The metaverse and more plant-based meat: My predictions for SF in 2022 🔮
12.30.21 * Circulation 3,950 * 182 members
Hey there, San Francisco.
Hope you are doing well. Our regular, Monday-Friday newsletter will resume next week, but as we approach the new year, I thought it might be fun, or at least thought-provoking, to talk through some 2022 predictions for the city.
To note–I’m not going to predict the outcomes for upcoming elections and recalls. There are a lot of those, and they will be for all of us to decide in the new year.
Instead, today, let’s talk about what's going to happen in the Tenderloin, how the “metaverse” will start to shape our neighborhoods, and why plant-based meat might pop up on more menus across the city.
So without further ado, here are my predictions for San Francisco in 2022 (that rhymed!)…
The Tenderloin’s state of emergency will be the most important story to follow in 2022.
As a brief refresher, earlier this month, Mayor Breed held a fiery press conference inside City Hall calling for an end to “all the bullsh*t” happening in the Tenderloin. A Medium post released that same day outlined a broad-strokes-plan that, in part, described “interrupting open air-drug dealing” and “open-air substance abuse.”
“We need to take back our Tenderloin,” the post read.
Some 10 days later, after a grueling 10-hour meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved Mayor Breed’s state of emergency declaration for the Tenderloin District meant to “eliminate bureaucratic barriers” and “waive certain laws” to address the area’s drug overdose crisis.
But what that means in practice and how the SFPD will enforce Mayor Breed’s “Tenderloin Emergency Initiative” remains to be seen.
For instance, if a person is using drugs on a Tenderloin sidewalk, will the police give them a citation? Will they ask them to pack up their things and move to a different neighborhood? Or, will the police arrest them?
Supervisor Dean Preston pressed Police Chief Bill Scott on the issue during the board’s marathon meeting last week to which Scott said that “we are not trying to make this an arrest-led situation,” but in a scenario where a person was “smoking fentanyl” and refusing help, “that’s not a situation that we’re going to walk away from.”
This week, SFPD spokesperson Adam Lobsinger told me that “each interaction will be handled on a case by case basis” and that “there is no single outcome that we can point to as each case is unique.”
Fair. But what “outcome” will happen most often? It’s the most important question for our city, I think, in 2022.
The city’s downtown core will continue to struggle.
If you’re looking for good news, this prediction isn’t it.
Throughout the pandemic, San Francisco has consistently lagged behind other major cities across the country when it comes to workers returning to their downtown offices. In November, when things were looking a little brighter on the Covid front, office occupancy was still just 27%.
Regarding overall “trips” downtown (which includes work commutes as well as people driving into the city for eating and entertainment), Axios recently reported that San Francisco has seen a 49% drop from the pre-pandemic figures (the national average was a 22% decline).
All this was before Omicron.
Who knows how long this recent variant will wreak its havoc? But given that many San Franciscans (and visitors) were staying away from our city center pre-Omicron, sadly, I can’t see an enthusiastic return happening next year.
The “metaverse” will start to shape our city more and more.
Pardon the buzzword. But bear with me for just a moment.
There’s been plenty of talk about the metaverse this year, but for the sake of this conversation, I liked this explanation on Twitter. Basically, rather than picturing the metaverse as a virtual place, think of it as a “moment in time” when people start caring more about their digital lives and personas than their physical ones.
Using this definition, we can see that we’re already sorta living in the metaverse. People are caring more and more about their online presence (how they carry themselves during a virtual work meeting, what their social media profiles look like, etc.) than they did, say, 5 or 10 years ago. And the pandemic (which moved people to spend even more time online) has only sped up this change.
So what does this mean for San Francisco itself?
Well, I think, the more we are online, the more of a premium we put on convenience. As in, our reliance on delivery will only further intensify.
Just this week, for the first time, I saw a Sprinter van driving around the Lower Haight for Popcorn, a San Francisco-based startup that promises snacks and “household essentials” delivered in “minutes.” Literally, there are now vans roaming our neighborhoods because people don’t want to go outside and walk to their local corner stores to pick up Kettle chips or Tylenol. I don’t mean to be a grouch. I just think it’s sorta wild when you stop and think about that.
“The change reflects a reality of 21st century cities,” Chronicle urban design critic John King wrote of the Amazon proposal in November. “Impersonal convenience is what more people choose to rely on, even in supposedly urbane San Francisco.”
The plan needs city approvals and an environmental study, which could take the entirety of 2022, but given that Amazon promises it could bring some 500 jobs, I bet it passes. And when it does, it’ll be a physical change to the city pushed forward, in part, by the “metaverse.”
One more point here, if I haven’t lost you already. Being more online doesn’t mean people will stop “going out” completely. But when they do, there will more of an emphasis on what that real-world interaction means for their online persona. Ie. More and more, they’ll be doin’ it for the Gram.
Maybe a $100 meatball sub? Nothing at this point would surprise me.
Local chains will embrace more plant-based options.
Speaking of food, here’s my culinary prediction for 2022: More plant-based meat on menus across San Francisco.
I need to caveat this and say that my wife works in the plant-based meat industry. But that’s not why I’m making this prediction.
Call me crazy, but I thought one of the biggest San Francisco food stories of 2021 was Souvla introducing a plant-based lamb option. Souvla never changes its menu! Literally, this was owner Charles Bililies’ first menu addition since opening his first shop in Hayes Valley in 2014.
And it’s selling well! Bililies told me earlier this month that since introducing the option at the end of October, Souvla had sold nearly 6,000 Black Sheep sandwiches and salads–numbers, he said, he was “very pleased” with.
I have to imagine other San Francisco restaurant chain owners saw the Souvla roll-out and are thinking about how they can offer something similar. Will The Bird release a faux-fried chicken sandwich in 2022? Or will Del Popolo start putting plant-based sausage on their take-and-back pizzas?
I have zero intel here, but again, given Souvla’s move, I’m guessing we’ll see more plant-based meat across our favorite San Francisco menus in 2022.
And finally…Tunnel Tops park will be a lot cooler than we expect.
Again, maybe I’m off my rocker, but I don’t think the Spring 2022 opening of the Tunnel Tops park in the Presidio is getting the attention it deserves.
Imagine sitting on the main lawn in the Presidio (near the Walt Disney Museum) and thinking, “I’d really like to head down to the Bay.” Come April, when Tunnel Tops opens, you’ll be able to literally walk over the nearby freeway tunnel through a beautifully landscaped park and arrive right near Chrissy Field.
Tunnel Tops (and the nearby Battery Bluff project, which is also slated to open next spring) will totally transform the Presidio area, I think. And in 2022, I imagine spending a lot more time there.
Alright, that’s all for our special 2022 predictions edition. It was fun to write and I hope, fun for you to read!
Have a safe and happy new year, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.
- Nick B.