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.