LA, San Francisco lead California business reopening pace

  • FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, motorists line up for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state's 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of deaths, didn't record a single COVID-19 death on Sunday, May 2.

    FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, motorists line up for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state's 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of deaths, didn't record a single COVID-19 death on Sunday, May 2. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this July 26, 2020, file photo, with the seats in Dodger Stadium empty, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias throws the ball to a San Francisco Giants batter during the third inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier. It's a remarkable turnaround considering California was the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the U.S. just a few months earlier.

    FILE - In this July 26, 2020, file photo, with the seats in Dodger Stadium empty, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias throws the ball to a San Francisco Giants batter during the third inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier. It's a remarkable turnaround considering California was the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the U.S. just a few months earlier. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 10, 2020, file photo, Rev. Nicolas Sanchez takes a phone call from a parishioner after live-streaming the Good Friday Mass without parishioners due to COVID-19 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country.

    FILE - In this April 10, 2020, file photo, Rev. Nicolas Sanchez takes a phone call from a parishioner after live-streaming the Good Friday Mass without parishioners due to COVID-19 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2020, file photo, Emergency Medical Services transfers a patient at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center hospital in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state's 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of deaths, didn't record a single COVID-19 death on Sunday, May 2.

    FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2020, file photo, Emergency Medical Services transfers a patient at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center hospital in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state's 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of deaths, didn't record a single COVID-19 death on Sunday, May 2. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 28, 2020, file photo, a sign is posted at the closed entrance to Innsdale Trail near the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country.

    FILE - In this March 28, 2020, file photo, a sign is posted at the closed entrance to Innsdale Trail near the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this May 18, 2020, file photo, the TCL Chinese Theatre is shown with no people present in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. Los Angeles County is expected to move Tuesday, May 4, 2021, into the least-restrictive yellow tier, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    FILE - In this May 18, 2020, file photo, the TCL Chinese Theatre is shown with no people present in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. Los Angeles County is expected to move Tuesday, May 4, 2021, into the least-restrictive yellow tier, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, tourists sit in a mostly empty sightseeing bus on Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4,  2021, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier.

    FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, tourists sit in a mostly empty sightseeing bus on Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, 2021, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this May 8, 2020, file photo, Spencer Kelly, dressed as the grim reaper, demonstrates in favor of the stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic at the pier in Huntington Beach, Calif. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country.

    FILE - In this May 8, 2020, file photo, Spencer Kelly, dressed as the grim reaper, demonstrates in favor of the stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic at the pier in Huntington Beach, Calif. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 7, 2021, file photo, people gather on the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. Los Angeles County is expected to move Tuesday, May 4 into the least-restrictive yellow tier this week, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    FILE - In this April 7, 2021, file photo, people gather on the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. Los Angeles County is expected to move Tuesday, May 4 into the least-restrictive yellow tier this week, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Associated Press

  • In this Sunday, May 2, 2021, photo, Angeleno Wine Company owners Amy Luftig Viste, left, and Jasper Dickson pose for a picture in downtown Los Angeles. When Angeleno Wine Co. reopened its tasting room to the public, Luftig Viste teared up seeing old friends reunited for the first time since the pandemic had shuttered so many businesses that it left major cities looking like ghost towns. "It felt like the winery had come alive again," Luftig Viste said Sunday, the day after it officially reopened after being closed all but two weeks over the past 13 months.

    In this Sunday, May 2, 2021, photo, Angeleno Wine Company owners Amy Luftig Viste, left, and Jasper Dickson pose for a picture in downtown Los Angeles. When Angeleno Wine Co. reopened its tasting room to the public, Luftig Viste teared up seeing old friends reunited for the first time since the pandemic had shuttered so many businesses that it left major cities looking like ghost towns. "It felt like the winery had come alive again," Luftig Viste said Sunday, the day after it officially reopened after being closed all but two weeks over the past 13 months. Associated Press

  • In this Sunday, May 2, 2021, photo, diners wait in line near the filled sidewalk tables of Wurstküche, eating sausages and drinking Belgian and German beer downtown Los Angeles. As spring warms up, freeways are becoming congested, workers are returning to offices and people are hitting restaurants and breweries. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier.

    In this Sunday, May 2, 2021, photo, diners wait in line near the filled sidewalk tables of Wurstküche, eating sausages and drinking Belgian and German beer downtown Los Angeles. As spring warms up, freeways are becoming congested, workers are returning to offices and people are hitting restaurants and breweries. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier. Associated Press

  • In this Sunday, May 2, 2021, photo, diners, some not wearing face masks, fill the sidewalk tables of Wurstküche, eating sausages and drinking Belgian and German beer in downtown Los Angeles. As spring warms up, freeways are becoming congested, workers are returning to offices and people are hitting restaurants and breweries. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier.

    In this Sunday, May 2, 2021, photo, diners, some not wearing face masks, fill the sidewalk tables of Wurstküche, eating sausages and drinking Belgian and German beer in downtown Los Angeles. As spring warms up, freeways are becoming congested, workers are returning to offices and people are hitting restaurants and breweries. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 4, 2020, file photo, a pedestrian crosses Grant Street behind the Dragon Gate, an entrance to Chinatown in San Francisco. San Francisco reached the least-restrictive yellow tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. Los Angeles never emerged from the most restrictive tier until March 2021.

    FILE - In this April 4, 2020, file photo, a pedestrian crosses Grant Street behind the Dragon Gate, an entrance to Chinatown in San Francisco. San Francisco reached the least-restrictive yellow tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. Los Angeles never emerged from the most restrictive tier until March 2021. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2020, file photo, a person wearing a face mask walks atop Tank Hill in front of the skyline during the coronavirus pandemic in San Francisco. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier, amid the pandemic.

    FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2020, file photo, a person wearing a face mask walks atop Tank Hill in front of the skyline during the coronavirus pandemic in San Francisco. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier, amid the pandemic. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 13, 2020, file photo, a newspaper headline announcing the closure of large events is displayed as a cable car goes down California Street in San Francisco. San Francisco reached the least-restrictive yellow tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country.

    FILE - In this March 13, 2020, file photo, a newspaper headline announcing the closure of large events is displayed as a cable car goes down California Street in San Francisco. San Francisco reached the least-restrictive yellow tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this May 24, 2020, file photo, visitors set up inside circles designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging social distancing at Dolores Park in San Francisco. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, 2021, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier, amid the pandemic. It's a remarkable turnaround considering California was the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the U.S. just a few months earlier.

    FILE - In this May 24, 2020, file photo, visitors set up inside circles designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging social distancing at Dolores Park in San Francisco. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, 2021, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier, amid the pandemic. It's a remarkable turnaround considering California was the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the U.S. just a few months earlier. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 9, 2020, file photo, passengers aboard the Grand Princess celebrate as they arrive in Oakland, Calif. A year ago, the Grand Princess captured the world's attention when it became clear the coronavirus pandemic had arrived on the shore of California, making the virus real to millions in the United States. San Francisco reached the least-restrictive yellow tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country.

    FILE - In this March 9, 2020, file photo, passengers aboard the Grand Princess celebrate as they arrive in Oakland, Calif. A year ago, the Grand Princess captured the world's attention when it became clear the coronavirus pandemic had arrived on the shore of California, making the virus real to millions in the United States. San Francisco reached the least-restrictive yellow tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest case rate in the country. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this May 21, 2020, file photo, rectangle areas designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging social distancing line a city-sanctioned homeless encampment at San Francisco's Civic Center. San Francisco has a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices. Residential rents plummeted, but are now climbing back up. Rent prices have gone down 10% in San Francisco but remained stable in Los Angeles.

    FILE - In this May 21, 2020, file photo, rectangle areas designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging social distancing line a city-sanctioned homeless encampment at San Francisco's Civic Center. San Francisco has a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices. Residential rents plummeted, but are now climbing back up. Rent prices have gone down 10% in San Francisco but remained stable in Los Angeles. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 17, 2020, file photo, people walk past a boarded-up storefront at Union Square in San Francisco.The city has suffered a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. Moving vans carted off entire households for roomier suburban homes and younger people simply packed up their cars and left since they could work from anywhere.

    FILE - In this April 17, 2020, file photo, people walk past a boarded-up storefront at Union Square in San Francisco.The city has suffered a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. Moving vans carted off entire households for roomier suburban homes and younger people simply packed up their cars and left since they could work from anywhere. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 2, 2020, file photo, a sign advising people to stay home due to COVID-19 concerns is displayed at a MUNI bus stop in San Francisco. The city has suffered a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. Moving vans carted off entire households for roomier suburban homes and younger people simply packed up their cars and left since they could work from anywhere. Residential rents plummeted, but are now climbing back up. Rent prices have gone down 10% in San Francisco but remained stable in Los Angeles.

    FILE - In this April 2, 2020, file photo, a sign advising people to stay home due to COVID-19 concerns is displayed at a MUNI bus stop in San Francisco. The city has suffered a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. Moving vans carted off entire households for roomier suburban homes and younger people simply packed up their cars and left since they could work from anywhere. Residential rents plummeted, but are now climbing back up. Rent prices have gone down 10% in San Francisco but remained stable in Los Angeles. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, a person crosses an intersection in San Francisco's financial district mid-afternoon, during what would've been a bustling time before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. The city has suffered a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices.

    FILE - In this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, a person crosses an intersection in San Francisco's financial district mid-afternoon, during what would've been a bustling time before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. The city has suffered a large exodus, both in housing and people working in offices. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2020, file photo, a man walks past a large face mask hanging over pumpkins in front of a house during the coronavirus pandemic in San Francisco. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. Moving vans carted off entire households for roomier suburban homes and younger people simply packed up their cars and left since they could work from anywhere. Residential rents plummeted, but are now climbing back up.

    FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2020, file photo, a man walks past a large face mask hanging over pumpkins in front of a house during the coronavirus pandemic in San Francisco. When the lockdown order came in March 2020, an estimated 137,500 workers for companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight. Moving vans carted off entire households for roomier suburban homes and younger people simply packed up their cars and left since they could work from anywhere. Residential rents plummeted, but are now climbing back up. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this July 28, 2020, file photo, cardboard cutouts of fans sit in seats at Oracle Park before a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres in San Francisco. Fake sounds simulated clapping or yelling. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier.

    FILE - In this July 28, 2020, file photo, cardboard cutouts of fans sit in seats at Oracle Park before a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres in San Francisco. Fake sounds simulated clapping or yelling. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. Los Angeles and San Francisco are poised Tuesday, May 4, to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet guidelines to move into the least-restrictive tier. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2020, file photo, a woman, accompanied by a child, looks over as an airline crew wearing full personal protective equipment against COVID-19, walks through the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the country. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP, File)

    FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2020, file photo, a woman, accompanied by a child, looks over as an airline crew wearing full personal protective equipment against COVID-19, walks through the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles. Now, in early May 2021, California has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the country. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP, File) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/4/2021 6:43 PM

LOS ANGELES -- San Francisco has largely beaten the coronavirus pandemic by avoiding it, while Los Angeles was nearly beaten by it during a deadly winter surge.

But both emerged simultaneously Tuesday as the first urban areas in California to reach the least-restrictive tier for businesses to reopen.

 

California's signature cities met infection and vaccine thresholds to allow indoor bars to welcome people again, larger crowds to cheer on Major League Baseball's Dodgers and Giants, and expanded capacity at restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, gyms and other establishments.

It's a remarkable turnaround for LA considering it was ground zero for infections and deaths when California was the nation's epicenter of the virus outbreak just a few months ago.

'It was horrible," John Pryor said Sunday after one of his few outings at the recently reopened Angeleno Wine Co. near downtown LA. 'It's crazy that we were in the worst place in the country and now all of a sudden we're the best.'

California has the lowest infection rate in the country. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state's nearly 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of the state's 60,000 deaths, didn't record a single COVID-19 death Sunday or Monday, which was likely due to incomplete weekend reporting but still noteworthy.

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A total of seven of the state's 58 counties are now in the so-called yellow tier, which is the final stage of a phased reopening plan before a projected return to business as usual June 15. The five other counties are all remote areas of Northern California.

On a map showing the status of each county, LA and San Francisco are yellow islands in a sea of orange, the second-least restrictive tier. There are 39 counties in the orange tier, home to 60% of residents. A dozen counties, mostly in the agricultural Central Valley, are in the second-strictest tier and none remain in the strictest category.

San Diego and the state's other most populated counties, which fared better than LA through much of the pandemic, remain at least two weeks from a broader reopening.

Signs of life are returning to streets that emptied, shops and restaurants that closed and office buildings that went dark after a statewide shutdown in March 2020.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Freeways are becoming congested, workers are returning to offices, and people are getting together for drinks and dinner, much of it still al fresco style.

On Sunday in downtown LA's vibrant Arts District, where colorful murals cover former industrial buildings, drivers circled the block looking for parking spaces. Diners filled the sidewalk tables of Wurstküche, eating sausages and drinking Belgian and German beer.

Standing in a line of people waiting for a table at Angel City Brewery that extended down the street, Chris Sammons said he felt a civic obligation to support businesses.

'It feels like almost a duty to be engaged with the city,' Sammons said. 'We have to bring LA back to life.'

It was the first outing for his friend, Stephen Tyler, who had hunkered down for so long and had recently been vaccinated.

'It's just good to be out in the city again, be around people,' Tyler said. 'Even this, I don't care about standing in line. It's all kind of new again.'

In San Francisco, business has picked up at Mixt, a popular lunch spot for salad lovers in the Financial District. But it's not at pre-pandemic levels when lines spilled outdoors, said Leslie Silverglide, co-founder and CEO of the the chain. She plans to open two more stores downtown in coming weeks.

'It seems as if people are coming back,' she said. 'They're excited to be having lunch with colleagues again.'

Fear of catching the virus prompted a huge drop in mass transit ridership. But Jason Alderman said he felt like a kid on his first day of school when he took a commuter train into San Francisco when his company reopened its headquarters in late March.

'Instead of feeling like a hollowed-out ghost town that people had quickly abandoned, it felt like there were green shoots of life,' he said. 'I felt a twinge of the energy that used to be there.'

When the lockdown order came, an estimated 137,500 workers for San Francisco companies that include Google, Facebook and Uber, seemingly vanished overnight.

Moving vans carted off households for roomier suburban homes and younger people simply packed up their cars and left since they could work from anywhere. Residential rents plummeted, but now are climbing.

The office vacancy rate in San Francisco is 18% compared with 10% a year earlier, said John Chang, senior vice president at Marcus & Millichap, a commercial real estate financing and advisory company. In Los Angeles, vacancies are at 17.5%, up from 13.5% a year earlier.

More telling, perhaps, is that only 14% of key cards are being used to enter offices in San Francisco, compared with 24% in LA. At the other end of the spectrum is Dallas, where data showed 41% of cards being used, reflecting the different approaches to the virus in the two states.

Chang said workers suddenly abandoned San Francisco when the original shutdown order took effect. He expects the return will be more gradual.

At its worst point, more than 500 people a day were dying in California and hospitals in the LA area could barely treat the overwhelming influx of patients.

Overall, Los Angeles has had 11,633 cases and 233 deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 people while San Francisco has had 4,095 cases and 61 deaths.

San Francisco reached the least-restrictive tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. LA never emerged from the most restrictive tier until March.

Under the new rules that take effect Thursday, many establishments, such as the Angeleno Wine Co. tasting room, can double capacity to 50%.

The small wine bar reopened to the public last weekend after being closed all but two weeks over the past 13 months.

Co-owner Amy Luftig Viste said she became emotional seeing old friends reunited for the first time in a year as animated conversation flowed from the tables set among barrels of aging wine and echoed off the brick walls.

'It felt like the winery had come alive again,' Luftig Viste said. "It's just such an honor to be the place that people come to break the seal as we start to come out again.'

___

Har reported from San Francisco.

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