San Francisco showing signs of economic recovery

The impact the pandemic had on San Francisco's economy is well documented, but there are signs that things may be turning around. Major retailers are preparing to open their doors, and now one of the city's marquee hotels is preparing to reopen its doors. 

Some visitors say things are still slow around town. Economic experts and locals agree that there are signs that a recovery may be right on the horizon.

After nearly two years of hearing about businesses struggling to find a way through the pandemic, major retailers are now moving into San Francisco. IKEA is moving into a building on Market Street and just three blocks away, Whole Foods is putting the finishing touches on its newest location set to open in just a matter of weeks.

Rodney Fong from the city's Chamber of Commerce says there is interest in San Francisco from major retailers. "IKEA coming, Whole Foods on Market Street. These are large retailers that are occupying space that, as you mentioned, have sat vacant for quite a while," said Fong. "This is an exciting time. We think these are little barometers, little indicators of what's happening in San Francisco."

Importantly, major retailers are just the beginning. "Yes, you need those formula retail, sort of anchor tenants, and that then stimulates smaller businesses around it," said Fong.

The key to San Francisco's economy is the tourism trade, and now the hotel formerly known at the Sir Francis Drake is preparing to reopen and rebrand as the Beacon Grand. The hotels in Union Square acting like anchor businesses, bringing visitors and foot traffic to the area. "This is a landmark hotel, and a very important one to put more energy in Union Square," said Fong.

Fong points to this past weekend's Chinese New Year Parade as evidence that people want to come back to the city. "A couple hundred thousand people were in San Francisco enjoying the Chinese New Year Parade. Those are signs people want to get back into the city."

Longtime residents say they've watched businesses shut down over the pandemic, and are now starting to see signs of life around town. "Yeah, if you went down to Fisherman's Wharf yesterday it was very, very crowded. Pier 39 was packed," said Francis Howard from San Francisco.

But some visitors say while the city is coming back, it's nowhere near the levels of pre-pandemic activity. "At least for us, it feels like it's still in transition," said Priti Wirasinghe from Sunnyvale. "Last night we stepped out at about 8:30 p.m., 9 o'clock, we were hoping to get some dessert and there was nowhere to really closed. Everything seemed closed."

The chamber says the city is like a lot of little interconnected micro-economies. One of the major ones that is still struggling is the Financial District. Fong says he's hearing with the omicron surge fading, several big employers have told him they're planning on bringing workers back in person within the next two weeks or so.