Mayor London Breed on Monday announced a week of events at the end of March that are designed to lure office workers back to San Francisco's struggling downtown core.
"It's time to take the pajamas off, or if you put on Covid pounds, go downtown and buy some new pants," she said at a press conference held at Salesforce Park.
The event series, dubbed "Bloom SF," will run from Sunday, March 27 to Saturday, April 2, and it will be centered around downtown core attractions like the Ferry Building, Salesforce Plaza, Union Square and Westfield mall. Programming will include a wine walk, outdoor fitness, roller skating, a silent disco and art installations.
Breed lauded San Francisco’s efforts early in Covid to shut down the city, saying the shelter-in-place saved countless lives. But now with an 83% vaccination rate, she said, it’s time for the city to get its groove back.
Breed has been working with business leaders and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce in recent weeks to bring workers back downtown as the Omicron wave has subsided.
Bloom SF is being coordinated with “Welcome Back to SF,” which involved city and county employees returning to the office in a mix of schedules starting last week. The mayor secured pledges from a number of major employers to bring employees back to in-office work in March, including Salesforce, Gap Inc., Visa, Wells Fargo and Blackrock. Full numbers on employees resuming in-office work were not released.
San Francisco workers’ return to offices has lagged behind peer cities like New York, Los Angeles and Austin, according to the Back to Work barometer from access card company Kastle Systems. Only 29.4% of San Francisco’s workers had returned to the office during the week of March 10.
Downtown’s slow recovery has led to a number of downstream economic effects, said Ted Egan, the city’s chief economist. The fallout included less spending from office workers to support businesses downtown, as well as the operations to run and equip downtown offices.
But some signals of recovery have started to emerge. Total BART ridership for January sat at 2.19 million people—more than double the 1.05 million riders the prior year. Still, even the newer numbers are a fraction of the more than 9 million people who rode the system monthly pre-pandemic.
Denise Tran, founder of the restaurant Bun Mee, pleaded with businesses to bring back workers during Monday’s press conference.
“It’s been a difficult time for us,” she said. “The small businesses desperately need folks to come back to work. My little sandwich shop relies on catering and office business and office lunches.”
Kevin Truong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org