Managing Success in 2014

As the New Year begins, San Francisco is poised for another year of economic success. Unemployment is holding steady at 5.2 percent, tax revenues supporting the General Fund are at record levels, and the urban life in our city continues to attract residents and visitors. While the technology sector grew by almost 8,000 jobs last year, our city’s economic recovery is also broad-based, with 75 percent of recent job growth coming from sectors other than technology.

San Francisco’s economic turnaround is no accident. It is the result of years of public-private collaboration prioritizing job and economic growth. Since the depths of the Great Recession, business, labor and government have worked together to craft job-boosting tax policies, implement needed pension reforms and approve new housing and redevelopment in key areas of the city.

The focus on economic recovery continued last year, with San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voting in favor of jobs and the economy on 10 of the 12 most significant issues in 2013 according to the latest economic scorecard from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Overall, the Board received a score of 83 percent, up two percentage points from the year before.

With the worst of the Great Recession now behind us, San Francisco faces real challenges of affordability, mobility and sustainability. We face these challenges not because of our economic success, but because our city has fallen short in creating an adequate supply of housing and due to permitting delays which can take years to bring new housing online. In addition, we have not properly invested in MUNI, and our schools must do more to train the current generation for today’s jobs. These challenges are exacerbated by the city’s across-the-board population growth, reaching 825,000, the highest ever.

As we look ahead, our economic successes will play a key roll in helping to mitigate our city’s challenges. The Housing Trust Fund, funded by increased business license fees and payments from housing developers, will soon bring thousands of affordable housing units online. The Mayor’s Transportation Task Force – including representatives from business, labor and government – is crafting a long-term strategy for transit and infrastructure investment. Employers and residents will be asked in this Fall’s election to provide $3 billion of new revenue over 15 years to leverage tens of millions more of state and federal funds.

San Francisco has always been a “can do” city, and together, we can deal with the challenges ahead. While we must continue to prioritize jobs and the economy, we must also take the necessary steps to manage our success so that our city remains accessible and affordable for both businesses and residents. In 2014, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce will expand its focus to help address these issues and be part of the solutions that will keep San Francisco prosperous for years to come.

Happy Holidays from the SF Chamber

2013 has been a significant year for San Francisco, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the Bay Area business community.

In addition to the opening of the new Bay Bridge, hosting the America’s Cup and welcoming #BatKid, San Francisco again set the pace for economic recovery across the state and much of the nation. This year, our city boasted an impressive six percent job growth rate with notable gains occurring across all industry sectors. By any measure, San Francisco is a model for economic resurgence.

The Chamber is proud to have helped play a role in our city’s economic growth this year and the steps we have taken together the last few years to position the city for a swift recovery from the Great Recession. From supporting job-creating incentives, to urging good government reforms, to advancing economy-boosting development, the Chamber has been focused on accelerating our city’s economic recovery and forging a path to sustained prosperity for years to come.

It has also been an exciting year for the Chamber. This fall, we debuted a bold new logo and brand identity to better reflect our organization, our membership and our city’s unique business community.  We relocated our office space to better serve our organization and advance our mission. And we strengthened the Chamber’s leadership team, welcoming several new members to our Board of Directors.

These accomplishments are important and would not be possible without the support of our members and partners. As the year comes to a close, we invite you to read more about our collective successes and how your support is helping to sustain a vibrant San Francisco.

We thank all our members for your continued participation in the Chamber, and we wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.



We Must do More to Support Broad-based Recovery

As San Francisco’s economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession, the impacts of both a growing population and employment base have taken center stage. The Examiner article, the “Forces of Change in San Francisco” recently spotlighted many of the positive impacts of employment growth, as well as the city’s troublesome shortage of workforce housing.

Several factors bring us to where we are today. As late as the 1940’s, population growth could be accommodated through development within the city’s 49 square miles.  Like other older American cities, San Francisco in the 1950’s began losing population – from a peak of 775,000 people in 1950 to 679,000 by the 1980 Census.

More recently, our city has become a mecca for knowledge-based jobs and international travel. In 2012, the State of California estimated the city’s population at a record 826,000 people.  Employment has rebounded to almost 600,000 jobs, nearly equal to the city’s historic high in the dot com boom of 2000.

San Francisco’s economic recovery is broad based. While the technology sector has grown by almost 8,000 jobs over the past year, 75 percent of the city’s recent job growth has come from sectors other than technology. Looking back to 2010, when unemployment approached 10 percent, the city’s economy has added back tens of thousands more jobs in professional services, hospitality, construction, education and health. Today, unemployment has fallen to almost five percent.

Like many urban areas across the county, San Francisco is also seeing movement from the suburbs back to the urban center.  Thankfully, our city is well positioned to accommodate this growth, with thousands of new housing units approved for construction. However, we are not building workforce housing fast enough to impact the costs of either rents or home ownership in the foreseeable future.

In March, 2004, the Chamber sponsored Proposition J, which would have provided incentives downtown and along the Pier 70 Third Street corridor to build additional below market-rate housing.  Unfortunately, that measure failed at the polls. The Chamber has since advocated for specific area plans that can add affordability and density, such as Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment and new in-fill housing at Parkmerced.  Last year, voters also approved the Chamber-supported Housing Trust Fund, which will begin to fund construction of new affordable and workforce housing over the next few years in part through increases in the business license fees.

San Francisco is fortunate to be in the midst of a broad-based recovery – attracting people and jobs across industry sectors.  Our city has already taken some important steps to accommodate the impacts of this growth. However, San Francisco will never be a low cost place for residents or businesses.  Knowing this, we can – and should – do more to increase the supply and availability of workforce housing so our city can continue to innovate, prosper and lead for generations to come.

Gratitude for San Francisco

There are many reasons to be thankful in San Francisco. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we take pause to acknowledge some of the things that make our city great.

Unlike many other counties, the City and County of San Francisco continues to be a powerful economic engine for our state and our nation. In fact, according to a new analysis from the City Economist, San Francisco is the fastest growing large county in the nation boasting a private sector employment growth rate of just over 6 percent. As a result, employment has now reached pre-recession levels, providing jobs to over 490,000 people.

Adding 7,701 new jobs to the local economy in 2013, the tech sector is clearly a key driver of our success – and for this we should be thankful. However, we must also recognize many other sectors of our economy that are contributing to our city’s recovery. Construction, professional services, hospitality and other industries that make up or local economy are also growing, adding more than 28,000 new jobs this year. We are truly fortunate to live in a city with such a diverse and robust business environment.

This year, San Francisco has enjoyed a spotlight on the world stage. More than 250 million people got a look at our brilliant cityscape while tuning in to the 34th America’s Cup hosted here. More recently, social media, newspaper and TV attention on #SFBatkid showcased our city’s unparalleled spirit of generosity to an estimated 1.7 billion people across the globe. These spectacular images and impressions are sure to pique the interest of travelers for years to come.

As business leaders and job creators, one of the most important things to be thankful for is the congenial culture of dialogue and debate which now prevails in San Francisco. While we’ve made great progress in economic recovery, many challenges remain. The Chamber feels fortunate that the business community can engage our city leaders on issues like housing affordability, taxation and homelessness with mutual candor and courtesy. This will be especially important as we work together to create solutions in the year ahead.

This Thanksgiving, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce expresses our gratitude for the many attributes that make San Francisco great. We also thank our members for your continued commitment and support, without which the Chamber’s work would not be possible. We wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Bob Linscheid is President & CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

Momentum Building for Warriors Return to S.F.

As the Golden State Warriors kick-off another exhilarating season, momentum is building for the team’s return to San Francisco and the state-of-the-art arena and entertainment venue they plan to call home by the start of the 2017-18 basketball season. And it’s not just fans who are excited. Last week more than 350 business leaders joined together with Warriors’ owners, coaches and players to rally behind the team and its vision for Pier’s 30-32 at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Warriors Tip-Off Lunch.

The Warriors return to our city is much more than a move across the Bay. The team will join the San Francisco Giants, San Francisco Bulls and our universities to deliver a more complete roster of sports teams fitting for a city of our size and reputation. There is no doubt that civic pride is amplified by high-performing sports teams, and the Warriors return will bring more opportunities for residents and visitors to celebrate San Francisco.

The new Warriors facility will also bring a needed multipurpose venue to our city. Today, San Francisco is overlooked for many high-profile, economy-boosting events such as national political conventions, Olympic Trials and world-class concerts because we lack sufficient indoor space to accommodate them.  The proposed 18,000-seat arena, with substantial, flexible meeting space, will help fill this void and open up new opportunities for marquee events to come to San Francisco in the future.

Building off the city’s efforts to revitalize the waterfront, the proposed arena design includes a tiered plaza helping to preserve views, provide waterfront access for maritime and recreational uses, and better connect the bay with the Embarcadero. The project creates more than six acres of public open space, taking up more than half of the total development site, and serves as a new landing for fire boats, ferries, water taxis, cruise ships and other vessels needing a deep water berth.

A project of this size and scope is not without its critics. Some residents living in the area are concerned about traffic caused by the new arena and question whether or not the waterfront is best location for the project. Both the city and the Warriors are taking these concerns seriously and are working to study transportation impacts and create a plan to best mitigate them. However, in a transit-first city like San Francisco, it is difficult to make the case that Piers 30-32 – located within a short walk of all major transit systems and ferry landings – is not a well suited location for the proposed venue.

The economic benefits of the Warriors arena also cannot be overlooked. The $1 billion project will be privately financed by the team and will not require any investment from the city’s general fund. In addition, the Warriors will spend as much as $170 million to rehabilitate the aging piers, important maritime resources that the Port cannot afford to renovate. According to a fiscal analysis recently commissioned by the city, the development will deliver $54 million in one-time fees and taxes during construction, plus another $19 million a year in ongoing revenue once complete. And that’s on top of the 5,000 temporary and 2,800 permanent jobs the project will bring to our city and its residents.

Momentum for the Warriors return to San Francisco is building for a reason. It is an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs and invest in our city, while giving San Franciscans more opportunities to celebrate and take pride in this amazing city we all call home.

Keep the Waterfront Renaissance Going – Vote Yes on B

Since the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway over 20 years ago, San Francisco’s waterfront has enjoyed a renaissance of new development that has transformed the area into one of the most iconic – and visited – parts of the city. This November, voters have the opportunity to continue in this waterfront resurgence with the passage of Proposition B and the 8 Washington project.

Proposition B, also known as the Open up the Waterfront Initiative, reaffirms the port and city approvals already awarded to the 8 Washington project, which will be located at the corner of The Embarcadero and Washington Street. Praised by urban architecture experts for its well-integrated design that improves waterfront access, the project will bring new housing, retail, parks, recreation and open space to an area now occupied by a surface parking lot and private tennis club fenced off to the public.

The 8 Washington project is also good for the economy. Not only will it create 400 new jobs, it also generates $350 million in benefits for San Francisco, including millions in new revenue for much needed port infrastructure improvements.  In addition, 8 Washington will deliver $11 million for the creation of new affordable housing.

With so many benefits, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would oppose 8 Washington. Unfortunately, the politics of obstruction and self-interest have delayed this project for seven years. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric, 8 Washington is a smart plan that is good for our city.

San Francisco’s waterfront should be a vibrant, open and inviting place for all to enjoy. After nearly a decade of planning and five years of study, the San Francisco Port Commission, Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, Mayor Ed Lee and California State Lands Commission have all endorsed and approved 8 Washington. Now voters must weigh-in to move this important project forward and stop the NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) activists from holding it hostage any longer.

Vote Yes on Proposition B this November and keep San Francisco’s waterfront renaissance going.

Click here to download the Chamber’s complete voting guide for the November 5, 2013 election.

New Day for SF Chamber

Our world is constantly changing. New ideas open our eyes to new possibilities. Innovation spurs new products, habits and solutions. New experiences shape our sense of self, place and purpose.

San Francisco’s business community is changing along with the world. Once dominated by finance and professional services, our city’s economy has become much more diverse, embracing emerging industries such as biotech, cleantech, digital media and other professions. Headquarter companies are no longer centered in San Francisco, but spread across the region. And the workforce continues to become more and more skilled, with 50 percent of residents attaining either a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is a reflection of our city’s business community, and we are changing too. Long gone are the days when business and civic discussions were made over a three martini lunch at a downtown watering hole. Also gone are the days of “one-size-fits-all” membership.  Every business is different, and our Chamber serves each member differently based on their unique business goals.

Today, our Chamber is focused on connecting the city’s business community. There are many excellent industry and professional groups in our city, but the Chamber is where all these groups come together – to network, to cross-pollinate and to build community. By convening our city’s diverse business interests, we are uniquely able to tackle big, and often divisive issues, such as business tax reform and formula retail regulations.

We are also focused on innovative partnerships to drive growth and create a vibrant economy. The Chamber’s award winning public-private partnership ChinaSF has brought more than 26 Chinese companies – and 300 jobs – to our city since it began in 2008. Earlier this summer, we launched BuildSF, a new initiative to support economy-boosting development in San Francisco. And we continue to explore international opportunities in other emerging countries such as South America, Mexico, India and others.

This week, the Chamber unveiled a new logo and brand identity to better reflect San Francisco’s unique business community and the culture of our organization. Designed by celebrated San Francisco designer Primo Angeli with Stapley-Hildebrand, our new mark symbolizes the diversity, connectivity and the collective strength of our members and our city’s robust economy. We hope businesses see themselves in our mark and that it evokes the pride we feel every day supporting San Francisco’s prosperity.

It is a new day at the SF Chamber. Our organization is over 160 years old – but like the city and its business community – we continue to evolve. We invite you learn more and join us as we work together to create a better San Francisco. #NewSFChamber.