represents one of the hottest real estate growth markets in the city right now. The district is seeing rapid changes in housing, but also in services with new restaurants and shops fighting to find a location to meet this new demand.

Yet, all of these changes also mean displacement for those who can no longer afford to live in the Mission. It also means that smaller shops which cater to a less affluent market, will also suffer and struggle to survive.

It's a tough choice for San Francisco Supervisor, David Campos, and our other city leaders to try and balance lifestyles while clearly seeing the need for more housing. They must also keep in mind the fact of the matter that for us to continue to grow jobs, we need to have homes for employees to live.

This struggle is nothing new for San Francisco. Once the Embarcadero was once deemed "skip row" before it was redeveloped and moved to 3rd street. Years later 3rd street improved and "skip row" was then moved to 6th street. The Tenderloin has seen itself reinvented about three times in the last 100 years. The Mission was home to vaudeville shows and nightclubs, bringing people from all over the Bay Area to enjoy the Mission street nightlife. Those years were followed by bad times in the late 1960's when people left the city, and Mission was hit the hardest.

The Mission enjoys the best weather in San Francisco, offers excellent transportation options, vibrant long shopping streets and some of the most popular restaurants in the city. In our current boom, this area cannot be stopped. It's the "happening place" in the city right now. Campos means well, but he is reacting to our city's growing pains a little too late. If you stop growth, in turn you will have immediate negative effects on job growth. As firms continue to set up shop in the city, they will have great difficulty in recruiting necessary talent, which will eventually choke off growth.

We have control in terms of what we need, such as height limits and maximum residential unit counts by square footage. We also have affordable housing units that must be offered with each project. To create a moratorium on building as proposed by Supervisor Campos is simply bad for the overall economy it also would hurt the very people that he is trying to protect because it takes away jobs at all levels.

Photo Credit: modestjake 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 30 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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