Making It in the Bay

With So Much Empty Office Space in SF, Will City Consider Conversions to Residential?

It's been done before, back when the dot-com bubble burst, according to a report

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Vacant office space in San Francisco has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic as many businesses were forced into remote workspaces. Now, there's a question of whether or not some of that available space can or should be converted into residential units.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the amount of office space up for lease in the city now could fill 11 Salesforce Towers. So, the buzz has turned to possibly turning some of that space into apartment units.

Such a move would require city leaders to pass new legislation, but there's a precedent: After the dot-com boom, that exact step was taken, according to the newspaper.

Still, holding on to office space may be more lucrative to building owners if and when there’s a comeback after the pandemic, the Chronicle says.

That's compounded by recent plummeting rents on residential units in the city and across the Bay Area. New data from rental listings website Zumper shows median rent for a one-bedroom unit in San Francisco is down 24% from a year ago, though it is still the highest in the U.S. among big cities.

Rent also has fallen 20% year over year in San Jose and about 18% in Oakland. Other Silicon Valley cities such as Sunnyvale (-32%), Santa Clara (-29%) and Redwood City (-29%) are seeing even larger declines.

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