Developer John Kilroy says San Franciscans “are fed up” and taking action

CEO of Kilroy Realty compares city to addict who has “hit bottom” and now seeks change

Developer John Kilroy said San Franciscans “are fed up” and taking action
Kilroy Realty's John Kilroy (Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

John Kilroy of Kilroy Realty compared the troubled city of San Francisco to a dope fiend who must hit bottom before asking for help.

The head of the Los Angeles-based real estate investment trust used rehab-speak to call upon San Francisco to meet its problems with crime, homelessness, empty offices and vacant storefronts head on, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

For the 74-year-old executive who last year called for replacing progressive district attorneys — “We’re gonna throw these bums out” — that means admitting the problem before taking action.

“If you’ve ever been involved in an intervention of somebody who’s an alcoholic or a drug addict, you’re not going to get any place unless they … hit bottom. And they want to change,” Kilroy told analysts on an earnings call. “And that’s the way I would characterize San Francisco.

“San Franciscans across most of the political spectrum, the economic spectrum, the demographics spectrum, are fed up, and they’ve taken action.”

Kilroy, owner of more than 14 million square feet in real estate, is the landlord of large office buildings such as the 30-story Salesforce East at 350 Mission Street, being vacated by Salesforce, and a nearly 400,000-square-foot building at 100 Hooper Street, leased by Adobe.

The development firm secured approval for a 2.2-million-square-foot project at the San Francisco Flower Mart at 610-698 Brannan Street that’s on hold while investors await an economic recovery. It has now shifted development outside the city, including a 3-million-square-foot life science campus on Oyster Point in South San Francisco.

Kilroy, whose firm has a record of supporting local races and ballot initiatives, said he was encouraged by recent election results, alluding to a push by business groups and residents who called for crackdowns on crime and open-air drug deals.

He sees a good chance for political moderates in next year’s elections, according to the Chronicle.

He said a “broad coalition of people,” from business executives to school teachers, had reshaped city politics, a nod to last year’s recall of three progressive school board members along with District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

And he praised state and federal law enforcement who he said were “taking action that the locals can’t.” 

Though he didn’t name names, Kilroy referred to a political shift in the balance of the Board of Supervisors. Progressive supervisors are up for re-election next year — including Dean Preston and Connie Chan, targets of a moderate political group that wants to defeat them.

Kilroy said he thought there “is a real opportunity to get rid of some of the bad judges that are up there.” He didn’t name names.

The CEO, who will retire soon from the REIT founded by his late father, said San Francisco may see better days ahead.

“People are committed to funding and actively participating and changing what became a mess,” he said on the conference call. “So I’m more optimistic, to tell you the truth, than I’ve been in the last two or three years by far. But there’s work to be done.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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