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SF industry notables and experts reflect on 2018’s biggest surprises

Here’s what made people pause and say, “Oh!”

Photo by Patricia Chang

From the Salesforce Tower’s possibly appeal in the skyline to the passing of numerous housing bills, many surprises unfurled this year in the Bay Area, a region already accustomed to twists and turns.

A few eyebrow-cocking moments in 2018: Both housing advocates and staunch progressives won at the polls (San Francisco had two key elections this year). Light was shed on the Hunters Point shipyard project, where almost half of the toxic clean up was questionable or faked, according to review. And the city of San Francisco ordered the owner of a now-demolished modernist masterpiece to rebuild an exact replica of the historic home.

And no one expected this to happen.

To take a look at the year that was, we asked a handful of people in real estate, urban planning, media, architecture, and transit to offer their thoughts. Here’s what surprised them in 2018.

Kim-Mai Cutler (partner, Initialized Capital):

“I don’t know if this is a surprise, but San Francisco elected a strong YIMBY mayor in June with London Breed and then turned around an elected a strong progressive board in November. Voters do seem to like a balance of power; at the same time, it definitely feels like conventional or traditional lines are being blurred. Both Mark Benioff and YIMBYs sided with Prop. C, the homelessness measure, splitting with a huge part of the technology industry. At the same time, it feels like some newer progressive supervisorial candidates are being much more careful and thoughtful about positions that could de facto end up being detrimental to housing production over the long-term. I’m looking forward to a much more collaborative relationship going forward over the next few years between YIMBY, tenant and neighborhood groups in the Bay Area.”

Jon de la Cruz (interior architecture and design, DLC-ID):

“My growing fondness of the Salesforce Tower in the city skyline.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
Photo by AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Beth Spotswood (digital editor, Alta Magazine; columnist, San Francisco Chronicle):

“I’m surprised that wildfires seem to be such a constant in California life. No one even talk about earthquakes anymore. That used to be our official disaster. Now it’s fires—and I’m significantly more terrified of fire.”

Mike Isaac (technology reporter, New York Times):

“The crack in the new Transbay Terminal was both shocking and yet not at all surprising. Darkly hilarious, they spent all that time and money to build something that is immediately coming apart at the seams and cannot be used. Though, I suppose, when one of the largest buildings in the city is literally sinking into the earth you can’t expect everything else to go swimmingly.”

Anne Fougeron (architect and founder, Fougeron Architecture):

“How all of a sudden it was 2019! What happened to this year? I guess I was too busy keeping up with political scandals.”

San Francisco Battles New Electric Scooter Rentals Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Brian Wiedenmeier (executive director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition):

“Venture capital’s rush to invest in micro-mobility as a service.”

Laura Foote (executive director, YIMBY Action):

“Minneapolis. Here we are struggling to get granny flats built in California, and Minneapolis passes a massive zoning overhaul plan to have a minimum allowable zoning of 3 units city wide? Also, there has been a distinct shift on how we talk about housing. 2018 was the year that people had to admit this is a housing shortage and that even San Francisco needs to build more homes.”

Joe Eskenazi (managing editor and columnist, Mission Local) and Julian Mark (reporter, Mission Local):

“Axis Development pulling out of 2675 Mission Street.”

Photo by Patricia Chang
Richie Nakano (restaurant consultant):

Mid-Market is still a black hole for opening a restaurant. It’s weird that an area thats so busy just cant sustain more than a handful of restaurants and bars.”

Allison Arieff (columnist, New York Times):

“Frankly nothing surprises me anymore in the era of tech dystopia + Trump. But California did pass a lot of housing bills this year!”

Kevin K. Ho and Jonathan B. McNarry (realtors, Vanguard Properties):

N95 face masks were the must-have fall accessory in the Bay Area.”

Mike Chino (senior editor, Dwell):

“My go-to laundromats keep turning into condos, SoulCycle gyms, and juice bars, so it was surprising to see Laundré pop up on Mission Street. New businesses risk becoming lightning rods for gentrification discourse, but I like that this one focuses on providing a basic neighborhood service instead of a rarified, ultra-specialized product.”


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