Axios San Francisco

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Today's newsletter is 866 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: California is a solar superpower

Data: Climate Central; Note: Includes both utility-scale and small-scale solar generation; Chart: Axios Visuals

California leads the country in a climate-related measure that likely doesn't surprise anyone given our ample sunshine: solar power generation.

Why it matters: Solar and wind power — which produce a small-but-growing share of America's overall energy supply — provide a bigger share of energy in some states than others.

By the numbers: California generated 68,816 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from solar power in 2023, up 9% from 2022, per an analysis from the research nonprofit Climate Central.

  • That output has been soaring for a decade.

State of play: California policymakers have prioritized the transition to solar power and other clean renewable energy to grow the state's production and storage capacity.

  • Since 2002, the state's renewable portfolios standard has set continuously escalating requirements for the amount of renewable energy in statewide retail electricity sales.

Between the lines: The price of solar power has declined over the past decade, contributing to its growth.

  • Plus, California's geography and weather make it a prime candidate for solar energy production.

Zoom in: San Francisco has made it a goal to supply residents and businesses with 100% renewable electricity that is "reliable and affordable" by 2025, per its climate plan.

  • GoSolarSF launched in 2009 to encourage solar panel installations. It has distributed nearly $30 million and incentivized 6,000 solar systems in the city, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).
  • Clean power programs have helped ensure that about 88% of all electricity used in San Francisco comes from 100% renewable electricity, SFPUC spokesperson Nancy Crowley told Axios over email.
  • The city is struggling with project backlogs as well as increased costs due to COVID-era supply chain disruptions and a surge in demand, but does not plan to alter its 2025 timeline as of now, Crowley noted.

What we're watching: Solar energy will play an increasingly important role in helping the state achieve its clean electricity goal by 2045, California Energy Commission staff told Axios.

  • That will require the electrification of all homes, buildings and cars that run on fossil fuels today, and the construction of an additional 148,000 MW of clean-energy resources.

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2. San Francisco's office vacancy rate

The Figma office at the Phelan Building in San Francisco. Photo: The Collective

San Francisco's office market is beginning to stabilize after a four-year downturn, but it will take years to fully recover, according to commercial real estate firm CBRE.

Why it matters: San Francisco's commercial office market activity has implications for the city's property and business tax revenues, as well as transit operations.

By the numbers: The city's office vacancy rate increased from 35.6% in the last four months of 2023 to 36.7% in the first quarter of this year, but the rate of increase has slowed, per CBRE.

  • Civic Center/Van Ness has the smallest total vacancy rate, at nearly 27%, while Yerba Buena has the highest in the city at about 57%.

What they're saying: Remote work remains a "significant barrier to a more vibrant San Francisco," Colin Yasukochi, an executive director with CBRE, said in a written statement.

Zoom in: Some of the more notable lease transactions in the first four months of this year involved tech company Adyen's 150,000-square-foot sublease in SoMa, accounting firm KPMG's 138,326-square-foot lease renewal near Yerba Buena and design company Figma's 97,600-square-foot lease renewal at the historic Phelan Building on Market Street.

What to watch: CBRE expects leasing activity to increase throughout the next year, in part due to lease renewals and relocations of employers that already have offices in San Francisco, per the report.

  • The firm also expects the city's office vacancy rate to peak over the next few quarters.

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3. The Wiggle: Navigating the news

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Police say a parishioner was stabbed outside Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, one of San Francisco's most well-known churches, on Sunday. (ABC7 News)

🍸 The historic LGBTQ bar The Stud has reopened in a new location on Folsom Street. (SFGATE)

🎶 San Francisco announced a new summer festival featuring free outdoor performances at parks and plazas across the city. (SF Standard)

4. Cable car ridership still down

A cable car on Hyde Street in 2022. Photo: Megan Rose Dickey/Axios

Cable car ridership has been slow to bounce back from the pandemic, having recovered just 58% of its 2019 ridership as of this February.

State of play: The cable cars shut down in March 2020 and didn't begin operating again until August 2021.

  • Since their return, cable cars have operated fewer hours and made fewer trips, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Why it matters: San Francisco's cable cars symbolize the city's tourism industry, which is slowly recovering.

By the numbers: In 2019, the city's cable cars saw between 430,000 to 480,000 passenger trips per month, according to the Chronicle's analysis of city data supplied to the Federal Transit Administration.

  • In February 2024, there were nearly 254,000 passenger trips.
  • Since the pandemic began, the highest cable car ridership was just short of 295,000 passenger trips in August 2023.

What's next: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's board of directors this month approved a budget that includes $5 all-day passes for the California Street cable car line.

5. Photo to go: A low-rider celebration

Photo: Megan Rose Dickey/Axios

Low-riders were out and about over the weekend in the Mission District in honor of the late pop star Selena.

My thought bubble: I wasn't part of the celebration but found myself stuck in some very worthwhile traffic.

Go deeper: California legalizes lowrider culture decades after San Francisco

🐾 Megan is picking up a foster dog from Muttville this week.

🤞 Shawna hopes we get our timeline for the incoming giant pandas soon!

🐼 Claire is looking forward to the giant pandas coming to SF Zoo, but when are we going to get an Aussie koala?

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Kathie Bozanich and Anjelica Tan.