San Francisco Office Vacancy Rates Reach Record High

by Evan Symon at

According to a new report by real estate firm CBRE, San Francisco’s office-vacancy rate rose to a new record high of 36.6% in the first quarter of 2024, albeit with some positive news that tech and AI companies could reverse this trend by the middle of the year.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco had a near 100% office occupation rate throughout the city, thanks in large part to the continuing tech boom and a steady demand for office space. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies began breaking leases to save money, while others embraced stay-at-home work and declined to continue using office space. Even after restrictions were dropped in 2021 and 2022, more companies switched to a work-from-home model or allowed more work-from-home positions, keeping many companies from returning to offices. In addition, high crime rates as well as a growing number of lease expirations by non-returning companies helped keep vacancy rates well above 20%.

In 2022 however, another major factor spiked vacancy rates yet again. Mass layoffs in the tech industry, which began in earnest in October 2022, quickly wiped out the need for large office complexes and long-term leases. Fueled by economic uncertainty, high inflation, rising insurance costs, more people working from home, the rise of AI and automation, the continued rise of e-commerce, the rising crime rate in San Francisco, and many companies overcompensating, many large companies shed thousands of employees overnight. Tens of thousands of cuts came from longtime Silicon Valley stalwarts Google, Amazon, Intel, Lyft, Yahoo, Meta and Salesforce, with the second quarter of 2023 even producing many corporate, non-tech layoffs for companies in the city as well.

As a result, the average office vacancy rate in San Francisco jumped from 19% in 2021 to 27% in 2022 to 29.4% in the first quarter of 2023 to 31.8% in June. There was some good news during this time, with AI companies rushing into the city through a new tech field boom. In some cases, companies swooped in and leased 500,000 square feet of office space at once. However, that failed to break many trends. By September, the vacancy rate was at 33.9%, with crime forcing some tenants to switch to remote work and large scale renter companies such as WeWork also failing. By the end of November, that figure had risen to 35%, with December reaching 35.9%

SF reaches 36.6% vacancy rate.