Downtown San Francisco office rents climbed 23 percent in 2012

The hard times of the Great Recession are an ever-fading memory in San Francisco's downtown, where a broad economic recovery is fueling sharp commercial rent increases and decreasing vacancies.

Firms signed leases on 8.5 million square feet of office space in 2012, paying an average of $52.21 per square foot. That's a 23 percent rent increase over the 2011 rate of $41.32 per square foot, part of a robust economy that's “surpassing rates set during the last tech boom,” according to the annual Downtown Plan Monitoring report.

By some metrics, the recent downturn was much kinder to The City than the dot-com bust of the early 2000s, when downtown vacancy rates peaked at 20 percent. Downtown vacancy rates hit 13.9 percent in 2010, and are now down to 8.9 percent, the report said.

Some 39 percent of The City's 572,000 jobs are downtown, including 60 percent of all office jobs. Some 64 percent of The City's 112.3 million square feet of office space is located there.

Growing demand for space has yielded a boom in tax revenue. Business taxes are up 19 percent to $488 million annually.

A strong technology sector is given credit for the area's economic resurgence, but thriving banking and professional service companies also are hiring workers and renting office space, the report said.

There are some lingering casualties of the economic downturn: art and open spaces. Large commercial developments are required to build open spaces or fund art installations. No new public art installations or new public open spaces have opened since 2008 in downtown.

While downtown added no new parking spaces over the last year, those who do drive are increasingly doing so alone. In all, about a third of downtown residents use transit and about a quarter use their cars — rates largely unchanged since 2000.

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