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The Standard on KQED: Diving into the issue of turning office buildings into housing

Unused office buildings of the Financial District have been pitched as a potential solution to the housing crisis | Camille /The Standard

A quick survey of downtown San Francisco reveals a shell of the area’s pre-pandemic energy and activity. 

Foot traffic has declined precipitously, commercial vacancy rates are at all-time highs and only around 33% of workers have returned to the office on any given day.

And with a majority of San Francisco saying they a hybrid schedule when the pandemic ends, these work patterns appear here to stay. 

The mismatch between underused office space and the city’s dire housing crisis has led to plenty of conversation on social media about transforming these downtown structures into homes. 

It also inspired a story published last month in the Standard, “Turning Downtown Offices Into Housing Isn’t the Solution You Think It Is” that dug into the challenges of these types of conversions, as well as what policymakers and city leaders could do to tip the scales in favor of these projects. 

The Standard reporter Kevin Truong joined KQED Forum host Alexis Madrigal on a panel with San Francisco SPUR director Sujata Srivastava, Emerald Fund Chairman Oz Erickson and TMG Partners’ Matt Field, for a discussion on the topic of office conversions and what the next iteration of downtown could look like.

Kevin Truong can be reached at