Revising San Diego's downtown recovery
Driving the news: The number of unique visitors to downtown San Diego this spring reached 80% of its pre-pandemic level, according to an updated analysis from the University of Toronto's School of Cities.
- That ranks us 20th of the 55 largest U.S. metro areas tracked by the School of Cities' project.
- An earlier version of the research placed San Diego among the strongest downtown recoveries in the country before a change to the researchers' methodology resulted in different boundaries for our downtown area.
Why it matters: The methodological change shifts our understanding of how well an economic engine is recovering from the pandemic, relative to peer cities — and whether regional leaders should feel any urgency to pursue policies to help it along.
- "We're more balanced," Mayor Todd Gloria told CBS News in March, voicing a popular explanation for San Diego's resiliency: By relying less on downtown workers and more on a mix of tourism, workers and full-time residents, we outperformed other cities with more traditional, 9-to-5 downtowns.
Zoom in: Under the old methodology, San Diego's downtown footprint included the San Diego International Airport. That's no longer true.
- Since the research is based on anonymized cell phone data, San Diego got a boost from all of the people who passed through the airport, even if they never stepped foot downtown.
- "It's hard to think of another downtown where we could have even included the airport, since it's rare to have next to the office district," Karen Chapple, the project lead at the School of Cities, told us this summer. "So the airport indeed may account for a disproportionate share of the activity."
Zoom out: A different report, from the Center City District in Philadelphia, still pegs San Diego as one of the best-recovering downtowns.
- Its analysis does not include the airport in its downtown definition.
What we're watching: Bill Fulton, UC San Diego Design Lab's visiting policy designer, said downtown's traits could still be recovery strengths given current urban trends.
- "The office market isn't good here, but the office market isn't good anywhere, and San Diego hadn't been attracting office jobs anyway," he said. "The non-office part of our downtown is doing well, and we're sort of the anti-San Francisco, where they rely so much on office jobs."
More San Diego stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios San Diego.