How Office Conversions Could Benefit San Francisco

In an arti­cle for the San Chron­i­cle, Noah Arroyo pro­vides an in-depth look at Cal­gar­y’s effort to con­vert vacant down­town office build­ings into hous­ing, argu­ing that San Fran­cis­co could fol­low its exam­ple to do the .

Accord­ing to Karen Chap­ple, direc­tor of the School of Cities at the Uni­ver­si­ty of , who has stud­ied the issue, San Fran­cis­co has the slow­est down­town recov­ery of 60 major North Amer­i­can cities, in because of the expense and dif­fi­cul­ty of con­vert­ing office build­ings to res­i­den­tial uses.

In Cal­gary, “The gov­ern­ment pur­sued office-to-hous­ing con­ver­sions for their dual ben­e­fits: reduc­ing the over­all sup­ply of office space so that the remain­der was more valu­able, and increas­ing the hous­ing sup­ply.” When Cal­gar­y’s down­town began to emp­ty out, “Cana­di­an offi­cials respond­ed to the long-term decline of its a 10-year, $1 bil­lion ini­tia­tive — equiv­a­lent to about $721 mil­lion U.S. dol­lars — to trans­form the area into a diverse, thriv­ing , in large part by fund­ing and fast-track­ing projects that con­vert offices to hous­ing.”

The city iden­ti­fied an area with suit­able prop­er­ties, tar­get­ing incen­tives there to encour­age devel­op­ers. “To date, five con­ver­sions have been approved to cre­ate 707 units of hous­ing.” The arti­cle describes oth­er mea­sures Cal­gary took to stream­line the con­ver­sion process and low­er costs. 

Mean­while, “San Fran­cis­co offi­cials are weigh­ing whether to help con­ver­sions hap­pen — but not just to cre­ate new hous­ing.” A spokesper­son for May­or Lon­don Breed said the city is also at oth­er uses, such as light man­u­fac­tur­ing or lab space, that could help diver­si­fy the city’s core and pre­vent an over­re­liance on one . Rich Hillis, direc­tor of the San Fran­cis­co Plan­ning Depart­ment, cau­tioned against con­vert­ing offices to hous­ing too hasti­ly, say­ing that “mov­ing away from too pre­ma­ture­ly can have impli­ca­tions that include the loss of busi­ness and the rev­enue that goes with them.”

Read More

Leave a Comment