Haunting Photos of San Francisco’s Desolate Financial District During Morning “Rush Hour”: Visual Effects of Work-from-Home

I’m standing in the middle of the street to take this photo. Why? Because I can.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

On Tuesday, August 18, during morning rush hour, I walked through and around the Financial District of San Francisco and took photos to document the spookiness of it all. Pedestrians used to rush to work on crowded sidewalks, balling up at red lights, then stream across the intersection, and disappear into the entries of office towers as they went, and cars used to be stuck in traffic, and thick throngs of people would pour out of the Montgomery BART and Muni Metro station.

I started taking photos at Columbus Street where it ends at Montgomery Street, and then turned south into Montgomery Street and walked through the Financial District to the Montgomery Station at Market Street. Then I zigzagged back through the Financial District.

What you will see are streets and sidewalks and entrances into office towers that were eerily deserted during what used to be “rush hour,” with just a sprinkling of pedestrians, a few cars, the occasional skateboarder, some guys working on construction projects, and curiosities where you might be tempted to think, “only in San Francisco.”

With hindsight, it was the last beautiful sunny morning before the thick acrid smoke from the wildfires moved into San Francisco.

The data of how work-from-home impacts office patterns in a city like San Francisco are grim. According to Kastle Systems – which provides access systems for 3,600 buildings and 41,000 businesses in 47 states, and therefore has a large sample of how many people are entering offices during the Pandemic – office occupancy in San Francisco was still only at 13.6% of where it had been at the beginning of March, meaning it was still down by 86.4%, just above New York City:

What is staring at us now is the haunting shift brought about by work-from-home.

The Financial District is an area of office buildings. There are also shops, cafes, restaurants, and service establishments, such as bank branches and barbers, that workers go to before, during, or after work. There isn’t much else. Other parts of the City are busy, and restaurants that are open (outside seating only) are hard to get into. But this is what office life looks like….

On Columbus Street, looking at the intersection with Montgomery Street, with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background. I’m standing in the middle of the street to take this photo. Why? Because I can:

From the middle of Columbus Street — well, because I can — looking south on Montgomery Street. To the left, the sidewalk under the base of the Transamerica Pyramid:

On Montgomery, getting closer to Clay Street.

Desolate entrance to 456 Montgomery. Note the sign on the right wall. Detail in the next photo:

On the sign, note the “Retail for Lease.” The number of stores and restaurants that will likely never re-open and where landlords will need to find new tenants is astounding:

This is the office tower:

Intersection of Montgomery and California, another main drag, so to speak. The cable car rails have been unused since March, cables turned off. Looking south on Montgomery, across California:

San Francisco without cable cars takes some getting used to. I even miss the noise from the cables and pulleys, which I’d always thought of as somewhat unpleasant — they normally run 24-7. But I get it. There are few tourists, and it’s not worth operating the cable cars for a few stragglers. Looking west on California, and there’s just hardly anyone around:

Desolate entrance to 515 Montgomery:

Montgomery and Pine Street. Where is everyone?

But some people are working because, with the kinds of jobs they have, they can’t work from home:

Montgomery looking toward the intersection with Bush Street. Finally, a few people walking:

Montgomery and Bush, looking west on Bush Street. A crowd of 1 people balling up at the red light, intently studying her smartphone:

Desolate entrance of 100 Montgomery, with our newfangled, solar-powered, wireless-connected “smart meter” in front (amount varies based on demand for parking, and you can pay by credit card because that fistful of quarters doesn’t get you anywhere anymore):

This is the 100 Montgomery tower. It’s a big building, and there should be some people walking in during rush hour, but there are not:

Across the street, 101 Montgomery. Some staff of the building hanging out in front. Otherwise dead.

This is the 101 Montgomery tower, nearly all of it just wasted space:

Looking back (north) on Montgomery, and catching the early sun hitting some of the buildings. Glorious day. Looks like Sunday morning in the Financial District, but it was Tuesday morning during rush hour:

On Montgomery, looking across Sutter Street. Skateboarder waiting at the traffic light. A crowd of one. Catty-corner, another lonesome soul waiting at the light:

From Montgomery, looking east on Sutter:

From Montgomery, looking west on Sutter. Two folks near the intersection, one left, the other right:

Entrance to 44 Montgomery. Practically crowded, with four people visible, three walking by, and a guy in the foreground working-not-from-home, watering the plants. There’s a Starbucks just to the right of the First Republic Bank branch, not visible in the photo. It was open, but I only saw a couple of employees in it:

This is the 44 Montgomery tower. Imagine what it’s like to be at your desk, alone in a huge office, alone on the entire floor, and for all you know, alone in a huge office building, except for the people taking care of the building:

The flower stand at Montgomery and Post Street. Someone is working there, but there is no huge demand for flowers at the moment. By the way the woman on the left is dressed — bare shoulders and carrying her cardigan this early in the morning — you can tell how unusually warm of a morning this was. In fact, it was a heat wave, and Northern California was burning after a large storm of dry lightning had swept through the area, igniting hundreds of wildfires. The smoke just hadn’t arrived in San Francisco yet:

The Montgomery Station, at Market Street and Post. The Muni Metro is shut down, and the turnstiles to it are shut down too. Yellow tape tells you to keep out:

The other side of the Montgomery station, entrance to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). This is normally a beehive during rush hour. BART ridership on weekdays in July was still down 89%, according to BART data. The last thing people want to do right now, those who don’t work from home, is take mass transit:

Here’s finally a lonesome soul going through the turnstile. And there was an employee-guy sitting in the info booth to the right, reading manga or something. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it:

All mass-transit systems in the Bay Area are in a life-and-death struggle — with CalTrain, which goes from San Francisco down to San Jose and further, likely in deepest trouble of all. They just don’t have passengers.

Entrance to Post Montgomery Center, at Post, Montgomery, and Market. San Francisco has lots of these weird five-street and six-street intersections due to the diagonal streets someone decided to include into the street layout back when dirt was still young. Not a soul:

This is the Post Montgomery Center. So much wasted space:

Walgreens is open. They all look like this in San Francisco now, after they got looted one night, one after the other, by an organized roving group of people in vehicles, including the six Walgreens within 10 minutes’ walk from our place.

So now, I’m zigzagging back through the Financial District. View from Sutter near Market Street. No one:

Sutter and Sansome. If you look hard and hold your tongue just right, you can see on the left the cart and belongings, including two bicycles, of one or more homeless people, with one guy standing there:

Bush and Sansome. In the foreground, an astounding number of people (two, one left, one right):

The famous Ruru smoothies cart. Open for business. Guy doesn’t speak much English, but knew, when I asked him, how to say that business was “dead.” As we were trying to communicate, an apparently homeless guy walks by, pushing two bicycles — the left with the saddle missing, but with inline skates attached to the bike. You might be tempted to think: “Only in San Francisco”:

Here’s a closeup of the situation:

Looking across Market Street — dead, deader, deadest — into South of Market. In the background, the rounded glass corners of the Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in the City:

The Battery, Bush, and Market triangle. Deserted:

But wait… Some guys are not working from home. They must not have gotten the invite to the Zoom meeting. It’s a relief to see people on a mission:

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  318 comments for “Haunting Photos of San Francisco’s Desolate Financial District During Morning “Rush Hour”: Visual Effects of Work-from-Home

  1. MonkeyBusiness says:

    I was planning to go to the city and take some photos as well, but now I am thinking, why bother? Once the cinemas reopen, I do plan to watch a movie or two at Metreon, so I’ll go the city then.

    • Rowen says:

      In areas that have reopen movie theatres, what are people actually watching, since the studios have pulled all the summer releases?

      Mulan is going straight to Disney+ later this summer for $29.99 (+sub fee), which isn’t bad for a family viewing.

      • MonkeyBusiness says:

        Mulan is the exception to the rule. I am looking forward to Tenet personally.

      • RunningJock says:

        This makes me incredibly sad but I know what is going on.
        I used to live in SF a few years ago before things hit the fan.
        I don’t think things will ever get back to what they used to be.

        • Joe Saba says:

          surely CORRUPT congress will NOT let this happen
          1% HAS TO BE PROTECTED at expense of REST(99%)

          WATCH pac $$$ VIA 503-c ILLEGAL politics

          doesn’t MATTER
          fed is ONE ruining $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$dollar

        • Logan B says:

          When you say “used to” what period do you speak of. 2019… 2008…. 1999??? San Francisco has been through so many ups and downs in it’s history and always evolves into something greater every time. Second generation local 🤗

      • Thomas Roberts says:

        They are mainly replaying old movies mainly 1980’s through 2010’s everything from the back to the future trilogy to caddyshack to the matrix movies to inception to the Jurassic Park movies. It’s very random. They are playing each entry in a movie series each week. They also just reput out stuff from last year. The biggest actual new movie right now is unhinged.

    • S cresci says:

      San Francisco has only it’s self to blame….. greed and ignoring the multitude of problems that kept getting worse skyrocketing rents , home prices the homeless getting worse and worse …. too bad San Francisco Herb Cain would be mortified to see what was once his city.charming, with characters that were fun not violent, beautiful people, wonderful neighborhoods….music shopping, art, dance the opera the ballet, the museums etc etc very sad

      • VintageVNvet says:

        You can add me to any list about SF that has Herb on it sc!
        Never lived there long, but as soon as I moved to Berzerkeley, ’68, for CAL, I began to go to The City at least weekly to see friends and family, sometimes on a Sunday morning walking from the bus terminal out to the ocean, then back to the Haight where a couple of cousins lived, etc.
        It was a lovely place indeed, one could take the bus anywhere safely, walk anywhere anytime, etc., etc.
        My fave city in USA by far, second only to the London of that era in the world.
        IMO SF WILL come back to life once again; certainly another variety of life than the last few decades of continuing degradation; hopefully a much more mellow life in some ways, but also hopefully still maintaining the vibrant social and entertainment and fine dining of the last 150 years of so.

      • SayMyName says:

        Stopped going to SF about five years ago. The combination of street crime and street sewage makes SF disgusting.

      • Maryjane Calyx says:

        “Skyrocketing rents …”

        Indeed yes, no room for creative folk, and they (capitalists and toadies) laughed at us hard. I left for the Midwest two years ago, to hell with SF.

      • MEB says:

        Sadly, it seems it is no longer Herb dawn’s “Baghdad-By-The-Bay”. I lived at Battery and Washington for over 25 years, (’74-’99) and walked these streets to work daily during those years and subsequently in the Inner Richmond,(’99-’06) I rode the 38BX and walked those same streets. I was engaged at the corner of Montgomery and Bush, in ’99, and this area, the Financial District will always be a big part of me. I left S. F. in ’06, but I miss what is no longer there far more than what I found on a visit in 2015. It is a modern tragedy…😞

      • Sewraj Awmee says:

        The tears of the oppressed have after effects in all societies. But God is merciful to those who trust and help and love and share. God bless USA again in 2020.

    • Wolfbay says:

      We blamed China for the outbreak and China blamed the US. Ironically they are both right. Arrogant virologists from both countries were involved in this dangerous “gain of function” research and were confident it could be done safely.

    • Ed Smith says:

      That will be never. There will never be a vaccine, and people will never congregate again.

      • And I’m talking everything from Red Scare to Cultural Revolution, Vietnam to Vietraq, Tesla, flat earthers, the 2 party groundhog day and other current events. What suggests people are not utterly forgetful, dependant and suggestible?

        Back on topic, if you think SF looks scary, you should see downtown Portland. War zone. Shocking.

      • Happy1 says:

        Is this sarcasm? If so you should signify

    • Mr. House says:

      “because of the virus”

      The situation was sustainable beforehand? Does everyone really have that short of a memory?

      • numbersrunner says:

        Agree. I used to enjoy visiting San Francisco. Then the city politicos started inviting in the illegals and the homeless to begin the death of the city. It looks like Covid 19 is finishing the job.

  2. Sporkfed says:

    There goes the tax base needed to maintain the infrastructure. Look
    for higher sales taxes to compensate.

  3. C says:

    Wolf,

    I’m an Airline Pilot and spend 2 nights and 3 days per week on the road domestically. I can validate your findings and add to the fact that I’m seeing this in all cities where I travel. New Orleans this past week was dead. I walked 9.5 miles Thursday afternoon with 2 stops for lunch and a coffee respectively. I talked with both of the wait staff with similar findings. Their struggling. The few places open seemed to have a decent amount of traffic but I believe this is a result of having no other place to go rather than the businesses being successful.

    There is a huge disconnect between official numbers being published, our market, housing and what is happening on the street. I can’t believe work from home is filling in the economic void.

    Keep up the good work!

    C

    • Petunia says:

      Brave man. I read NOLA is now more dangerous than Detroit. It’s too bad and too sad to see all this unnecessary devastation.

      • C says:

        Agreed, I’ve never had problems in NOLA but I stay away from the less traveled parts.

        I’m noticing everywhere that the homeless are more visible and aggressive with panhandling.

        Nothing makes me sadder than to see homeless in a nation that has waisted trillions on war etc….

        C

        • Javert Chip says:

          Why simply stand around being sad?

          Just adopt one & let us know how it works out?

        • Danno says:

          Javert Chip:

          Funny guy..real funny…

          Remember Karma.

        • Javert Chip says:

          Danno

          You might (or might not) benefit from reading Kipling’s “IF”; filling the unforgiving minute with karma & standing around looking at homeless and feeling sad just doesn’t cut it.

          Sorry.

        • Motorcycle guy says:

          C,

          Not to mention the Trillions wasted on the War on Poverty in the last 55 years.

        • C says:

          Agreed…..we’ve waged war on all sorts of stuff but never seem to win any! For the common man that is!

          C

      • Bill O’Connell says:

        Some shots are very ON THE BEACH. Many years ago I lived and worked in FiDi. My favorite part was how dead it was at night. I could walk my dog and practically not see another human. Very quiet too. Busy by day, crowded sidewalks, honking horns. Loved it. Don’t know about now. There is going to be a lot of vacant commercial real estate. Little need to build new office towers. It’s happening everywhere.

    • historicus says:

      Makes you want to buy stocks….or guns and ammo …take your pick.
      Thanks for the report.

      • RightNYer says:

        I’ve long said that when we finally have a financial reset, the only things of value will be gold/silver, aluminum (canned food) and lead (bullets). Stocks, currency, bonds, and crypto will all become worthless.

        • Bookdoc says:

          My wife would get upset when I used extra cash to buy gold and silver (back before it became ridiculous in price) and felt it was a stupid waste of money. She’s watching the news and now thinks I was smart. Not often you see that in a wife!

        • RagnarD says:

          u think current prices for gold and silver are ridiculous? if so i’m surprised u ever bought any in the first place

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Forget the PM stuff rnyr, go for the bullets, that will be the main ”currency” if we ever do really get to the point of the banks failing, etc.
          .22 especially, will be like dollars today, other calibers not so manageable because of not so common, etc., but definitely worth more as money than any PM because the PM is hard to certify, divided, etc., so will only be useful for large/major negotiation type purchases with time to analyze, etc., , not the small stuff of life that we must have.
          Someone on here suggested pot, but everyone who wants to can grow it, and same with beer and wine, even shine, etc…

        • RightNYer says:

          Vintage, my stock is mainly .22 LR, 9mm, and 5.56. These are the ones that are hard to get in a panic, as we are seeing now.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        The choice is resolved by buying stock in Remington and Winchester, among others.

    • Educated but poor Millennial says:

      Los Angeles is rebounded and I can see traffic at 70% of the pre pandemic level and growing.

      • yossarian says:

        there’s been some rebound in manhattan, too. nothing compared to what it used to be but not the ghost town it was in april.

    • Scott says:

      Here in Indiana, just north of Indianapolis, the restaurants, golf courses, soccer fields, and mini-golf facilities are full. The lakes are full of boaters. I can’t say what is happening in Indianapolis because I don’t need to go there, although there will be no fans at the Indy 500 which is sad.

      At the peak of the pandemic, Indiana was reporting 30-40 deaths per day from Covid-19 and 600-800 new Covid-19 cases per day, now we are reporting 5-10 deaths per day and 1000 new cases per day.

      • RightNYer says:

        Here in South Florida, our restaurants are nowhere near full. Are you talking about outdoor dining?

      • Happy1 says:

        Suburban Denver also probably at 80% of normal for restaurants and traffic. And COVID-19 cases here are dropping again, less than 300 a day again, similar to June. Deaths less than 5 a day, much less than the peak in April of 30 a day. The cases here are now mostly among the young and hospitalizations are 1/5th of what they were when this tore through the nursing homes here in April and May.

  4. MarMar says:

    But try driving over the Bay Bridge at 3pm on a Tuesday – different story.

  5. Groucho Marxist says:

    I pray all those vendors and landlords bought enough Apple stock to see them through this crisis.

  6. wkevinw says:

    I haven’t been there in 20 years now.

    The “socioeconomic contract/arrangement” has been altered (broken)?

    Certainly it is being seen acutely in NY, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, etc. (~Oakland?).

    The big stone buildings keep the rich away from the poor, along with security, etc. Without the economic engine running with the fuel from the rich, I don’t see the city model working. Maybe the other 50 states and “rural/suburban” citizens will be required to send a tax bailout- see NY in the ’70’s for an example.

    I have thought something like this would happen, but had no idea a pandemic would be involved.

    Thanks for the pics.

    • Javert Chip says:

      As luck would have it, the IRS actually tracks inbound & outbound migration of taxable income (AGI: Adjusted Gross Income) for all 50 states (inbound income comes from other states; outbound moves to other states).

      Based upon 2017-18 New York IRS data, in/out migration of NY AGI to/from other states:

      1) $12.6B net AGI gain to NY from 6 jurisdictions (Alaska, District of Columbia, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, West Virginia)

      2) $22.2B net AGI loss to NY from the 44 remaining 44 states (FL alone had a net inflow from NY of $2.8B)

      3) Total NY taxable income is roughly $760B; so with a net AGI loss of $9.6B (about 1.3% of the tax base). NY is literally hemorrhaging taxable income to other states.

      The 1.3%/year loss might not look like much, but inflation plus a growing economy should result in a 2-3% increase in taxable income per year. The difference between an expected 3% gain and a 1.3% loss is 4.3%… play that out over 8-10 years and you have seriously underfunded state. Note above losses are after only 1 year of Trump tax cuts, and are pre-Covid.

      Bottom line: worse is yet to come for NY (even without Covid); Cuomo understands this, DeBlasio does not.

      • yossarian says:

        yes, it’s devastating. cuomo may understand it but he’s not doing much to stop it. i voted for deblasio (i was impressed with the universal pre-k and the ending of stop-and-frisk) but de blasio is the worst mayor in the modern history of new york.

        • Just Some Random Guy says:

          “i was impressed with the universal pre-k ”

          FREEEEEE STUFFFFFF

        • yossarian says:

          yeah, well it’s true. free stuff but you need to look at the cost/benefit. kindergarten was dismissed as free stuff for a long time, too. it gets working parent’s kids an improved education and makes it easier for those parents to be gainfully employed which adds to the tax base and fights income disparity. i know it’s “commie stuff” to a lot of you, but i believe in providing opportunities to working people. it levels the playing field in a way that isn’t dependent on all the race baiting politics that have taken hold in recent years.

        • MB says:

          Oh please Yossarian,
          The effects of kindergarten wears off after 6 months.And getting more mothers out of their house? Marx the lifelong parasite would by happy you agree. The family is the first bulwark against Leviathan and we want to do everything we can to help it.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          @yossarian – yeah, the real problem is we aren’t putting those kids to work at an early enough age. Good for the GDP don’cha know.

  7. Peter Simmons says:

    Great pics – really show the impact of lockdowns that gave the impetus to work at home(WAH). This is not a “flash in the pan” – WAH makes sense both in lower cost and higher productivity. Days of handing around the “office cooler” are gone.

    • Zantetsu says:

      I can assure you “higher productivity” is not guaranteed with work at home. From what I have seen of myself and others I work with, productivity is way down. Nobody seems to work past 3 pm on Friday anymore. Used to be that many people did that but there was a core of hard workers who worked until Friday late afternoon. Now even they (we) are slacking Fridays off. And that same slack has bled into other days as well. People jump at any chance to ‘appear’ more productive (Zoom meetings included) but actual work product is way down.

      • RightNYer says:

        That is NOT the case at my company, where many people who previously rolled into the office at 9:30 are ready to go at their computers by 8 a.m., coffee in hand.

        • Steve_in_Tland says:

          I have felt/experienced both of these phenomena: the ability to jump quickly to work 8:00am, or even 7:30am without any stress, coupled with crushing unproductivity in the afternoon. I also personally feel the lack of connection with my office colleagues to be both a hindrance to smooth, efficient communication. Its also very boring if not downright dehumanizing. My company has made productivity calculations based on Work At Home, and the early findings were that the company lost X% of productivity during the pandemic (I think the number was 15%). I think the future will involve some hybrid where we work from home some days, but come in for face-to-face meetings and collaboration with colleagues once or twice a week. We will need better tools to track work hours and productivity, rather than relying on an outdated “clock-in” and “clock-out” model.

        • cd says:

          it boils down to putting a productive worker at the office previously at home, you get about 1.25 more productivity, putting a non productive worker at home you get about .75……

      • TimTim says:

        Do the Math then.

        Keep the revenue earners.

        • fajensen says:

          They are: Most managers need bodies to manage in order to extract their rather obscene compensations (and as a buffer when leaner times arrive and so on).

      • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

        I work in Telecom and have been WAH for most projects since 2000.

        I worked far harder (nights, weekends) at home because I did not want to lose the privilege of WAH and because I took my job very seriously.

        Please don’t lump all of us in w/the lazy bastards you’re referring to! :)

        • Zantetsu says:

          It’s not an all-or-nothing thing. Some people will be as productive, some people will be more productive, and some people (in my experience, the majority) will be less productive. You very well could be in the ‘more productive’ camp, my point was just to say that I wouldn’t take “more productive” as a given like the O.P. seemed to be doing.

          My experience is also anecdotal — only real careful study would suffice for determining the true effects of universal work from home. And it would have to be done by people with no natural bias towards or against work from home and with a keen eye, able to cut through all the BS that people will say or pretend to get the actual truth out.

      • Javert Chip says:

        Zantetsu

        Strongly agree.

        Further, corporations are living off a legacy of having built a team and corporate culture on years in the office. I suspect this will atrophy amazingly quickly.

        WFH is just a couple steps away from a gig economy (“we only need you on days when we need you, so be flexible”) where everybody knows each other only from the neck up, and “corporate culture” is a relic of the past.

        Corporate America has been experimenting with various flavors of taking certain jobs out of the main offices for 30-40 years; it was called outsourcing. Remember how exciting it was to get complicated tech support from a non-native English speaker?

        • Jos Oskam says:

          @Javert Chip
          “…Further, corporations are living off a legacy of having built a team and corporate culture on years in the office. I suspect this will atrophy amazingly quickly…”

          This.

          IMO, you nailed it. I have been working in teams in software development. Getting a team together and running is the hardest. You add some people, you get rid of some, until you have the “formula” where the total is more than the sum of its parts. You then have a high-energy team that can work wonders and deliver incredible product.

          I simply cannot see creating a team this way being possible in a WFH setup. So, as far as I can see, everybody and his aunt are now on the WFH bandwagon, but the deception is already built-in.

          Of course, lots of suits are already licking their chops, calculating savings on office space, travel allowance and whatnot. When reality sets in, they will be getting their heads handed to them.

          And don’t get me started on “outsourcing”.

        • Ellie says:

          Javert Chip,

          Oh so very true. I’ve been wfh for close to 6 years now. In the past, the company/teams always made sure we had in-person meetings. I’ve traveled a few times/year. Sometimes, I headed to the airport at 2am in order to make an 11 am meeting in another state, then returned home on the Red-eye. Seems silly, but these meetings were fundamental for team building. One actually got to personally know their coworkers, and the relationship with them is very different than with the coworkers who started since the travel ban.

          The other curious feature I’ve noticed over the years is that some wfh folks will seek in-person collaboration if need be/the project requires. For example, I am working on a project where it’d really be beneficial to work directly with some engineers, hunker down in a room and fully concentrate on one thing. Thus, I had planned on traveling to their locale and meet in a nearby office/hotel for a week to complete this work efficiently (and meet some folks I had not yet met). Since this is no longer possible, this work will still get done, just take a bit longer. (Also, cheaper because the company no longer pays for flight/hotel stays.)

        • RightNYer says:

          @Jos Oskam,

          I agree that some teams are less effective in person, and that CFOs excited about cost savings will suffer some negatives, but in my opinion, this will be driven by the workers. The good talent will be able to make demands, and I can tell you that they are not coming back to an office 5 days a week. I could see a 2 days in, 3 from home becoming standard, which will have the advantage of reducing traffic and making exurbs more commutable. Of course, it’ll have disastrous effects on businesses that cater to the office crowd.

      • Paul from NC says:

        That is interesting. Been in the workplace for many businesses (in tech) both monstrous (120K+ employees) and tiny (12 employees) over the last 20 years, and not once have I worked somewhere, where anything of substance got done on a Friday. The rest of the week, I would guesstimate, sees about 3-4 hours of productivity per day per worker. Not sure why all industries keep pretending and wasting everybody’s time with 8+ hour days. Think of what we could accomplish if we just didn’t have day jobs.

    • OfficeCoolervsWFH says:

      The work from home fantasy is just that a complete fantasy long term.

      It’s amazing how much gets done at the office cooler. It’s often subtle where 10 minutes might be a complete waste… but there are 2 minutes where a key question is asked, collaboration takes place, and something gets moved forward just because you connected face to face.

      Work from home productivity will continue to decline the more entitled people get. People are asking for stipends for home internet?

      I am surprised companies haven’t moved work from home employees to contractors yet. I suspect the only thing that has prevented that is the PPP program. Unless you are customer facing (what is that anymore?) or the job requires a ton of travel…work from home is not sustainable. Onboarding new employees into a work from home situation is an immediate career dead end.

      The economy won’t recover until pictures like SF get back to normal. I expect the work from home entitlement will be a great hindrance to this nations productive in 2021. The silent killer to the economy nobody is talking about right now is laziness.

    • yossarian says:

      the problem with “wah” is it will inevitably cause a shift to hiring people for lower wages who live further away.

      i was given the option of working from home or becoming an essential worker who came in every day. unlike most of my co-workers, i have chosen to go in to work. why? because it’s job security. the key to survival in the new normal is making yourself “unoutsourceable.”

      • Javert Chip says:

        yossarian (love the name; from Heller’s MASH?)

        Full disclosure: I’m an old geezer retired CFO, and, with apologies, offer the following unsolicited advice from a (supposedly) cold-hearted capitalist:

        One does not become an “essential worker” by reasonably consistently coming into the office. Period.

        One becomes an “essential worker” by reasonably consistently delivering what your managers perceive as value add.

        This is amazingly simple & easy to do, but IMHO, few people have ever actually done it: your manager has a laundry list of normal job responsibilities you & he negotiate at some part of your performance review process. At the end of that discussion, simply ask for an additional 5 value-add “stretch objectives”. I’d bet the vast majority of middle managers have never had this request from an employee in their entire management career.

      • yossarian says:

        heller yes but catch22. i literally meant a government recognized “essential worker.” i have a letter from the dhs that allowed me to pass through any gov’t checkpoints that were constructed during our curfew. i work in broadcasting and i switched to position that keeps the “breaking news” flowing which apparently is “essential.” in that way, i’m more essential than the cfo ;-)

      • BrianC - PDX says:

        Interesting take – as a SW contractor I have the exact opposite take.

        If you make yourself “unoutsourceable” you are essentially a single point of failure. Any boss worth is pay will see that as a bullseye on your back and will do everything in his power to make sure he’s covered if you disappear.

        I always tell my clients I’m here to work my way *out* of this job. I have no plans to be your build/infra/driver/kernel/installer guy for the next X months or years. I want to do a good job, hand it over to your people and get out… which usually means, if i finish a job and do good work, they find something else for me to do.

        Which means while Joe the employee is sitting in his cube being the “unoutsourceable” “expert”, I am picking up experience on their build/dev-ops infra, product architecture, and working with their marketing, manufacturing, sales and program managers. Getting stuff done, learning more about SW development/business and picking up knowledge that will get me my next job/client.

        Frankly the biggest mistake you can make in a technical field is to become “unoutsourceable”.

  8. nick kelly says:

    Wow. You know Victoria BC is not THAT deserted.
    Where is the auto traffic, you are safe in your car aren’t you?

    At some point the flood of govt money has to be at least throttled back and then we’ll find out where we are.

    • historicus says:

      If you park your car on the street expect a break in…

      • cd says:

        I would also not park near any govt. building, police station or ICE
        office….chances are it will be more than a break in….

  9. Gandalf says:

    Wolf,

    What about all the panhandling homeless people? Did they go away?

    I first visited SF in 1981, and thought it was a really neat place back then. Later visits in the 90s were awful – panhandlers everywhere, trash, no parking space, congestion, etc. I started avoiding staying in the city, usually staying across the bay and driving in for visits.

    After having lived in cities across the US, and visited numerous others, I can honestly say that San Francisco is really just a congested concrete dump by comparison. The list of cities that I’ve lived in or visited that are far better cities to live in include Boston, Denver, Reno/Tahoe area, any city in Ventura County, Seattle (1990s era, probably not now, becoming too much like SF), Vancouver, Montreal, anywhere on Maui, etc., etc.

    There’s nothing in SF worthwhile to see or do compared to these other culturally and geographically rich places. I can’t understand why you are living there still, unless it’s just from force of habit from having gotten used to your routines there.

    • Obviously Gandalf not to be too critical, you seem to be a fairly intelligent person but I must say your early comment bothered me. When you asked about the panhandler’s, homeless people?? The nature of a panhandler or a homeless person to hang out where there are people walking by so they can hopefully get a handout to help them move on with their lives. On one hand it’s a great question what happened the homeless people. But on the other hand isn’t it obvious that they left because there’s no one the Panhandle to??

      I get what you’re saying about the city, but your criticism a San Francisco especially during the time of a pandemic is in my opinion a very cheap shot! As a whole people, all people need to be much more positive and reassuring then to put down one city or another whether it’s past or present circumstances, and you just seem like a bully with no in the bully right now because everybody stuck in their homes. San Francisco may have gone downhill but still have many other cities even some that you mention on your list.

      Before you break out your keyboard again and write something critical whatever the hell you’re going to write about, maybe think this thought, the world’s falling apart not just San Francisco, and if you don’t have anything good to say don’t waste your energy or anyone else’s and say anything at all.

      • Argus says:

        Nolan, I wonder if, perhaps, you are being oversensitive? I found Gandalf’s opinion interesting to read, as was yours. There is room for a range of perceptions and, in general, the ones on Wolf’s site tend to be thoughtful.

      • Gandalf says:

        Nolan,

        If you have never lived in California, you are probably not aware of the generous and liberal politics of SF being an attractant to the homeless.

        So much so that the less liberal areas (and yes, there are still quite a few parts of California that are pretty darn conservative), like Fresno, decided to dump their homeless on SF by having their police round them up and giving them one-way bus tickets to San Francisco. There, that sure took care of Fresno’s homeless problem and magnified SF’s.

        Absolutely True Story.

        But, if you build it, they will come. All those homeless shelters and all those wonderful liberal benefits for the homeless, were like honey to flies.

        Panhandling – When I lived and worked in California, the wife of one physician I knew decided that, whenever they visited SF (which was a lot – they loved SF), instead of giving money to the panhandlers, she would give boxes of raisins instead, because that would help with their nutritional needs and they wouldn’t be “tempted” to use the money for drugs. Well, as you might expect, she didn’t get a happy face response from the panhandlers for giving out raisins.

        A couple years ago, I was in Waikiki for a convention, and was shocked by how the place had deteriorated since I had last been there. Lots of homeless people, lots of petty crime, lots of police presence in this once beautiful and idyllic tourist spot. A local told us that some cities in the mainland were said to be giving their homeless people one way plane tickets to Oahu. That would probably be cheaper in the long run than building homeless shelters and maintaining the food bank and supplies I suppose.

        Maui is also starting to get congested, but not with homeless people, yet.

        Hawaii at least has temperature controlled warm weather year round. So does Ventura County. SF can get really cold and windy, especially around the bay.

        If I want cold weather, I would want real snow and four seasons, like in Boston, Denver, or Reno

        • JBird4049 says:

          I have never understood why some think that the homeless want to be living on the street. It’s crazy talk actually especially as many of the people living in their car have jobs.

          So can anyone tell me why before roughly 1980 it was not common to homeless people, but now a million people a year are?

        • c1ue says:

          Meh.
          Your view is not uncommon, but it is false in that every city tries to push its homeless elsewhere.
          Here is an article in the Guardian from a 2017 detailing research where someone actually went and tracked the various cities’ homeless shifting efforts.
          The article even includes a moving graph showing the net flows: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/dec/20/bussed-out-america-moves-homeless-people-country-study
          Net net: homeless people in SF are there for 2 reasons.
          One is that they lived there and were priced out of a home.
          The other is that they are able to get the methadone/tourist panhandling whatever they can to get by.
          It is not because they are “shipped in” and are somehow helpless afterwards, as if these are sacks of potatoes and not people. In fact, SF ships people out as does New York, LA and other cities.

        • Happy1 says:

          @jbird,

          Court rulings regarding the rights of people to not be committed to mental hospitals against their will are a major contributor to the increase in homelessness since 1980. So is the massive increase in opoid addiction. Probably also some contribution in some cities from changes in policing, as in more accomodation and less “camping sweeps” for the homeless in many cities. And the general breakdown of family bonds which in the past would have had family members taking in people with mental illness or addiction. It’s pretty complicated. Places with generally good weather, high street availability of drugs, and a local population that tolerates unusual behavior are magnets for homeless people.

      • Panhandling used to be a profession. People went there to panhandle. It was very lucrative. Modern cities are theme parks. The streets of Disneyland are empty too.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Gandalf,

      I don’t know where panhandlers are. Only two guys approached me. One wanted to sell me drugs, and the other wanted money because I was taking photos and he thought he was in one of them. No actual panhandling. Not enough people walking by to make this worthwhile. There are a few areas in SF where homeless people congregate, and most of the photos you see on the internet about SF homeless people were taken in those few areas.

      In terms of your assertion: “San Francisco is really just a congested concrete dump by comparison.” I think that’s a great assertion. I’m really tired of getting overrun by mass tourism, and I enjoy the absence of those tourists. Now the fun places in SF, such as the shoreline, are for locals to enjoy. So PLEASE, keep spreading that assertion.

      We live a few blocks from the Bay and I swim in the Bay nearly every day, amid sea lions, seals, all kinds of waterfowl, including pelicans. It’s just gorgeous. So yeah, if you’re stuck in a hotel in South of Market, and go to the convention center or whatever, and that’s all you do, you’d probably feel that SF is just a “congested concrete dump.” But like I said, I’m glad you feel that way.

      In terms of what the Bay looks like from our place — to address your “nothing in SF worthwhile to see or do compared to these other culturally and geographically rich places” — click on the “Wolf Richter” tab on this site and it has a couple of pics of the Bay as seen from our place. This addresses your “geographically.”

      OK, here’s the link. Scroll down much of the page to get to the photos:
      https://wolfstreet.com/wolf-richter/

      • MCH says:

        Wolf,

        Definitely don’t buy the drugs, it might be a sting operation considering your prior article about the still enormous black market for cannabis. The state government figure they need to decimate the black market as much as possible, so they will go after both the demand and the supply. The demand so that they know proper taxes need to be paid… supply so that they know they need to pay up, or they will be shut down.

        And it would be boring without Wolf Street… I don’t think they let you have internet connection in the big house.

        :)

      • DawnsEarlyLight says:

        I’m still envious of ‘no air-conditioning’ required! Especially with the Heat Spell going on around you.

      • A says:

        Reporting from NYC I can tell you I’ve never experienced the serenity and beauty of Bryant Park in midtown more since the health crisis. The park that’s usually packed to the brim with tourists and office workers in a break is simply empty in all its natural beauty. A sight I could even imagine experiencing before Covid.

        So I agree with you, I want all tourists to know that NYC is just as full of homeless people as SF. It’s terrible don’t come here! Don’t crowd into our neighborhoods and return them to the way it used to be.

        • Javert Chip says:

          A

          I’m assuming you’d like our non-New York tax dollars to stay away too…

        • Zantetsu says:

          Your comments reveal alot about you, Javert Chip.

        • Javert Chip says:

          I WOULD HOPE SO!

          But then, everybody’s comments do…

        • philm says:

          A Says: From mid 1991-1994 I worked at 500 5th Ave, directly across the street from Bryant Park. At that time, the park was boarded up as it had infested with drug dealers, panhandlers etc. I think it was a private/public partnership that got the ball rolling and built the park to what it is today.
          My company ended up moving our offices to Stamford, CT in late ’94. Talk about depressing. It was fantastic to see the change in the neighborhood once the park had opened. Made it nice to come to work and fight the commute in the morning.

          I have the feeling we haven’t even scratched the surface of the long term ramifications of the ” keeping us safe” shut down approach that has been embraced so many places.

        • sdb says:

          My favorite vacation spot is the USA – NY and SF included – sometimes in the same trip .

          I hope I am still welcome .

      • topcat says:

        I am guessing “your place”wasn’t exactly cheap….

      • Jdog says:

        The problem with cities, is the numbers of people, and the competition that crowding creates. The more people you cram into a given place, the more uncivilized those people become.

        Cities are an unnatural environment, and they bring out the worst in human nature….

        • Kaleberg says:

          I’ve always found the suburbs bring out the worst in human nature. They are the least natural place for humans to live, a product of fossil fuel transportation and government subsidies.

        • Happy1 says:

          That’s an odd thing to say. Green grass and blue sky and kids can walk school. The suburbs are and have always been the American dream for young families. People vote with their feet. Given the recent urban riots it’s a funny sentiment to suggest the suburbs bring out the worst of mankind.

      • Gandalf says:

        Wolf,

        When I lived in Ventura, we had a house on the hillside that had a gorgeous view of the city below and the Pacific Ocean, and off in the distance, the Channel Islands. Palm trees framing the view.

        The house is still there. It was on the south facing leeward side of the hillside, which was what kept it safe from the firestorm that blew in from the north east of the city from Santa Paula in late 2017. All the other houses on our former street were burned to the ground, as were almost all the other houses in that hillside neighborhood.

        California waters are freezing cold year round. I imagine the water is even colder in SF, so I’m pretty sure you use a wet suit to swim in the bay, unless you are one of the true iron men of Olde.

        So I never much made use of living in a city with a beach and a harbor for boats. Lots of other people did, though, surfing (with wetsuits) was a popular pastime in Ventura. Boating was also big. I’m pretty sure you could learn to like Ventura, if you ever deigned to visit the place.

        Ventura also had homeless people, but the police kept them rousted them out of the town centers, and they would live in that nice warm weather out by the dried river bottom, where nobody bothered them, except every few years, a big rain would come and wash everything away out to the ocean.

        Yep, there was and is still a definite cultural snobbery and gradient that existed in California. It was clear, living in SoCal, that Northern California looked down upon Southern California, especially from the mighty towers of the SF-Stanford-San Jose (Silicon Valley) axis. The Santa Barbarians looked down upon the Venturans. The Venturans looked down upon the Oxnardians. The people in Thousand Oaks couldn’t care less about the rest of Ventura County.

        And all of California looked down upon Reno.

        But you know what, of all the places I lived in, the Reno Tahoe area I found to be the most fun place to be for the sort of outdoor activities I like. Low taxes too!

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Gandalf,

          We – meaning members of my swim club – don’t wear wet suits. What we do is called “cold-water swimming.” Water temp in Dec/Jan can drop below 50, and managing hypothermia is a critical skill for a lean guy like me (meaning: you have to know when to get out, which can be hard to figure out because, as you know, your power to think clearly is the first thing to go with hypothermia). But there is nothing like cold-water swimming. Once you get over the cold-shock, it feels wonderful. But you need to do at least every third day, or else you don’t get used to it. You just need to get out in time and warm up (we have hot showers and a sauna at our swim club). It gives you the best high ever afterwards, and it lasts for hours, and it’s free and legal and healthy (I suppose).

          Agreed, the Tahoe area is awesome. We go there a lot for hiking and cross-country skiing. Just three hours by car on a good day.

      • JamieKun says:

        I live in the Lower Haight and am surprised at the lack of them as well. There’s still several semi-permanent homeless camps that move around the area, but that’s a totally different thing.

        I’m just really glad there’s less tech-bro’s messing things up.

        Everything in the City seems a lot less crowded – I work for UC Berkeley, and in the Before Times, would mostly use Muni/Bart. When I would have to drive, leaving at 7:15am would mean 45 min to get to work, Leaving at 7:30 would be about 90 min. Now, I’m mostly remote, but when I do have to go in (couple times a week) I leave around 9-9:30 and it takes about 30 minutes. Same for returning – Leave around 4pm and I’m home in half an hour instead of an hour+. This includes going across the Bay Bridge and getting across Berkeley on University Ave.

        • Zantetsu says:

          Just so you know JamieKun, as a male working in silicon valley, I find “Tech Bro” a pejorative and unacceptable term. You may or may not care, but I think you need to know.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          JK, Wolf, et al,
          Didn’t SF put many of the homeless into various motels and hotels and such when this virus event began unfolding in CA and those places were empty of paying customers?
          Just asking, as I thought I read that few months back.

          Gandalf,
          The problem with Ventura is the air quality!
          Lived and worked in TO for a while in fall of 17, and the air was really bad some days, bad most days, and barely OK a small per cent of the days, and when I had to go to city of Ventura, the same thing.
          Last time through, coming down the 101 July 19, along the coast it was very beautiful, with clean air; however, as soon as I turned inland, still on the 101, the air was very bad, chokingly bad, eyes burning, etc…
          I was supposed to stay and work in office in TO for a while, really good folks, etc., but I could not.
          And to be more thorough, I lived and worked in SoCal in the mid sixties, from Santa Monica to Whittier; it was rare to be able to see Catalina from the Whittier hills in those days; a very good job of cleaning up the air starting then made it possible to see the Islands many more days by the 80s, but still today some of the worse air I have ever seen overall. ( NOT talking about pollution from wild fires, Santa Ana events, etc., just everyday pollution.)

        • Gandalf says:

          VV,
          Yes, air pollution in SoCal became intolerable in the 60s and 70s. That’s when all the environmental controls to reduce smog started, in the 70s.

          In the early 80s when I lived in LA for a few years, the smog was getting better but still there.
          By the early 90s, when I moved to Ventura, the smog had pretty much cleared, especially in the coastal areas

          California led the country in environmental regulations to clean up the air and water.

      • Robert says:

        “We live a few blocks from the Bay and I swim in the Bay nearly every day, amid sea lions, seals, all kinds of waterfowl, including pelicans.”

        Where there are seals there are also great white sharks. Sounds dangerous.

        Your pictures mirror many of the apocalyptic scenes I witness daily outside New York. All the ghost trains are on time, no one gets on , no one gets off. I wonder how long that can last?

        I note there is not much in the way of outdoor dining going on in the down-town area. Restaurants with outside dining in my area are actually packed.

        • nick kelly says:

          You are hundreds of thousands of times more likely to die or be injured after turning the ignition key than by a Great White in SF Bay.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Robert,

          No human has ever been recorded to have been eaten by a Great White in the SF Bay. However, a day before our Alcatraz swim, some tourist posted a video on YouTube that he’d taken of a Great White tearing up a sea lion right at the dock on Alcatraz, and we all saw that video just before our swim, which didn’t make us feel particularly good. But humans are not normally on the Great White menu. We’re too thin and bony.

          Obviously, Great Whites have killed people — in part because they occasionally bit into a surfboard or a kayak, confusing it with something more appetizing — but it just hasn’t happened in the Bay yet.

        • nick kelly says:

          There is something about those shark movies that unbalances the mind. After seeing Jaws I had twinges while swimming in Calgary’s Glenmore Lake.

        • yossarian says:

          ” All the ghost trains are on time, no one gets on , no one gets off. I wonder how long that can last? ”

          big problem. if we can’t get people back on the subways, we’re doomed. the few people who are commuting, seem to be driving now. during the week, there is absolutely no street parking in my neighborhood. people drive from brooklyn to manhattan rather than take the subway to work.

        • cd says:

          I have actually seen a 14ft great white while windsurfing in front of Crissy field, it was holding at the surface out by a shipping lane marker….like it was just sitting there waiting for one of the fat seals of pier 39 to swim out to sea high on chovies thrown out by the tourists who never saw one….

      • Drunk Gambler says:

        Well, now look at Walmart parking lot. Target too. Busy as hell. I see people at car dealership, reaustorants, barbershops. Highways are full of cars. America is alive.

      • mharris240 says:

        I agree with you Wolf. Been to SF multiple times and found the city and the surrounding areas to be stunning. As a photographer, I found the area to be especially fun to explore.

        3 p.m. fog rolling into SF:

        https://www.markharrisphoto.com/p314380173/h1ca3faf8#h1ca3faf8

        A friend of mine photographing a plaque within one of the old artillery tunnels in the Marin Highlands:

        https://www.markharrisphoto.com/p314380173/h1ca3faf8#h2249c550

        In the past, I found it to be just a pure delight to visit that city. I hope it all comes back.

        • cd says:

          nice pictures but that is Marin Headlands with the fog, a better picture is to hike up on top of the hill blanketed by the fog in your pic, then capture it coming into the bay, your looking north, nice hike too with bobcats, deer, cougars and a myriad of other creatures…Skyline trail…

      • baldski says:

        Amen, Wolf.

        I’ve stopped counting the different countries I’ve visited after 50. SF is number one in my book.

    • David G LA says:

      World class – museums, opera, symphony, ballet, restaurants, universities, hospitals. Not everyone’s scene, I do understand. But the blanket statement – congested concrete dump?

      • Gandalf says:

        David,

        I do appreciate those things. And, the Boston metro area has SF beat by a mile in those areas, IMHO. Way more top universities, museums, culture and history than SF. Probably you have never lived in Boston to know the difference. I have. If those were the most important things to me, I would pick Boston over SF, easily.

        From Boston, it’s a short few hours drive to all of the Northeastern United States and Quebec Province. An enormous treasure of diverse cultures, food, climate, geography, that SF and the surrounding Bay area simply cannot compare with.

        SF just has the wine country, nice, and pretty, but you can only visit so many times before you get tired of the stuck up snobs infiltrating these wine tasting centers.

        UC Beserkely is going downhill from years of neglect by California of its educational institutions. Stanford is still Stanford, but who amongst the best and the brightest of academic minds can be recruited there to the faculty with taxes and housing prices sky high? The same problem afflicts UCSF’s medical school and teaching hospitals. Yeah, those places are getting sclerotic because of that.

        • Zantetsu says:

          Nobody really cares about your SF hate though, no matter how many volumes you write about it.

        • td says:

          If you’re using a radius equivalent to driving from Boston to Montreal, a similar circle drawn around SF also has a multitude of diverse climates and cultures, food and geography. For example, the Appalachians are pretty puny compared to the Sierra Nevada. However, in my experience, the Great Boston Desert is notable for the herds of wild camels and nomadic tribes.

        • cd says:

          are you kidding me, the NE has nothing compared to the Mendencino, Sonoma coast, the Sierras, Big Sur and Monterey, Tahoe, Lassen, Trintity Alps, Redwoods, the east side of the Sierras…..

          its almost comical and yes I have been to the NE……

        • Happy1 says:

          The landscape, natural beauty, and climate of the bay area, and the 3 hour drive range natural attractions beat anything on the east coast by a large margin. The quality of local produce and food culture is the best in the country. The intellectual environment is inquisitive and open, and the best scientific minds in the world are at work there. There are enormous problems relating to affordability, and the city itself is much dirtier and seems to have given up on the homeless problem, and the tech monoculture is not beneficial to the overall creative climate, but SF and the bay area at large are the most expensive part of the US because people voting with their housing dollars made it that way.

    • SaltyGolden says:

      Gandalf,

      This is the most hilarious comment I’ve ever seen on WS, well done.

      I was particularly tickled by “There is nothing in SF worthwhile to see or do compared to these other culturally and geographically rich areas”.

      Keep ‘em comin’!

    • Binomial Distribution says:

      Gandalf, your post is similar to my experience. Ten years ago, I had to work in NY for a few years. I was surprised to not find the filth, petty crime, and panhandling in Manhattan that I saw in SF.

      • Escher says:

        You will see that soon enough, as the “defund the cops” initiative makes its presence felt.

    • cd says:

      that is funny, Ventura county? its a gang banger mexican fiesta done large….

      Reno-Tahoe….really laughable….nothing there….

      Denver, LA with a mountain backdrop…Maui, L&L barbq and some expensive condos?

      The problem with most folks going to San Francisco is they stay downtown as there are no hotels in the neighborhoods surrounding it….
      Some great little enclaves thru-out the city….you just need to get out and walk…..downtown is not a starting point, its the place for tourists who come in summer thinking it will be 80 degrees…….

      • Gandalf says:

        cd,
        Congrats on fitting so well into the typical stereotype of the chardonnay drinking Northern Californian Snob sneering at the plebes of SoCal.

        Thousand Oaks, in Ventura County, is the home to Amgen and Baxter, two big biomedical companies. Most likely you’ve never heard of them since they’re not named Tesla

        Camarillo is home to Vitesse Semiconductor. Sorry, not named Tesla either

        The largest single employer in Ventura County is the Naval Base Ventura County, at three sites adjacent to Oxnard. It’s the main center for naval weapons testing and development, e.g., missiles, radar guidance, etc

        And yes, there’s still a lot of farming in Ventura County, thanks to the rigorous efforts of No Growth activists who don’t want Ventura County paved over and turned into another Orange County. Farmland has remained farmland.

        The strawberries and Asian pears are especially good and fresh in Ventura County. Avocados grow in a lot of peoples yards

        You might want to reflect on how you think about the people who slave away in the fields to put food on your table. Yes, the vast majority are Hispanics

        • Anthony A. says:

          T.O. and the surrounding areas are beautiful. I lived there 12 years (1980 – 1992). It was the safest city in Cal when I arrived. I’m sure it’s a bit different now. Hidden Valley near T.O. is absolutely charming and a hidden gem.

          I’ve been to SF many times and it seemed a tourist trap and not very appealing (to me). I’m not a fan of crowded places so I couldn’t appreciate it for what everyone says about it.

          I’d love to move back to T.O. but after leaving decades ago, I am now priced out of it. Maybe when the air is let out of the RE Balloon, I could see my way back into a home there again.

        • Tony says:

          WTF is T.O.?

          WDPAUFA?

          (Why do people always use F—–Acronyms?)

        • Gandalf says:

          T.O. = Thousand Oaks. It’s a term used mainly by Ventura County residents and former residents, our own secret language, but really not that hard to decipher.

          The best part of Ventura County are the public schools, especially those in the eastern half. Oak Park, TO, Westlake Village, they are among the best public schools in California.

          Ventura County is a great great place for families and kids, not so much for singles wanting a nightlife and swinging singles scene.

          The cities are distinct, and the county still semi-rural, so there’s still the feel of the old bygone Small Town America, instead of just being another faceless souless Suburbia USA

      • Happy1 says:

        Denver isn’t LA at all, although there is sprawl. It’s got a much more Midwestern flavor and is far less diverse. It’s very livable and currently my happy home. But we loved our time in SF in the 90s. My wife is a native of the Richmond distance her parents are still there. Delightful place, just not a place for people with less than a few million anymore unfortunately.

    • Lee says:

      “anywhere on Maui, etc., etc.”

      When was the last time there?

      Has the number of homes and people exploded in the Lahaina areas like it did all over Oahu?

      I doubt that the areas ‘up the hill’ or near the beach have changed much…………..

      And in other Hawai’i news, it looks like they have copied parts of the Melbourne lockdown.

      Hawai’i is mow in another month long lockdown………………..

  10. Petunia says:

    New York City looks the same as SF, the only thing open are the banks.

    We had planned to attend a family wedding this past June in NYC, I was relieved when it was scaled back to just immediate family at home. I can’t think of anything that would lure me back there again.

  11. MindWerk says:

    Here in NYC is mostly the same, although not as empty as SF. On contrary, traffic around the city through queens, brooklyn and long island is horrible, not sure where people are going, maybe tired of staying inside and just going for a drive.

    • Old School says:

      I am not much of a real estate investor but aren’t all those buildings assets on someone’s books based on their rental income. If this goes on too long won’t they all have to be written down in value based on the new projected rental income.

      • RightNYer says:

        Yes. The coming collapse of CMBS is a ticking time bomb that has the potential to bring down the rest of the economy. Unless of course, Jerome decides to start buying all of those too.

        • cd says:

          well, better be prepared as they already have 2 bills in congress to rescue the fat cat landords of CMBS…..

          all 520 members of both houses or whatever the number is now
          are just a bunch of sheeple flocking scum…..like the debtpushers of banks…..they take from the sheep and watch them get flocked daily….

        • RightNYer says:

          CD, yeah if that passes, I’ll be even more disgusted with this country than I already am. It seems that the current philosophy is that no one should suffer any consequences for taking on risk. All that means is that every bailout sets the seeds for the next, larger bailout.

          It seems that everyone knows this is unsustainable, they just don’t care.

        • Mr. House says:

          “The coming collapse of CMBS is a ticking time bomb that has the potential to bring down the rest of the economy.”

          Why do people still make assertions like this? Nothing will ever go down in price again, bailouts to the moon alice. In 2008 you could be forgiven for thinking that things may go back to a normal state. After 12 years of printing at the first sign the stockmarket has a sad, you should know better. CMBS will be bailed out.

        • RightNYer says:

          Mr. House, I guess we’ll see. I think the appetite for more bailouts is waning, fast, and if the Democrats sweep, I think you might be surprised.

  12. noname says:

    They’re coming…
    I’m calling on all of Flyover Country to establish an Entrance Tax for any newcomers.
    Quickly!

    • tom10 says:

      It’s to late. Our little main street is slammed.

      • Anthony A. says:

        They are even showing up in Texas. (Maybe they will go to Austin?).

        • Erich says:

          They’re already here. A few years ago a new hamburger stand started opening all over the DFW area …. a hamburger stand called In-N-Out Burger. It seemed that there was so many people moving from California to Texas that they brought their hamburger chain with them. At first there were HUGE lines blocks long to eat there but now those lines are gone. This is Texas and in Texas it’s Whataburger!

        • noname says:

          Your former governor lured them in, i.e. Toyota about 6 years ago.

        • SaltyGolden says:

          Erich, thank you for hipping me to the location of an In & Out that doesn’t have a heinous line.

        • 728huey says:

          At the start of the 2010’s, Kanye West started a Fatburger franchise on the south side of Chicago, but it closed after a couple of years.

    • Winston says:

      “I’m calling on all of Flyover Country to establish an Entrance Tax for any newcomers.”

      I’d prefer walls around the nests that they’ve soiled to prevent their exodus because when they move to red states they too often bring their nest-soiling voting habits with them, apparently not realizing or being too arrogant to admit that it was their nanny state preferences that led to their problem. As an example, Colorado was fairly reliably red until 2004.

      • Yertrippin says:

        Oh please. But be sure to build them after the hordes of your scaredy cat kinfolk scamper back to them there hollers and dust bowls.

        Somehow people conveniently forget the population of California in large part came from flyover states. Including many the homeless. Gasp. But keep being divisive. It’s going so well.

  13. Paulo says:

    Unreal photos. Unreal.

    I had to spend a few days this week in a central Vancouver Island city and it looks quite normal compared to your images. I talked to a kid I know (36) who is a fleet manager for a big Ford dealership and the last 6 months have been the busiest of his career. We are having quite a few mtgs with lawyers these days and except for the masks and distancing in a boardroom it is all quite normal. However, work that can be done at home by employees is being done at home.

    It just goes to show how crucial financial work is /sarc.

    This would be an excellent time to make some movies down there. Too bad it isn’t possible. Nice to see the road work getting done. Too bad there’s no tax revenue to get more done while there is no traffic. Good luck with the smoke to all you Bay Area residents.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Paulo,

      These are office buildings in the Financial District, which is an office district. It doesn’t have much else, other than cafes, shops, bank branches, and other things that office workers frequent before, during, or after work hours.

      Nothing to do with car dealers or Home Depot or the beach. The beaches were packed last weekend (it was hot). The restaurants that are open (outside seating) are hard to get into. Package delivery (ecommerce) is hugely busy. People are doing lots of stuff. They’re just not going to the office.

  14. No Expert says:

    Looks a bit like that fake show city in north Korea. Do we need to perhaps consider there is not a solution? Tax this, ubi that, wazoo level debt, mmt, print /QE… Is there actually a lever to pull that fills the offices snd malls and land fills?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Modern office buildings can be converted into residential buildings since the structure is so flexible. I have seen them do that in Manhattan quite successfully.

      • MCH says:

        In SF, there is no shortage (or soon there won’t be) of newly opened buildings. How long do you reckon before Twitter slims down their footprint on Market, or Uber, or Lyft…

      • Olivier says:

        Yes. I lived in one on Broad St for a while.

      • LeClerc says:

        Really?

        What about HVAC, plumbing, electrical, elevators, and internal structures?

        Residential conversion of a modern office tower is expensive and complex.

        Oh, and there are few services and no space for any in high-density CBDs.

  15. Engin-ear says:

    Did it feel like I Am Legend (2007 movie with Will Smith)?

    The sequel is scheduled for 2021.

  16. MiTurn says:

    Great photo-journalism. An image can speak a thousand words. Good idea and I’m glad you did it.

    Can you do NY next?

    :)

  17. Mike says:

    Wolf I read a similar story about NYC where New Yorker James Altucher issued a self published essay last week. He said “New York City is dead forever” and he calls the new paradigm AB “After Bandwidth”. If we tried to work form home (WFH) back say 20 years ago we just didn’t have the bandwidth wireline or wireless to do it. Today’s high speed broadband enables WFH like never before.

    • MiTurn says:

      “Today’s high speed broadband enables WFH like never before.”

      Mike, excellent point, which I never considered. Ergo, high-speed bandwidth is potentially transformational and can normalize WFH.

      This might even unleash a new generation of entrepreneurs in ways we (or I at least) haven’t considered.

      Food for thought, thanks! This is why I read WS.

  18. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    Portland is not nearly this deserted as our new Paul Krugman inspired economic program of nightly protests keeps the wheels turning. Plenty of people around from 8:00 pm till 2:00am protesting. Then in the morning lots of city workers and contractors show up to clean up, pressure wash graffiti and put new plywood over the windows.

    • Gert7to3 says:

      Portland is both sad and puzzling. It seems to me that BLM has made its point. Further protests are being hijacked by bad players. BLM seems to playing into the president’s hands. The solutions to preventing further WTF moments like George Floyd’s execution will come from legislation not from the streets.

      • MiTurn says:

        I think that it is a self-feeding phenomenon.

        Making memories I guess…”I remember back in ’20 when me and my bros owned the night..yup, them good old days.”

      • Gandalf says:

        A physician I knew who was not from Portland but had done his residency in Portland, once described the place to me as “inbred”, sort of like the hillbillies in “Deliverance”, but on a higher functioning mental level.

        Never been in Portland longer than driving through on the freeway between Seattle and California, but, after watching bits of “Portlandia”, I am not that surprised.

        It does seem to be a culturally and ethnically inbred sort of place, trying WAAAY, WAAAY too hard to establish itself as cool and hip and relevant to the rest of the country, when in fact the rest of the country couldn’t care less about it and the only thing they manage to establish is that they look like idiots.

        That’s my explanation for the continued rioting going on in Portland.

        • Zantetsu says:

          Holy crap dude now you’re dumping on Portland? Do you spend your entire day writing treatises about how awful other places are so that you can feel good and smug about wherever you happen to be right now?

        • Gandalf says:

          Zantetsu,
          So, what are YOUR explanations for the idiocy going on in Portland?

          In Atlanta and Houston, their Black mayors made clear their sympathies for the BLM movement, but also that the protests needed to stop and that violence, rioting, and takeovers of the streets would not be tolerated. And things cooled off

          In Portland, it’s mostly White people, in the city leadership and out on the streets. This isn’t just the usual misguided liberal groupthink.

          I don’t know what it is, really, but “Portlandia” gives me the ckyes to think that it’s really all about the whacky Portland culture, not BLM, for sure

        • Having observed the last 20 years of change in Portland, I posit that you may be confusing “culturally inbred” with self-selecting concentrate of hipster in-migrants.

        • Lee says:

          Zantetsu says:

          “Holy crap dude now you’re dumping on Portland?”

          Actually, Portland is crapping on itself for the whole world to see and doing a good job too.

          Great ads for the BLM advocates, the Democrat Party.

          Lot’s of great places to live around the world and very few of them are in the USA.

          Maui, Hawai’i (maybe???) and Marco Island, Florida are the only two I can think of and then you still have to put up with all sorts of the usual USA bs.

          Hawai’i – nice beaches and beautiful weather spoiled by the idiots running the place compounded by crowding on Oahu.

          The rest of the world – lots of great places to live depending on your stage in life, assets, income, and abilities.

          Australia – still a good place, but was much better 30 years ago. Great place to live once you make it to retirement age if you own your own home. Costly and gradually becoming more and more like the USA over the years – mostly the bad parts though.

          Currentlly closed for most immigration and I doubt that most people reading wolfstreet would be able to get a visa and if they did it would take several years.

          Even marriage visa application approvals are taking 2 1/2 to 3 years, cost around A$8000, and have a time limit which means there are a large number of people that are losing them as they can’t get into the country right now.

          We even speakie a language that you can mostly understand!!!

          Caribbean area islands – Barbados, BWI, US Virgin Islands (some parts), and even Grenada. Why do you think all the ultra rich want a place in the area?

          Japan – a great place for a young person to live a couple of years and get some overseas experience.

          Also a good place to live if you are never going to leave and and can put up with a lot of crap there, but given the huge changes to taxes, pensions, and health care costs along with the current bs regarding entry and exit of foreigners, pretty much off the map for anyone with money, in their 50’s or 60’s or expecting to get some money in the future.

          Langauge problems for those that don’t READ Japanese or speak much of it as well, although that has changed a lot over the past 40 years.

          So take your pick – lots of nice, safe places to live with good weather, education systems, and health care that beat the pants off anything in the USA.

      • Yertrippin says:

        How clever.

    • MCH says:

      I would roughly guess that the suburbs around Portland are probably ok. Although these days, the Pacific Northwest, at least the largest cities are starting to get weird. Having been to Seattle and Portland a bunch of times on business, it’s strange to hear about it as if it’s some weirdo land.

      I remember right after Trump in 2016, we were at a conference in Portland, and that was right after they had “protests” there. The city center looked pretty calm, now it sounds like a war zone. But these are regular features of cities. Oakland has those every few years to protest something. It use to be riots around whether the Raiders won or lost, now it’s about other stuff.

      It’s too bad, I hope those cities don’t turn into the next Baltimore or Chicago. Having been there more than a few times in the 2000s, I don’t want to wish that kind of circumstance on any city.

      It’s weird though, riots in this country has become so normalized that you don’t even hear about it on the news any more, and woe be to those who actually call it for what it is, a riot, the new mediaspeak is “peaceful protest.” Yep, I remember in the old days when those kinds of “peaceful protests” would get you thrown in jail… ha ha, or shot at by Korean store owners a la Rodney King riots.

  19. LifeSupportSystem4aVote says:

    Haunting photos is right. Some are reminiscent of scenes from the movie “The Omega Man”. I expect CMBS are going to take off like a rocket, based on all the other bassackwardness in finance going on now.

    Thank you for doing this, Wolf.

  20. Stan Sexton says:

    Perfect time for an updated version of Bullitt.

    • California Bob says:

      +1 for correct spelling of ‘Bullitt.’ I’ll loan them my car for the chase scenes, but only if they give me a new one afterward.

      • LifeSupportSystem4aVote says:

        Rhetorical question: How cool would you imagine the chase scenes in a Bullitt remake would be if they used EVs?

  21. Lynn says:

    All those people you miss are up here. Please take them back.

  22. andy says:

    Good old times, not smokey at all.

  23. Nathan says:

    Well that’s why SF is crushing the virus Wolf cause everybody’s staying home ha ha.

    Before the recent smoke Valencia area had a really good vibe. People masking up, having a beer outside and enjoying less crowded SF.

    • Yes Nathan, I was there. Valencia was one of the streets they close down successfully. Not everybody would agree with my statement, but it help to hang on to some normalcy during these horrific times. We all have to be vigilant, stay safe and healthy, where are masks and drink lots and lots of water. Take care my friend

  24. Candyman says:

    Boston is the same. The seaport and business district is dead, and dying. My shop in the business district is open, doing 25% of sales…not enough to cover the overhead. Living on HOPE that we reopen to 35_40% in Sept. Eleven of twenty five shops in my area have closed permanently. Also, did you notice these are Democrat mayors. Boston , my opinion, is purposely being hampered to aid the Biden vote in Nov. The greater the economic destruction, the belief is , it will help Biden.

    • gert7to3 says:

      Covid-19 seems to be having its own renaissance in the Republicon states, Florida and Texas particularly.

    • Ghassan says:

      Sorry your shop is not doing well Candyman but most restrictions are imposed by the governor which is a republican as you know and all cities and towns including Boston mostly following them. Plus this is Massachusetts we are talking about, any democrat will win the presidential vote regardless of the economic or health situation.

      By the way do you sell candy? I will look for your shop next time I’m in downtown 😂.

      • Candyman says:

        Yes…chocolate! And yes you are half correct about policies made by a Rep . Gov. If only those polices were followed by the Mayor. He always extends the phase openings and actually pushes the concept that we can’t reopen safely. we need to swing back to a new way of operating, I know life changed,, but the new WFH is also extreme, and will have major economic repercussions. It’s nice to walk in the park, or go swimming in SF without crowds but the foundational economics can not be supported when no people are around. Converting to residences sounds lovely, b it remember , you are asking for more people. Maybe not the volume of people, but again, the tax base will change and so will the social programs is once supported. Agreed also, yes mass. Will vote Dem!

    • MiTurn says:

      Candyman, take pictures and send them to Wolf!

      Few of us, right now, can go there…

  25. KGC says:

    The parking meter made me smile.

    Many years ago I worked for a old gentleman in Downtown L.A. who owned a square city block a couple blocks from the convention center. He’d been in business there since the 1920’s. Transamerica was building their landmark building at the time and tried to get him to sell so they could use the area for parking. He didn’t think much of the idea. The mayor applied some pressure and the fight got nasty. There wasn’t much give in the old guy.

    So one Monday morning we showed up for work to find a new set of parking meters on “our” side of the street. This wasn’t a problem for employees, we just parked inside one of the building anyways due to vandalism. But it was a problem for customers, since the parking wardens were stationed to ticket anyone who failed to pay.

    Strangely enough the Mexican Peso at the time was the same size as a 25 cent piece, so the next Monday when we opened we had two new employees. He hired these kids to go around feeding pesos into the parking meters.

    It took less than a month for the meters to be removed.

    • Haha! GREAT STORY, I vaguely remember hearing about that. Way to fight back against the establishment, especially when the establishment takes advantage which is what they really good at doing. It’s funny, I grew up knowing that everything has a price and I’m sure whatever they might have been offering this old guy just wasn’t enough. A good negotiator will always find out what truly is in a person’s heart and help to appease that instead of just try to bully over them and give him a fraction of what the deal might be really worth. I remember that happened in San Bruno California a number of years back when they were bringing in Bart. Many homes had to be destroyed to add a part of the BART line. They had to pay the homeowners and instead of offering them a decent amount for their homes low balled them big time. Sad but when you look back on History that’s the kind of crap at the average Joe or Jane has had to endure. And people always wonder why the Mob back in its heyday was so popular by the people.

      • California Bob says:

        For another perspective, when the State of California wanted/needed to widen the narrow two-lane highway in front of my parent’s ranch property they offered $150,000 for an acre (which, of course, they could have seized by imminent domain if they had chosen/needed). At the time, farmland in that area might have fetched $50K/acre on a good day. Maybe “government isn’t ALWAYS the problem.”

        On the downside, the sleepy two-lane is now a wide four-lane with a large median, and seems to be a favorite for the local would-be drag racers (somewhat ironic because a CHP office sits right at the corner where they launch).

    • Macro Investor says:

      Good story. I would have given the kids 50 bucks to go knock the meters down with a sledge hammer.

    • Paulo says:

      We used to use slugs from electrical junction boxes and panels in candy machines about 50 years ago. Those darn machines are certainly more sophisticated these days and not so easily fooled. (Not that I’ve tried. Honest).

    • Tony22 says:

      And, the old Post 1980 hand crank meters accepted tab tops off soda cans which either gave you time or were disabled. Doesn’t work anymore with new meters, but since California state law says that motorists cannot be ticketed at broken meters, anything you jam into the credit card slot will do the job: Chopsticks, coffee stirrers, gum, aluminum foil, junkmail, such room for creative reuse and recycling!

      Even though the streets are deserted the parking meter enforcement is working still. That cash cow has now become a liability as the meter maids are costing way more than they bring in.

  26. Boomer says:

    Oh yes gone are thousands of commuters rushing on and off the morning and afternoon Caltrain fleet. In the old days many were accompanied another high tech casualty, the latest print editions of the WSJ, morning Chronicle with Herb Caen and the afternoon Examiner they bought from from the disabled old timer at 4th and Townsend.

    Kerouac – October In The Railroad Earth. Great little YouTube,

  27. Wes says:

    Thanks for sharing Mr. Richter!

  28. Frank says:

    Starting to look like a ghost city in China. I’m surprised the homeless haven’t set up their tents along all the sidewalks there yet.

  29. Mike M says:

    I used to travel to SF several times a year from LA for business, I always loved the hustle & bustle of the city and the energy. I can’t imagine what it would be like walking through a ghost-town like that.

  30. deplorably stanley says:

    Downtown Seattle the same. Few cars or pedestrians, boarded up shops, for lease signs everywhere; businesses closed, empty, locked up. Only the homeless out on the streets.

    Very eerie indeed. It’s been like this for months.

    • C says:

      I live in a community south of Seattle and over a bridge! I was just in our little downtown area and it looked very normal. I noticed driving around for lease signs an every building. I’m guessing the problems are much deeper than a visual inspection of dinners at local eateries!

      C

    • Jdog says:

      By comparison, I live near a mid sized “conservative” city, and you could not tell anything is going on… Activity is the same as before the virus.. Still way too much traffic for my liking…

  31. Live in Berkeley says:

    I live just across the bay, and used to work in SF, but from home since March. For a staycation about six weeks ago my kid and I spent a Saturday night at the Hilton on Kearney, across from Chinatown. Chinatown, too, which normally is a beehive of activity, was relatively deserted. Took walks up Telegraph Hill and Russian Hill. The usual walks. Had the place to ourselves, practically. How the ‘adjustments’ occur over the next couple of years is a bit omenous. But maybe, once we get past the pandemic, folks will see the advantages of working together.

  32. Endeavor says:

    There was an article today in the local Detroit rag. Just the usual boosterism but pointing out that most of the big construction projects will be completed in spite of covid. Of course, many projects have been underway for 5 years or more as they slow walk them with their eyes on the economy. They tore the old J.L. Hudson building down back in 98 and for many years it has been an open pit with a scattering of workers. People around here really believe that this is just a temporary speed bump.

    • Old School says:

      Big recessions can change life forever. We will come out of this and some things won’t make sense any more and will die. Maybe commercial real estate will follow malls down the tube. There are only so many resources in the world and sometimes recessions force us to say hey that’s not affordable anymore. Technology may have made most commercial real estate obsolete.

  33. Sparx832 says:

    As someone who has traveled down Montgomery Street literally thousands of times over the past 23 years, I can also attest to “the spookiness of it all”. And while there’s definitely more traffic during the evening rush hour, it’s still a far cry from days of yore.

  34. joe2 says:

    Quick, call Snake Pliskin. A good time to film Escape from San Fran.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      At the beginning of the pandemic, the next Matrix was being shot in San Francisco. I went out one night, thinking (stupidly enough) that I would catch Keanu Reeves in action, but the production company shut down a ton of city blocks, so I could only see “explosions” from afar. There was also one scene where a number of helicopters were used, and that’s about it.

    • VarAway says:

      No! Do a remake of that great ( and sad ) 1959 movie
      ” On The Beach ” of the book of Nevil Shute, about a
      nuclear WW3 setting, where a US nuclear submarine
      returned to California, ( from still safe Australia ) SFCO
      in order check if there were any survivors left…..

      You could see the diserted streets just like in Wolf’s pics.

      Thanks Wolf for showing us the SFCO of today!

    • Gandalf says:

      Joe2,

      FYI, Escape From New York was actually filmed in St. Louis.

      I was in med school there when they filmed it and the newspapers had calls for extras for the movie, and also mentioned that St. Louis was picked because it was easier and cheaper to film in than New York City and looked even more decrepit and desolate.

      And yes, the central downtown regions of St. Louis were pretty desolate at the time, with numerous abandoned old building. They later manage to do an urban renewal on it to revitalize the place.

  35. Sea Creature says:

    Yep.. a couple months ago we brought our motorhome right into the SF financial district and parked it on streetside parking (meter cost a couple bucks) during a day visit.

    Easy peasy, no traffic highway speeds across the bay bridge and no traffic in town, with empty parking spaces on most streets anywhere downtown for something that big.

    If San Francisco could always be this easy, almost makes me want to go for another visit :-)

  36. historicus says:

    The geography and elevation changes in SF are just amazing to a flat lander like me…
    The chilly foggy great little restaurants and bars….so neat…
    but that was 15 years ago.
    I am glad I went. Picking out great cities to visit and walk is a great passtime…
    Austin, Vancouver, San Fran, Boston, Charleston…
    glad I visited….when things were good. How did things go bad?

  37. Kasadour says:

    Mr Richter: To see tiny details in photos, all one has to do is pinch and expand. Holding on to your tongue -[just right] and is so last century. :-pp

    Drollery aside, this is just tragic on so many different levels. Today, there was ANOTHER Proud Boys street protest with Antifa counter-protesting, in downtown Portland. Once they all go home, the city reverts to something like the desolate dystopian hellscape shown in the pictures of SF. How much stress can a city endure, and still be viable? By looking at these pictures, it appears that the stress is already too much, and the age of urban city life is in for some extreme life style adjustments.

  38. Mickey says:

    So nice to see the bay back to how it was before the techie invasion. Perhaps they’re gonna leave for good. Fingers crossed!

  39. polecat says:

    WoW! Those images might as well been lifted out of the film ‘the Omega Man’, Wolf … they’re rather eerie. First, it was dead malls!.. now its dead office space
    .. waiting to become the dawn ..of the Dead Suit and Tie??

    Who needs to don Power Clothes ..when you’re wearing sweats, in the luxury (Truly!!) of one’s family room, noshing on leftovers..
    So let’s chop-off a couple more ‘industries, and their ancillary knock-ons, because of the collision between humans .. with their pecular psychologies/particular genomes .. and a nasty bioform.

    Similar, but varied, instances will be coming to a community near just about everywhere, I suppose.

  40. Norma Lacy says:

    Thanks for the photos Wolf. I lived in SF (and surroundings) for a decade or so back when one could still find a parking spot and afford to park in it. Used to ride the cable car to work/school – so long long ago. I have to say that one of the prettiest city sights I’ve ever seen is the night time view of all the bridges lit up – Golden Gate to Bay to Richmond – a huge diamond bracelet. It was a fun city then- art music literature – people having fun in some Truly Great Jazz clubs. Miles Davis at Basin Street West. ah yes. Hopefully some day it will be back to its former glory. With way less tourists. Last time I was there I couldn’t even get near the cable car and Carol Doda was gone.

  41. RickV says:

    Great photos Wolf. It really brings home deserted US cities office districts. I hadn’t realized how bad it is. I also saw your photos of the Bay. I knew the area, just above Fisherman’s Wharf, I believe. A friend of mine who was a very successful commercial real estate agent rented a house there (from the view it could have been the same one) back in the 80’s. It had an elevator from the garage up to the main house. I won’t say what he paid, but his Father told him “Well, you won’t have to worry about taking it with you when you die”.

  42. TimTim says:

    Meh,

    A pause in time.

    The tide will turn.

    Human beings are, sadly, herd animals.

    Those that didn’t run – and as time tell – will do well in these cities.

    Let me put it a different way;

    The coffee boy who kept coming to work, the cleaner, the minor guy who manages that account you really didn’t give a s*it about,

    well, they are the parts of your company that are still here.

    If you are fighting for you’re dreams, your company that you’ve given so much up to make work, are you really going to care about those guys and girls whose values were elsewhere?

    The untold thing here is that working from home sorts out those you want to keep and the dead wood.

    Simply put, there are many better qualified, hungrier, personnel to hire now.

    Let the runners go. They obviously want a better life somewhere else..

    • TimTim says:

      To finish,

      If you have company that you have given blood to, you are going to feel it viscerally with this current downturn and, right or wrong, the people you can see are just going to count more to you long-term. They just were there with you through it.

      Absent those with core skills,obviously, the rest can be replaced.

      And, F*ck it, why shouldn’t they.

    • TimTim says:

      post scriptum

      How many business owners can or want get out of their office rents? How many want to lose their empire? How many will simply fire and then hire those who have no income and are therefore hungry to travel in to join the team?

      San Francisco, London, New York are not dead.

      They will be simply waiting…

      • Petunia says:

        Things I no longer spend money on: cable tv, magazine subscriptions, newspapers, movie tickets, dining out, dress up and work clothes, travel, entertainment…….I wouldn’t count on things coming back quickly at all.

      • Paulo says:

        It’s always so much easier to run a business when the workers are desperate. They’ll probably even laugh at the boss’s jokes and listen to his/her opinions; nod at every word.

        I used to work for a guy who started to come and eat lunch in the staff room. He would put on the news and then proceed to inform us the correct ideas to have about every topic, especially politics. It was pretty painful and I finally gave up the lunch break, the boss, and the company. He’s down to a daughter and son in law from about 30 staff. The son in law hides. This was before surveillance cameras. I assume he has them everywhere by now.

  43. B.A.C.A.H. says:

    Fascinating. All those empty offices in all those expensive office buildings. Somebody is going to miss a lot of income from it.

    Two notable new high rises are Salesforce and Millennium Towers. Millennium Tower is a high rise condo building.

  44. CZ says:

    As a local allow me to say, “That’s better.”

  45. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    What about the young financial district employees who lived packed in to tiny San Fran apartments with barely enough room for cots and a kitchen. How do they work from home?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      They’re working from home, meaning mom and dad’s place in St. Louis, no?

    • Old School says:

      My son is college professor in NYC. He has had the virus and got through it ok. He is teaching on-line which is more work until you figure it out and then it’s less work, once you have your teaching modules done. Anyway, if it’s still virtual next semester he is packing up and coming home to save $2000 rent payment. He says a lot of people are leaving NYC if they can work virtually.

      • Lee says:

        “He is teaching on-line which is more work until you figure it out and then it’s less work, once you have your teaching modules done.”

        And once the uni gets those modules, guess what?

        It doesn’t need him next year. It can run the same modules/videos of the lectures without having to pay him.

        If they need someone to ‘teach’ a few classes they can hire some PhD candidate at a reduced rate……………

  46. CZ says:

    Lots of comments here about the pending abandonment of SF.

    Bear in mind that global warming may leave the Northern Pacific coastal region as one of the few habitable places in North America. Of course anything near sea level may get submerged, so stick to the hilltops.

    • 420 says:

      Ooohhhhh well this is what is suppose to happen! What did you expect…. This city will not be right until the wealth is restored to it’s rightful owners.

    • Old School says:

      I don’t think we worry about global warming much in the south. Its always been an unbearable place to live in July and August, but air conditioning makes it bearable at very little cost. Plus we have about a month long pollen season that everyone goes around sneezing their head off.

      We still have a lot of people move here from the North because the winters are mild.

  47. Bruce says:

    Downtown is a funny mix nowadays. Some buildings are mostly shut down and owners stopping all work on the building by contractors and vendors. Others are spending big bucks on projects they couldn’t easily do with tenants in place. That is keeping some contractors very busy. Other owners are proceeding cautiously and pushing some 2020 /2021 projects back a year or two.
    Given the move toward working remotely, along with the resulting cost savings for many companies, I think it may take some time before downtown comes back to life. Add in the large numbers of small business going under and the increasing number of large business with huge debt loads, and it’s going to be a difficult year or two after the election.

  48. Thistlebreath says:

    Maybe this is picking a nit but on my calendar, August 8 fell on a Tuesday this year.

    Nice photos. Grim outlook.

    • Thistlebreath says:

      Make that Saturday.

      • Seneca’s Cliff says:

        Unless their parents live in Sonoma County and haven’t had reliable power or internet in weeks.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Typo. Thanks. Tuesday the 18th (not 8th), the day before the smoke. The “1” went missing in the heat of the battle. Sheesh!

      • Thistlebreath says:

        No worries. Your columns are unique. Typo’s are a pervasive artifact of computer generated copy. Back when chickens still had teeth and typewriters of various generations were still in use, stuff got written more slowly and carefully.

        I was saddened to see Kurt Luedke recently passed. I distantly was acquainted w/him when he was an editor at the Det. Free Press. He was a Tartar about style and form. FWIW, he was right. For a good time, re-watch 1981’s “Absence of Malice.” That was his first try out of the gate, after he ditched journalism and took an unexpected wild leap at screenwriting.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Back in the age of typewriters, they had paid editors who would catch that kind of stuff before it got published. My editors are commenters who catch that kind of stuff after it gets published :-]

  49. Chauncey Gardiner says:

    Telling photos of what was one of the world’s more expensive cities. Thanks, Wolf. Wonder when the underlying debt will default, the wave of bankruptcies will begin, and the cost of both the properties and rental space will begin to drop? The “Return to Normal” meme is becoming a little frayed around the edges.

    • Old School says:

      It’s tough to reconcile the photos with the stock market to GDP ratio right at 1.8 when Norm is around 0.8. Fed policy is going to get crazier and crazier to prop this up.

      I hate to say it but Nancy is probably right, it’s going to take another $3.5 trillion at least to socialize all the losses that’s going to come out of this thing. That’s what we do now I guess.

    • cd says:

      SF works out to 13K per resident per year for taxes…
      I live in a nice neighborhood with some of the best eateries, they are slowly closing, homes are going up for sale rapidly and rent signs are apparent everywhere….

      its over, they will have to raise property taxes and every other tax to maintain the bloated mafia government of nut case liberals who ruined the city….the pandemic didn’t do it, its the San Francisco Liberal Mafia party that did it….London Breed has 2 brain cells at most, scum floats higher

  50. Paul Trubell says:

    Some recessions: no thriving downtown is immuned from the horrific economic decline that kills downtown vitality. This is one of it.

  51. Danno says:

    Thank god Buffalo, NY does not have a huge downtown office space presence.

    It’s a touch quiet in the core but surprisingly from my view, fairly steady as she goes.

    Let’s see what the fall brings.

    And swimming in 50F water Wolf? You and your club members are truly men. I won’t dip my toe in Lake Erie until it hits 60F at least!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Danno,

      One day in the winter, there was this guy in our sauna, talking. He was from Chicago and down here for some research. He said we were spoiled with our water being 50, and with our sauna. He said that he is part of a group of swimmers in Chicago that swims in Lake Michigan until it freezes over, and there is no sauna afterwards to warm up. He has to get on his bicycle and ride home after his swim in Lake Michigan when the water is close to 32 degrees. We were just amazed and felt so lucky!

      BTW, women swimmers do better in cold water than men, it seems.

      • Danno says:

        Women swimmers usually make the cross of Lake Ontario here…deep lake, with cold water upswells all year long.

        The reason I’ve read is a different layer of body fat which insulates them far better then men and allows women far more then men to handle the cold temps.

        Your story reminds me of the India proverb: Move a cow into your house for a week if you think your current situation is stressful. Remove cow after 1 week and you will never complain of stress again.

      • nick kelly says:

        Much better. Extra layer of subcutaneous fat.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        OK, now ya really got me going on the water challenge:
        When I was a kid, we would swim in the gulf from mid May to Mid Oct because that was when the water was OVER 80 degrees!
        Last time I visited FL with my sailboat, son and I managed to flip it in the Indian River, water temp about 80; there was a tag on our preservers indicating life expectancy was at least 24 hours; when I got back to sailing in The Bay Area, water temp was 45, and tag said life expectancy was about 45 minutes!
        Good Lordy,,, you guys are ”some kinda nuts!!” And we don’t even want to think about the guys in Lake Michigan — I saw that lake freeze up from a barracks at Great Lakes Training Center in fall of ’64; there was a HUGE roar of cracking and crashing, and then pieces of ice up to 10’x15′ x 65-70′ were jumbled every which way with some sticking straight up into the sky… CRAZY, and certain death.

        • cd says:

          they’re in wetsuits…I’ve never seen a swimmer in the bare in SF….maybe Jack LaLane in the 50’s…..

          at one time he wanted to have a contest swimming from north Farallons to the south island….

          it the highest concentration of white sharks in the world….

        • Wolf Richter says:

          cd,

          “they’re in wetsuits…I’ve never seen a swimmer in the bare in SF…”

          Sheesh. So I’ve been swimming without wetsuit for 7 years, and the 1,500 members at the SF Dolphin Club have been swimming without wetsuit for years, many of them for decades. The Dolphin Club was founded in the 1800s, and it was all about swimming in the Bay – and back then, they didn’t even have wetsuits. The neighboring South End Club, same thing. There are over 3,000 members in both clubs combined, and it’s all about swimming without wetsuit.

          There are numerous Channel swimmers in our club. There are a couple of guys that swam around Manhattan in our club. There is a woman in our club that set the all-time ever and still unbroken record for swimming lengthwise across Lake Tahoe (about 20 miles) at 6,000 feet altitude. ALL without wetsuits.

          So you think that we all just imagine this? Wake up, dude. You’re totally uninformed, but that just encourages you to spread your total ignorance with conviction.

        • cd says:

          Ok, I apologize, I must not be up early enough as I have yet to see a non wetsuit swimmer…but life is about being wrong and accepting it….Ignorant I doubt as I have probably been surfing, diving and swimming in cold water far longer than many of your members today….

        • noname says:

          The rafters in the attic make those noises when it’s brutally cold too :) Just hide under the covers and wait for dawn……

        • Lee says:

          http://www.icebergers.org/p/about-us.html

          “Welcome to the home of the “Brighton Icebergers”, the year round open water swimming group founded by John Locco – sea temp in Winter 7 – 12 deg C rising to 22 deg C in Summer.”

          Too bad the people can’t travel more than 5 klicks to exercise now though.

  52. Up North says:

    Wolf, I would just like to gush for a second. If no one has told you how amazing you are today for all your efforts; please let me be the first (or maybe the tenth…). Over the past 5 years I’ve committed to reading a dozen blogs and I’m down to three; because they’re really good and pertinent. Your blog is amazing, so thank you for all you do.

  53. A real worker says:

    It makes me wonder, was the work done by these throngs of former workers really have any value to society. Does anyone really miss the service they used to provide? I for one don’t think the world, the real world, really needed all the bit pushers ever. Good riddance.

  54. The Bob who cried Wolf says:

    Other cities in CA aren’t seeing this type of desolation anymore. SF has one of the most collectivist attitudes in the country. We were up there a few months back and it was and indeed is a ghost town. When we arrived at my cousin’s house we started unloading the car to cart things up into his place an a lone walker came by and froze in her steps and seemed not to know what to do and how to get by us. We’re a family unit so weren’t wearing masks and I think it threw her off so much she didn’t know what to do. I know it’s easy for the rest of the country and much of CA to make fun of what goes on in SF but it’s SF’s own doing. There’ll be issues up there for a long time to come as now they have to come to grips with the fact that the employees aren’t coming back in anywhere the numbers they need to keep the city afloat.
    I’d also cation anyone who thinks that it’s nice to live in a city absent all the tourists simply so you can enjoy it for yourself, hoping they never come back. I’m here to tell you that despite all he commotion that the students bring when they come back to town in the College Area near San Diego State University, I was very pleased to hear them arrive last week. The noise, although sometimes bothersome, was very welcome. Without them there is no College area, and without tourists, there is no tourist town.

    • jon says:

      I was in San Diego downtown last week
      It was desolated and not much going on.

      If not happening now you’d need to wait for some more time

      I know we in SD think we are special and we are different but believe me we a rw not :)

      • The Bob who cried Wolf says:

        Have you seen Fiesta Island? Every day it looks like 4th of July crowds. Any beach community is the same. The place is special and even as goofy politics enters our fine county this place will be special for a long time come. A lot of folks are willing to lay down some serious money to live here because they know and are coming from the places that aren’t so special.
        If you’re referring to waiting more time to see the insanity of SF rearing it’s ugly head here, I would have to agree with you entirely. The left coast crazies will eventually change this place, but to the degree they did up there, we’ve got a lot of good years to go

        • Seneca’s Cliff says:

          I just read an article that said Fiesta Island had become a homeless RV Haven.

        • Fiesta Island is a local joke. Place to drop the body. Pollution and trash. Joggers and bicyclists assaulted. Location of the Over the line Tournament: public drunkenness. Next door to Sea World.

  55. Tbv3 says:

    Great post Wolf.

    Please revisit the subject of your July 17 post: ‘Pent-up Supply Floods San Francisco Housing Market.’

    It looks to me like the number of San Fran County Active Listings has surged since your July 17 analysis.

    Active Listings in all Redfin Metro areas have decreased by 28% YoY.

    But Active Listings in San Francisco County have *increased* by 121% YoY — nearly double the last 4-years’ rolling average, completely opposite to the national trend. The data looks more shocking than your pictures.

    If supply has doubled, might not prices begin to fall substantially as sellers compete against each other to hit bids?

    https://www.redfin.com/blog/data-center/

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Tbv3,

      Yes, this is going to be very interesting. Active listings in SF usually surge in the weeks after Labor Day, but they’re already way higher. At over 1,800, they’re closing in on the housing bust records. If seasonal patterns hold, September and October should show an explosion of active listings that set new records. But at this pace, we might set new records BEFORE Labor Day.

      My intention was to cover this after Labor Day, but now that you bring this up, I might do a “before and after” to see how it turned out.

      • Ton22 says:

        Go to
        Craigslist “San Francisco City”, SFC, not San Francisco Bay Area.
        Left panel, Choose “select all neighborhoods” at bottom of list of neighborhoods.
        Update Search

        Look at the map “displaying X postings”
        We were agog when it topped 10,000 recently.

        The number changes a lot from week to week.
        Looking forward to post Labor Day.
        Wonder if it will top 15,000?

  56. CRV says:

    Lovely to see those pictures without the crowds.
    But most of the comments are telling a somewhat sentimental story about how it used to be, as if it was a good thing.
    I see a good thing in not having crowds going into office buildings to do what they could do from home/closer to home.
    Think of all the resources we have waisted to build these towers and all these thing to facilitate transport, while it wasn’t realy needed since the time we have sufficient internet speeds. Which, i admit, is not for so long ago. But now we see that we don’t have to put so much resources into stuff we don’t really need anymore. The resources we don’t spent we can spent on other things. It could be a big shift in spending habits. This must give many new investment opportunities. I’m just not shure which will be the ones to go for. Home extentions maybe, for extra officespace at home. Or smaller offices, scattered about in more residential places. Which was allready a developing thing among small business owners who didn’t have the resources to rent a space in a large office building.
    We should learn lessons out of this. We now see that working from an office is not really necessary. It’s to bad for all the people that did earn a living off all the commuters. But these ex-commuters will spend their earnings another way. It’s just a question of ‘how’ and how to service their new needs.
    Good things could come of this new era. If we only allow it to happen and not be to tight on going back to how it used to be. Not all was well.

  57. Xabier says:

    Wonderful images, historic. Beautiful even, if it were not for the crushed small businesses that serviced the drone workers.

    A rather different experience if one lives in an ancient town in Europe: during the strict lock-downs, one could walk along the very medieval streets that saw the earlier plagues.

    Our river bank here in Cambridge is actually built up on the bones from the old town cemeteries, emptied out in the 19th century.

    Most people look rather uncomfortable when I tell them what they are sitting on, during a picnic……

  58. David Hall says:

    San Francisco is in danger of a large earthquake. They built it over a fault line.

    Two hurricanes are heading towards the gulf coast. Coastal erosion repair is not cheap in a world with rising sea levels.

    Another Putin opponent poisoned.

    Sometimes it seems to go from bad to worse.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      Oh come on.
      – It’s not that the Earthquake will not come. It will, but what’s different this year compared to last year?
      – And sometimes hurricanes will weaken before reaching the coast. We should prepare, but not panic.
      – And the last one turned out to be not caused by Putin.

      I mean if you want to look for potential disasters, why not consider the Yellowstone volcano. If that erupts, the entire West Coast of the US will be gone …. supposedly.

  59. John says:

    Wolf,
    Thanks for sharing. Eerie! Bp’s Lightsource is over there on California Street you were showing. Quiet is good too though. Reminds me of traffic lights being out from a storm and just driving thru them. Haha.

  60. J says:

    In 07 it’s told Gitner was walking around NYC before the QE rollouts noting all the people who were coming and going marveling at the knowledge the whole thing was coming down and no one knew… I’ve thought about that epiphany every day for years attempting to visualize that kind of collapse and now to stand in this economic rubble still knowing we haven’t seen anything yet… And still struggling to wrap my mind around it.

  61. Oz says:

    I live in the central plains and it seems that most commenters are from a “city”. We work from home and that has been an evolution but in my profession you pretty much work alone or in meetings. We miss the spontaneous discussions when running into someone triggered that moment. I took up fishing again after a 5 year hiatus if only for panfish. 1 pole 5 favorite lures in an Altoids box and you are set. Its even ok to go after them with a modern cane pole, no lures just bait, fake bait is incredibly productive now too. That is the point to go simple and a challenge to see if i can make it work.

    I have noticed that the sunsets continue their impressive presence, storms still rake the land and cast their spell of thunder and lightening, wind that rearranges my patio furniture remains the same. Here people have to be forced to take precautions but traffic is nearly normal. Its a bit scary to see lines at restaurants and from the parking lots there is not alot of social distancing going on.

    The acres of parked oil field trucks from fracking companies is a new sight. I saw 8 downhole service (logging) trucks in a used truck lot yesterday with what appeares to be 2 sets of fracking trucks and 8 complete drilling rigs set up in a companies yard. That is millions of dollars of equipment worth pretty much the price of scrap metal.

    My prediction of abandoned wells looks to be coming true and the measly bonds that have to be posted for a well will not cover the cost of capping them so the tax payers that subsidized the drilling will now have to pay again for the closure of the wells and education and infrastructure will go wanting again.

    We have panhandlers here at the intersections near the interstate in town and they appear to be more organized now working in groups. One has to appreciate their desire to set out there in heat indexes over 100. I noticed some high school age kids doing it too this weekend.

    My favorite beer is now ice cold setting on the tailgate of my truck watching the wildlife and the sunset while the cork bobs all the while maintaining social distancing .

  62. Augusto says:

    V-Shaped recovery with all this non-utilized capital investment that is offices, roads, public transit, etc…. Stock market should double next week on these pics alone, because everything will boom like never before when……

  63. Michael Engel says:

    1) The winners are the cable guys.
    2) GOOGL own 9% of the global subsea internet cables, that connect continents.
    3) The digital pipelines will charge tolls until people, in the lower quintiles of income & co in financial stress, will not be able to pay for their services. They will follow the footsteps of oil + gas pipelines co.

    • Ethan in NoVA says:

      As time goes on the amount of data that can be moved across cables increases. Not subsea but I’ve seen pretty small fiber cables that they bury around Ashburn Virginia and they have over 800 pairs of fibers. Figure each fiber pair could easily do 240 gigabit using DWDM x 24 x 10Gigabit, or maybe 100/400 gigabit. Over 400 times. Crazy bandwidth. And always more competitors. Undersea have repeaters so not as easy to upgrade technology once in place, but they always add more cables.

  64. Michael Engel says:

    1) SPX monthly, log, 10Y chart.
    2) We are above the eye of the storm of a hurricane with clockwise
    waves.
    3) On the left, the hurricane waves lift SPX to new all time highs.
    4) On the right, the strong downdraft will take prices down.

  65. Don says:

    Interesting. There’s an old ’47 Bogart movie, Dark Passage, involving the character’s escape from San Quentin prison to settle some old scores when he’s picked up by Lauren Bacall and driven across the Golden Gate Bridge; there was not one car on the bridge going in either direction while they crossed the bridge. None. Bogart did settle some old scores with Lauren’s help. Doubtless, the movie is politically incorrect today, but at least the rent was low back then.

  66. Ed says:

    Regardless of working at home, people will not return to office buildings because they are Covid infernos–closed air systems. You are simply waiting in your little office for the 100% certainty you will be infected.

    This is also why these dinosaurs will never be converted to apartments. OK, so before, you were waiting in your office inferno. Now you are waiting in your apartment inferno.

    Do you think people don’t know this?

    Office buildings are going to mold. Just shut them down. They are forever uninhabitable. Period.

    I love how desperate landlords in NY are now pleading with governments and business owners to FORCE people to return to offices. Dogs. Scum.

    Hey developer dudes, you paid your money now you take your chances. Laissez faire capitalism, remember? Libertarianism, remember? Now drop dead.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Ed,

      The modern apartment/condo towers I know of all have individual HVAC systems for each unit. So you’re only breathing your own germs. Common areas (hallways, elevators, etc.) are a different issue though.

      • Lee says:

        Well lots of apartment/condo towers in Oahu are older buildings that have central air for all the units.

        Tough luck, I guess unless you live in one of the new ones…………maybe the Trump Tower there has individual A/C units.

        And what about Japan?

  67. Stephen C. says:

    Thanks for the photo essay, Wolf. Brings back so many memories, good and bad.

    First moved to Bush and Powel when I was 24. Loved hearing the cable car bells every few minutes, even if they did wake me up at night. Funny what is thrilling at 24 would be intolerable at 60, including living in a studio with a kitchen window with a view of a trash chute. The prostitutes down in the alley next to the bar used to fight, every morning like clockwork at 2 a.m. Their reverberating screams were heartrending, but for some inexplicable reason that was all part of the charm of having moved to the big city from a dull, dull, dull city with “all-American” attributes.

    Used to walk through Chinatown and sometimes the financial district on early Sunday mornings, on my way to a restaurant job at Pier 39, just to soak in scenes much like your photos. The empty canyons of concrete would inspire some really bad poetry. I would walk home happy as a lark, with every pocket (pants, shirts, and suit vest) stuffed full of cash tips, after having worked a double shift deep into the night. That was before Bush The First decided he had to tax those of us in the lower orders.

    Being 24 years old, I thought it was cool that, when finding a collection of old black and white photos of SF post earthquake and fire of ’06, I framed them and hung them on the wall. Visitors didn’t quite get what I was getting at, just as I’m sure you all don’t.

    SF has been through a lot and will come back. Also, ’06 wasn’t the first time for disaster and wild times in SF, including roving, murderous gangs. Take a look at the book Black Fire, if you like that sort of history.

    But because this time Tech seems to be the winner, it will never again be a city where the lower orders and non-starving students (who did not need loans) could have a rollicking good time just because they were living in SF, and therefore didn’t mind so much being low on the totem pole. I doubt those days will ever come back. I’d hate to be young now.

    Someone above took umbrage at the phrase Tech Bro. It’s nothing personal, but people nowadays should know that for many, the Fed’s showering of money, beginning with LTCM bailout, and the rise of the tech, made SF (and much of the USA) nonviable for those not in tech and finance. I know, I know, I’ve heard it over and over again, on here and other sites, they are supposed to pivot or just go somewhere and die. Well, I eventually left SF and I won’t be going back to SF, even for a weekend. I’m sure I won’t be missed. But when Tesla or Uber and perhaps a few others finally go up in smoke, those still left in SF will hear a muffled cheer blowing in from the East, from all over Flyover. Maybe it will remind them of those times when the Giants won the pennant.

    I was too happy during most of those years in SF to be bitter, so don’t take this the wrong way.

    Also, in my first career pivot, from waiter to masseur (Kabuki Hot Springs) I had a few female clients who were Bay swimmers. Strong women. They dared me to join them in the water. No way!

    • mgold-8 says:

      What a beautiful vignette. It made my eyes water. Maybe the poetry wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. Thank you.

    • wkevinw says:

      Stephen C.- Yep, the way it used to be in SF & CA. I guess it’s not coming back.

      Thanks.

  68. Just Some Random Guy says:

    In my village everything is as it always is during the summer. Packed. Bars, restaurants, shops overflowing with people every day and every night. There’s no 50% capacity or only outdoor only dining or whatever. It’s business as usual.

    I got gas for my boat this week and talked with the guy filling me up at the marina. He said this summer has been busier than any time he can remember. It’s crazy out there, getting to the point where it’s unsafe to go out mid-day since there is so much traffic on the water. I used to almost never see police on the water, now I see 2 or 3 Sheriff boats patrolling all day long.

    Corona is old news around here. Life went back to normal mid May, and we haven’t looked back.

    • tom15 says:

      This can not be tolerated. Stay safe…stay home….wait for the vaccine.
      Have the looters turned into pirates?

      I hear ya. I picked the wrong time to look for a new fishing kayak.

    • VeryAmused says:

      Yes Trump, we get it, this is the bestest economy ever.

      I just wish we did not have to borrow trillions a year to make it so.

    • VeryAmused says:

      If you could let us all know where you magic village is that would be great.

      Unless it is a secret magic village…

  69. DR DOOM says:

    Unit# 236 says now is the time for a low budget apocalyptic end of days block buster film to be done . Flash crash the streets with masked zombies, aliens or whatever costume you like and hit the streets. Something will happen that will be entertaining. I would go with an orange man/ Joe hybrid zombie with my zombie pet Jerome in tow.

  70. Seneca's cliff says:

    They tried ignoring the Coronavirus in Umatilla county Oregon too, but it didn’t work out so well for them. I would guess that at this point your village is a bug in search of a windshield.

  71. Uncle Bob says:

    It would appear that the only thing moving in SF these days is the Millennial Tower.

  72. B Wilds says:

    Thanks for the ugly and brutal look at what our economy has become. It is important to remember that it is not uncommon to see a time lag before the impact of events is truly revealed. Before this is over a lot of people will be surprised and shocked by the reality that unfolds.

    Small businesses have taken the brunt of this assault. The demise of millions of small businesses underlines the bleak picture we face, this means unpaid rents and more empty storefronts as Main Street withers on the vine.

    Until now much of the damage has been masked by a massive government giveaway. Unfortunately, the damage all this has wrought will become apparent over the coming months from the strong headwinds facing our economy.

    • c1ue says:

      The government giveaway has masked nothing.
      The NY Times just reported overall restaurant utilization was 23%. This is better than the 10% in July, but is awful considering the entire restaurant business, as a whole, has a profit margin of under 5%.
      Even successful restaurants have margins of 15%. So the “best” restaurants are only losing money twice as fast as Uber, while the rest are literally burning their cash in a hole in the ground.
      The lack of traffic isn’t helping anyone else, either.

  73. Walter Harris says:

    Ironically we were visiting a friend in SF on 8/18. We staid at a hotel in the financial district. The financial district and Chinatown were a complete ghost town. It was a bit more lively down by Fisherman’s wharf and the piers; especially on Saturday. The restaurants did a good job of opening up outdoor dining around the Coit tower. Still as I read the comments, SF seems to be hit very hard by compared to other big cities.

  74. c1ue says:

    The pictures don’t convey the smells.
    Normally, most of the various office buildings will wash the sidewalks in front of them weekly.
    I am certain very few are doing so now.
    The numerous homeless that live in the small alleys in the area – the aromatic outcomes of their residencies is now more prominent than ever.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I didn’t smell or see anything untoward. I ran only into 3 homeless people, none sleeping there. One was pushing the 2 bicycles. Another was standing by cart full of belongings. And a third, sitting. I don’t know what the latest count is, but a while ago, I think it was 1,500 homeless people had been moved into otherwise closed hotels. This number could be bigger now.

    • c1ue says:

      @Wolf
      Most likely because you went down Montgomery and Columbus.
      What traffic there is – and there is still some – still flows along Montgomery and Bush.
      Try Battery, Sansome or some of the other streets. I go along Battery regularly as it is the direct route from where I live to the Safeway on Jackson.
      The buses don’t even run through that area any more: 10 is still out and 12 only runs in its north portion.

  75. Grate says:

    I mean, this is great. The Bay Area was already a hellhole of overpopulation and unaffordability, filled with illegals, homeless, despicable tech billionaires and tech bros. Maybe now people will take a hint and leave for greener pastures. I am still serving a multi year sentence here, been looking to take off for years now but cannot yet.
    Oh yeah also after a couple of years of working from home the tech bros will be outsourced to Bangalore. It’s not like anyone cares if Facebook crashes for a couple of days, it’s not Boeing.

  76. kitten lopez says:

    WHERE THE HOMELESS ARE… (sung to the tune of Connie Francis’ “Where the Boys Are”)

    Funny but after i’d read this post this morning, i was off to Corky & Basul’s for sunday dinner at the ashram, and they gave me a camera to go out and document what i was seeing in the city because they said no one was seeing what we were seeing and it needed to be documented.

    well, the homeless are HERE in the mission and south of market. in more permanent tent cities taking over sidewalks and bicycle lanes. on Potrero ave here in the mission, a stretch of sidewalk near SF General Hospital is taken over by tents and semi-permanent structures with wood against fences and poles.

    the other day on the way to the store, a used syringe rolled out into the bike lane and i rode over it. / and people are forced to walk into the bicycle lane to avoid the tents.

    James works outside in the Marina district, in Fort Mason, and says RVs are lining the street now and don’t have to move; they aren’t enforcing 2-hr parking limits, and when street sweepers come by, they don’t ticket them for not moving, the meter people run up front and the street sweepers pass by.

    this one RV was running his loud generator all day and the guys tarp-covered stuff was taking over most of a bicycle lane.

    and this is the MARINA. rich folks there.

    it’s interesting to me because here in the mission, right NEXT to a strip of a tent city near the 101 on ramp , they are making those RVs move still. / i don’t get it because the Marina’s rich folks.

    and as i’m dancing at the 24th/potrero median on occasion since the gyms have been closed, it’s gone from the one ubiquitous homeless person ranting and wandering in the middle of the busy street, to a half dozen, and others sitting on the sidewalks.

    i don’t see them as nuisances to my own cushy wonderfully glorious adventurous life full of dry comfort and bathrooms and showers as well as love support from people who put up with me, but i see them as …well, casualties of this “GET UP OLD MAN BEFORE I FUCK YOU RIGHT THERE!” system, and oh yes… there but for the grace of god, and my beloveds, go i. / i see them as signs of where all this is going.

    But i’m way more chilled how they’re totally HIDING the Official Mayor’s homeless encampment at city hall and everyone’s whistling past our own graveyard.

    and no. San Francisco isn’t dead. just bleeding face down in the gutter with the rest of small business. what was so “alive” before was brutally killing what WAS once even more special about this town before. (every generation before says “ah, but you should’ve been here 30 years ago!”)

    but it’s up to us artists and lovers poets thinkers fighters and scrappers entrepreneurs to bring a new renaissance. that i believe, because well… this is our job and what’s the alternative? it’s still hard to take the slow dying of everything, but the tech culture was deadening and oppressive with few even looking up and around at this gorgeous place, already.

    i was just crying today about some lady wanting to put dog cones on waitresses’ heads. it’s all feeling like yet another gruesome SAW movie in the franchise, a never-ending psychopathic sadistic game of Simon Says.

    so this is where the homeless are.

    that said, the UPS guy left an amazon package right there on the sidewalk for a techie neighbor from India who’s gotten twitchy and odd with all this special alone time (he told me he’s working on an app to tell him when to water his plants because they all died while he was away on lockdown in India, and he’s having a hard time remembering WHEN to water them and wants an app for it) and his amazon package was STILL there later on, even though it almost deserved to be stolen for him trying to make a killing on a plant-watering app.

    i love this place.

    it’s coming back. this place is more magic than whatever any human can try to do to it.

    x

  77. Kaleberg says:

    I remember seeing pictures of Wuhan like that back in February. There were broad, empty avenues, empty streets and closed store fronts. I gather it looks a lot different these days with the crowds returned to normal. This may eventually happen in SF, but it will take a lot longer since Americans are a divided people and cannot work together for a common end. Like the old USSR, our ideology makes it harder, sometimes impossible, to deal with simple problems.

  78. rr says:

    Nice article. I used to live in the City too. However I don’t understand why it’s labelled “liberal” or “left”. It was fun to live there but people were superficial, self congratulatory and hypocritical. Even before the dotcom crash, so over 20 years ago, the high level of inequality and homelessness bothered me a lot. One side of Potrero Hill was “yuppies” and the other side was an African American neighbourhood which was impoverished. Drug use was rampant in the high income professional class. A truly left and / or liberal state or municipal government could have instituted any number of policies to deal with the homelessness and inequality.

  79. Lee says:

    An update from Melbourne, Victoria………………………

    Now in our 4th week of lockdown and who knows when it will end. The number of new cases per day is around 200 and around 15 to 20 deaths. A total of 15 deaths yesterday and ALL in aged care. One of these days they’ll run out of old people and there won’t be any more deaths…………

    Last time I looked a couple of days ago our postcode was still at 20 active cases which hasn’t changed for about a month.

    We had out wettest August day in 20 years and it has been impossible to get into the yard and gardens to do any work with all the rain and it squeezes the time you can get out and exercise.

    So after all the bs about being fined for going to exercise via your car…

    That has been changed and we won’t be fined as long as we are within 5 klicks of where we live. Amazing how stupid gubmint people can be.

    And after that had kibosh put on it there was a story on the local TV news about the cops using drones to check on people using face masks, using playground equipment, and checking cars for being more than 5 klicks from their house………………..probably one of those ‘ideas’ floated out before actually trying it. Never heard anything more about it other than another uproar so hopefully that won’t ‘get off the ground’.

    And according to our megalomaniac Premier:

    “Victoria’s state of emergency could be extended for up to another 12 months, Premier Daniel Andrews has said, after the state recorded its fewest fresh cases for seven weeks.”

    But thankfully this time it will require Parliament to sit to pass the extension. We still have a two body state government and the opposition controls the upper house.

    The government has been able to do whatever it wants here as they haven’t allowed the lower house to sit.

    However, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said politicians should never have the level of control over people’s lives that the Premier was proposing.

    “This is not the act of a democrat – this is the act of a Premier whose power has gone to his head,” Mr O’Brien said.

    “The only reason Daniel Andrews is going to allow the Parliament to sit is to give himself this massive amount of power.

    “He’s tried to stop the Legislative Assembly sitting for months. He doesn’t want to face question time, he doesn’t want to have debate, he certainly doesn’t want to involve any other political party – he simply wants to grab the power for himself. We are saying no. We are drawing a line. The Premier has gone too far.”

    Welcome to the People’s Socialist Republic of Victoria…………..

    • rr says:

      What is “socialist” about it? I can’t believe how that term is thrown around like confetti. No matter what flavour of socialism you choose, it has something to do with having society’s best interests at heart. It sounds to me as you’re living in a fascist totalitarian police state. I mean there’s no excuse for what’s happening. Australia had six months of summer to get their hospitals in shape, should there have been a large number of severe cases. And yet it doesn’t even sound as if there is anything of a health emergency.

  80. Mike says:

    Seattle and Bellevue, WA are similar during workdays, as others have commented. We have a webcam in our office pointed at a main street and a construction project. Zero traffic. The construction company has a VERY easy time right now without traffic/pedestrians to manage.

    What I’d like to see is an analysis of Parking companies. Unlike office building lease agreements with companies, parking is often handled by employees and with monthly agreements. Those employees are working from home and don’t need the parking. How long until those workers cancel their parking?

    In my case, I held on to my downtown parking spot for a few months thinking we’d go back to the office “soon”. Now that my company is giving guidance of staying out until at least Jan 4, I’ve cancelled my monthly parking. It was a completely wasted monthly expense. And, I’m betting that not everyone will come back at the same time, so waiting lists for parking won’t be an issue in the future when we go back.

    Given that, are parking companies showing the impact of the pandemic? Or are their costs so low that it just doesn’t matter if a percentage of their parkers cancel?

  81. c1ue says:

    I’d also note that it isn’t just SF.
    I’ve personally seen huge homeless encampments in San Jose, Alameda, Oakland.
    I doubt there is any place in the Bay Area, with any amount of population density, that doesn’t have at least some people “camping out”.

  82. Tony22 says:

    The Wolf Richter Scale of financial reporting is the BEST website out there!

    As a native San Franciscan who has lived my entire life under the decline of the city,1968 was the best year IMHO, it declined after that, I cheer the virus, which has accomplished what no number of citizens and citizen activists protesting and fighting the takeover and ruination of the city politically has done; it has destroyed the tax base that, like blood nourishing a tumor, perpetuates the political disease.

    Without pedestrians to beg from, with tax receipts and inevitably services to them slashed, I predict the majority of homeless will go back where they came from. Residential rents will permanantly decline and office towers become stranded investments, some going residential.

    However, once Biden is ‘elected’, and the need to tarnish Trump is irrelevant, you can bet your boots that the “covid crisis will allegedly be over” as we turn a new leaf and “hope is restored”.

    Reality won’t match the rhetoric though. This presidential election isn’t that important. 2024 is Make or Break for America.

  83. SomethingStinks says:

    “I am Legand”…Now comes the vaccine.

  84. John says:

    ‘…and the kingdom of the beast was plunged into darkness[this post], and the people bit their tongues [masks]for the plagues that had come upon them…’ some book in Captain Ramius’ submarine library, probably.

  85. Bunyinj Bhadi says:

    The DEMONS possessing those who work in those buildings are NOW let loose among the people now working in their homes!!!!!

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