San Francisco Job, Company, Industry Changes


In 1972 fifteen large companies headquartered in downtown San Francisco controlled about 430,000 jobs. American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) with its operating entities including Pacific Bell was the oldest and largest, employing nearly 100,000 in the Bay Area. This age is represented by the early AT&Tadvertising below left. How much work has changed is illustrated by the bank of operators below right. And how AT&T led to our Bay Area high tech future is tied to Brittain, Barteen and Shockley invention of transistor in 1947 in Bell Labs in center.

A young A.P Gianinni below left was making loans from planks across barrels outside Bank of Italy ruins after 1906 fire. That fueled rise of what became largest bank as Bank of America. Glass Steagell forced spin off of Transamerica, but in post 1945 California, B of A grew to nearly 50,000 Bay Area employees by 1972. With election of Hiram Johnson as California governor in 1910, the Octopus power and control of Southern Pacific represented in center below began to wane with rise of autos and road transport, but SP still had over 25,000 Bay Area jobs in 1972. Chevron had about 55,000 total employees and has declined ever since depite Gulf, Texaco and recent Onocal acquisitions. Caltex below left was formed as marketing outlet for vast Saudi oil Socal discovered but lacked international markets to move such vast reserves.

Crown-Zellerbach, Del Monte and PG&E each had 25,000 - 50,000 in Bay Area in 1972 and thousands more in California and for Crown Zellerbach in Northwest. Below left shows paper machine, one of most fascinating industrial processes where water soaked pulp is blown from vats across rollers to form giant dry paper rolls at end of line. Sybolizing PG&E's vast hydro electric generation and distribution is Mocassin plant in center coming down from Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite. On right is San Francisco Cannery with rail lines and cars in what now is courtyard serving plant and warehouse of what is now completed redone as hotel and shops..

Transamerica, Levi’s, Consolidated Freightways, Bechtel, Wells Fargo, Fireman’s Fund and Crocker had 10,000-25,000 each. Of these jobs, as many as 20% were in the Bay Area in the banks and financial institutions, with up to half of those in San Francisco. The others typically had fewer than 10% jobs in the Bay Area, but often the majority of those in San Francisco. They peaked with over 500,000 jobs by 1985. Below are survivors still headquartered in San Francisco. An early Bechtel showcase project on left, Hoover Dam, was built with five other large western construction firms including Henry J. Kaiser. In center is Levi Strauss, one of few fortunes to come from gold, although as a denim byproduct rather than gold ore. On right is early graphic of McKesson which still survives, despite dismemberment of Foremost dairy and chemical lines in 1980's.

By 2004, only Bechtel, McKesson, Levi’s and PG&E had not been acquired and/or moved. These four controlled only 70,000 Bay Area jobs. Since 1972 Wells Fargo was acquired by Norwest, but since they decided to keep San Francisco as headquarters, Schwab became independent of Bank of America, Del Monte was acquired and again independent here and Gap grew.

Adding SF headquartered firms jobs of 153,000 Gap, 140,000 Wells Fargo, 17,000 Del Monte and 14,000 Schwab to the job counts of the 4 of 15 that survived over the years with San Francisco headquarters, brings total to nearly 400,000. Of these, many fewer are in San Francisco than any time in the past. Meanwhile over 700,000 new jobs were created in less than 50 new technology firms headquarted on the Peninsula, nearly all of which didn’t even exist in 1972.

Below is a summary of some of the individual companies that are part of the dramatic shift of downtown San Francisco jobs to Market and south, as illustrated in SFCompanies.xls. These shifts are also related to the buildings where those jobs are worked as presented in SFHighRise.xls. On a less quantitative basis, these shifts can be easily validated by simply walking south from Broadway to the Ballpark on almost any downtown street at lunchtime or evening rush hour, and recalling how it used to be.


Downtown San Francisco Growth and Development

The wealth of gold fueled the dramatic rise of a downtown San Francisco financial district. in the late 1800's. The basic wood construction also ensured it's regular destruction by fire. Left below is a view west on Kearny from Market about 1890. In the center is a colored paiting of view up west up California DSt. in 1880's and at right is 1850's panorama East from Bush and Montgomery St.

Buildings 1906 – 1950’s

Before the 1906 earthquake and fire, Market St. had become a showplace with new high rises such as Chronical, Bancroft, Crocker and Call buildings pictured in paintings below.

The April 1906 earthquake nearly all of San Francisco east of VanNess in ruins. The image of the fire from Ferry Building looking West is depicted in brilliant glows in center below as it is flanked by downtown ruins on left from Bush looking North and on right from Nob Hill looking East.


San Francisco downtown and the rest of the city was rapidly cleared of ruins and rebuilt as depited at left of Phelan Building looking west from Market and Powell in 1909. Also in 1909 we see in center view from Ferry Building West. At right is 1930 view east to isolated splendor of now dwarfed Shell building on Bush near Market St.

Only five high rise office buildings were added before 1960: 225 Bush Chevron in 1922; 31 story Russ in 1927; 29 story Shell in 1929, 31story Mills in 1931 and 25 story Equitable in 1955, all within a few blocks as depicted in From the end of World War I until 1960 total employment probably didn’t changed much. By the late 1950’s, the era of jet travel had arrived and San Francisco seemed much closer to the rest of the country. Many who come to know San Francisco when going to Pacific battlefields in World War II or Korea returned to live or settled here after wartime service. Rapid high rise building was evident in the 1960's and 1970's north of Market as Wells Fargo, Bank of America towers, monoliths and pyramids rose after the green window look of Crown Zellerbach and International high rises. The Rockefeller financed Embarcadero Center project rose in place of produce market as it relocated south. Alcoa, goldenGateway along with Market St. high rises continued building boom of Market north as depicted below from aerial view in 1980's looking north and then south.

Resources – Chevron Here and Gone

Since 1965 Chevron employees have varied from about 45,000 down to as low as 35,000 in mid 1980’s and now are about 47,000. In 1965 about a third of the Chevron jobs were in Bay Area. Until 1985 a large portion of the Bay Area jobs as well as those with highest pay were in San Francisco, spread among four major downtown high rises. 200 Bush was built in 1912 and the 225 Bush headquarters added in 1922. The 22 story 555 Market opened in 1964 and 40 story 575 Market in 1975. Since 1965, Chevron has acquired Gulf and Texaco and now Unocal. Chevron is 6th on the Fortune 500, but has virtually no San Francisco based Chevron jobs. The 6,300 Chevron workers that remain in the Bay Area are mostly in new San Ramon headquarters, with some in Richmond refinery and other East Bay processing centers. On left below is 225 Chevron headquarter building with 200 Bush to its right. On right are 555 and 575 Market and in center is San Ramon Chevron Park to which all remaining headquarter jobs, including those of Gulf, Texaco and Unocal acquisitions migrated.


Resources – Crown Zellerbach and Other Forest Products Companies

Downtown business grew and changed with the Bay Area post war population explosion. This first became evident in 1959 as the new Crown Zellerbach building rose across from Chevron’s 225 Market headquarters and in 1960 when the International building opened. Both had a similar green glass, high rise look. More importantly, they ushered in an era of new downtown high rise building and jobs. Below left are green windows of Crown Zellerbach with yellow brick Adam Grant in background and beind it 101 California, which originally was planned for the ITEL building

Crown Zellerbach was the largest of the San Francisco based forest products companies. It dated back to the Zellerbachs paper distribution business in San Francisco in 1870. It became large with the 1928 Crown Willamette northwest timber and mill acquisition. By 1965 and into the 1970’s, CZ employed about 28,000. Less than 10% of those worked in the new green glass One Sansome headquarters, directing other CZ employees spread through the forest and mill operations of Oregon, Washington and the Southeast. By 1985 total employees had dropped below 20,000. A couple years later, all were gone from San Francisco as James Goldsmith prevailed in a bitter takeover battle. As he did with Diamond a few years earlier, operations were split up, timberlands sold and James River left as operator of mills and other remains.

Other San Francisco lumber fortunes dated back to the City’s founding when redwood moved from northern California to build the city. Above are views of log staging, sawmill operations and steam train hauling in Northern California forests in late 1800's. Henry Meiggs was first lumber baron until he fled to Peru in scandal, after trying to develop waterfront where Fisherman’s Wharf now stands. Robert Dollar parlayed his lumber fortune into shipping and control of American President Lines (APL). Even though Pope & Talbott started here in gold rush times, they soon moved to northwest. Below left is a lumber ship that brought lumber from Nothern California coastal forests to build San Francisco. In center is Dollar pier in 1930's and on right is Meigg's wharf in 1850's.

Into the 1970’s, other San Francisco headquartered forest products such as Arcata, Pacific Lumber, Potlatch, Fibreboard and American Forest Products thrived, each controlling between 4,000-9,000 jobs. As with CZ, less than 10% of those were in San Francisco. And like CZ, all those San Francisco jobs are gone. Fibreboard moved to East Bay, then Dallas and finally were acquired by Owens Corning, only to end up in bankruptcy with the same asbestos tar baby they had effectively managed before Owens Corning. Potlatch went back to Idaho where, like Boise Cascade, they grew as part of Weyerhaeuser and friend Jim Hill Northern Pacific timberland deals. Arcata sold forests, moved to Peninsula and disappeared into financial services, while Arcata operations ended up in Bend, OR. Pacific Lumber and it's company town Scotia mill was acquired by Hurwitz Maxxam in 1985 and has sparred with protestors on harvesting redwoods since. as symbolized by spotted owl in center. Potlatch forests in Idaho still thriv in Idaho as in view at below right.

Transportation – APL and Other Shipping Lines

The other new green glass building to rise to complement CZ was the International Building, built for APL and pictured above. Ralph K. Davies was a Standard Oil executive at Chevron, who left to be Truman’s petroleum administrator. Before World War II, the Dollar family management of APL was judged unsound and the US took over company to ensure Pacific shipping in World War II. In 1952 Davies and an investor group purchased APL $18 million. Since Davies knew oil, he bought Natomas, a California gold mining company near Folsom dating to 1860’s that also owned Indonesian oil rights. With oil strikes in late 1960’s, Natomas became much more valuable than its APL subsidiary. But in old days of California APL ships carried passengers, mail and freight dating back to years of gold and were for years led by Stanley Dollar in center below.

The International Building was renamed the Natomas Building I knew as a Peat Marwick consultant in the 1970’s and with Business International in the 1980’s. Natomas only had 25 employees in 1965 while APL employed 2,000-3,000, mostly on ships or in port operations. After Indonesian oil bonanza, Natomas grew to around 500 employees in 1970’s, with nearly a third in San Francisco. After Davies died, his Indonesia oil bonanza helped build SF Symphony Hall and a medical center. More lasting legacies flank Davies below as APL logo and containership, now part of NOL Group.

The 1970’s oil crises and price hikes and Natomas success gathered too much attention. About the same time Goldsmith was stalking CZ, Boone Pickens was after Diamond Shamrock. Remembering past lessons from Goldsmith a few years back, Diamond Shamrock thwarted Boone by acquiring Natomas. In the deal, APL was spun off and grew rapidly in Oakland as indicated on Port of Oakland containership operations below..

APL had already moved headquarters and jobs to Oakland where they expanded until acquisition by NOL in 1997. Oakland APL jobs then declined and will continue to drop as NOL’s joins Maersk. Meanwhile all Natomas San Francisco jobs are gone, just as are all APL jobs. Perhaps only job growth that is at most tangentially related would be associated with a Natomas junior analyst who subsequently ran much of PacBell before SBC acquisition, all of Air Touch and now is head of Vodaphone.

In addition to APL, San Francisco had a rich and long history associated with ships and shipping. But a combination of Harry Bridges disruptive waterfront strikes in the 1930’s and containerization since 1960’s forced Bay shipping to Oakland. As late as the 1970’s, Pacific Far East Lines, States Lines, General Steamship, Delta and Crowley each had Bay Area shipping operations that provided from 500-1,500 jobs. By 1978 PFEL was bankrupt as the Aliotos and Consolidated Freight feuded or sued over remains. Others soon followed PFEL into dissolution, except Crowley, which continue today with 3,800 employees and 300 ships, mostly far away from San Francisco. Waterfront is now for tourists, pier renovations and cruises. As indicated below, Crowley tugboats aided Matson and PFEL cruise ships in and out of San Francisco bay and piers before giant cruise liners of today. Monterey at right below was first Matson and then PFEL cruise ship.

Transportation to Resources to Health - Kaiser

The Bay Area’s shipping peak was World War II. After decades of building bridges, roads and dams through the West, Henry Kaiser turned his talents to ship building. He built about half the total Liberty ships in Richmond and other yards, employing from 30,000 to 90,000 at War’s end, and reaching productivity of one ship per day. Bechtel built another large ship building yard in Sausalito. All those Bay Area shipbuilding jobs have been gone for over a half-century, but one important legacy remains. The health system created evolved to the country’s most successful HMO. By 1985 Kaiser Permanente provided jobs in Bay Area alone for over 16,000, and an additional 36,000 health care workers and 11,000 physicians elsewhere. Below is Henry Kaiser flanked by graphic of how we built all he did through World War II.

After ships, Kaiser attempted automobile manufacturing after the War, but failed. Despite the end of shipbuilding and auto manufacturing failure, Kaiser companies that would have served west coast manufacturing operations continued into the 1970’s. From Oakland high rise headquarters on Lake Merritt, Kaiser industries managed over 50,000 employees in aluminum, chemical, steel, cement, coal, engineering and other resource production. But by the early 1980’s, all had been sold, Kaiser Industries dissolved and all Oakland headquarter jobs gone. Meanwhile Kaiser Permanente, the sideshow needed for all those World War II ship workers around the Bay, continues to grow and add jobs in Bay Area and elsewhere. Below are highlights of Kaiser's Bay Area evolution from Richmond shipyards for World War II Liberty ships to Oakland headquarters and Kaiser's remaining legacy of Kaiser Permanente, the first major as well as largest and most successful HMO.

Buildings North – 1960’s and 1970’s

As Kaiser Chemical & Aluminum dwindled in Oakland and outlying plants, a high rise building boom was kindled in San Francisco with the 1964 opening of the Alcoa Building on the north edge of the downtown financial district. To its north would grow the residential development of Golden Gateway in 1965. And to south, Alcoa would connect to Embarcadero Center office towers, as they replaced the old San Francisco produce market in the 1970’s as in photos above and below..

Buildings – Banks and Financial Institutions

Before looking at Embarcadero Center as last hurrah of high rise financial district expansion before the clear shift moved to Market and south together with jobs, the high rise boom from 1965 to 1970 was for banks, insurance and thrifts in the heart of the financial district. It started with Hartford at 650 California in 1964. This was San Francisco’s tallest building until the building boom ended in 1969, with Bank of America Center in 1969, just down California St. In between came: 19 story 111 Pine; 16 Beal Bank; 43 story Wells Fargo 44 Montgomery; 19 Insurance Center 450 Sansome; 21 Bank of Cal; 26 First Savings at 425 California and 21 Wells Fargo 475 Montgomery Annex. For a view up the California Street banking capital of the West through the years, see om/ph/


Banks – Bank of America and Others

All of this new financial building didn’t translate directly to new financial jobs. Although Bank of America employees nearly doubled to over 50,000 from 1965 to 1972, growth in financial jobs were moving south to Los Angeles, driven by combination of defense and entertainment and supplemented by manufacturing and home building for the much greater population growth. However, even with this financial job shift south, Bank of America had 10,000 or about 20% of jobs in Bay Area and this continued to climb to 21,000, about 25% of 1985 B of A jobs. Below left is Bank of Italy at 552 Montgomery from 1908-21 which still stands. Giannini also controlled Transamerica in center until Glass Steagall forced separation from his Bank of America with headquarters building at right. International Building in foreground was where I worked at Peat Marwick and then with Business International when PJ and I met and she was in Bank of America Trust Department across the street.

1965-1985 was not only a time of shifting of growth in financial jobs, it was also a period of consolidation and evolution. In 1965 Crocker Bank employed 8,000, more than Wells Fargo by 1,000, despite Wells 1960 acquisition of American Trust. Crocker acquired Gibraltar, but fell to Midland and ended up as part of Wells in 1986. Bank of America expanded from California in 1983 with SeaFirst acquisition, but with massive third world loan losses and 1987 stock dive, they resold Schwab and brought Clausen back. Expansion in 1990’s via Security Pacific and Continental Chicago acquisitions only papered over weakness at top. Coulter sold out to Nation’s Bank in 1997 and San Francisco headquarter jobs moved to Charlotte or Los Angeles. Bank of America job loss blow to San Francisco was only equaled by Chevron’s defection. But at least Chevron is still independent, and still in Bay Area, although San Ramon is still frequently referred to as san remote.

Despite this dispiriting banking job review in San Francisco, there is still Wells Fargo. After their Crocker digestion, Wells grew again in 1996 by taking over First Interstate. In 1998 they were acquired and it may have looked like the last of big bank losses in San Francisco. But Norwest decided instead to change their name to Wells Fargo and move headquarters to San Francisco where today they control over 140,000 jobs. More importantly, 15,000 are still in Bay Area, more than double 1985’s count. And with an 1852 founding, Wells Fargo is also San Francisco’s oldest firm.

Financial Services – Insurance, Thrifts, Leasing

Financial deregulation and mismanagement led to the demise of the highflying S&L’s. It also ended S&L jobs in overstaffed and plush offices, as well as new high-rise buildings like First Savings. Insurance always was primarily a branch office business on West Coast, although the Met’s leaving its grand headquarters for Cogswell College was only redeemed years later with a Ritz Carlton hotel. Fireman’s Fund controlled over 10,000 jobs from downtown San Francisco headquarters in 1965 before they left downtown for Laurel Hill, were acquired by American Express, moved to Novato, dramatically downsized and are now a part of Germany’s Allianz.

Transamerica is notable, both because of it’s heritage of Giannini control and as parent to Bank of America until depression era legislation separated commercial banks from other businesses. Transamerica is also prominent as San Francisco’s tallest building. However, because of its distinctive pyramid shape, it is only a tiny fraction of the space of its B of A’s black rock neighbor behemoth. In 1972 Transamerica controlled 21,000 jobs which grew to 30,000 by 1985. With only 5,000 of those in the Bay Area, and most of those with Oakland charter airlines, Transamerica jobs were largely in LA’s Occidental Insurance and United Artists subsidiaries Transamerica is now foreign owned, as a result of 1999 Netherlands AEGNON acquisition.

Even though San Francisco’s US Leasing is the progenitor of much of the innovative equipment leasing industry, which flourished here in the 1960’s and 1970’s, ITEL became better known, after it secured funding for an IBM 360 computer portfolio from Fireman’s Fund which kept 25% of equity. ITEL’s prominence seemed to extend way beyond its peak levels of less than 3,000 employees.

Even though many ITEL jobs were in the plush new Embarcadero Towers and displayed a glamorous best and brightest image, ITEL executives also spawned other successful leasing and technology ventures such as Brae and TOL. But by 1980 ITEL’s over ambitious commitments ended in dissolution and in later years many ITEL offshoots sold out to others. In addition to ITEL, other innovative financing and leasing firms rose fast such as Boothe and GATX. All eventually succumbed to leasing units in capital rich banks and even US Leasing was acquired by Ford.


Financial – Investment Banking

San Francisco’s investment banking and securities businesses goes back almost as far as Wells Fargo with Sutro & Co. dating to 1858. But these San Francisco based firms including Dean Witter before it’s Sears acquisition in 1981 never had more than a few hundred jobs, smaller than the national wire house firms like Merrill Lynch with far higher employee counts in the Bay Area. San Francisco’s brokerage giant is Charles Schwab. Even with dramatic swings reflecting market shifts and trading volumes, Schwab still has about 14,000 employees with around 3,500 in the Bay Area.


San Francisco’s investment banking tradition was probably at its highest profile with the rise in the 1970’s and 1980’s of the investment banks that financed technology’s rise. These include Hambrecht & Quist, Montgomery Securities, Robertson Stephens, and NY’s Smith Barney. Each had from 400-900 San Francisco employees as recently as 1996, but all are now gone, with what remains as part of larger banks. Venture capital also had San Francisco offices before nearly all migrating to 3000 Sand Hill Road neighborhood in Menlo Park. And despite their high profiles in connection with fabulous returns from successful technology investing, none ever had more than a few dozen employees.


Food – Safeway

Agriculture has always been California’s largest industry and is the basis of several leading San Francisco and Bay Area companies. Even though East Bay has always been headquarters for Safeway, with 200,000 employees, it is far larger than any other Bay Area employer. Safeway also provides an important tie to the downtown San Francisco story. Merrill Lynch controlled it in 1920’s after its 1915 founding and Merrill’s son-in-law Robert McGowen was CEO from 1957. His son Peter was CEO in 1970’s and 1980’s before leaving to form investor group to rescue and keep Giants in San Francisco.

Many may have believed as B of A was being manipulated out of town, the last thing San Francisco needed was a similar fate for the Giants, even though that’s how they came to be here from NY in the late 1950’s. Essential to keeping the Giants in San Francisco was construction of PacBell Park north of Mission Creek. Since then the ballpark has spurred a building boom on the Eastern end of the south of Market migration, just as Moscone Center had done a few years before on the West end.


Food – Processors

Del Monte is the oldest of old line San Francisco food companies, dating back to 1854. The biggest of California food canners and processors over the years, most of 25,000-35,000 employees in recent decades have never seen California. Instead their Del Monte days are spent picking or processing pineapples and other fruits in the orient or Latin America. Since Del Monte’s 1979 acquisition by RJR and subsequent dismemberment as part of KKR buyout, Del Monte is still based in San Francisco, ruling over a much-diminished empire with nearly 300 San Francisco employees.

With an 1850 founding, Castle & Cooke is older than DelMonte, but more Hawaii than San Francisco. Headquarters were moved her from Honolulu after New Orleans Standard Fruit banana acquisition in 1979. Within a few years, David Murdoch gained control through his Flexi Van holdings. He eventually sold off some parts, took rest private and moved it to his LA home base as Dole, along with SF jobs.

Foremost Dairies took over McKesson in 1967 after McKesson’s long soap opera history of scandal, fraud and suicide. But by 1983 Foremost and other new business lines were out as LBO’s as McKesson returned to drugs and health. Even without food, chemicals and other businesses, employee counts grew from 14,000 in 1985 to over 24,000 with over 1,000 in Bay Area. Much of this growth was associated with the very troubled HBOC merger.

In coffee, Folgers was acquired by P&G for national distribution and Nestle picked up MJB before dumping it back to Sara Lee recently. P&J also acquired Clorox, but was forced to divest it. To survive, Clorox turned itself into a food company with over 8000 employees, although most are far from Oakland head offices. A number of smaller San Francisco firms such as Getz, Connell, Wilbur-Ellis, Pacific Vegetable Oil, and even Consolidated Freightways provided transport, logistics or other distribution and marketing services to California’s food growers. With the exception of Consolidated which still has 20,000 jobs although only 200 in Bay Area after moving from San Francisco to Menlo Park, none of these service firms had more than a couple hundred employees in total.


Buildings – Shift North to Embarcadero Center

Through the 1970’s and into the 1980’s, new high rises sprouted throughout the financial district and north to the string of four Embarcadero office towers that replaced a congested produce market that moved south of Market. Embarcadero Center was anchored on East and West ends by two new high-rise Hyatts. As the lawyers, accountants, consultants and financiers rushed to fill these vast new office spaces, few realized this would be the last hurrah of glamorous new office tower growth spreading north from the financial district.


However, even during Embarcadero’s rise to the north, the seeds for movement south had been planted and were taking root. Before I arrived in San Francisco in 1965, only one high rise office building had been built south of market, the 26 story Pacific Bell building in 1925. From this New Montgomery headquarters, Pacific Bell controlled 95,000 jobs by 1972 and parent AT&T may have had up to another 10,000 in northern California.


Buildings – Shift to East Bay

As long ago as 1970, another AT&T unit, Western Electric had purchased over 1,700 acres of the East Bay’s Bishop Ranch to build a new community. About 500 acres of this became the Bishop Ranch industrial park. After the 1984 split of AT&T and emergence of Baby Bells, nearly all Pacific Bell bay area jobs migrated to dazzling new headquarters of Bishop Ranch. Over 7,000 PacBell employees filled these San Ramon halls and were soon joined by almost as many Chevron jobs, mostly also from San Francisco. Since the split of PacBell non-regulated businesses in the late 1990’s and acquisition of PacBell by SBC, all those San Ramon jobs have dropped dramatically.


Buildings – Shifts Out of Business

Meanwhile back in San Francisco, Southern Pacific had dominated San Francisco’s downtown skyline from their 1916 rebuilt headquarters opposite the ferry building. From that same location they had dominated much of California transport and commerce since the time in 1884 when Central and Southern Pacific operations were fully integrated. This domination lasted, and according to Frank Norris in the Octopus had a stranglehold on California’s great agriculture industry through monopoly control of both rail and water transport. That power was based on political control in California and was initially severed with Hiram Johnson’s election as governor in 1910. But it was not until after the 1930’s when road transport and bridges became predominant new transportation modes and really began to weaken the mighty SP.


Old Market St. Companies Southern Pacific

As recently as 1965, SP had 75,000 jobs, but decline was rapid to 47,000 in 1972 and 31,000 in 1985, with 5,000 in Bay Area. But the end was near as the ICC rejected a proposed San Francisco based Western Pacific merger. Sprint was sold to United Telecom and what remained of the 4 million acre land holdings were separated from rail operations.

SP rail was bought by Rio Grande in 1988, but a proposed sale and combination with Santa Fe rail was turned down by ICC in 1990, although Santa Fe holdings ended up with SP lands. In 1996, the century long process of recombining SP and Union Pacific was completed after first being attempted through Harriman control of both lines in early 1900’s. That was ended with Supreme Court decision in 1920’s. In recent years, valuable lands and mineral rights were sold, such as 500,000 acres of California timber to Sierra Pacific and other land was developed, such as the Catellus Mission Bay project in San Francisco. But none of these rich lands and developments projects added many San Francisco jobs. Catellus only employees about 200.


Old Market Street Companies – PG&E

Up Market from SP, PG&E had consolidated gas and electric utilities of northern California and generated and transmitted power through 25,000 employees, directed by a headquarter staff in their 18 story 215 Market 1924 building. As with Pacific Bell and SP, PG&E only employed a few thousand in San Francisco jobs. With utility deregulation in the 1990’s, PG&E sold their asset intensive hydro and other power generating facilities and were trapped in the 2002 energy price rise. Bankruptcy and recovery since left PG&E with less than 20,000 and a diminished downtown San Francisco headquarter staff.

Downtown San Francisco Since 1989 Earthquake


With all these job defections and shrinkage from the old south of Market companies, how could the area be ready to boom? Around and over the SP building rose 27 and 43 towers for Del Monte and Brobeck among others. Up from PG&E, the Federal Reserve moved to a new 333 Market 33 story building along with many of 2,000 jobs in 1979. Also in 1979 the Shaklee Tower opened Market to house many of the 500 Shaklee jobs, the remains of which have departed to Pleasanton, as Shaklee became part of Activated Riplewood Holdings in 1990’s.


Continuing up Market, Chevron had built the 22 story 555 Market in 1964. By 1973 525 Market added 38 stories to the East and to the West Chevron finished 575 Market’s 40 stories in 1975 and 595 Market rose to 31 stories by 1979. Across Market the planned 38 story Crocker tower rose in 1982 to become Telesis later. Citicorp got into the act by adding 38 stories over the old Crocker Anglo California branch at One Sansome to tower over all Chevron buildings but by the 1984 debut, Chevron was looking to San Ramon. 1987 saw the filling out of Market’s new high rises with 388 and 455, two years shy of the event that accelerated downtown’s move South.


Buildings – Bridges to Shifts South – Hotels and Retail

To add to the mix and shifts of downtown San Francisco high rises and jobs should be added two of downtown San Francisco’s oldest businesses, hotels and retail. Both mostly flank financial district to west. By straddling Market, they also are a bridge from the old downtown north of market to the rise of the new south of Market downtown. Along with south of Market’s Moscone Center, they are integral San Francisco’s increasingly essential tourist industry.


Union Square and Nob Hill - Hotels

San Francisco’s pre earthquake hotels were more in midst of downtown financial district as indicated in . After 1906, Palace was rebuilt and St. Francis and Fairmont were completed. What became Ritz Carlton in 1990’s was built for Metropolitan Life offices in 1909, just as Stanford Court Hotel of 1980’s was originally built in 1911, opposite University Club, which had been Stanford coach house. Clift was first new hotel in 1913 while Huntington in 1914 and Mark Hopkins in 1924 rose on 1906 ashes of Nob Hill.


As hotels joined retail and commercial buildings to replace pre 1906 churches, clubs and Mechanics Pavilion around Union Square, as seen in The Drake Wilshire rose in 1916 to become Campton in late 1980’s and Sir Francis Drake was built in 1928. Maxwell, Chancellor, Kensington Park, Omni and Shannon Court also rose hotels after 1906 earthquake and through the 1920’s.


Until the 1970’s, all was quiet in new downtown hotels. But since then more than 20 high rise hotels have been added to or built. Until the end of the 1960’s major San Francisco hotels were independent. Since then most all have become associated with large hotel chain groups such as Westin, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and Holiday Inn. More recently Westin, Sheraton, W and St. Regis have become part of Starwood.


Union Square - Retail

City of Paris dates from 1850, Gump’s from 1861, Shreve’s goes back to 1878 and I. Magnin to 1885. Not until 1945 did Macy’s buy O’Connor Moffet on Union Square. Later they also bought Emporium on Market, which had become associated with Nathan-Dohrmann. In subsequent retail consolidation, Macy’s also took over I. Magnin, which had been built on an old Nathan Dohrmann location. And in the 1990’s Amfac’s Liberty House was added to Macy’s across Stockton St. Meanwhile other retailers like Sak’s and Nordstrom’s entered San Francisco, Nieman-Marcus took over City of Paris location and FAO Schwartz moved into J. Magnin’s closed space before folding.


San Francisco retail and hotel job counts are not comparable to other downtown company employee counts due to occasional, part-time and other types of workers. But with a few hotels such as Hilton, St. Francis and a couple Hyatts providing over 1,000 rooms each and Macy’s dominating retail sales, downtown jobs in these retail and hotel businesses are substantial, and also troubled, as is evident in the ongoing hotel strike and disputes.



Buildings – Seismic Shift to Accelerate Building Shift South

As national attention turned to the second game of the only World Series by the Bay, the evening’s headliner was not the game, but the earthquake that postponed it moments before the opening pitch. Nothing as dramatic as the pancake collapse of the Cypress freeway in Oakland or even Bay Bridge severing occurred in San Francisco, but the lasting effects were much more profound. For it was the weakening of the Central and Embarcadero freeways and their eventual destruction that opened up both the Civic Center and Downtown San Francisco. Not since the 1950’s when San Francisco had been the first US city to stop Interstates and prevent the Central Freeway extension through the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park to Golden Gate bridge and the Embarcadero Freeway’s similar Golden Gate bridge destination via the Marina had there been this openness.


It was breathtaking to realize that the waterfront could be part of downtown San Francisco again rather than segmented by ramps and layered elevated freeways. From Mission Bay where PacBell Park would later rise to Pier 39, where renovation was recently completed, a new world of possibilities opened. Everything from Willie Brown’s Palm trees, to a streetcar line from the old SP terminal to downtown, to a glistening renovation old SP Ferry building added luster. But mostly the seemingly limitless sense of space and openness was the catalyst for downtown’s move south that continues to this day.


Pioneer - Bechtel

The first of the march of high-rises south of market since the 1925 Pacific Bell tower began long before the earthquake with the 23 story 50 Beale Bechtel building in 1967. Bechtel had gotten started at the turn of the past century by building Chevron’s Richmond refinery. They joined others to build large dams like Hoover. By the time of their 1967 south of market headquarters, Bechtel had begun the decades long Market Street tearing up with BART’s 1964 kickoff.


By 1974 Bechtel’s construction moved north to the Trans Alaskan road and pipeline. After this mega project attention shifted to the Middle East to build the Saudi industrial and petrochemical city of Jubail, and another south of Market 34-story tower was added at 45 Fremont. With Iraq non-compete awards and Jubail contract extended to 2007, Bechtel is still the world’s largest engineering and construction firm with about 40,000 employees, although only about 10% or less are in San Francisco.

Buildings – High Rise Boom South of Market Since 1980’s

But the south of Market whirlwind had just begun with the two Bechtel high-rises. During the 1980’s, 20 new office high rises, 3 hotels and a half dozen residential towers had been built or were nearing completion in downtown south of market. Since then, another 18 south of market residential high rises have been added to take advantage of the post 1989 earthquake open space linking city and waterfront, without interruption of elevated freeways and access ramps. And dozens more south of market high rises are committed to or planned, while building north of Market in downtown remains mainly moribund.


Holdouts - Lawyers, Accountants, Consultants

With most of large downtown San Francisco headquartered companies either moved away or acquired, it harder to identify who fills all downtown San Francisco’s new and old office space. But it is clear that between 1986 and 2004 professional staffs of accounting, consulting and legal firms grew dramatically:



When support staff is added, these San Francisco job figures would double or triple.



Summary and View Further South


Perhaps the best way to illustrate downtown San Francisco’s dramatic shift south is through two companies in the sector that has been the harbinger of every industrial revolution, textiles. Levi-Strauss with it’s 1853 founding is one of San Francisco’s oldest, with as strong an apparel brand today as any in the world. With the 1960’s and jeans as dress of choice of young throughout the world, Levi’s capitalized on this fashion to expand and move north beyond Embarcadero to Levi’s Plaza, at foot of Telegraph Hill. It was the last of large corporate moves north in downtown San Francisco. Cycling from private to public to private ownership, Levi’s employees rocketed from 20,000 in 1972 to 37,000 in 1985. But changing tastes and competitiveness have left Levi’s with less than 9,000 employees worldwide and only about 1,000 in Bay Area.


In the shadow of Levi’s capitalizing on the worldwide jean phenomenon, another apparel company was founded in San Francisco in 1969. Since then, the Fisher’s and Dexler have built the Gap to over 150,000 employees. Despite considerations of leaving San Francisco, as many other corporate headquarter operations did, the Gap simply fell into the Gap, by joining the rush south of market, where many of their 5,000 Bay Area jobs remain.


Technology and Commutes South

Recent south of Market high-rise building is as often associated with residential as new office towers, often in combination. Who fills all these new housing units? In the 1990’s, it was expected that workers would, just as the new companies for which they worked vied for and filled all available south of Market commercial space. But then the bubble burst, south of Market offices emptied and workers left. After the dust of the bust settled, the big story of Bay Area jobs in recent decades became even more clear. It was the tale of technology and Silicon Valley to the south. The following table of Silcon Valley based companies that mostly didn’t even exist before the late 1970’s indicates why:


Bay Area





























Mercury Interactive




















Applied Materials




























JDs Unifies




* * *


Perhaps many of the new south of Market residence towers are becoming San Francisco downtown bedroom communities for tech jobs on the peninsula, where residences have become as unaffordable and freeways are as congested as in San Francisco. If so, this could be the ultimate shift in all the shifts of jobs and buildings in downtown San Francisco. That may be a shift that reverses the flow from home to downtown workplace to a flow of downtown home to non-downtown workplace.


Everyone has heard the old story of the cobbler and his children’s shoes. Perhaps by applying all the wonders and wizardry of technology we have spawned in the Bay Area over recent decades, we will also stamp not true to the old cobbler tale. This could come from something as simple as using this technology which is already readily have available everywhere today to change home to work from a long and time-consuming commute to a few steps to the next room.


Some level of face to face communication will probably always be needed, valuable and desired. And with reduced frequency, these occasional meetings could even accomplish more. The question is whether we are willing to change work habits by simply using the same telecommunications and information technologies we live with each day at an office to using them in same way from a home office. If so, commutes can become a few steps rather than mass transit, auto, congestion, time loss, stress and frustration at beginning and end of each workday. And the urgency of mobilizing technology to solve ever-looming energy crises might be deferred or postponed, perhaps indefinitely.


Is that the way this tale of downtown San Francisco shifts summarized here will end? And will that epochal change then be looked back on as true paradigm shift, the prototype for evolving from work and home apart to work and home together. If all that happened, would it really be that new or different. After all the industrial revolution only began in England about the same time we began as the US in 1776. Before then work and home was nearly always the same, often called a farm.