Larry Baer, President and CEO of the San Francisco Giants, is leading a new consortium of business leaders focused on making San Francisco a more livable city.
Baer is co-chair of Advance SF, which is a rebranded version of the Committee on Jobs, which has been in existence since 1992. The earlier iteration of the organization was focused on lobbying City Hall for better business tax rates and corporate-friendly regulations.
The new organization aims to focus on revitalizing San Francisco’s downtown. The city’s business districts have faced myriad challenges recently, both with the economic downturn, challenge of finding and hiring works, and the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic. Those factors have resulted in a multitude of windows covered in plywood, vacant storefronts, crime and homelessness.
Advance SF aims to take a different approach, recruiting leaders from small businesses, arts organizations and nonprofit agencies to join its cause. They are committed to focusing on San Francisco and the value it brings to residents and visitors.
Baer recognizes that the organization is not going to be able to solve immediately all the complex issues facing business districts. However, he believes that the organization can help galvanize both businesses and other organizations to help solve the problems. He also noted that those businesses that have already committed to Advance SF are fully committed to San Francisco.
Larry Baer noted one example that the San Francisco Giants organization has developed to try and address multiple issues facing the city’s businesses. The team’s Mission Rock mixed-urban neighborhood development will include 40 percent of units for affordable housing. The develop will price those units for teachers and other middle-income professionals.
By having housing that is accessible to the middle class, Baer noted, businesses will have a much easier time recruiting new employees. With more affordable options for housing available nearby to where teachers teach, the city’s school district can recruit and retain talented teachers and strengthen the city’s public schools, which in turn will also make the city more attractive to businesses and their employees.
Baer serves as chairman and CEO of Giants Development Services, the entity developing Mission Rock on a 28-acre site across McCovey Cove from the Giants’ home at Oracle Park. Mission Rock will include 1,500 residential units, 8 acres of parks and recreation space, 1.3 million square feet of office space and 250,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and public amenities.
Baer has long been involved in civic affairs. In 2010, he was named Person of the Year by the San Francisco Boys and Girls Clubs. In 2014, he won the Civic Leadership Award, presented by the American Jewish Committee.
Lloyd Dean, outgoing CEO of CommonSpirit Health, is co-chair with Larry Baer. Members include some of San Francisco’s largest employers – Bank of America, Gap Inc., Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Uber.
Members also include large retailers Target and Walgreens, both of which have suffered due to the recent spate of shoplifting and the general retail climate. A Walgreens spokesperson recently noted that the company wants to work closely with Advance SF and its members to address the challenges that retailers in the city are facing.
In addition to the major companies, Advance SF is recruiting a broad coalition of smaller companies and organizations that will pay lower dues. The organization plans to recommend policy initiatives on issues such as affordability, downtown revitalization and public safety that are designed to make San Francisco a better community for everyone. It then intends to lobby City Hall to adopt the recommendations.
The idea is to create an improved climate for big businesses and fill up the sparsely populated office buildings. A better business environment also means more people traveling to San Francisco for business and conventions, filling downtown hotels that have seen lagging occupancy rates. As people become more comfortable using public transit, more people are apt to visit business areas.
More employees working downtown means more people going out for lunch and coffee, having drinks after work, and enjoying live music, theater and other arts events. The more employees in big businesses means improved economic conditions for small businesses and arts organizations.
Advance SF is just one of several groups working to improve the city. Other organizations looking to enact change include:
- Tipping Point, an antipoverty group behind the Made in the Bay campaign
- Shine On SF, a coalition of leaders from the business and nonprofit spaces and articles that advocated for clean streets more civic engagement
- Refuse Refuse, a group focused on urban beautification that’s organizing street cleanups citywide
- Together SF, a group formed last year to promote volunteerism and civic engagement