San Francisco delays decision on retail-to-office conversions

The owners of 220 Post St. spent $75 million to buy the Union Square property in 2016. The goal: to attract a luxury tenant to the five-story building. Too bad few of those exist.

City Center Realty Partners shelled out nearly $75 million for Union Square’s 220 Post St., the former Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, with the goal of attracting a luxury tenant to the five-story space. That goal has been more difficult than expected.

Nearly as difficult for the owners has been convincing city planners that retailers are no longer interested in space above the ground floor.

Seven proposals to convert upper-level retail into office space have been filed with the San Francisco Planning Department, including 220 Post’s. Most of those properties are in Union Square. Earlier this year, the city decided to freeze those applications for 18 months. That meant that 220 Post, which was supposed to be heard by the planning commission this month, is waiting indefinitely for a decision pending the creation of permanent rules.

What’s at stake is the future of the city’s retail heart. City officials are hesitant to give up the sales tax revenue and jobs that retail generates, but landlords say empty space accomplishes nothing. Instead, landlords argue that adding more office space would not only help them fill buildings, but alleviate the extreme shortage of office space that is sending small businesses and nonprofits to Oakland.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin in May that imposed temporary rules banning conversions for an 18-month period. Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi said the department has postponed hearings for properties located within the city’s downtown retail area.

The controls don’t apply to properties located south of Market Street or for applications that have already been approved, such as the former Macy’s Men’s store.

 

 

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The era of big leases is over as San Francisco awaits next crop of towers

The era of massive office leases — including the likes of Salesforce, Dropbox and Facebook — is coming to a halt now that most of San Francisco’s pipeline of new office buildings is spoken for. Robust demand for office space has filled up buildings months or years ahead of completion, but development is drying up.

In May, another company declared it had signed the “biggest office lease ever” in San Francisco. The trend of going bigger and bigger started with Salesforce taking 714,000 square feet in Salesforce Tower at 415 Mission St. in 2014 followed by Dropbox taking 736,000 square feet in 2017 in the Exchange in Mission Bay. Then Facebook topped both with a deal to gobble up the entire, 750,000-square-foot Park Tower.

But, the era of massive office leases is coming to a halt — at least for the next few years — now that most of San Francisco’s pipeline of new office buildings is spoken for. Robust demand for office space has filled up buildings months or years ahead of completion, but development is drying up.

Some industry insiders say more building would be going on if it weren’t for Proposition M, a 1986 voter-approved law that limits how much office space can be approved in a given year. Still, others say that factors such as the lengthy city approval process and availability of development sites has also put the brakes on office development.

 

 

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Amid office space crunch, Google grows in San Francisco

As its fellow tech giants jockey for space in downtown San Francisco, Google has signed another office lease in the southern Financial District, The Chronicle has learned.

The Mountain View company is taking an additional 57,299 square feet at Hills Plaza at 2 Harrison St., according to real estate data company CoStar. That brings the total in the complex, where Google has had an office since 2007, to more than 400,000 square feet.

Google did not respond to a request for comment. Architecture firm Gensler occupied the space before recently moving to 45 Fremont St. A Morgan Stanley investment fund owns Hills Plaza.

Google is also in talks to sublease space from Salesforce, two sources said. The potential deal could be up to 228,000 square feet at Rincon Center at 101 Spear St. No contract has been signed.

Salesforce is one of the few large tech tenants vacating space as it consolidates workers into Salesforce Tower, which opened in January, and adjacent buildings. Salesforce, the city’s largest tech employer with 7,500 employees, is also subleasing space at the Landmark building at One Market Plaza.

Google’s expansion follows office leases by Facebook, Dropbox and other fast-growing tech companies, which have broken records for size and made San Francisco one of the priciest and tightest office markets in the country.

The office vacancy rate in San Francisco’s southern Financial District, which includes the area around the Transbay Transit Center, is 4.6 percent, down from 6 percent in the first quarter, according to CoStar.

“The new development has pretty much been snatched up,” said Jesse Gundersheim, CoStar’s San Francisco market economist. “Opportunity like sublease space from Salesforce is pretty rare.”

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Why clothing stores are still opening in San Francisco

A majority of shuttered mall stores over the past few years have been clothing shops, but new Bay Area leases show a sector not in free fall quite yet.

Hip women’s clothier ModCloth, streetwear brand Supreme, athleisure label outdoor Voice and luxury basics purveyor Everlane are among a new class of specialized labels defying recent trends.

Shifting consumer demands, years of oversupply and the rise of ecommerce combined to trigger more than 7,050 tore closings last year, according to Coresight Research. Already, the New York-based retail analyst has tracked nearly 3,900 store closings compared to about 1,800 openings this year.

Yet, while most clothing brands are racing to weed out underperforming stores, others are ramping up.

 

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Millennial migration favors San Jose despite cost of living, says census

The Bay Area is getting more mixed messages on the seemingly perennial question of if and how quickly residents are fleeing the region and the state.

The finance company Smart Asset released a report Friday claiming that San Jose is one of the most popular destinations for millennials on the move despite its high cost of living.

Smart Asset economist Derek Miller sorted through U.S. Census data to figure out which U.S. cities got the greatest inflow—i.e., the margin of new residents relocating to a city over the number of those moving away—with the ever-topical millennial demographic, here defined as anyone between the ages of 20 and 34 in 2016.

Suffice to say, San Francisco did not acquit itself well with the trend, despite previous census analyses revealing that the city’s median age is gradually getting younger with each passing year. Instead, millennial movers reportedly favored San Jose, which came in seventh place on Miller’s list, the only California city to break the top ten.

 

 

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After two projects sank, can San Francisco find developers for decaying waterfront?

The new effort is one of the largest but also potentially costliest redevelopment opportunities in the city.

The Port of San Francisco is seeking ideas for new uses at 13 historic waterfront piers, in one of the largest but also potentially one of the costliest redevelopment opportunities in the city.

The agency wants proposals from both large developers and smaller tenants such as nonprofits, arts groups and retailers to revive the piers, which are now vacant or used for parking or storage.

Some previously renovated piers have been financial successes. Waterfront offices at the Ferry Building and Piers 1 1/2, 3 and 5 have signed tenants for rents over $100 per square foot. Control of the Piers later sold for $103 million in 2016, and the Ferry Building is expected to be sold to Hudson Pacific Properties for around $300 million, according to sources tracking the market.

But two recent redevelopment efforts failed because of the high costs of rehabilitating and seismically protecting piers. A study for the Port found that $74 million to $10 million would be required to bring a single pier up to code. Last year TMG Partners and Premier Structures, Inc. exited an office, event and restaurant space proposal at Pier 38 after the cost to repair the pier was expected to be as high as $122 million.

 

 

 

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Exclusive: Nordstrom to close Stonestown location, leaving S.F. mall anchor-less

Nordstrom is preparing to close one of its San Francisco locations amid monumental shifts in the retail market that have upended the traditional department store model. 

The Seattle-based retailer is set to vacate its 174,000-square-foot location at Stonestown Galleria, according to Retail West Principal Matthew Holmes and another source with knowledge of the decision, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of pending lease negotiations at the property.

Holmes said the plan is for Nordstrom to close the location, which it has leased for the past three decades, leaving GGP another opportunity to backfill it with smaller tenants.

“It was never the grand Nordstrom like it is downtown,” Holmes said of the retailer’s 350,000-square-foot Market Street location. “They do so much more business in downtown, because it’s a showcase store for them. They’ve realized they don’t need two stores in San Francisco.

A Nordstrom spokeswoman said in an email that the retailer did not have any store closures to announce. Stonestown Mall operator General Growth Properties’ Darren Iverson, a senior general manager, declined to comment.

 

 

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Exclusive: WeWork goes suburban with expansion to Marin County

The company’s lease is one of the largest North Bay deals in the past year.

WeWork has arrived in the North Bay.

The fast-growing co-working giant signed a 35,000-square foot lease at 1 Belvedere Drive in Mill Valley. It’s the company’s first location in Marin County, a suburban market that marks a shift from the company’s focus on urban downtown centers.

“Generally, WeWork locations are located in dense, urban locations in the heart of cities. This Mill Valley location will serve as a complimentary outpost to the many entrepreneurs, executives, and small businesses at WeWork, scaled to meet the needs of the dynamic community north of San Francisco. We’re excited to open a North Bay flagship location and further expand our community of creators into Mill Valley,” said Elton Kwok, WeWork general manager for Northern California, in a statement.

WeWork has signed three Bay Area leases this year, bringing it close to 2 million square feet in the region. The company’s other deals totaled 327,000 square feet at 430 California St. and 353 Sacramento St., both downtown San Francisco office towers.

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Exclusive: 44-story Transbay tower proposed next to transit center

Another tower could join the forest of new skyscrapers in San Francisco’s Transbay district.

New plans for a 44-story highrise at 540 Howard St. call for 149 housing units and 52,403 square feet of office space. An existing three-story building, which houses Temple Nightclub, would be demolished.

The site is next to numerous massive projects, including the $2.2 billion Salesforce (formerly Transbay) Transit Center. On a neighboring parcel, Hines and Urban Pacific Development have proposed a 60-story, 800-foot tower with housing, office and a hotel at 550 Howard St., known as Parcel F. Developer Crescent heights has approval for a 495-foot residential tower at 524 Howard St., but the project has been delayed. Rising construction costs have made towers more challenging to build.

Warner Schmalz, an architect at Ankrom Moisan, is designing the 540 Howard St. project. The firm said he wasn’t immediately available to comment. property owner Wendy Hemming couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

It isn’t clear how tall 540 Howard St. would be, but the site is zoned for 450 feet, or less than half the height of the nearby 1,070-foot Salesforce Tower.

 

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Exclusive: $75 million renovation, office conversion proposed at San Francisco’s biggest shopping mall

Westfield San Francisco Centre, the city’s largest shopping center, could see a $75 million makeover and partial office space conversion. 

Mall landlords Westfield Corp. and Forest City Realty Trust Inc. proposed this week a renovation of tenant spaces, a new facade with more glass, and three new outdoor terraces for the 865 Market St. portion of the property. The companies also want to convert existing retail, storage and meeting space into 49,999 square feet of office space on the seventh and eighth floors. The proposal requires approval from the City Planning Commission.

Numerous retail spaces in the Bay Area and elsewhere are seeking to convert to office amid turmoil in the shopping sector.

 

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