San Franciscans are optimistic about the future, and they should be. Unemployment is down to 6.5 percent. The local economy is growing. And the World Series champion Giants are gearing up for another exciting season. As a newcomer to this great city, I am energized and honored to be able to play a role in helping to keep San Francisco on a continued path to economic success.
Like the business community, voters are pleased with The City’s recent progress. According to the Dignity Health City- Beat Poll released last week at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual City- Beat Breakfast, 60 percent of voters believe San Francisco is moving in the right direction, up from 44 percent just two years ago.
An increasing number of people also feel that the quality of life is improving, and the majority of city voters are pleased with the work of our elected officials and public servants.
Voters also recognize the importance of economic development and strategic investment for The City’s fiscal health. Seventy-three percent of those polled say they support rebuilding the California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke’s hospitals. This should come as no surprise for a development that will double The City’s number of seismically safe hospital beds while creating 1,500 jobs and injecting $2.5 billion into the economy. Similarly, 60 percent of voters support building the Warriors arena at Piers 30-32 — a project expected to create more than 1,700 jobs and $46 million in development impact fees for The City.
Ranking jobs and the economy among the top issues facing San Francisco — behind only homelessness and panhandling — voters remain concerned about new fees that could slow economic growth. For example, 69 percent of voters oppose the idea of congestion pricing, which would assess fees on motorists who drive into downtown. Fifty-three percent oppose a potential new transit-impact fee on nonprofits. In fact, the only fee polled that voters appear likely to support is the vehicle license fee — but only if it is reinvested in transit and street improvements.
Mayor Ed Lee remarked at the CityBeat Breakfast that this year’s poll results bear out the hard work that The City and private companies have taken on in recent years. Collaborative efforts to reform the business tax, invest in affordable housing and support the next generation of workers are having an impact. As the current chairman of the board of trustees for the California State University system, I recognize the strong link between workforce development and sustained economic growth, and I look forward to working with Lee and the business community to further advance this — and many other — important goals.
This year, the chamber will put its focus on specific initiatives to catalyze growth and create jobs. We are working to develop a downtown community benefits district to improve cleanliness and commerce in the downtown core. We are working to increase city contracting opportunities for small businesses. We are calling for legal review of new legislation to be publicly available in order to mitigate costly and unnecessary litigation. We are actively working on these and many other initiatives from our 2013 advocacy agenda to improve the business climate and keep San Francisco on the path to economic success.
Now more than ever, San Francisco is where the world changes. Technology, medical research, and cultural and social change begin here. There are significant opportunities ahead, and business and voters are united on many of the key issues and projects that will allow us to maximize them.
Now, it’s time to keep the momentum going.
Robert Linscheid is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.