“I don’t believe in the doom loop,” said Robbie Silver, the director of Downtown SF Partnership, which concentrates on improving a 43-block area around the Financial District. “But for downtown San Francisco to really thrive as an inclusive neighborhood again, it needs to have a more diverse portfolio.”
“We are not giving up on office space, but we need to mix it up with residential, hospitality, with arts and culture, education, and with life sciences. That will make it much more resilient against, God forbid, any future pandemic or economic crash.”
The group has been organizing community-spirited events to draw people from other parts of the Bay Area in, including a planned “Drag Me Downtown” event, during San Francisco’s Pride celebration in June that will feature pop-up performances by drag queens around various downtown bars and restaurants.
The city supervisor Dean Preston said business was booming in San Francisco’s many quirky, residential neighborhoods that spread out in other parts of the city, such as Haight-Ashbury, which still draws visitors based on its history as the counterculture capital of the 60s Summer of Love; the Castro, long a beacon of gay communities; and Japantown, with its five-tiered pagoda and shabu-shabu restaurants.
He thinks that instead of relying on dreams of a big money tech transformation, the city’s commercial core needs to cultivate some of the same types of community spirit that make other SF neighborhoods, like Noe Valley, North Beach and the Haight, thrive.
“The model of this kind of booming tech downtown driving the economy is just not the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, in La Cocina’s kitchen, Bahloul is hoping that, as spring weather sets in, more people will come out and try some of her family’s Algerian hospitality.
“I’m asking for support from the city and the people of the city,” she said. “We’re small businesses. Come out and support us.”