By Steve Levy
A Slow Economic Recovery Ahead--What do You Need to See Before the Economy ReopensUploaded: Apr 13, 2020
Dear Mayor Fine and council members,
You are aware of the many health related prerequisites for reopening parts of the economy.
And you are aware that reopening will go slowly.
--some residents will remain at higher risk and under stay at home orders
--shops, offices and restaurants will probably have limited openings with smaller capacity, queues and some physical distancing.
I urge you to consider some additional factors, particularly the distinction between what the law allows and how residents, workers and visitors react.
Take air travel, which is important for tourism (here think Stanford Shopping Center, hotels, meetings and related spending activities.
I suspect foreign travel, key to our tourism, tech deal making, and home sales will not reopen soon or at full capacity and when it does, many will be hesitant to travel.
The same may be true for domestic travel. We used to go down to see our grand kids every month and flew. When we can travel, at first we will drive. Every year they fly up and we go to Tahoe. This year they will drive if we can go.
How many home sales are to out of regions buyers. Even if they can purchase a home without being here, if they cannot physically move or think where they are is safer, no home sale. And the big sales season is now in the spring when we are at stay at home orders.
This will mean continued economic pressure for our residents and particularly small businesses.
But it will also mean that city revenues will likely be restricted for a long time. To me that implies that the council should remain flexible with frequent revenue and budget updates.
We all have friends in tech who are working from home and seem less affected. This is good news but not a good guide to the overall challenges facing our local economy.
Finally, Palo Alto was experiencing rising vacancy rates and slow or negative job growth before the virus became widespread. Another risk is that small businesses may not reopen or reopen here.
The city's future economic competitiveness deserves a careful look as the COVID-19 emergencies subside.