Can IKEA Save Downtown San Francisco?
I’m bored of writing about this, but here we go again. Downtown San Francisco is experiencing high retail vacancy rates because rich people are scared of people on drugs. That’s why they attend things like Burning Man, to get away from drug addicts – well, at least the poor ones. Drug-induced schizophrenia is an eccentricity if you have a trust fund. It’s only scary when it qualifies you for an EBT card.
And you may be wondering what will lure the wealthy back to the concrete jungle that is San Francisco’s urban core? Futons. Lots of futons and lamps. That’s why San Francisco is betting big on IKEA. Also the Swedish meatballs are good.
In all seriousness, this IKEA is a litmus test for the viability of Downtown San Francisco as a retail hub. London Breed is desperate for good news but unfortunately seems a little light on ideas. The new IKEA location is going to offer coworking spaces and a “Swedish deli” along with a food hall that will serve primarily plant based options. For a forward thinking city of the future, everything about this sounds like some shit from 2018.
I guess the recovery plan for San Francisco is to pretend the pandemic never happened and double down on amenities techies would have liked 5 years ago.
This probably won’t work. It doesn’t matter if the IKEA is successful or not because when the mainstream media covers San Francisco or anywhere else, facts don’t really matter very much. Each news station has a specific demographic and they will twist information to fit the cognitive bias of their target audience.
Even if IKEA finds this location to be the best place to sell a couch, if people are still dying a block away on Turk Street, do you think the ‘doom loop’ narrative is really going to stop?
I don’t imagine the news media being like “While fentanyl overdoes are at an all time high, people are still buying furniture… San Francisco is saved!”
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Because it is. San Francisco’s problems can’t really be solved by retailers or office workers. San Francisco had all the prosperity in the world a few years ago and these problems still persisted and were no closer to getting solved. By some measures, they were actually worse.
So no, IKEA can’t save San Francisco. And that’s not necessarily news. Anyone who knows anything is probably aware that the success of one major retailer will not bring back the 200,000 workers that filled the city streets at the close of the last decade.
San Francisco needs to incentivize small businesses to move Downtown with the same kind of tax credits they offered the tech companies. They need to convert office space into housing. They need to get homeless people the shelter and services they need so they stop dying on the street. Guess what that will do? Make downtown vibrant and lively. But they don’t seem interested in that, they just want to chain people to a desk so they’re forced to prop up San Francisco’s local economy without actually solving anything.
Shout to IKEA, though. I wish them all the success in the world at their new San Francisco location, but I’ll stick with Emeryville.
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Howdy! My name is Katy Atchison and I'm an Associate Editor for Broke-Ass Stuart.
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