Friday, 23 Feb 2024

Behind the Story: Silicon Valley’s Furniture Hustlers

Driven by tech company slowdowns and the shift to remote work, a booming business has emerged in Silicon Valley: furniture reselling.

An increasing number of businesses in the Bay Area are scooping up left-behind office furniture as they capitalize on a wave of tech companies that have been drastically shrinking their physical footprints. Among the inventory: $10,000 custom-made emerald velvet armchairs, 90-inch flat screens, never-before-used bar stools, and $1,805 black roller-wheel desk chairs that are technically considered works of art.

“It all goes back to the talent wars,” Erin Griffith, who covers start-ups for The New York Times, told me. “For the last decade or so, tech companies have been in such an intense fight to recruit the best talent, and having the coolest office was one weapon in that battle.”

Erin recently wrote about the furniture hustlers of Silicon Valley, who are making hay out of the tech industry’s recent downturn. Across the Bay Area more than 88,000 tech workers have been laid off over the past year, and highly Instagrammable offices stuffed with sleek height-adjustable desks and plush couches are being abandoned as tech companies try to further cut costs.

In San Francisco in particular, the pandemic rebound has been slow. Commercial vacancy rates in the city jumped to 28 percent last year, up from 4 percent in 2019, according to the real estate firm CBRE. Companies of all sizes, including PayPal, Block and Yelp, are giving up their expensive downtown headquarters or downsizing their office space, Erin reported.

The software company Sitecore wants to downgrade its San Francisco office to 30 desks from 170, Brad Hamilton, the company’s head of real estate and facilities, told Erin, after its office became a “ghost town” once the pandemic hit. “We’re paying an outrageous amount of money for a floor that nobody uses,” he said.

And there’s demand for their used furniture.

People who find themselves working from home more nowadays are looking to spruce up their offices, and there’s growing interest in buying used furniture instead of new to keep things out of landfills.

More on California

Not only that, but the rapid expansion of tech companies up until last year means that many of these office spaces were relatively new, with much of the furniture barely touched, Erin said. “They’re getting pretty high-quality stuff at a pretty steep discount,” she told me.

Brandi Susewitz recently toured Sitecore’s offices and measured and took photos of items she might be able to buy. In addition to rows of standing desks and chairs, she spotted in the office’s empty kitchen a Ping-Pong table, a Ms. Pac-Man machine and two curved, six-foot privacy coves.

Her company, Reseat, would take all of it, she declared. “We can find a home for this,” she said.

For more:

Read Erin’s article.

If you read one story, make it this

Why Californians are moving to Duluth.

The rest of the news

Silicon Valley Bank fallout: Read our latest coverage of the bank collapse.

Plus, what to know about how to protect your money.

Storm arrives: Another powerful atmospheric river in California that’s expected to last through Wednesday could compound flooding and other problems caused by last week’s storms.

Proposition 22: A California appeals court on Monday mostly upheld a ballot measure passed by voters in 2020 that classified Uber and Lyft drivers as independent contractors rather than as employees. The decision is expected to be appealed to the State Supreme Court.

Walgreens: When Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened to cancel a state contract with Walgreens over its plan to reduce access to abortion pills in some states, the drugstore chain turned to his former chief of staff to try to change his mind, Politico reports.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Rescue: A little boy who got too close to the rain-flooded Santa Ana River was rescued after being swept away, The Los Angeles Times reports.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Flood problems: A levee break on the Pajaro River in the Central Coast has quadrupled in size, complicating repair efforts and spilling floodwaters into farmland and agricultural communities, The Associated Press reports.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Santa Rosa school stabbing: After a 16-year-old was killed in a classroom stabbing this month, the principal of Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa was placed on leave, The Press Democrat reports.

Antisemitism: Stanford University is investigating a possible hate crime after swastikas and an image of Adolf Hitler were drawn on a whiteboard outside a Jewish student’s dorm room, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Payroll issues: The San Francisco Board of Education will vote to spend another $5.1 million to try to fix a new payroll system that’s left thousands of San Francisco Unified School District employees shortchanged on paychecks, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

What you get

For $780,000: A two-bedroom cabin in Guerneville, a midcentury-modern retreat in Palm Springs or a Craftsman bungalow in Oakland.

What we’re eating

Fava bean stew.

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Angela Baldwin, who grew up in Orange County but now lives in Owings Mills, Md. Angela recommends a hike in Newport Beach:

“On a recent visit to California, my husband and I hiked (for the first time!) the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, which is often just called the Back Bay. It is a beautifully preserved area that is home to endangered species and lots of different varieties of migratory birds. I’ve driven past here hundreds of times — so easy to overlook it! Next time we’re back out west, I’ll think we’ll rent a kayak!”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

And before you go, some good news

The Puente Hills Landfill was once the largest landfill in the United States, covering 602 acres and piled 500 feet high. Located near Whittier, the landfill held a third of Los Angeles County’s trash.

Now it’s set to become the first regional park the county has created in 30 years, The Los Angeles Times reports.

“Our communities have waited far too long for this park,” said Hilda Solis, the Los Angeles County supervisor, who grew up in La Puente.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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