Agenda for Sustained Prosperity

A Guest Blog from Peter Gruebele, 2014 Chamber Board Chair
Executive Vice President, Wells Fargo’s Regional Commercial Bank in San Francisco

San Francisco is an expensive place both to live and do business. The city’s median home price is $957,000, and rising. Average rents now stand at $3,350 per month.  Commercial office space has reached an average of $53.99 per square foot. The costs of transportation and other necessities are rising as well.

As the cost-of-living and doing business continue to increase, it should come as no surprise that affordability and housing are the top concerns among San Francisco voters. In fact, for the first time in three years, the cost of home ownership surpassed homelessness and street behavior as the city’s top issue according to the 2014 Dignity Health CityBeat Poll released by the Chamber at our annual meeting and CityBeat Breakfast earlier this week.

According to the poll, 34 percent of voters ranked the cost of owning a home as the top issue, followed by homelessness and street behavior (at 29 percent), MUNI and public transportation (at 19 percent), jobs and the economy (at 18 percent) and many other issues. The cost of rents/affordability also ranked among the top three concerns, with 21 percent of voters ranking it their top issue. Seventy-three percent of voters said controlling the cost-of-living has gotten worse over the past year.

San Francisco’s affordability challenges have developed over decades. San Francisco’s population has steadily grown and recently reached a historic high of more than 800,000. Our city has become a mecca for knowledge-based jobs, adding 65,000 jobs in the past three years alone.  At the same time, housing production has fallen far short of what is needed to support rising demand. As a result of these and other factors, our city has become expensive for residents and job-creators alike.

Like voters, the Chamber is concerned with the rising costs of living and doing business here. We discussed these concerns, and some possible solutions, at the CityBeat Breakfast with former mayor Willie Brown and an expert panel of housing advocates and developers. But this is just the start. Much more dialogue will be needed if our city is to properly mange its success and address long-term challenges.

As recently as 2004, the Chamber sponsored a ballot measure that would have made it easier to build workforce housing downtown and South of Mission Bay. Unfortunately, it fell victim to a NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) campaign and did not pass at the polls. More recently, the Chamber has championed successful land use plans to expand housing at Hunters Point, Treasure Island and Parkmerced. But much more needs to be done.

In the year ahead, the Chamber will prioritize affordability, mobility and quality of life issues as we advance an agenda for sustained prosperity. We thank the nearly 1,000 partners, public officials and civic leaders who joined us in springboarding our agenda at this year’s CityBeat Breakfast, and we look forward to working together on solutions for a better San Francisco.

We especially thank our CityBeat Breakfast sponsors, whose generous support makes the Chamber’s work possible, including: Sutter Health, AT&T, Cisco, Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Marcum, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Wells Fargo and many others.

Peter Gruebele, 2014 Chair of the Board of Directors, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
Executive Vice President, Wells Fargo’s Regional Commercial Bank in San Francisco