San Francisco Business Times 2013 San Francisco Structures “Building San Francisco” Speech


 September 20, 2013

Westin St. Francis Hotel

Text of San Francisco Business Times Mayor's Speech


Thank you, Mary, for that kind introduction.

Good morning, everyone!

And thank you to the Business Times for the invitation to be here today.

It’s great to see so many elected and City officials here. . .

While today is about how we are planning a successful future together, sometimes it is what we don’t forecast or anticipate that calls us all to action. Whether it is the Rim Fire that grew to be California’s third largest wildfire and threatened the water supply for an entire region, or the Asiana Crash at SFO this summer where our first responders were called to action.  I am proud of our City’s rapid response that saved lives and protected our vital water and power supply. From our first responders at Police and Fire, to staff at our SFPUC, SFO, and Emergency Management, our City was prepared just as we will be the next time disaster strikes. Because it is not a matter of if, but when something like an earthquake will rattle our City and we will all be called upon again.

I would also like to take a moment and congratulate everyone associated with the America’s Cup races. The September showdown continues and is delivering with thrilling races and breathtaking images of our beautiful city broadcast to the world.

And I want to thank the community and business partners who stepped up in a big way to make this event possible.  


As you all know, we are living in an extraordinary City in an extraordinary time.  We are seeing the economic recovery all around us – just look at all the cranes dotting our skyline  - that also means our residents are getting back to work.  

When I took office in Jan 2011, our unemployment rate was 9.5%, and today, it’s 5.9%. And, between 2011 and 2012, we netted more than 30,000 additional jobs.  

And it’s not any one industry – we’re seeing broad-based job growth with every sector in the City’s economy growing and beating the U.S. Growth Rate.  

This doesn’t just happen.   We didn’t just get lucky.  Over the past two and a half years, working together, we have steadily built and strengthened what I call the “economic infrastructure” of our City.


A key part of that economic infrastructure is how the City has engaged in planning for San Francisco’s growth.  As part of creating comprehensive Area Plans, we asked residents, labor, community and businesses to come together to envision the future of the City and their neighborhoods.  

These plans did more than determine where development would or would not occur, but rather, examined how existing communities would grow.  Area plans laid the groundwork for new housing for San Francisco’s families and spaces for new businesses to grow.  As importantly, they identified needed public infrastructure– transportation, streetscaping, and open space - for development to thrive.

And the success of these plans can be seen in the number of new places to live and work coming on line, and the vibrancy of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.  

This morning, I’m going to take the opportunity to show you all how we are realizing the City’s vision of community-driven and carefully planned development.  

The Market and Octavia Plan took on the challenge of reconnecting a neighborhood long separated by the Central Freeway.  This planning effort prioritized building a walkable, “whole” neighborhood, through providing housing that met a broad range of needs and prioritizing “people movement” over “car movement.”  

Today, the neighborhood is fulfilling that vision.  High quality development of under-utilized sites have stitched the neighborhood back together, encouraging a vibrant community to flourish.  

Projects like, Linea, 2001 Market, Octavia Gateway, and Avalon Hayes embrace the neighborhood’s scale and character – adding a mix of residential units and ground floor retail in locations with easy access to public transit.

Along Octavia Boulevard, through careful planning, almost 50% of all new units will be affordable to people with lower incomes, all while creating a brand new neighborhood with award-winning architecture.

Moving down Market Street, the Central Market neighborhood is transforming into a place to live, work and play.

The Arts Community is thriving in Central Market with ACT’s renovation of the historic Strand Theater starting next month and the just-opened Center for New Music.

Similarly, our business community has embraced the revitalization of Central Market.  Companies like Zendesk, Uber, Square, Dolby, and Twitter  saw the area’s potential and brought their workers into the neighborhood.   

And, we’re creating more space for people to live.  Three projects alone - 100 Van Ness, NEMA, and Ava – will add more than 1,400 units of housing between Van Ness and Ninth Street.  

Market Street Place is expanding the Union Square retail core into Central Market.  Set to open in 2015, this important project will bring an additional 250,000 square feet of retail to Central Market.  

A few blocks down, the Yerba Buena Redevelopment Project is almost completely built out. The area is now home to a thriving cultural district, which will soon be expanded to include the Mexican Museum Building that will join an expanded SFMOMA through a unique public-private partnership.

Continuing into the downtown, the Transit Center District Plan is springing up over night.  

Anchoring the district is the Transbay Transit Center.  We joined Leader Pelosi earlier this month to pour the concrete foundation for what will be the “Grand Central Station of the West.” Thank you Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Board, for your leadership and for sharing the latest information on the project’s progress later this morning.  

I want to recognize the significance of this project to our city’s economy and transportation system.  This Transit Center will connect San Francisco to the region through buses and CalTrain’s Downtown Extension, and to the rest of the state as high-speed rail is completed.

This project is also a huge job creator.  2,400 construction jobs have already been created, and by the completion of the Transit Center, this project will have created 8,300 construction jobs, and generated 27,000 permanent jobs.

Surrounding the Transbay Transit Center is the Transit Center District.  More than any other area of the city, this downtown neighborhood is expanding to provide space for businesses to grow in San Francisco.

Here’s why we need this office space: Since 2011 - 23.6 million square feet of office space has been leased.  Let me repeat that – 23.6 million square feet. That’s the equivalent of more than 44 Transamerica Pyramids!

Fortunately for the growing number of businesses which are choosing to locate in our City, construction has already started on many of the surrounding office buildings, including the Transbay Tower. Paul Paradis [pronounced Para-dee] will be highlighting the features of this incredible building – the tallest on the West Coast - for all of us this morning.

The amount of new office space under construction in the Transit Center District is unbelievable.  181 Fremont will be the third-tallest building in San Francisco.  Salesforce dot com’s new home at 350 Mission is set to be complete in early 2015, along with 535 Mission, Foundry Square 3, and 222 - 2nd Street.  Including the TransBay Tower, these projects amount to almost 3.2 million square feet of new office space in downtown San Francisco!

The commercial downtown of TransBay quickly transitions to the residentially focused neighborhood of Rincon Hill.

Everyone coming across the Bay Bridge is given an up-close look at the construction of One Rincon’s second tower.  Right across Fremont Street, Rincon Green just completed construction of their beautiful building and Emerald Park – right before Tishman-Speyer broke ground on their new project, Lumina.   

The City is also creating new space to accommodate the needs of our growing bio-tech and healthcare industries.  

Mission Bay has become a worldwide hub of healthcare discoveries and bio-tech innovation.  

UCSF is placing the crown jewel on their campus at Mission Bay – the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.  The $1.5 billion project will provide the highest levels of care to children, women, and cancer patients.  

UCSF has acted as the nucleus of the Mission Bay innovation ecosystem– bringing together forward thinking companies and institutions – including the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  As Robert Obana will discuss, the VA has plans for building on the success of their Research Facility.

South of Mission Bay, Hunters Point Shipyard will be an Innovation District that will act as a demonstration site and test bed for the latest in green infrastructure design and smart cities.

Since the Naval shipyards closed in 1974, we have watched this once powerful economic force in the city languish. But no more.

After decades of planning and entitlement work, this time next year 247 new homes -- brought to life with more than 600 new residents -- will be built at Hunters Point Shipyard.

Simultaneously we'll be breaking ground on new infrastructure for the total revitalization of the Alice Griffith Public Housing: 256 families living in the worst conditions in the City, will soon be living in safe, high-quality, energy efficient housing.


In fact, a central point of my 17 Point Economic Plan – is the importance of building and accelerating the development of new housing for people of all income levels.

That’s right – we are focused as much on building new mid-rise, infill and affordable housing as on the residential and commercial towers that grab the headlines.

And that’s why we are building affordable housing throughout the City and keeping pace with the development of market-rate housing.  Of all the housing units in the pipeline, 25% are affordable.

As a City, we must not pit one interest against another.  Market rate development does not harm the creation of affordable housing, but rather, one cannot exist without the other.  It is through creating investor confidence in our City, and bringing jobs to San Francisco, that the City has the opportunity to do great things.


Before I conclude with a discussion of “the cranes of tomorrow” I want to pause to emphasize a couple of important points.  

First, as you all know, in San Francisco, we do not undertake development for the sake of development.  We welcome development, carefully planned, sustainable and in the right places, because of the benefits it brings to our City and the entire region.  We welcome new places to live and work because by ensuring that we can attract the most creative and dynamic companies and people, we grow our economy and create the resources to make this an even greater City.  We grow our resources for affordable housing, beautiful parks, safe streets, public health and all the other needs of our residents.

Of course, development also puts the building and construction trades back to work. Policies, including local hire and first source, connect San Franciscans with these new jobs.  And, I have no doubt, that this increase in employment is a major component in a decreasing crime rate - including a 40% year-to-date reduction of homicides.

Second, in San Francisco, we welcome development as part of a partnership between the City and our talented community of developers, contractors and architects.  The Area and Redevelopment Plans I showed this morning carefully balance and prioritize community needs by providing development hand-in-hand with vital public infrastructure.   We’ve asked for help from our development community in paying for affordable housing, transit improvements, new parks, and safe streets.  You’ve responded, whether it’s Oz Erickson and Alistair McTaggert donating Emerald Park, or Gelfand Partners’ transformation of the historic Tenderloin YMCA into Kelly Cullen Community supportive housing for formerly homeless, or any of our developers agreeing to be part of impact fee assessments and Mello Roos districts.  We will keep asking for this partnership and I’m confident you will keep coming through for the City.

And I know the City hasn’t always made it easy to build things – even much needed projects like new housing – but as Mayor, I’ve taken steps to make it easier to navigate the Planning and Building Inspection departments and streamline permits.

We have added 25 planners and DBI counter staff to expedite project review and we have made a meaningful start at CEQA reform.


Now that our new vision of San Francisco is becoming a reality, we should look at what is still to come.

Planning efforts are already underway that will shape new parts of the City.

The City’s vision for downtown continues to take shape with the Central Corridor Plan.  This Plan seeks to encourage growth along the spine of the Central Subway, connecting new office and residential development to this important new transit line.  

Two transformational projects are already fitting into this new vision.
The first is 5M.  At 5th and Mission Streets, 5M will be a high-density, high-tech campus, with a significant focus on arts and cultural uses.  The ultimate mix of tenants will reflect those that currently occupy the site, such as the Hub, Intersection for the Arts, SF Made, TechShop, and Yahoo.
Next of course, is the expansion of Moscone Center.  It is a keystone for our tourism industry and is responsible for generating 21% of San Francisco’s tourism economy.  The City has taken on this project with a goal of creating underground exhibition space and modernizing the building.  The expansion will also address much needed pedestrian safety and public realm improvements.  And, did I mention, we’re keeping Moscone in continuous operation during construction?

The City is also engaged in creating a new vision for our waterfront. Three public-private partnerships are focusing this discussion – each aiming to recognize the waterfront’s maritime heritage while welcoming new activities and uses.  

Pier 70 is a 69-acre Port-owned property in the Dog Patch neighborhood.  The area has operated as a ship building and repair yard since the days of the Spanish American War.

Today’s vision for Pier 70 embraces the site’s past by maintaining the ship-repair operations and preserving eight historic buildings.  The plan incorporates new manufacturing space to encourage San Francisco’s entrepreneurs to become “makers.”  These innovators are already receiving worldwide acclaim as they demonstrate that SFMade products have a world-wide market.  In addition to new space for makers, the plan provides 15 acres of new, bay-front open space, 2.2 million square feet of offices, and 950 new homes.  

SWL 337
Just up 3rd Street, the Giant’s Seawall Lot 337 project is striking a similar balance –providing public amenities, including an eight-acre park and preserving access to the bay – while filling in the empty lot with housing, office space, and much needed neighborhood retail. As you’ll hear from Jack Bair, the Giants are thinking big on how to build and engage the community.

You all know what’s coming next - the Warriors Arena for basketball, concerts, and entertainment.  We are blessed to have a world class waterfront, and it is exhilarating to transform a parking lot on a crumbling pier into an exceptional project like the Warriors Arena on Piers 30-32  .  

Our plan is so much more than “just” a state-of-the-art arena.  Snohetta has envisioned transforming over half the Pier into open space and parks to ensuring that all visitors can access and enjoy the Bay. Wouldn’t we all rather see that than the vast, crumbling parking lot that sits there now, walled off from the public behind a fence.

We are also preserving the maritime history of the site: providing a new home for the San Francisco fire boats and creating new infrastructure for water taxis, ferries, and cruise-ships.

I can’t wait to welcome the Warriors back home to San Francisco.


Each of these plans, whether in our downtown or waterfront, builds on the know-how of earlier efforts. In San Francisco, we are growing the right way.  We’re looking to build our community, our neighborhoods and our economy, and with your help, we will continue this track record of success.

I will close with these final thoughts.

People ask me, “Mayor, our economy is the envy of most cities. But, how can we keep the momentum going? How do we make sure every San Franciscan can be a part of this success?”

Let me tell you how. Part of the answer is in the everyday decisions by each of you in this room to keep investing in our City.

Yes, investing in businesses, and startups and innovative ideas.

But, also investing in our schools and in our community and in our neighborhoods. And most importantly, in our people, in particular our young people.

San Francisco is the greatest City in the world because we are diverse and innovative.

But we cannot be successful, unless we work together on our most critical challenges.

And so I ask you.  Help us Save City College.

Help us rebuild and reimagine our Public Housing – no more poverty housing!

Help us invest in our schools and a better education for our children.

Help make our neighborhoods safer and stronger.

And continue to help give our young people a chance.  To those of you who made a job available to a young person this summer through our Summer Jobs Plus program, thank you!  Just two days ago I announced that we exceeded our goal of employing 6,000 San Francisco youth.  

Now – let me give you fair warning to start gearing up for next year –now that we’ve met our goal, we have to do better in 2014.
Public private partnerships like Summer Jobs plus is the way our City succeeds. In fact, I know in this audience today, we have a great sponsor who can help us expand our popular Bike Share Program. We just launched it, and already we know we need to grow. I know Supervisor Weiner is here – thank you for leading the discussion on how we expand this great program.

BUT, our City’s great success would be incomplete if we do not find a way to help those who are suffering on our streets. If we work together, we can make meaningful change and move forward with real progress on homelessness in San Francisco.

That is how we will sustain this economic recovery and extend our prosperity.

And that is how together we will continue to build the economic and social infrastructure for the City of tomorrow.

Thank you.