Twitter and the Rejuvenation of a Downtown San Francisco Neighborhood

The NY Times provides a balanced piece about the benefits the 1% can bring to a downtown neighborhood.    San Fran’s Market Street has always amazed me.  Before Twitter showed up, you could walk 300 yards from the Embarcadero BART stop and be in a different world.   Whether Twitter’s presence at 1355 Market Street  is the sole cause of the recent neighborhood upgrading remains an open question.   As an urban economist, I would be interested in knowing what new restaurants have located nearby?  Have local public school API scores jumped with new Twitter kids moving into the area’s new housing?  Has crime fallen?  Has crime fallen because the police have stepped up patrols there?  In a zero sum game, where did these new patrols used to patrol?   Are the properties near 1355 Market Street now being restored and repaired?  From the city’s tax appraiser’s data —- how much has local property tax revenue increased by?   Given that the city has introduced time of day parking prices, has it considered charging more for parking close to Twitter?  Such price discrimination would allow the city to engage in some land value capture.    What high tech firms gain from being close to Twitter?  Are they leasing commercial property nearby?   This case study provides an opportunity to study how a center city can revitalize itself.   While all jobs used to be in the city center, we now consider it a rarity when a major company chooses to locate downtown.  Center cities would be stronger if this became a more common place event.    The environment is protected when more activity concentrates in center cities.  Compared to their Facebook rivals, the Twitter nation has a smaller carbon footprint as they walk to work and commute by public transit.

UPDATE:  For those who want to see the content of a UCLA undergraduate class on Environmental Economics, I have posted all of my lectures, notes and readings here.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

4 thoughts on “Twitter and the Rejuvenation of a Downtown San Francisco Neighborhood”

  1. Don’t you call it “San Fran”.

    But seriously, the move has been to recent to cause big changes. There has been a tech presence in that general area (1 mi radius) for some time, but with less fanfare. (ok, more specifically the South of Market area, with Adobe office, nee Macromedia, and tons of lesser known startups. eg Zynga) For a comp, look at the effect the ballpark has had on the South Park area, which now has loads of tech startups, but no Big Name tech company.

    And the twitter HQ was already in downtown, just moved closer to market street. Don’t overread.

  2. I live about 2 blocks from Twitter’s HQ. Twitter didn’t change things. There is a huge push to gentrify the area that has been brewing for a few years. If you’re a developer, it makes sense - there is a lot of commercial ground-floor/residential upper buildings that, because of the neighborhood, are low-value compared to much of the rest of the City (but would still be the envy of any landlord in, say, Cleveland).

    Frankly, I’m fine with the homeless and the junkies, and don’t want to see more McCondos and bland office buildings spring up in my area. That has taken over plenty of my town; do we really need more 7-figure condos? It doesn’t do any good for the down and out, and will likely push out a number of important services for those who need it; they are here because that is where the clientele is, yes, but also because a nonprofit that serves the needy can afford rent here.

    I’ll own up to a selfish interest; I have an incredible deal on my apartment. I suspect after a few years of gentification and the new train terminal going in, selling this place will end up irrisistable to my landlord. But even were that not the case, I don’t think San Francsico needs Market and the surrounding area to turn in to another bland playground for dot.com money - the Mission has already been nearly completely remade in that mold in less than 15 years.

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