[maxgallery name=”proposition-m-san-francisco-skyline”]Space Shuttle Challenger tragically exploded over the Atlantic Ocean, the Iran-Contra affair rattled the Reagan Administration, and economic prosperity embraced the nation. 1986 was an eventful year. It was also the year where citizens of San Francisco passed Proposition M, a measure meant to contain a burgeoning rate of office building development during an era of high economic growth.
The measure restricts commercial growth by requiring new office buildings to use a pool of allowable office space that replenishes by 950,000 sq. feet each year. Unused space is allowed to carry over from year to year which causes an ebb and flow in pool size during periods of economic prosperity and decline. Lost office space due to building demolition or rezoning does not return the square footage back to the pool. Proponents of the law claim the measure is necessary because unimpeded commercial building development and the added office workers would significantly alter the city’s appearance, character, and culture. In addition, they assert the measure protects the city from high office vacancies after boom and bust cycles, prevents bursts of workers overwhelming city infrastructure, and provides better designed buildings through increased developer competition. After almost 30 years, there is continual debate over whether Proposition M has helped maintain the city’s beauty, balance, and charm or caused a legacy of missed economic opportunities with lasting negative effects over the city’s employment, affordability, and vibrancy. Opponents maintain the measure is an outdated law that will further increase office rents, drive more companies out of the city, and limit the current real estate boom.
As a result of today’s positive economic pressures, developers are once again descending upon the city to build a new generation of skyscrapers and satisfy the current thirst for office space. One such building under construction, the Salesforce Tower, will consume 1.4 million sq. feet of commercial space and further drain an already dwindling pool of available office space. Forecasts show that the available pool will be exhausted this year potentially causing new projects to be downscaled or delayed.
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