SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — During the COVID-19 pandemic many companies turned to remote work, and more than two and a half years later, many buildings in San Francisco still remain empty.
Now, there are proposals to repurpose those buildings. State Assemblymember and former San Francisco supervisor Matt Haney, wants to turn the large supply of offices into housing in hopes it could help the housing shortage.
“It’s likely that the way people work, not just in San Francisco but all over the world is changing permanently. we’re not going to see these massive office buildings filled with people in cubicles,” said Haney.
Haney said many of the companies have announced that they will permanently keep their employees home. He said using these buildings for housing could make all housing more affordable.
“One way that we can actually increase economic development and spur our economy is by making it easier and cheaper to live in San Francisco. A lot of companies aren’t choosing not to locate in our city because of the cost of housing,” said Haney.
Haney added that he is working on how the state can make the process of converting the buildings easier and more affordable. He wants the state to streamline zoning guidelines and provide assistance.
“We can actually provide direct support and incentives to cities and counties that want to do these conversions. the governor has talked about putting hundreds of millions of dollars forward and allowing folks that apply for these to do the conversions,” said Haney.
The city of Calgary, Canada hired the architecture firm, Gensler, which was founded in San Francisco to create a system to determine which office buildings would be ideal to become homes. Gensler’s project director Holly Arnold said her team has applied their findings to San Francisco and found that office buildings built in the 50’s and 60’s are good candidates.
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“An overall building site that is very walkable and located close to transit that has access to natural light. not too much view obstruction. the shape of the building floor plan and is it easy to place units in that existing floor plan,” Arnold said.
Arnold believes creating more housing in the city could make the city livelier after workers go home.
“We see a lot of potential for this to really impact positively influence the downtown of San Francisco into a more resilient future,” Arnold said.
Haney said there is still plenty of commercial space available and he is not concerned with running out of that because of these conversions.