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California Assembly Announces Committee to Address State's Struggling Downtowns

The Downtown Recovery Select Committee will be tasked with reviewing policy to address California’s empty downtown cores that have not recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For immediate release:
  • Nate Allbee
  • (415) 756-0561

SACRAMENTO, CA – California State Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, has approved the creation of a Downtown Recovery Select Committee led by Chair Matt Haney (D-San Francisco). The Committee will convene experts in land use, business retention, public safety, as well as tourism and culture, to review policies to revitalize

California’s downtown corridors after their slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While cities like New York are back to near pre-pandemic function, California’s downtowns are facing significant challenges in recovering from the pandemic. Many of California's downtowns — including Assemblymember Haney’s district of San Francisco — were built with little housing in their downtown commercial districts forcing the local economy to depend on daily commuters. The pandemic changed the nature of work with many of California’s tech workers transitioning to working remotely full-time, causing previously bustling downtowns to empty out seemingly overnight. 

The crisis has been further compounded by skyrocketing rent, growing homelessness, and the opioid crisis. Many small businesses have struggled to regain their footing, and vacant storefronts have become common as restaurants, stores, and other small businesses have closed their doors due to the decline in commuters, residents, and visitors. 

“When you go to any city’s downtown, from San Francisco to San Diego, you see vacant storefronts and empty streets,” said Haney. “Downtowns are supposed to be economic engines for our cities. A healthy downtown is densely populated and brings together business and culture. The last few years it's felt like the old west — tumbleweeds, boarded-up shops, and crime.”

“We must reinvigorate California’s downtown cores and commercial districts,” said Speaker of the Assembly Robert Rivas (D-Salinas). “And I expect this select committee to put forward solutions that will help create vibrant centers that are magnets for business, job growth, and new housing opportunities, improve public safety and inspire community involvement. Our downtowns must sustain the heartbeat of our communities, and I’m thankful to Assemblymember Matt Haney for leading this critical discussion.”

The Committee will hold hearings throughout the year to discuss how the State can implement strategic revitalization efforts to encourage economic growth and livable spaces. This includes identifying specific challenges faced by downtown businesses and developing ways to attract them back to the downtown area. It will also find ways to promote downtowns as desirable destinations for new residents and visitors by attracting local restaurants, shops, and cultural events.