News June 29, 2023

San Francisco Announces a New Initiative to Spur Conversions of Underutilized Office Buildings

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San Francisco announced a new initiative to encourage and support the conversion of underutilized office buildings for other uses as part of the City’s vision for the future of Downtown. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the San Francisco Planning Department have partnered together to announce a Request For Interest (RFI) from City stakeholders to provide information on existing and future downtown development projects as a critical component of the City’s economic recovery efforts.

Conversions of underutilized spaces to new uses, often called “adaptive reuse” projects, are a key element of the Mayor’s Roadmap to Downtown San Francisco’s Future. This new initiative, along with the legislation recently approved, will enable the City to understand the needs of property owners, architects, and developers, to assist adaptive reuse projects.

Responses to the RFI can be projects that include conversion of nonresidential space to new uses, including proposals that

  • Convert office space to housing,
  • Reactivate vacant ground floor spaces with neighborhood-serving retail, entertainment, and cultural uses,
  • Enhance the public realm,
  • Activate underutilized upper floors,
  • Support education, art, research, and manufacturing.

About the Request for Interest (RFI)

The intent of this RFI is to identify projects where the City could help accelerate or enhance building conversions through regulatory modifications, financial incentives, or other means. Through this RFI, San Francisco also seeks to provide a venue for project sponsors to share information about the specific financial constraints, regulatory impediments, and other feasibility issues that may be facing individual adaptive reuse projects at an early stage.

Projects may be at any stage of planning or design. The City’s assistance could take a variety of forms, depending on the specific needs of each project. Responses to this RFI should describe the project concept and demonstrate how the City’s assistance would either make the project feasible or enhance its public benefits. Respondents may propose forms of City assistance that could include:

  • Increases to allowable building volume or other zoning modifications,
  • Project-specific fee modifications or adjustments to timing of fee payments,
  • Mills Act contracts,
  • Local tax reductions or other types of local tax consideration,
  • Tax increment financing to support public infrastructure improvements, preservation of historic structures, or affordable housing,
  • Modifications to inclusionary housing requirements,
  • City support on state or federal funding applications,
  • Assistance with ground floor activation or potential tenant identification, or
  • Other forms of City support

Please submit responses to the Request for Interest (RFI) by Friday, August 4, 2023 via email to The City will hold an online information session regarding this RFI on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. More information can be found on the Request for Interest (RFI) - Adaptive Reuse of Downtown Commercial Buildings webpage.

Goals of this Request for Interest (RFI)

Through this RFI, OEWD and the Planning Department seek to identify downtown adaptive reuse projects that could be accelerated or enhanced through regulatory modifications, financial incentives, or other types of assistance permitted under existing or future laws. This could take the form of Development Agreements or other mechanisms.

In addition to generating much-needed new housing units, adaptive reuse projects provide the opportunity to reactivate vacant ground floor spaces with neighborhood-serving retail, entertainment, or cultural uses; enhance the public realm; activate underutilized upper floors with new sectors that diversify the downtown economy such as education, art, research, and manufacturing; preserve historic building facades and unique interior spaces; improve the environmental performance of existing buildings; and seismically strengthen aging buildings for future decades of continued use. Adaptive reuse projects also have the potential to catalyze additional investment in nearby locations.

Eligibility to Participate

Expressions of interest are welcomed from building owners or other project sponsors who are exploring specific projects within downtown San Francisco that would convert underutilized commercial space into housing and other new uses. Projects may be at any stage of planning or design, and may or may not include architectural plans or other visualizations, however the description of the project should be detailed enough to understand how a specific building program would fit and perform on a specific site.

Although “office-to-housing” projects are of particular interest, responses may be for conversion of any non-residential floor area to new uses (other than office), providing an opportunity for creative ideas of all kind to be shared.