Chief Economist talks tech migration / Devil's Teeth owner enters Great Highway debate

It's Tuesday, May 11th.

Hey there, San Francisco. 

A chart published by Axios on Monday had lots of people talking. It showed that Miami was attracting tech workers, while the San Francisco Bay Area was losing them. 

“Too bad sf is no longer interested in tech and innovation. Kudos to miami. Both cities deserve whats coming,” Zynga founder Mark Pincus said on Twitter

I caught up with San Francisco’s Chief Economist Ted Egan on Tuesday to hear what he had to say about the chart and tech migration in general. 

To start, Egan made the point that the Axios chart shows percentage changes, not the total number of tech workers moving to Miami. So while Miami is definitely doing something to attract the tech-types, in terms of the absolute number of tech workers there, it’s likely a ways away from becoming the next Silicon Valley, he said. 

Egan suggested that a better way to understand migration was to look at the Chronicle’s analysis of USPS data, which showed most people who left San Francisco last year moved to neighboring counties, like Marin or Alameda. And to get a sense of when there may be an influx of tech workers returning to live in the city, Egan is keeping an eye on companies’ return-to-work policies. 

“Offices are going to reopen. There's going to be some compromise about how much time [employees] need to spend in the office. And once all that dust settles, people are going to decide where they permanently live,” he said. 

Interestingly, Egan said that San Francisco’s economy was harder hit and may be slower to recover from the pandemic than other major US cities. That’s due, in part, to the city’s deep ties to the tech industry, which has allowed more remote work and flexible schedules for employees. 

Particularly concerning is a chart the chief economist presented to the Board of Supervisors in April, which showed that sublease availability in San Francisco was at a higher rate this year than after the dotcom crash (around 2002) and Great Recession (around 2010). Such availability indicates a high number of companies are trying to get out of their lease agreements. “It's way, way worse than it's been in the past,” he said.

What San Francisco’s economy looks like in the coming years is anybody’s guess. Will there be more diversity of industry, like more financial services companies, for instance? Or will there just be a lot more tech companies filling the city’s downtown office buildings, each occupying less space than a typical tech company would before the pandemic? 

It may be wishful thinking to assume that tech companies and tech employees will return to San Francisco over time without the city making an effort to attract them back. 

When asked about this, Egan said it wasn’t his position to comment on policy matters. A spokesperson for Mayor Breed didn’t immediately respond to my questions about whether the mayor was starting to think through any such incentives. 

It’s something to keep an eye on.

And with that… onto some news… 

The man accused of stabbing two Asian women on Market Street last week pleaded not guilty to charges on Monday, including two counts of attempted murder, the Chronicle reported. For now, there are no hate crime charges against the man, District Attorney Chesa Boudin said, because “based on available evidence, we could not even prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew they were Asian, much less that their identity is what motivated the crime.” 

Interestingly, a spokesperson for Boudin told me that the District Attorney himself is representing the prosecution on the case through the detention hearing. Dennis Chow will be the lead counsel. 

“We’ve seen a wave of violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders in particular,” said Boudin outside the courtroom on Monday. “Enough is enough. I’m rolling up my sleeves, I’m doing whatever I can to lead my office toward building a safer San Francisco for everyone.”

Quick bits: 

  • 😔 San Francisco City College teachers agreed to take an 11% pay cut this year to avoid layoffs for over 160 staff members. (KQED)

  • 👨‍🏫 Among the 20,000 teachers and students in the city who have returned to the classroom since April, twenty have tested positive for Covid. City officials said “there were no cases among vaccinated teachers and staff.” (Chronicle

  • 👀 The city may soon install 350 sculptures in Golden Gate Park to remember the country’s first African slaves. If approved, the collection, titled "Monumental Reckoning," will be revealed by this Juneteenth and remain for two years. (SFist

  • 🚗 The owner of Devil’s Teeth Baking Company, Hilary Passman, put a sign in her window advocating for the Great Highway to reopen to car traffic and an uproar ensued on Twitter. Passman said she thought the overflow of traffic onto side streets actually made the Sunset “less safe.” (SF Gate

And finally… 

Did you see Steph Curry’s game-winning three-pointer last night against the Jazz? It was pretty incredible and got the Chase Center rocking (as much as 35% capacity can rock a building). 

With a Pelicans loss on Monday, the Warriors have now clinched at least a spot in the NBA’s new playoff play-in tournament. Also, something to watch, Steph Curry currently leads the league in scoring and will need to average roughly 25 points in the Warriors’ final few games of the regular season to hold off the Wizards’ Bradley Beal for this year’s scoring title. 

That's all for today! Thanks for reading y'all and we'll see you tomorrow!

-Nick B.

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