SAN JOSE — The South Bay must ditch empty office buildings and replace them with housing so the San Jose area can accommodate cutting-edge tech jobs such as artificial intelligence, a top economist says.

That was one of the assessments and recommendations from economist Christopher Thornberg during a presentation at the San Jose State University Economic Summit at the college’s downtown campus.

Wide-ranging efforts must be conducted to rezone existing office sites so they can be replaced by residential units, Thornberg, economist and founding partner with Beacon Economics, said during his presentation at the summit.

“How do you make housing more affordable? You build more housing,” Thornberg said at the SJSU economic gathering.

Thornberg urged San Jose and its neighboring suburbs to intensify efforts to rezone wide swaths of commercial properties so housing can sprout on those sites.

“You need to start taking down these office buildings and putting up apartments,” Thornberg said.

Thornberg also disagreed with assessments that California is locked in a doom loop characterized by an exodus of corporations and a flight of its residents to rivals such as Texas, Arizona and Florida.

“California is not dead yet,” Thornberg said. “California is doing just fine.”

The Beacon Economics co-founder asserts that the South Bay economy is also in good shape, but like California, must navigate past some hazards to remain robust.

“San Jose is still big in tech but housing and labor shortages are obstacles,” Thornberg said.

The boom part of Silicon Valley’s boom-and-bust cycle has always been fueled in large measure by tech workers who are relatively new to the industry. Thornberg believes that’s why plenty of housing must be available for tech’s new workforces.

“Tech hubs are rejuvenated by young people coming into them,” Thornberg said. “Where are they going to live?”

While the South Bay economy is in good shape, Thornberg warned that the region’s housing crunch could impede future growth.

“The limited amount of housing supply is is preventing the hip new tech companies from locating here,” Thornberg said.

Despite the obstacles and difficulties, Thornberg believes the respective economies of the South Bay and California are both in good shape. He added that a recession is not on the horizon for the South Bay, California, or nationwide.

The San Jose region, Thornberg maintains, remains the globe’s primary creator of tech jobs, in Thornberg’s view.

“There is no doubt that San Jose remains a Cadillac economy,” Thornberg said. “This is still the center of the tech world.”