SAN DIEGO — A series of major construction projects downtown will bring thousands of tech and life sciences jobs to San Diego, but could also worsen our housing crunch.
From the waterfront to Horton Plaza to Tailgate Park, the heart of San Diego is about to get much more modern.
“This is the first time we've seen office space of any significance developed in downtown for over two decades,” said Gary London, a commercial real estate consultant.
It may seem like an odd time - with the Coronavirus outbreak eliminating upwards of 100,000 local jobs, and much of San Diego working from home.
But the downtown construction work goes on because the virus has not stopped San Diego’s life sciences and tech industries from growing.
Horton Plaza is being redeveloped into a mixed-use tech and life sciences hub that could accommodate up to 4,000 new workers, while a $1.5 billion dollar biotech district is under construction on the Embarcadero. That project, called the RaDD, for Research and Development District, would bring in 4,000 workers in its initial phase. Both are at least a year away from opening.
Meanwhile, the Padres are getting closer to beginnign work on a mixed-use project on Tailgate Park, with more than 1.3 million square-feet of office space, plus 600 homes.
“The question of whether or not these are new jobs that are going to be added downtown as part of the overall regional number, or whether we are just sort of playing musical chairs from old office space to new office space is an interesting one,” said London, of London Moeder Advisors.
It's also an important question, because new companies would mean new jobs. That could mean more people moving to San Diego, exacerbating a severe housing shortage.
The county needs 22,000 new homes per year to keep up with demand. But in 2019, developers only pulled permits for 8,200. That pushes up the price of housing.
Peter Callstrom, CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, said the time is now to retrain for these life sciences and tech jobs. In the last year, the professional, scientific and technical services added 3,200 new jobs, as many local employers reduced their workforce.
“If you want to get into a new career, don't wait until the economy comes back and you go back into that same job that perhaps you don't want. Skill up now,” Callstrom said.
The Workforce Partnership and Community Colleges have affordable or even free training to help get a job in demand.