Union Square News

Wondering what buzz is in Union Square? We’ve gathered all our local and national press coverage as well as our own news stories right here in one convenient place. By visiting, you’ll always be on top of the most recent Union Square news articles, events and developments without having to comb through the internet. As the retailand cultural center of San Francisco with strong ties to the city’s culinary and nightlife scenes, we’re often on the cusp of the hottest trends in the Bay Area. So, consider this your source for what’s new, hip and interesting in Union Square. We post regularly, as new stories come out.

Expand Union Square efforts to address homeless

By Karin Flood

As the steward of San Francisco’s most iconic area, Union Square Business Improvement District members know what it’s like to work to address San Francisco’s No. 1 and seemingly most intractable issue — homelessness. Union Square is the economic heart of San Francisco and our city’s gateway for more than 50 million visitors per year.

We share in the frustration that the complex issues associated with homelessness and public safety for everyone persist throughout our city. Yet having people living on our streets is unacceptable. We are desperate enough to expose how this issue is costing our businesses and our city’s reputation. As a community of stakeholders — businesses, residents, property owners — we are committed to working collaboratively with city agencies. But we all need to do more.

Since 1999, our district has worked to keep Union Square clean and safe for visitors and provide tens of thousands of local retail and hospitality jobs while reaching out with compassion to homeless individuals.

Our cleaning ambassadors removed 450,000 pounds of trash from sidewalks in 2017. Our safety ambassadors and the San Francisco Police keep our district safe, having handled 18,000 quality-of-life incidents in the past five months alone. We installed a robust network of 350 security cameras — the first in San Francisco to do so — to help make cases against bad actors. And we weigh in on important public policy matters such as mental health and homelessness.

In 2015, we launched the Union Square Cares initiative to educate visitors and employees about homelessness and highlight nonprofits they can support. We raised money to maintain a rapid response center that fields a team of homeless individuals who are being put back to work with dignity by maintaining clean and safe streets.

If your business or property is located within one of the existing 15 districts in San Francisco or one of the ones being formed, then learn more about the services they provide and support their work. And strengthening and expanding the Union Square Business Improvement and Community Benefit District by a few blocks to meet the boundaries of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District would allow our communities to work collaboratively to tackle the city’s most pressing challenge.

International Downtown Association Conference in San Francisco

September 25, 2015

Placemaking Experts Converge on San Francisco
International Downtown Association Members Discussing
Best Practices & Urban Challenges Worldwide

SAN FRANCISCO, September 24, 2015 — Innovative retail? Check. Creative placemaking? Check. Collaboration, promotion and beautification? Check.

Nearly a thousand members of the International Downtown Association are converging on San Francisco September 30—October 2, 2015 to explore the city as an urban laboratory and to share ideas from around the world that improve urban areas.

The 2015 Bridge the Gap conference brings together experts in the fields of placemaking and urban district management to discuss the challenges and successes facing downtowns and urban areas. Master talk speakers include industry experts from Kaiser Permanente, Burning Man, Project for Public Spaces, SPUR, Gehl Studio, MIG and more.  

“San Francisco is proud to host the 2015 IDA conference that brings together national and international experts in the fields of public place management, urban revitalization, local economic development and community building – all of which unites and creates a diverse, vibrant and thriving community,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “San Francisco is able to provide lessons and models to our visitors on some of our City’s important urban projects and programs made possible through innovative public-private partnerships.”

IDA’s members have a proven track record of creating collaborative public-private partnerships to tackle weighty issues. More than 2,500 downtown management districts, often called Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) or Community Benefit Districts (CBDs), such as the Union Square BID in San Francisco, exist in cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

- The top ten cities in the U.S. receive direct private investment of $400 million a year through BIDs.
- More than 439 BIDs or similar improvement organizations exist in those top 10 cities.
- The top five cities in Canada receive direct private investment of $73 million a year through BIAs (Business Improvement Areas).

“Our members bring new ideas from cities all over the world to support their downtowns and make them vibrant and healthy places,” said David Downey, President and CEO of the International Downtown Association. “This is the first time IDA has held its conference in San Francisco, and we are looking forward to exploring how the City of San Francisco and its place management organizations are addressing urban challenges with new and innovative ideas.”

The 2015 Bridge the Gap conference is co-hosted by the International Downtown Association, the Union Square BID, and the City and County of San Francisco. The IDA annual conference is the primary educational and networking opportunity that brings members together in one place to investigate solutions to urban issues such as:

- maintaining authenticity and character in urban centers;
- activating public spaces;
- attracting diverse retail tenants;
- encouraging and supporting public art and culture;
- safety, cleanliness and beautification; and
- branding and marketing. 

Dozens of break-out sessions, walking tours, expert master talks and events will delve into these issues and many more. View the full conference schedule here.

“We welcome the 2015 IDA conference and its guests to San Francisco. We are looking forward to sharing best practices between our 14 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) with public place management organizations from around the world during the IDA conference,” said Todd Rufo, Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.”

Urban management districts were formed in the 1970s in Canada in response to depleting resources, struggling downtowns and car-based development that sent residents fleeing to the suburbs. Over the last 40+ years, these nonprofit organizations have leveraged private investment and become an effective, efficient and lauded solution to the urban issues facing cities, downtowns and main streets today. In San Francisco, the first urban place management district, the Union Square BID, was formed in 1999 under a state law. Following the passage of a local ordinance in 2004 and the establishment of a new technical assistance program at the City & County of San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, many more districts were formed.  Today, 14 Business Improvement and Community Benefit Districts are operating in San Francisco’s downtown areas and within many distinct neighborhood commercial districts.

“We are excited to showcase how Union Square, already an internationally renowned shopping district, continues to shine with innovative thinking in the retail sector, bringing together technology and retail marketplaces to attract customers and new businesses to fuel economic growth,” said Karin Flood, executive director, Union Square BID. “Our work to enhance and promote the Union Square neighborhood helps to ensure that it remains a world-class destination.”

The Union Square BID has initiated creative public space improvements such as Winter Walk SF and the Powell St. Promenade to sustain a lively and active district that is one of the top shopping, business and civic gathering places in the nation. Union Square BID programs include safety ambassadors, cleaning and beautification, advocacy and marketing efforts created to activate the neighborhood and attract shoppers, residents and employees. At the conference, IDA members will learn more about innovative programming such as this through break-out sessions on flexible streets, creative placemaking, and leveraging the arts to re-energize downtowns.

About the International Downtown Association

The International Downtown Association is a world leader and champion for vital and livable urban centers. Through its network of diverse practitioners, its rich body of knowledge, and its unique capacity to nurture community-building partnerships, IDA provides tools, intelligence and strategies for creating healthy and dynamic centers that anchor the well-being of towns, cities and regions around the world. Visit for more information, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Union Square BID

The Union Square Business Improvement District is made up of a vibrant and diverse 27-block community surrounding Union Square Park in San Francisco. Union Square is known for its eclectic mix of world-class fashion, dining, hospitality and entertainment. The Union Square BID seeks to improve the overall quality of life for residents and visitors to the area through maintenance and public safety measures, marketing, advocacy, beautification and streetscapes programs. For more information please visit us at or find us on Facebook or twitter

About the Office Economic and Workforce Development

The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) supports the ongoing economic vitality of San Francisco. OEWD provides citywide leadership for neighborhood commercial corridor revitalization, business attraction and retention, international business development, real estate development and workforce development. Through OEWD’s Invest in Neighborhoods Initiative, Community Benefit Districts are public and private partnerships under Mayor Lee’s Shared Prosperity Plan to ensure San Francisco’s commercial corridors continue to thrive and remain vibrant for people to enjoy. For more information please visit us at



Media Contact on Site:

Rachel L. Davis, Director of Communications and Marketing

International Downtown Association

Mobile: 202-510-1450


Union Square BID Media Contact:

Peter Bartelme


More Info >>


Winter Walk SF Launches

November 20, 2014

Union Square SF Presents Winter Walk SF

A Festive Open Plaza with a Spectacular New Holiday Light Art Show

New Downtown Pedestrian-Only Holiday Plaza Debuts with Nightly Light Art Show, Carolers, Live Music and Off the Grid Food Trucks Open through Jan. 1

Union Square SF ( Mayor Lee and the Central Subway Team are creating an inviting, open plaza on Stockton Street between Geary and Ellis for one month to celebrate the holidays in a spectacular fashion with a stunning light art show, regular live performances, food trucks and other holiday merriment. For a full list of events visit

Winter Walk SF will be open to the public from November 28, 2014 through January 1, 2015. Visitors will find an inviting, open space and daily events and celebrations. Glowing seating, artificial turf and warm lighting will create a welcoming atmosphere for locals and visitors to enjoy.

“The Central Subway project is part of a larger vision to create a world-class transportation system for our world-class City,” said Mayor Lee. “During this holiday season, our City will ensure we provide a safe and pleasurable experience by suspending the Central Subway Line construction in Union Square to create a Winter Walk for all our residents and visitors to enjoy.”

Each night a spectacular light art show will be projected on the Macy's Men's Building in which Jack Frost has adventures in San Francisco and spreads festive icicles throughout the City. The show is being imaged by Immersive SF and their team of local artists, including Mike and David Dutton, who co-created the first animatedGoogle doodle video. It will be projected daily from 5 pm-midnight, Dec. 1 - Jan. 1. In addition, live performances such as caroling, instrumental music and other surprises will take place on a weekly basis.

Off the Grid will provide a diverse selection of lunch and dinner options through their collection of top food trucks such as Senor Sisig, Bacon Bacon, Little Green Cyclo, Curry Up Now and more. Trucks will be present every other day of the week (11-2 pm Mon. Wed. Fri. Sun. & 5-8 pm Mon. Fri. Sun.), as well as three special night events with live music (6-8 pm on 12/3, 12/10, 12/17) and a Christmas Eve lunch party (Dec. 24, 12-4 pm).

Macy’s will offer a special Concierge Desk each weekend on the Winter Walk (Fri., Sat. & Sun. 11 am-8 pm) where visitors can pick up a holiday brochure, the Union Square Map & Guide and get general questions answered about San Francisco and Union Square. Macy’s cosmetics experts will treat guests to a holiday makeup consultation every Saturday from 12-6 pm and offer free fragrance sampling. For a full list of Winter Walk Events, visit

The Winter Walk was designed by the Union Square BID’s volunteer Streetscapes Committee Chair Manuela Anne King and the team at RHAA, a landscape architecture firm based in the Bay Area. For more info

Off the Grid markets are founded on the idea of bringing new and old communities together through a shared mobile food experience. Since 2010, Off the Grid has activated 33 unique spaces, creating outdoor lunch and dinner markets throughout the Bay Area. With quality and diversity in mind, Off the Grid collaborates with 175+ vendors on a weekly basis. Visit for market schedules and vendor lineups. All ages and all taste buds welcome.

Immersive is a cutting edge production company that creates dynamic environments for events. They specialize in corporate AV, projection arts, custom content creation, architectural projection mapping, sculptural projector mapping, event lighting, sound, rigging and CAD drafted renders.

The Union Square Business Improvement District is made up of a vibrant and diverse 27-block community surrounding Union Square Park in San Francisco. Union Square is known for its eclectic mix of world-class fashion, dining, hospitality and entertainment. The Union Square BID seeks to improve the overall quality of life for residents and visitors to the area through maintenance and public safety measures, marketing, advocacy, beautification and capital improvement programs. For more information please visit us or find us on Facebook or twitter. 


A Day in the Life of a Union Square BID Ambassador

February 24, 2014 highlighted a day in the life of our lead Union Square BID Ambassador, Wayne Alexis, in this morning's edition of The City Exposed. Wayne's outstanding efforts help keep Union Square a beautiful and welcoming place to visit.


Bike Sharing Comes to Union Square

August 21, 2013

SF Streetsblog shared pictures yesterday of Bay Area Bike Share stations being installed throughout Downtown SF. Union Square will get 3 of these stations before the program officially launches on August 29. This handymap is a great guide to all stations being installed between Van Ness and the Embarcadero, and memberships are available now on the system’s website


Converse Opening in Union Square This June

May 21, 2013 recently unveiled details of the forthcoming stand-alone Converse store opening on Market Street this June. The brand plans to re-think the shopping experience, activating the store with performances by local bands and DJs and art installations by local artists. For more details on the store's plans, read the full article here

How will SF's Union Square Businesses Recover?

By By Ken Miguel and Phil Matier |

Union Square is home to some of the biggest names in retail. It was facing challenges before the COVID-19 pandemic, including competition from online businesses and years of construction on a new subway line.

Union Square Safe Shopping

Union Square Safe Shopping

Kicking off San Francisco’s “Safe Shopper” campaign for the 2020 Holiday Season, this event will introduce the San Francisco Police Department’s newly created Community Ambassador program.

Signs of the Holiday Season Starting

SF's Union Square Gets Into the Holiday Spirit

By Christie Smith |

There are signs of the holiday season starting to pop up in San Francisco's Union Square after many retailers have spent months boarded up.