Blog » economic development
- March 30, 2011BY ED PARILLON
Co-working studio [Photo by flickr user ahopsi]
According to a piece in Sunday’s Chronicle, tech employment in San Francisco is approaching its dot-com peak:
"The city had an estimated 32,180 tech jobs last year, compared with 34,116 in 2000, according to an analysis of state employment data by real estate consultant Jones Lang LaSalle. In 2004, the number of tech jobs had fallen to 18,210."
The most interesting thing about the growth in jobs is that it hasn’t been accompanied by proportionate growth in office space; while dot-com companies occupied 325 square feet per worker in 2000, today they occupy about 175, and that number has been falling each year. The Chronicle speculates that this is driven by the relative frugality among today’s dot-coms, which is certainly possible. While there are lots of companies out there, venture capital firms have generally been making smaller investments during this cycle.
But according to analysis we're doing here at SPUR, the increasing density of the workforce could also be due to the following trends in Bay Area work:
More telecommuting: Many more are working from home or at non-traditional offices. This is due to an increase in self-employment and to the rise in telecommuting among tech workers. While San Franciscans aren’t necessarily telecommuting more now than in past years, data from the 2005 and 2009 American Community Surveys do show increases in many other Bay Area cities, like Berkeley (where 12% of residents telecommute), Mountain View (7%) and Oakland (6%).
Mobility strategies: Everyone knows that smartphones make knowledge workers more mobile. This means that a lot of work can, and does, happen outside of the office. It also means that at any given moment during the work day, as few as 30 percent of workers are at their desks. Companies see this low utilization and decide to reduce overall private space for workers. This leads them to move to open-plan layouts and shared offices, as Deloitte did last year. Part of the motivation is to cut costs, but the trend also reflects a re-purposing of space as companies forgo private offices in exchange for more meeting space.
Co-working: Particularly among the startups that are adding to that tech-job number in SF, co-working arrangements are popular: firms (or individuals) join together to share office amenities like conference rooms and kitchens. These setups cut down significantly on space needs.
Whatever the reasons, the move to smaller office footprints should play to San Francisco’s strengths. Working in San Francisco usually means being able to commute without a car, which means firms don't have to build the amount of parking needed in places like Silicon Valley. San Francisco also has dense urban districts packed with amenities, which can complement a scaled-down workplace. In some ways, San Francisco makes life hard for a growing firm. But while addressing those challenges, the city should not lose focus on what it has to offer. After all, these young tech firms are in the city for a reason — and it’s not because it’s cheap.
- March 2, 2011
Plans for Treasure Island are moving forward to the Planning Commission in March. SPUR is a big supporter of this plan, which will create 8,000 units of housing, 30 percent of which will be affordable, and 450,000 square feet of retail space; rehabilitate historic structures; create 300 acres of open space; and add new ferry service. We especially like the way in which the proposed new development is clustered around the new ferry terminal, as opposed to dispersed across the island. Interested in lending your support to this important project? Contact Sarah Karlinsky at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is available here.
- January 24, 2011POSTED BY JORDAN SALINGER
Our new Governor is proposing to eliminate redevelopment in California. (See Governor's proposal called "Tax Relief and Local Government," here. Yesterday, SPUR's executive director, weighed in on the debate with an opinion piece in the Chronicle, arguing that we should reform, rather than eliminate, redevelopment.
For contrasting opinions, see the LA Times series from last fall that un-earthed many examples of problems with redevelopment, and an opinion piece in the Contra Costa Times defending the Governor's proposal.
There are clearly many examples of bad uses of redevelopment funding across the state and here in San Francisco. But overall, there is simply no way for us to bring areas like Mission Bay, Treasure Island, and the Hunters Point Shipyard back into productive use without the financing tools of redevelopment. Our hope at SPUR is that the Governor's proposal leads to a serious effort at reforming parts of redevelopment, perhaps leading the state to be more careful about where redevelopment areas can be created and about what redevelopment funds are spent on. At a time of such unprecedented budget cuts, it makes sense that redevelopment should be looked at for cost savings. But redevelopment done right is a solution to our budget problems because it is the way we bring areas that are polluted or lack basic infrastructure back onto the tax rolls.Tags: economic development
- October 19, 2010BY JENNIFER WARBURGOn Monday of last week, President Obama recommitted his administration to a "fundamental overhaul" of the nation's infrastructure, following up on a previous Labor Day announcement that had excited smart growth advocates and set off speculation about the form such a "second stimulus" or "infrastructure bank" would take.Obama's speech last week on infrastructure investment [Via whitehouse.gov]
When Obama was elected, supporters of progressive transit talked excitedly about a "new New Deal." Comprehensive national infrastructure plans have guided each era of American growth and development. America 2050, a national coalition that SPUR is a part of, created a prospectus for a modern national plan modeled on three prior ones: the Gallatin Plan of 1808, the Inland Waterways Commission Plan of 1908 and the National Toll Road and Free Road Plan of the 1930s.
The President has rhetorically endorsed progressive national infrastructure investment for this era. In his Columbus Day speech he called for "a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century; a system that encourages sustainable communities with easier access to our jobs, to our schools, to our homes"¦a system that reduces harmful emissions over time and creates jobs right now."
Yet over the past week the administration showed signs of backing away from pushing such legislation forward this year, leaving observers scratching their heads.
Are these high-profile announcements solely political? An attempt to energize the base during election season? Or are they serious agenda-setting statements? Most importantly, will progress actually be made this year in Washington on modernizing our country's infrastructure?
While this proposal may seem like a political trial balloon this fall, infrastructure spending will likely anchor the legislative agenda for 2011. Why? Because it has bipartisan support and strong backing from financial interests, state and municipalities. Infrastructure spending has typically been an enterprise that Republicans and Democrats agree upon and could provide an area of consensus in a divided legislature. It's exactly the type of modest legislation that President Clinton used in 1995 and '96 to move forward after losing party control of Congress.
Obama's infrastructure investment proposal is, in effect, a $50 billion down-payment on the $450 billion six-year transportation bill that failed to pass Congress last year. Note also that the $50 billion does not come close to the $2.2 trillion the American Society of Civil Engineers says is needed to repair existing infrastructure. But a $50 billion investment "jumpstart" is a pragmatic way of moving forward on urgent repairs.
The President has proposed to change the way transportation funding works, in particular by using some sort of performance-based criteria rather than "return to source" or earmarks; but "” who knows? "” this is the always-announced, never-implemented agenda of the reformers.
Rails or roads? [Photo Credit: flickr user jrâ¹â¸â¶â¶â´]
Here is my own prediction about the timeline of how this legislation will play out in Washington:
- Look for an 11th hour attempt by Democrats to bring up Obama's infrastructure plan in November's lame-duck Congress; Republicans will rebuff it.
- In January, when the new, 112th Congress convenes there will be a good month of gavel-shifting and maneuvering.
- Infrastructure spending will be seriously discussed again in February when Republicans must begin to share responsibility for hastening and improving the economy's "jobless recovery."
- Most important will be the President's Fiscal Year 2012 proposal budget, which will be announced at the end of January after the State of the Union address. In all likelihood, when the President releases his budget, there will be a specific line item for the infrastructure bank.
- How Congress responds to the 2012 budget proposals in March and April will be crucial. But the groundwork for this debate should be developed now, and in the weeks immediately ahead.
With transportation bills of any type, there is always a fight over which portion goes to more highway construction and what portion goes to energy-efficient transit. SPUR has of course advocated that the country shift as much funding as possible to transit. But even if that goal is politically ahead of the legislature, we should at least be able to provide an equal federal funding match to transit and highway projects, rather than paying a higher share of highways as is the practice today.
There are a lot of politics to get through. We have joined the Transportation for America coalition as our show of support for a forward-looking investment in a better transportation system. We hope the President's $50 billion proposal, which covers transit and much else, will help get the ball rolling on what surely must be a national priority.
- July 13, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
What are the most pressing issues facing California in the next 15 years and how should we deal with them? If only there were one comprehensive PDF document floating around the internet with all the answers.
Policy wonks across the state will now be thrilled to discover the Public Policy Institute of California's recently released CA2025 report, a "briefing kit" covering California's most important long-term policy issues. Outlining policies on topics ranging from water to transportation to the economy, the report acts as a kind of handbook for every major policy concern confronting the state today. While one might expect an insufferably dense document, the text is actually quite accessible, the graphics clear and informative. Some might crave more detail and in-depth analysis than CA2025 provides, but the report still serves as an excellent primer for the key issues facing the state, and presents compelling arguments for how our policy makers might tackle them.
[Graph courtesy of PPIC CA2025]
- July 7, 2010BY JORDAN SALINGER
Crime and unemployment: two things cities consistently battle with, but rarely like to talk about. While it may seem like these two issues are linked, with crime rising out of necessity, GOOD's recent infographic shows that a positive correlation may not exist. Working with Part and Parcel, a small design firm in New York, GOOD's Transparency graphic confronts this issue in a very direct manner. Using the FBI's crime data going back to 1989, this graphic sorts crime into two categories: violent and property crime.
"¨"¨[Image Credit: GOOD Magazine, Part & Parcel]
Stand-Out Facts: "¨"¨
As unemployment rose from 5.8 to 9.3 from 2008 to 2009, property crime dropped 6%"¨"¨
Violent crime has dropped 44% from 1991 to 2009"¨"¨
This infographic succeeds in describing a few complex problems and dispels the notion that as unemployment rises, crime would inevitably increase. In its simplicity, however, the graphic fails to provide alternative explanations for the general trend of dwindling crime since 1989. While it's a great snapshot of the issue, the graphic should not be a substitute for further analysis.
Recently, crime data in San Francisco has become publicly accessible through the city's DataSF website. Doug McCune, a local blogger, took the crime data from 2009 and presented it in a captivating and unique form - elevation maps. As additional cities choose to release this type of information, we look forward to the creative ways citizens will use this data.
- April 6, 2010BY ESTHER
In Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, Joan Fitzgerald, director of the Law, Policy and Society Program at Northeastern University, showcases how some cities have taken the lead in creating policy that is mutually beneficial to both the environment and economic development. Ms. Fitzgerald spoke on this subject and introduced her book at SPUR, this past November 17th.
According to Joan Fitzgerald, it has fallen to cities around the world to embrace the challenge of sustainability, because national governments have failed to come to an agreement on a global policy. The lack of any significant outcome from the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last year serves to underscore the matter: you cannot effect environmental change without addressing the underlying issues of how that change affects disparate groups.
It is not surprising that San Francisco is one of the cities responding to the call to take these economic factors and questions of accessibility into consideration—you can read what SPUR has contributed in our report Critical Cooling: San Francisco can fight global warming through smart changes to local policy.
Fitzgerald agrees that cities are uniquely situated to make a difference due to population density and use of public transportation, to promote and benefit from green economic development in particular. She provides examples of policy from cities that have successfully addressed the interrelated environmental problems of global warming, pollution and energy dependence, with social justice, equity, and job quality in mind as well as policy from cities that have found the process more challenging. Fitzgerald provides a guide to help city and regional planners and policymakers move toward becoming “emerald cities.“
- February 19, 2010BY BEN LOWE
Public transportation gets millions of Americans to and from their jobs every day. Transportation for America, a national public-transit and smart-growth advocacy organization, thinks investing in our transportation sector can create jobs as well. In response to the jobs bill now working its way through the Senate, which would largely offer tax cuts to small businesses, T4A has proposed instead that funding be put toward projects such as:
- $16 billion for transit
- $8.1 billion for the Surface Transportation Program (highways)
- $9.8 billion for competitive grants, such as TIGER grants
- $1.5 billion for bike and pedestrian facilities to make walking and biking safer and more attractive.
The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute agrees that the T4A plan would be effective. EPI has stated that such projects would spur significant job creation, particularly among the economically disadvantaged and those without higher education.
As Bay Area transit-and-smart-growth advocate TransForm recently reported, areas well-served by good transportation options, specifically public transit, help to significantly reduce transportation costs for their residents. If funding is used wisely, a transportation-focused jobs bill could therefore create and save jobs while repairing crumbling infrastructure and keeping money out of gas tanks and in our local economy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is reportedly working on a range of jobs-stimulus legislation, and may yet see the connection between getting the job market moving, and getting Americans where they want to go on America’s sidewalks, bike paths, and roads.
- January 7, 2010BY EGON TERPLAN, REGIONAL PLANNING DIRECTOR
Not so fast says the Atlantic’s James Fallows in a new article on “How America Can Rise Again.” People have argued we were in decline since the earliest days of the republic. His prescription: Focus on maintaining our top universities to foster innovation and open immigration to keep people and ideas flowing into our country. From SPUR’s perspective, we would add – and invest heavily in high speed rail and other infrastructure that enables non-auto mobility.
- November 10, 2009BY EGON TERPLAN, REGIONAL PLANNING DIRECTOR
[Image: Green roof in Toronto from urbanneighbourhood]
How can cities best position themselves in the green economy? What is the role of manufacturing in urban areas? How can a city best choose an economic development strategy given its size and unique economic history? How should federal policy support policy innovation among cities?
Join us for an evening discussion with nationally-recognized visiting writer and professor Joan Fitzgerald. She will give us a preview of her new book, Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, to be published by Oxford University Press in early 2010. In the book, Joan Fitzgerald shows how in the absence of a comprehensive national policy, cities have taken the lead in addressing the interrelated environmental problems of global warming, pollution, energy dependence, and social justice. Her analysis includes a comparison of 24 cities throughout the United States - major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco (of course) but also less known places such as Toledo and Syracuse.
Join us on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 6:00 pm
Where: SPUR Urban Center (654 Mission Street)
Joan Fitzgerald is a nationally-recognized writer and professor who directs the Law, Policy and Society Program at Northeastern University. Earlier this year, Fitzgerald edited The American Prospect’s April 2009 special report on “The Green Challenge: Will Cleaner Energy Produce New Industries and Good Jobs for Americans?” The answer, says Fitzgerald and the six other contributors to that report, is Yes—provided that governments at the federal, state and local level give green manufacturing the support it needs to flourish. That means much more thanfunding specific companies; it requires crafting and implementing a comprehensive industrial policy. Such a policy, Fitzgerald writes in her piece Cities on the Front Lines, would recognize how traditional sources of manufacturing strength can serve as the base of a renewable energy economy. She cites how a former glass technology and manufacturing center like Toledo, Ohio has now become a leader in solar energy.
And last month in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, Fitzgerald warns that absent a broad and coherent industrial vision that connects demand, supply and technology, the United States is likely to cede leadership in renewable energy production and other clean technologies to German, Japan and China.