Good Economic Development In San Francisco Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: City, Development, Economics, Homelessness, Planning, Time Management, Public, Environment

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/05

In many ways, the city of San Francisco is a model city. From a humanitarian standpoint, for it’s many shared public spaces, their unique planning, and their green economic development makes the city a dynamic place to test novel ideas into practice. Many cities look to San Francisco as a model for how they should do planning within their city. The city planning has led to a very clean, well-organized city, which in turn has attracted the likes of tech companies and also provided For me, I have always loved the city of San Francisco and seen it as a compelling city for its models of economic development. This is not to say that San Francisco is not without its problems. Because of it’s temperate climate, shared spaces, and kind policies towards the homeless, vagrancy has been and will continue to be a problem that needs to be addressed. Linked with that is drug use, namely crack cocaine, which is a big problem amongst that population. This essay analyzes the historical background of economic development in San Francisco, looks at the future trends based on current policies and recommends and estimates costs for improving policies of economic development, it’s affect on the environment, and financing options for programs that will continue to develop the city while addressing some fo the growing pains the city is experiences as it marches towards the future.
San Francisco has a long history of innovative economic development. According to the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, “San Francisco’s strength as an international center for commerce and innovation is rooted in its dynamic, eclectic past. It was not until the late 18th Century that that the city began to be settled with Europeans emigrating from other countries and parts of what is now the United States (SFCED, 2015). In 1848 California became a state. By 1865 the urban landscape had 15,000 buildings. Mark Twain called it the “most cordial” and “most sociable” of all the cities in America (SFCED, 2015). By the 19th Century, San Francisco was the undisputed leader of economic development and commerce on the West Coast of the United States. Though economic development was brought to a standstill during a 1906 earthquake and fire that burned large portions of the city, the financial district shortly thereafter continued to grow in size and volume of funds that they were managing. Even during the economic downturn of The Great Depression, there was investment made into massive civil engineering projects which created some of the city’s most memorable landmarks—The Golden Gate Bridge and The Bay Bridge, which were financed with city bonds. The next economic milestone for the city came during the 1990s, when San Francisco had its second explosion of development. Called the new gold rush, many Internet and tech companies migrated to the bay area to headquarter their operations. As of the writing of this essay, there were 1,377 bioscience companies, leading the country in economic development in this cutting edge field.
As technology companies continue to grow, economic development is expected to continue to increase in the city, fueled by rising property costs and the global economy which is increasing at a rapid pace in technology fields. The planning commission of the city is at the center of directing this development in positive and green ways. They have a general plan for growing neighborhoods that take into account environmental assessment, heritage and their plan is focused on enforcing a planning code that encourages development. (SF Planning, 2015). The environmental planning division reviews projects for their environmental impacts. San Francisco is the zero ground for a statewide initiative of having green zones which benefit the environment and allow for development to happen in ways that preserve nature. The effort, launched by The California Enviromental Justice Alliance is focusing on created green zones. Green zones “utilize a comprehensive approach to transforming communities overburdened with environmental hazards and lacking economic opportunity into healthy thriving neighborhoods.”
The policies of these codes are written to address the unique environment of San Francisco. It is a very compact city, clustered on hills around the ocean. According to the City’s planning website, “There are many issues we must face as we look to the future of our economy, work force, housing stock, transportation systems, open spaces, and vacant lands.” (SF Planning, 2015). Open spaces where people can congregate publicly is one of the hallmarks of the city. The city’s planning code ensures that with large development of property, that public space must be built by private dollars. This creates open and public spaces for community and it puts the cost on the developers, not on city taxpayers (King, 2014).
Looking to the future, The San Francisco General plan for the city focuses on development in six key areas. The first is protection. The plan is to preserve and enhance the “economic, social, cultural, and esthetic values that establish the desirable quality and unique character of the city.” From this rather lofty ideal the plan calls for specific improvements in the city by getting good standards of residence for all community members. Currently, this is an area that is lacking in San Francisco—affordable housing for everyone. The development plan calls for making the city a place where commerce and industry can be operated more efficiently, which requires a coordination of the use of public and semi-public land and facilities. This takes in to account the movements within the city of traffic, pedestrians and commercial vehicles, which are essential for development and commerce. The actual city plan gets into specific detail, and in addition to listing what they plan to do, they also provide insight into what still needs to be done to improve development in the city, such as EVG.EGY.16.1 which emphasizes the need to “rove obstacles to energy conservation and renewable energy systems in zoning and building codes” (EPE, 2015). Because of its susceptibility to earthquakes, San Francisco has particularly rigid building codes. Some of these are dated and are standing in the way in further green development projects.
One major problem that San Francisco faces for the future of development is its problem with vagrancy. Some of the very laws that make San Francisco such a green, dynamic city of shared public spaces fuel this very problem. Without doing away with these policies (since they are positive policies) the city needs to do more to address some of the problems that stem from them. The economic development has caused San Francisco to be an alluring place to open a business, but the boom has also caused housing prices to become unaffordable to many, which has resulted in an increase in homelessness (Donald, 2010). Some of the backlash of this problem in other California cities has been to “increasingly ciminalize [the] growing homeless population” (Roberts, 2013). San Francisco was among 58 other California cities that passed a law in 2010 that outlawed “sitting and lying” in public places. Some see such laws as unfair and violating human rights. While the reasons for becoming homeless are varied, some do not believe that it is fair to criminalize people for being down and out. For all the good that economic development has done for the city, for all of the green jobs that have opened because of San Francisco’s dedication to sustainable and environmentally friendly development, there is an underbelly. Chris Rober writes, “Thanks in part to housing prices and the cost of living statewide, homelessness is on the rise. The number of people living on the streets increased by 5 percent in California from 2012 to 2013, while dropping by 4 percent nationwide” (Roberts, 2013).
One solution that San Francisco should do is offer more subsidized housing for those who are unable to find a job that would pay enough fro them to live within the city. Homeless shelters should house the homeless, but they should also provide training for them. One way to finance this would be to add a 1-cent sales tax. Property taxes could likewise be put towards funding sustainable living for people living on the margin.
Worldwide San Francisco is a mecca of development. Green development and technology companies have both boomed. The public spaces provide for a pleasant environment for citizens. Looking towards the future, what must not be forgotten is that these positive things also can have negative affects on homeless in the city. There should be more community funded initiatives to combat those growing problems.


About the San Francisco Planning Department. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from
Privately owned public spaces: Guidance needed. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from
Report: California cities increasingly criminalize growing homeless population. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from
San Francisco Bay View » vagrancy laws. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from
San Francisco General Plan :: Introduction. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from
San Francisco General Plan :: Introduction. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from
The Sidewalks of San Francisco by Heather Mac Donald, City Journal Autumn 2010. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from

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