By Tim Hunt
The only certainty is uncertaintyUploaded: Dec 3, 2020
Now that we are in the 12th month of 2020, we can look back and look ahead with the only certain thing being uncertainty.
None of us, other than the creator, knows what lies ahead for December and into 2021. The pandemic certainly has accelerated changes and trends. For instance, physicians outside of the Kaiser Permanente system have been quite slow to adopt telehealth.
The pivot took just days for some offices when docs realized the dangers of in-office visits and the opportunity to consult by video. It's here to stay.
The same likely goes for other trends such as many people working from home. Companies have learned that productivity is as good or higher, despite the challenges for families with homebound students thanks to ill-advised school closures and terribly tardy reopenings.
What will routine working from home mean for job centers such as downtown San Francisco and the South Bay where tech companies pay lots of rent for Class A office space? The lack of housing supply has driven prices straight up as well as rents. The pandemic, in the short term, reversed that.
It's notable how much rents in luxury San Francisco apartment buildings have softened in the last six months. Time will tell whether the golden goose is no more for San Francisco -- particularly with the three anti-business taxes that voters passed last month. The San Francisco Business Times has run several stories detailing CEOs leaving San Francisco as well as other wealthy people.
Many enclosed shopping centers have been struggling for years as online shopping was taking its toll. The pandemic again accelerated the trend, as Stoneridge Shopping Center saw its Nordstrom store closed permanently. It already has processed plans for a new look for the closed Sears store and the parking structure, both of which will be razed.
Stoneridge management and its parent, the Simon Property Group, faced the loss of another anchor with JCPenney in bankruptcy. Simon ended up partnering with Brookfield Property Partners to buy JCPenney for $300 million in cash and the assumption of $500 million in debt. Brookfield, like Simon, owns shopping centers with JCPenney stores. Simon has 60 stores in its centers.
After the pandemic hit, Simon had walked away from a deal to acquire the Taubman shopping centers. The two companies worked out a deal for Simon to acquire 80% of Taubman for a reduced price from the original February deal.
It will be a different shopping experience at Stoneridge with limitations on capacity, although that hasn't been a challenge these days. Santa will be there for the kids with one notable change. Appointments are required. That's one of those COVID-19 adjustments that could well become permanent -- better for all concerned.
We're club members at Dante Robere Winery in Livermore where the owners changed release parties so instead of lining up at the tasting bar and then picking up the food pairing, we're seated at socially distanced tables. When we went in November, the experience was excellent. The wine and food were brought to us and, when we got to open tasting, we continued to sit at the table instead of moving into the tasting room.
Chatting with owner Dan Rosenberg, he said they likely will continue to do club parties this way because it provides a better experience. We agree.
Considering the pandemic, have you wondered, as I have and the New York Times did in an article, about why the fixation and continued recommendation for sanitizing surfaces. The science seems pretty clear that this is an airborne virus so chances of getting it from a surface are slight. I shudder to think about how many millions are being spent on cleaning surfaces. It's well past time for health authorities to take a hard look at this recommendation.
For airlines and the travel industry, the sanitizing is a key strategy to encourage people to return. The same for cruise lines. Another giant unknown is when people will be ready to travel again in crowded conditions -- the two vaccines that are up for regulator approval this month could speed that time. Whether business travel, a revenue staple for airlines, returns after functioning virtually for a year or more is another big unknown.
It's clear the pandemic changed the world -- what changes will be long-term remain to be seen.