Before the pandemic, San Francisco’s California Street was home to some of the world’s most valuable commercial real estate. The corridor runs through the heart of the city’s financial district and is lined with offices for banks and other companies that help fuel the global tech economy.
One building, a 22-story glass and stone tower at 350 California Street, was worth around $300 million in 2019, according to office broker estimates.
That building now is for sale, with bids due soon. They are expected to come in at about $60 million, commercial real-estate brokers say. That’s an 80% decline in value in just four years.
This is how dire things have become in San Francisco, an extreme form of a challenge nationwide. Nearly every large U.S. city is struggling, to some degree, with reduced office-worker turnout since the pandemic spurred remote work. No market was hit harder than San Francisco, for reasons including its high costs, reliance on a tech industry quick to embrace hybrid work, and quality-of-life issues such as crime and homelessness.
Many of the city’s most prominent corporate tenants, from Salesforce Inc. to Facebookparent Meta Platforms Inc., are flooding the office market with space for sublet rather than waiting for their leases to expire. The lack of office workers is rippling throughout the financial district, leading restaurants, retailers and other small businesses to lay off employees or close.
Nearly 30% of San Francisco’s office space is vacant, which is more than seven times the rate before the pandemic hit, and the biggest increase of any major U.S. city, according to commercial real estate services firm CBRE Group Inc.
Today it is hard to know just what office buildings in San Francisco’s financial district are worth, because transactions have practically dried up. A sale of 350 California promises to establish new pricing.
“We’re all really on the edge of our seats to see the first office trade in San Francisco,” said J.D. Lumpkin, executive managing director at real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.