San Francisco sees nation’s highest increase in office visits

Tourism, back-to-work mandates cited for year-over-year gains

(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

San Francisco saw the biggest increase in worker visits to the office in the country during July, according to, which uses cell phone data to track traffic in 800 buildings across 11 cities nationwide. 

San Francisco office visits were up 38.3 percent year-over-year, with second-place Washington D.C. coming in at 36.1 percent and New York a distant third at 16.1 percent. San Francisco also had the most ground to make up, given that it is still down 55.8 percent from July 2019 — the biggest pre-pandemic downshift in the country. Still, the city has made great strides in bringing workers back to downtown since the pre-vaccine depths of late 2020 and early 2021, when office visits were nearly 90 percent below July 2019 levels. 

Foot traffic in general downtown has seen a “significant uptick” this summer compared to one year ago, according to Dina Gourveia, Avison Young’s Market Intelligence Manager for the West. She said via email that increased tourism has been a big contributor as well as return to office mandates that may finally be starting to take hold after continued resistance from employees

“More businesses are seeing the importance of in-person work collaboration, therefore we also saw tenant activity increase compared to last year,” she said. “A fair number of those tenants are still working out occupancy needs following layoffs and restructuring. We anticipate further stabilization moving into the fall and winter months.”

Derek Daniels, Colliers’ research director for the Bay Area, said via email that the year-over-year growth was “encouraging” and that the brokerage is “bullish that RTO will continue to pick up in September and (is) expecting a general push in getting workers back into the physical office at least some of the time.” 

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The other cities in the survey also made inroads on their pre-pandemic office gaps, with nationwide office visits up 16 percent year-over-year. That could be due to an increase in return-to-office mandates, but it’s difficult to draw a direct connection, according to’s Ethan Chernofsky.

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“It’s difficult to say with any certainty whether shifts in return-to-office trends are driven by specific companies, city-led initiatives or a normal evolution of hybrid work standards,” he said via email. “The impact, however, is significant in that it brings needed visits back to office-oriented areas and the retailers and restaurants that rely on that traffic.”

Nationwide, July office visits were 37 percent below 2019 levels, indicating the continued strength of the hybrid model, Chernofsky said. That could mean that visits end up reduced only on certain days of the week or periods of time.

Washington D.C. now has the most recovered market but is still 22.4 percent off its pre-pandemic office visit figures, while second-place New York is down by nearly one-quarter.

“It is hard to imagine a reality where hybrid work’s impact doesn’t continue to make a significant difference in office visitation,” Chernofsky said.