People often talk about middle class people being driven out of SF, I think it's actually dangerous that even people making well above average wages have trouble affording housing alone. Many tech workers I know earn a decent living but having an apartment to themselves is simply unaffordable.
Yes, yes #richpeopleproblems, and of course we should worry about people further down the income scale, but it's indicative of just how pathological the situation has become that even people who are well off can't afford the city comfortably.
There's another development in Downtown SF (SoMa to be exact) where current residents are suing to block the transformation of a PARKING LOT into a housing/office complex with over 200 units of affordable housing. The area is already dense and urban, the building itself is not out of character (there's a 400 ft hotel right next door). It also introduces a lot of much needed open space to Central SoMa. However, some residents in the area are suing, claiming that development would cast shadows on nearby parks (0.08775% and 0.167% of sunlight in winter months) and increase traffic to the area. The lawsuit will probably delay the development for years. It's just sad to see such an irrational attempt to impede the progress of a potentially great city.
1) Balboa reservoir : people prefer to keep it as an empty parking lot
2) Francisco Reservoir : although there is already a park nearby, they chose to turn this into another park
Current residents are unfortunately much more vocal than potential future residents or housing advocates.
In the end Mixed use walkable communities are much better for both peoples health and the environment. You can always move to the middle of Montana if you don't want to live near development, but carving out the hart of city's and saying "FU I have got mine" causes worlds of problems.
I gotta say, for a moment there, I was a tad bit jealous that he had this option.
Yeah, truth is, if large sections of SF were rezoned for multi story dwellings, property owners might very well benefit, since the value of their land could substantially increase. I'm not sure how this would all work out, but it certainly seems like a possibility.
This is why I think that SF's opposition to new development isn't really driven by property owners who wish to maximize the dollar value of their asset. I think it's rooted more in a very preservation minded populace (not always such a bad thing), a left-leaning hostility to "greedy" developers (not always unwarranted), and a deep suspicion of redevelopment projects that they worry will tear out the soul of a community and replace it with something corporate and soulless (plenty of that has happened). There's also a tendency to leave good enough alone (prop 13 insulates property owners from the tax burden of massively rising property values, and many people just aren't interested in more money once they're happy. If you live in a neighborhood you like just the way it is, and you can easily afford it, what do you care if you could make more money tearing down your house and building an apartment building? You're more interested in making sure that doesn't happen right next to you).
In short, San Franciscans will happily vote against their own economic interests (well, their own asset value maximization) in order to "preserve" what they like about where they live.
While we probably agree that the bay area needs more density, I'd be against tearing out the french quarter in New Orleans, even if that would lower the price of housing there. I personally think that the bay area actually can substantially increase density, both in SF and out, and vastly increase excellent light rail (preferably underground) without tearing down old and interesting neighborhoods, and that the city that would emerge would be a richer and more interesting one.
Truth is, I put "preserve" in quotations, because one of the best qualities of San Francisco has been lost. Interesting people, with a half formed idea that is too strange or misunderstood to be funded as a thing, used to be able to move to SF and give it life. That's largely gone, because it's nearly impossible to live in SF without working so hard to pay the rent that you have no time left for things that nobody understands well enough to pay for. You do have to ask yourself what you're preserving and what you're losing. Interestingly, I actually think this will influence tech as much as the arts. There are now career paths in tech that are lucrative and are available more in SF than anywhere else, but there's certainly a wild, misunderstood, and creative side of tech that nobody will fund because they just don't understand it yet, and that requires the freedom of time to tinker. SF may lose this just as surely as it loses interesting non-tech arts and culture.
In fairness, this has also happened in the vastly more dense and urban city of New York. I found this link about the galapagos art project moving to Detroit very interesting: "You can’t paint at night in your kitchen and hope to be a good artist. It doesn’t work that way… If the core competitiveness of the big apple is culture, but actually being an artist in New York City costs you a full time career in another industry, then the best and brightest – the ones our meritocracy would obviously miss the most - won’t allow their work to suffer just to be among our tall buildings."
Not sure this will work, but my guess is that Patty Smith was right when she said "New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."
I'm all for building more density in SF, but finding a new city sounds like good advice.
Even worse has happened in living memory: the Embarcadero Freeway. For those not familiar with it:
I too think that way too much weight is placed on the "NIMBYs stopping new housing supply to drive up their property values" theory. The one friend I know who owns a house in the Mission wants to see more density as he thinks that will drive up the value of his home. And here in Mountain View, over the last few years the voters have become increasingly pro-housing, and the city council is responding.
In the case of San Francisco, there was a lot of truly destructive behavior in the name of progress and development in the 20th century. The development process we see today emerged in reaction to that, in an effort to limit the destruction, and then to roll it back. That doesn't mean that there aren't old hippies who are against anything new, of course. But that doesn't mean that all development ideas are good either.
I really wish everyone would take a good long look at the pictures of the Embarcadero freeway before lecturing people on how it's always wrong to oppose development. NIMBYs need to be reassured, not mocked for thinking there's such a think as bad development.
MV is at least as NIMBY as other areas. A few years ago, "preservationists" fought a planned Home Depot at 85 & El Camino out of claimed noise and traffic fears (the lot is literally right next to the freeway). It was forced to the ballot and defeated, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in local sales tax share going elsewhere.
A residential care facility went in there instead. The subsequent reduction in commercial traffic there resulted in the supermarket next door also closing.
>It was forced to the ballot and defeated
Home Depot voluntary withdrew their application for a zoning variance before it ever received a hearing with the City, and then filed the ballot initiative instead. This unwillingness to even try to work with the city council was seen by voters as arrogance, and led to the measure's defeat.
>A residential care facility went in there instead.
Actually, a (large) medical center went there:
>The subsequent reduction in commercial traffic there...
Note that since the lot had been unoccupied prior, the construction of the medical center led to an increase, not decrease, in commercial traffic.
>...resulted in the supermarket next door also closing.
The ballot measure was defeated on March 5, 2002. The supermarket closed on November 8, 2014. It seems unlikely the two events are connected.
This level of inaccuracy when arguing against "NIMBYism" is unfortunately common here in Mountain View. Indeed, I've seen worse. Which is why I encourage to people to understand historical context and try to engage with people they think of as NIMBYs rather than just dismiss them out of hand. Even in San Francisco.
Now regarding the "this level of inaccuracy" snark:
2) "large medical center" is an odd term for a place with neither emergency nor urgent care. And it itself is not commercial traffic given that no (taxable) commerce goes on there.
3) the Lucky supermarket closed in 2014, not the Albertsons that was there in the 2000s.
4) you ignore that there were two different Home Depot proposals (a full store and, later, an Express), at least one of which won Planning Commission approval.
5) "The lot in question had been unoccupied for about 20 years at that point." No, the lot was never unoccupied -- the Emporium building remained into the 2000s. I lived a block away until 1995.
Which I, personally, love. But perhaps isn't what parent meant by reassuring people.
Just look at the difference between SF and the rest of the bay: SF is interesting because space really is limited, and it's old enough to have been built before the car took the US by storm.
So I have little hope for a place like Detroit, KC, Austin or Chattanooga to ever grow to become an interesting city without some new, technological pressure that makes us all want to minimize car use.
East coast obviously is not strained for fantastic cities. The South has fantastic places; Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans are rightfully world class (and surprisingly expensive, for a good reason). Ohio Valley cities are charmers in their own right, though urban renewal really did a number on them. Great weather too; sultry heat in summers, relatively mild winters.
Plus, the US can offer attractive urban experiences that you'd be hard pressed to find in European cities. Many streetcar suburbs offer that unique mix of spacious living and convenience within walking distance, where you're often surrounded by stupendously attractive architecture and lush mature greenery.
But you're right of course, the car has absolutely killed the American city, and in most places growth continues to be on the periphery. It's no wonder that SF is so popular, it's really something of a refuge. It's not as an inhuman place as NYC (gargh, what a dump, a city for machines), but it is also not the strip mall wasteland that's most of the US. It really hits that sweet spot IMO, wish I could afford it.
The cities of the desert Southwest like Phoenix and Las Vegas offer an example of the type of housing people tend to buy (and therefore the type of housing that gets built) when there's plenty of cheap land.
I also understand why people would want to maintain the quality of life they had when they purchased their house, even if it is at the expense of community at large. As such, there should be a significant property tax to compensate for comfort when housing costs are so high.
Then again, the city and state have bizarre tax laws for property so I could be suggesting a political impossibility for all I know.
I'm a property owner, but I don't really like the system. I also don't like how mismanaged the property taxes here are, but that's another thread.
So can rent-controlled rents, believe it or not.
And 2%/year increase isn't inconsequential.
Consider that the average inflation rate is 3-4%/year, and houses generally tend to increase in value at roughly the same rate as inflation. Thus, your property taxes are expected to get cheaper in real cost every year, assuming the housing market is relatively stable.
Of course, in SV, the situation is much much worse than this, because housing prices have grown much faster than inflation due to the booming economy.
They attribute tall buildings with insanity, as denizens begin losing scope of their world simply by virtue of not being able to see beyond buildings.
Another thing to note is that "Centers of Culture" are beginning to become more amorphous, as tech gentrification is whitewashing a lot of what gave San Francisco its identity. The Mission is probably the most glaring example of transformation, for better or worse.
Re-zoning SF to allow low-rise buildings throughout could increase density by something like 3–5x.
What I mind is that SF's local media never blames these people for their role in the housing crisis, and that ostensibly progressive organizations stand by their side, even though thwarting change and enriching the establishment at the expense of newcomers is about as far from progressive as you could get.
There have been at least 3 such occasions since the Netscape IPO, and another on it's way. Hope you saved some money.
Look at Manhattan. Yes, you can't build willy-nilly whatever you want but there's certainly plenty of high-rise residential construction and housing prices are still pretty high in desirable areas.
Isn't that kind of tautological? Prices are always relatively high in desirable areas, and the high relative prices are actually a contributing factor to their desirability. What's more eye-opening is that prices in desirable areas are so high relative to above-average incomes for the area.
But without that new construction, those seemingly high prices would be even higher than they are now, unless you assume that the increase in demand is itself a byproduct of the new construction.
Obviously there is a correlation between supply and demand but there can also be a demand increases to meet supply effect up to a certain level.
I agree. I wasn't talking about expansion causing prices to drop - I was talking about an economic downturn and a contraction in credit.
One alternative is "Georgism", which is the idea that land is a resource collectively owned by society, but people can temporarily monopolize a piece of land by renting it from society. The rents thus collected go into the society's general fund to pay for public goods like fire stations, healthcare, universal basic income, etc.
Say I rent a parcel of land from society and pay money each month to do so. I build a building on top and use it.
Under what conditions can I keep using this land, besides paying the rent? Do I lease the land from society for a fixed term, after which the land may be freely rented to someone else? In that case what happens to the building on it that I've invested my own money into?
The problem here is that land by itself is not useful but improvements in combination with the land is, but said improvements are almost always not portable. I can pack up my furniture and move out of my apartment, I can't pack up a building.
So naturally we'll want some way to ensure people who have improved the land can continue using the land - which really starts resembling ownership + property tax at this point.
That said, how's it work out in practice? You can't tax land in downtown Portland at the same rate you tax it in Harney County, where it's mostly empty desert. But if you tax land outside cities cheaper, maybe that would encourage sprawl towards the cheaper areas?
Huh? California is decidedly middle-of-the-pack:
Residents can do nothing and just let that keep happening, but if they do, they'll eventually end up getting priced out.
It's true that this could be fixed at the city level by streamlining the process. My supervisor, Scott Weiner, is pushing that, specifically for 100% affordable housing. That's not going anywhere, which demonstrates that the opposition to development is more about wanting parking, light, and views - not about affordability.
Now there are several causes for this. A major one is concentrated harm vs distributed benefits for specific development. A new development in a residential neighborhood is gonna piss off a small number of people and motivate them to organize to put pressure on the planning commission. This development would benefit pretty much everyone else, but in a way that is so distributed that it's really hard to motivate people to fight for it. A new development is gonna have a very concentrated impact on neighbors and a very diluted effect on the rest of the city.
As a follow up, the same channel offers some more ideas and broader view solutions. How to Make an Attractive City: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy4QjmKzF1c
The author said a potential future for San Francisco is as a "gated community for the rich." That may be the case, perhaps already having been so for a long time. It's unfortunate that an economic juggernaut heralded as the shining center of modern American capitalism is also so inaccessible, but that does not mean the overall solution is by making that place accessible at the expense of more realistic options.
The author compares the density of SF to NYC's Brooklyn. Like Manhattan, San Francisco is owned by the rich and their rules, yet Brooklyn is big and booming. Oakland is prime to take up the role of the Bay's Brooklyn.
Side note: if people want to return to the halcyon days of San Francisco when the wealthy and the workers could live atop the same rock, it will cost a ton of money. Hairdressers, grocery clerks, teachers, and the like will either need massive housing subsidies or comparable salaries to tech workers. That possibility could exist too, if the well-heeled agree to let go of a big chunk of change.
It doesn't get ignored. The problem is that Oakland costs about as much to develop as SF does with potential revenues that are much lower. It's a terrible business proposition.
I've lived in both SF and NYC and feel like Oakland has much more of a stigma than Brooklyn does simply because of transit access. You can live in SF and enjoy walkable local communities. You can live in Oakland and enjoy walkable local communities. But getting between the two can be a much more arduous process via Bart or bus than the many plentiful subway connections between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Visiting friends, of even the prospect of a commute, between SF and Oakland would have given me much more pause than getting over to Brooklyn. BART and the transbay buses are woefully inadequate for an area which is trying to pitch itself as a region rather than two distinct cities with a bridge between.
Not only are train lines between Manhattan and Brooklyn much more plentiful, they fan out to a much larger collection of destinations on either end. It can be a one-system trip, which makes a big difference.
BART isn't bad by any means, and SFMTA/AC Transit do a decent job, too. I've lived in Miami and around Tampa, two other large cities which do an almost immeasurably worse job with transit. But BART is still a very commuter-centric network for getting commuters from suburbs to downtowns, and isn't a substitute for a true local subway network. Thats where the stigma comes from, in my opinion.
Yes, but that's all you can do. If you're in pac heights or the presidio or ... anywhere west ... you're going nowhere.
So, yes, you'd prefer to live in SF than Oakland but 15 years or so ago, you'd probably have preferred to live in Manhattan than Brooklyn.
Not only did they want to fill the bay in with the mountain, they wanted to build another Bay Bridge there.
There's a point where the congestion starts to lower quality of life drastically and people would rather deal with high rents then being stuck in traffic for hours or stuffed into a filled to the gills muni, bart or caltrain with people coughing up flem around them.
Getting to work in downtown is awful when there's a Giants game going on and they wanted to eliminate pier 30 parking and put another stadium in there? I'm glad that got shot down. San Francisco is full. Get over it.
New York has it grandfathered in (was built before the car era) and New York does not have this problem. The simple reality is that cars don't scale beyond a certain density because, well, cars can't pass through other cars. Cars work fine for light to medium density but beyond that you must either build trains or stop growing. (Or waste billions and countless hours every day with millions of people stuck in traffic.)
What happens if legislation is passed that more or less prevents people from owning property that's not their primary residence? Like: if you don't live in it more than 190 days a year, you pay a really high property tax on it.
I've always thought a big part of the landlord - tenant issues around rent control, fair market housing, and a lot of other stuff all stems from the position that people are allowed to own more homes that they can live in, and derive income from landlording.
There's some obvious issues - not everyone wants to live in a home / apartment that they own (liquidity, mortgage, etc). This could be obviated with some workarounds (and market forces might help out a bit too - I'd imagine real estate could change hands a lot more frequently in that situation).
Adding more restrictions on housing helps no one.
All that aside, I don't really see the line of argument that links my proposed idea to "more restrictions". My initial thinking was something like (basically): current market forces (especially in SF) favor the consolidation of ownership in the hands of the few people who can afford the large capital investment required to build new housing.
IOW: home prices are ridiculously high at least in part because the future value of rent extraction makes these homes good long-term investments for people who don't live there. See also: removing units from rental for AirBnB service in the long-term (sources differ on how many units in SF are lost to permanent AirBnB hotel status, but they seem to all agree that at least some are off the market for this reason).
So, what happens if this element of the market is removed? I know, I know: it's central to capitalism, I'm becoming a communist, etc etc. What happens when the supply - demand relationship is between residents and other residents? Do home prices trend upwards? Does the current bloc of owners and rent-controlled residents stop acting to fight against further expansion?
That already exists in a way - there's the concept of a primary residence tax deduction, which is (more or less) what the name sounds like.
It varies widely by jurisdiction, (not just country, but state and local government as well), but the idea of trying to differentiate residents from landlords in tax policy is nothing new.
How is commercial property treated?
What prevents a company building a huge apartment building, "selling" it to an apartment manager (in the form of a very expensive mortgage) and then having the apartment manager rent out "rooms" in his very large "house" to cover his mortgage?
In short, the longer I think about the idea, the less practical it becomes.
My last few vehicles purchases have involved significantly more paperwork and signatures than my most recent property purchases.
What is it about the process that you've had issues with?
My experience buying cars has involved signing maybe a dozen pages, while my experience buying a house involved signing form after form after form (most of which I didn't really know the purpose of) for literally hours. I'm certain I spent more time just signing paperwork to buy my house than I've ever spent on the entire car buying process from the time I walked into the sales guy's office after the test drive to the time I drove off the lot.
I'm not super-interested in debating the implementational details of what's obviously a thought experiment - mostly what I'm interested in getting input on is: would home prices go down? would monthly mortgage rates go above or below current rental rates? would there be more or less pressure to build new units?
The law. (Zoning)
Plus it's not like we'd see no improvement whatsoever for 49 years and then WHAM. We'd see gradual returns on this investment every year.
9.5% of that would yield an additional $1.7 trillion of net goods and services produced by our economy.
For comparison, we spend ~$0.85 trillion on Social Security and ~$0.6 trillion on defense a year.