(S)he starts off by stating privilege as a 5th-generation San Franciscan (obviously, the kind who DESERVE to live in the city), and who fled in the tech boom of the 90s. The usual rant about whitewashing and yuppies and artists being pushed out ensues. Of course they don't want more housing built, because then dirty artists from other places would move in -- you need to preserve the history of San Francisco's starving artists, and never let new culture of any kind in.
Except (s)he says, okay, maybe some "affordable" housing should be built. No discussion on the endless problems of how to manage the waiting list for this "bucket" of housing, or what happens when those people become too successful.
And, in the end, (s)he has moved to Berlin, a city almost TWICE as dense as San Francisco. No doubt some NIMBY in Berlin at some point whined about building more housing for these "outsiders", but I'm sure (s)he does not have the critical thinking necessary to recognize that such a special flower could be the same force in Berlin that (s)he whines about happening to San Francisco.
As the article says, it's easy to get worked up about this stuff. I suspect the "but it will be ugly" commenters are actually well-intentioned.
The whole purpose of a city is to put buildings in front of each other!
It's astounding that the negative people think that a city of a million people is "just right", and any larger is a priori wrong. We could build a city this size where there was nothing, but building a city twice as dense is apparently impossible, despite overwhelming evidence of it being possible elsewhere.
On the other, you have a massive influx of tech workers who have convinced themselves that they must live in this small, overpriced city for their basic livelihood, and that the city should rapidly rebuild itself to accommodate them.
There's entitlement on both sides.
Could San Francisco have higher population density to accommodate the recent surge in housing demand? Sure. It already has the second highest population density in the U.S., but it could be denser. But the truth is there's no way to guarantee affordable housing for everyone who decides they would like to live in a small, in-demand city on the tip of a tiny peninsula. There will always be people who can't afford it.
> But I'm not so entitled as to think that my occaisional aesthetic pleasure is more important than someone else's basic livelihood.
No, but you're entitled enough to think that a city should be rebuilt to accommodate your livelihood, rather than your livelihood determining where you can reasonably afford to live. You're entitled enough to think you must live in SF, and you shouldn't have to consider living somewhere more affordable. If you can barely make ends meet and can't see your kids because you're commute is so long, why subject yourself to that?
As much as I'd like San Francisco's housing prices to come down, I also think rebuilding should be done responsibly and not rushed to accommodate a relatively recent surge in demand.
And this is hardly the first time a US city has experienced growth.
It reminds me of people arguing for higher taxes accusing others of being selfish. Yes, it's completely selfish that someone would like to keep the money they've earned and yet completely selfless that you feel you have a right to it.
Down and down we go into opposite land.
Well yeah. The very concept of ownership is inherently selfish. It means you want there to be a particular set of resources you get to use, and no one else. It's pretty much the definition of selfishness.
Not that I think this is a bad thing, but if you're trying to argue with this particular rhetorical framing, you're going to lose hard.
I think you missed the other half of the sentence:
> and yet completely selfless that you feel you have a right to [the money someone else earned]
There is nothing selfish about property rights. If you make something, and want to use it, that's not selfish. If someone else comes and demands you give it to them instead, that is selfish.
Out of many fallacies, this one is among the top 5 I consider most insidious. By taking advantage of our collective desire for compromise, the un-empathetic, even the sociopathic, can appear reasonable, or at least as reasonable as the side they're vilifying. "No, brah, both sides are wrong! Let's get to that middle ground, which just so happens to allow me to trample upon other human beings!"
Now, perhaps the happiness of the people who live in that highrise and get a spectacular view at a government-mandated affordable price outweighs the pain of the individual who paid market price. But somebody got hurt.
I'd be willing to consider a compromise where developers compensate neighbors for whatever market value is lost from their construction. That seems fair. But even that assumes that the owners had a "right" to the view to begin with, or some kind of ownership over it. Which seems kind of absurd.
It also assumes that new development necessarily hurts property values, which isn't true either. Development usually increases the value.
Although I'd point out that it's not just rich people who appreciate San Francisco's aesthetic.
If they are impairing their neighbors' views, it seem pretty obvious they are actually hurting someone. San Franacisco has already experienced the extreme: Charles Crocker's spite fence on Nob Hill.
On the contrary, the city should rapidly rebuild to accommodate the current residents that the tech workers would otherwise displace. Building benefits everyone, but lower income residents benefit the most.
All of these things are deserving of sympathy and consideration, but.. well, currently they're getting too much of it.
Similarly, billionaire developers like Donald Trump will see his property values drop but that is only because they were artificially inflated.
Looks more like $500,000 now. Although, I have no idea how accurate or trustworthy that site is, it just came up quick from Google.
> or making your schools overcrowded
To which I say, build more schools! With more housing and people comes a bigger tax base and more money to fund infrastructure improvements. I don't know a single pro-construction person who doesn't also vigorously support improving urban infrastructure.
But I'm guessing there are also limits on overall rates because otherwise property tax rates would have gone up to make up for the 'lost' revenue from owners who are grandfathered in.
AIUI, (and I might not understand correctly) that's not quite right.
If you make significant improvements  to a piece of land the value of just those improvements are assessed and added to the assessed value of that land. So -IIRC- if the owner of a two-story multi-family dwelling demolishes the building and builds a fifty-story building in its place, his assessed property value would be the same as it would if he had purchased that property with the new construction on it.
 Like -for instance- adding on a new room to a house.
Prop 13 caps the rate of property tax increase... only if there is either no new development on a property, or if the property changes hands in one of the ways that triggers the property valuation reassessment.
A city should be strongly encouraging the periodic demolition and/or radical improvement of existing structures... whether they be commercial or residential. New construction and new improvements get taxed at their "market rate" valuation. Given how insane prices are in the area (and how very, very little teachers make), I find it hard to believe that tax revenues from new construction wouldn't cover the costs required to support new families.
> Look at the development in Palo Alto over the last ten years. It's largely commercial and this isn't an accident.
So now we're stuck in a dichotomy between 4+ stories steel and glass, and the "original" SF Edwardian architecture, which doesn't scale as well as Paris's stone.
There are plenty of quarries nearby, that I’ve seen in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. It would be a better idea to build using reinforced concrete, though.
But even wood is not so limited. Most parcels here are limited by zoning to 2 stories. We could easily build 4-story wooden buildings, and double the city’s density. Some of the oldest wooden buildings are 5-story buildings in earthquake country, and allegedly there are plenty of 10-story wooden buildings that have survived earthquakes in Vancouver.
I think some of the appetite for reinforced concrete is because housing is so difficult to build around here, that it’s only worth going through the effort if the prices are high enough to justify expensive materials. Also, steel and glass allow you to have big windows.
But if you think it's ugly, that's fine -- you don't need to visit or live there.
One is our increasing indulgence in irrationality, to the extent that we almost celebrate it. I would never have guessed that hard-right social conservatism would still be a dominant force in American politics, much less a booming business. So I got that wrong, and I'm willing to admit that happened because I didn't take the time to understand those who thought differently from myself, or how their social motivations, family backgrounds, and economic pressures are different from my own. So, my bad.
The other is the continuing notion that it's somehow desirable, much less necessary, to cram everyone into a few high-density cities on either coast. From a 1990s perspective, it appeared that the growing availability of fast Internet connections and the rise of online social, technical, and business networking resources was finally going to liberate us from crowded, noisy, polluted urban prisons with endless traffic jams, out-of-control taxes, and multi-kilobuck rents.
It should have become both possible and desirable to do anything from anywhere, from the middle of flyover territory to the north coast of Alaska to the freaking International Space Station. Instead, we just get more of the same complaints. Rent is too damn high, there's too much traffic, and man, San Francisco/Seattle/Austin/New York used to be cool until all these techies/hippies/yuppies/homeless people/Republicans showed up and ruined it.
I'm not willing to concede that my worldview is wrong about this. This time, it's everyone else who's being stupid and needs to get a clue.
Admittedly part of the problem is I, like most of my generation, grew up in the suburbs. Once I turned 18 I couldn't wait to get out.
I could work remote and move back to my hometown or Missouri or Thailand -- but why would I? I'd be sacrificing much of my current life to do so. Of course my opinion would probably change if I had kids, but for now I live in a city for a reason.
But if it's that important to someone that they live in that particular city, to the exclusion of all other possibilities available on the planet, then they shouldn't complain when it turns out that real estate and transportation are limited resources that somebody has to pay for. It's the whining about the costs and downsides that bothers me the most about these articles.
People who act like they don't have a choice, when they do have a near-infinite variety of choices compared to most people on Earth, annoy me.
I whole-heartedly disagree. It's much better to try to change things and improve the world instead of throwing your hands up and accepting the status quo as immutable fact. The truth is that real estate in SF is limited largely by anti-growth laws. People have to pay exohorbinantly high prices for it only because of these laws (for the most part). I think we should try to change those laws and make the region a better place for everyone to live. I don't want to give up and let SF become a haven for the rich (plus the handful of affordable housing lottery winners).
Of course, if it turns out that we can't make the Bay Area into the welcoming, inclusive, fun, and livable place I would love to see it be then, yeah, I'll move somewhere else. Life's too short.
Also, I cometely agree with how surprising it is that cities have surged in popularity for well-paid, technically smart workers. And yet, I really like living in a city for all the reasons the grandparent comment mentioned. Maybe VR will change that value proposition though :-)
Someone in another thread pointed out that if this were the problem, New York would be the cheapest place in the country.
The local anti-growth political sentiment is a problem but ultimately there's just not that much space in SF to expand into, being a peninsula. Any sustained expansion of housing in SF will have to happen vertically, at which point we're back to the NYC example. The additional housing won't be "affordable" unless the developers are forced to build the 21st-century equivalent of Cabrini Green.
Also, as you point out, living in urban areas is a luxury good; as wealth increases (for a large enough segment of the population, at least), they're choosing to use that wealth to live somewhere a bit more exciting than a field in Kansas. I agree they shouldn't complain that it costs more than a house in flyover country, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't complain about a city making it unnecessarily difficult to add housing stock. Those who already live there are, of course, more entitled than anyone to complain about their lack of options when they get kicked out of their rent-controlled unit.
Funny anecdote about "north coast of Alaska." My dad visited the oilfields up there a few times as part of his job. In the early 90s I got a phone call from him on a satellite phone as he watched a midnight pickup softball game after the summer solstice. The delay in the phone connection was really entertaining and fascinating for me as a young-ish kid. I shudder to think how expensive that call was at the time, per minute.
20 years later, I rode up there on my motorcycle. I unclipped my iPhone 3GS from my handlebars, had a 5 bar 3G signal, and called my dad, effectively for free. It wasn't even roaming, because I was in the US! I didn't have to know how it worked, and in fact I still don't. It certainly wasn't a laggy satellite connection. Amazing how times change.
The hyper dense mega city model is a failure for quality of life. Instead, a dense CBD with trains distributing the population to the suburbs, with medium then low density, with shopping zones on walkable strips built around the train stations, is the way to go. Add in good planning, with buses and cycle infrastructure for last mile. And lots of parks.
Melbourne, where the modern concept of suburban living as we know it originated, executes well on this. Perfect, no. But a good framework.
There are countless communities across the US that are aging, as the youth have moved to the metropolis to work. Anyone that can extract money from the internet can benefit from this trend.
Couple that with low interest rates, good credit and a duplex and you can live without paying a cent for housing. This works well in towns with some sort of natural beauty, but few jobs. Grab those tourist dollars via airbnb rentals and take it easy.
You can buy a house in walking distance to the decent downtown of Westerly, RI for 120,000 and hop on an Amtrak train and be in Manhattan in 3 hours.
And if you like sailing, there are some great harbors here, like Mystic.
There are plenty of places to adventure to, Block Island, Nantucket, Martha's Vinyard, Cape Cod.
What are you, a suburban developer from the 50's?
Urban areas often provide a higher quality of life than The Geography of Nowhere. Do some introductory research into urban design. Read some Jane Jacobs. You thought the human desire for community and activity was just going to leave?
To be uncharitable, urban areas are perfect for housing worker drones bereft of ownership rights.
That's what I'd call the suburbs: Nothing to do, no competition, and labor is kept cheap. http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/stuck-in-1950s-subu...
If one cares about resources and climate change it's a non starter: Unless you are productive with the land, sprawl is a horrible waste of resource. (About half of a suburban family's energy use is transportation.)
Meanwhile, as the labor movement gained steam, corporate
leaders were struggling to prevent employees from
unionizing. “In the early 20th century, there was a
limited but influential set of companies engaging in
what is commonly referred to as ‘welfare capitalism,’”
Mozingo explains. “The idea was to prevent turnover
and control workers better by making factory sites that
were tidy, safe, and well-ventilated with good lighting
and all those things.
For what it's worth, I actually agree with a lot of the criticism directed toward campuses like Apple's. It's hard to describe the renderings we've seen in any terms other than dystopian. A building designed to keep everyone looking inward is better suited to a religious cult than to a creative organization.
The premise of the article is that choice is good for workers, and urbanity fosters choice. Corporations creating isolated campuses removes choice and reduces quality of life.
>A building designed to keep everyone looking inward is better suited to a religious cult than to a creative organization.
That's not the intent of the design and the view is pretty much identical for both sides: trees. The point of the shape is to connect as much as possible while creating a secure courtyard. The closest path from one side of the building to another is outside.
Regardless, it's very clear that there's no way to win with these people. No matter what decisions the managers and architects arrive at, there will always be some ankle-biting from noncontributing journalists and academics with political axes to grind.
The point of the shape is to connect as much as possible while creating a secure courtyard. The closest path from one side of the building to another is outside.
Interesting, I didn't know that. My understanding was that the courtyard area would be easily accessible to everyone working there.
If there was a light rail to an urban center and I could get my daily/weekly errands done via walking or cycling, sure.
But the car centric culture of, well, just about everywhere is IMHO grosser than an "urban prison"
Let me guess you write poems for a living?
So I think it's perfectly fine to build a Paris-like building if you must build something. It'll just never happen without legal action.
The sentiment that the Bay Area can't allow more homes to be built offends me, and it hurts even more that people who feel this way are the vast majority of voices that reach city councils, and that they're far more organized during elections.
(Oh, and I do miss Berlin)
Of course, my expectation was that it was more dense than SF, so when I found a source that confirmed it, I was all too willing to trust it. But in retrospect (based on your protest on the matter), the housing itself was quite dense in many areas, but there were many parks and large spaces of open areas between the housing blocks.
Then as now, not everyone is entitled to a nice two-bedroom San Francisco flat for $2000/month. Tokyo has figured that out. Moscow has figured that out. London has figured that out. Why are San Franciscans so slow to catch on?
'Yuppy' mean young urban professional. If you live in SF, working in the tech profession, you're likely some value of 'young,' and therefore a yuppy.
If you want to fix the country then remove all limits, let developers develop whatever and whereever they deem there is demand. Remove occupancy laws where they're not about safety. Remove property line setbacks. End parking requirements. End requirements about private kitchens and bathrooms. Outlaw Zoning entirely.
The nation will become more equitable economically when rich people and poor people all share the same zipcodes again. And you can do it with capitalism, you can do it by removing government instead of creating it, you can do it with freedom.
Side bonus: you'll have an economic boom. Construction is an industry that creates real wealth that usually stays in the country.
That's a bad idea, too. For example, in Fremont right now, there's a development that was built without being placed in a school district. So the students who will live there have no real school.
Also, there are serious environmental impacts that need to be considered every time you build a new housing unit.
Outlawing zoning completely is a bad idea too: you'll end up with housing units built next to noisy factories or smelly plants, and then the people in the new houses will complain to get the factory shut down, even though the factory was there before they were, and it was making noise when they moved in.
Furthermore, when you build new housing, you need to consider how those people are going to get transportation, water and electricity (and heating in most places). You can't just throw up a housing unit anywhere and expect those things to be built magically.
Perhaps abolishing the whole idea of school districts and assigning kids to schools via address as opposed to parental decision. The whole pay for schools via property tax and local levies has a pretty big negative impact on students from low income neighborhoods. Its classism baked into the system. Backpack tuitions would right a lot of wrongs in the education of our children.
I think I'm aware of this, and it is often not what the parent's want used as a determinate. If someone says they have moved somewhere to get their kids in a "good" school district then the system has failed.
> In California, the schools are funded equally based on property tax collected at the state level. Schools are funded based on how many students are sitting in class, not on where they are located.
Except for districts where local property tax portion exceeds the funding formula levels since the property tax is kept local to the district. Also, CA schools are funded on more than property taxes such as having an income tax share.
The problem is that development is so tightly restricted in most areas, that new residents have few options.
In short, you are blaming the market for the results of zoning and land use restrictions.
I also abhor zoning and what it does to cities. But look at Japanese cities to see what good, minimal zoning can achieve, without prohibitive height limits, nonexclusive zoning etc.
More on Japanese zoning: http://urbankchoze.blogspot.ca/2014/04/japanese-zoning.html
Persuade people to want mixed use, rather than trying to force it down the throats of home owners, and you will have much better results.
Developers are perfectly happy to deliver want buyers want. If you want better cities, have a population of people who want better cities. If the city you live in is not good enough, first try persuading your peers, and if that does not work, go somewhere more like minded.
It is not an excuse to cripple everyone in this trap of zoning and regulation that has stunted growth in almost every sector across the entire country.
I didn't blame the market for anything. You have reading comprehension issues. Fix that.
Why would people with children move to a place without schools?
Some portion of people with children may not care at all about them. That's one reason why there's public education, to prevent parent's lack of concern being something that cause a child to have nearly no future. Of course, such considerations seem to be already going away, so sure we'll have whole housing developments for home schooling nuts.
Yet people living in one of the most populated cities in the US apparently live too far away from schools and shouldn't be allowed to build.
As one of those kids who got up at 04:00 to catch the 04:30 bus that arrived at school at ~07:45, (and repeated the trip -but in reverse- starting at ~15:00) I can confirm the truth of this statement. 
 I was literally the first child on and last child off of that particular bus. :/
As far as I can tell school districts arose at a time when it was completely impractical for children, other than those whose parents were wealthy enough to send them away to boarding school, to attend a school that was not local, and at a time when it was generally believed that local government should be responsible for local services (sanitation, roads, water, schools, etc). I don't see how at that time they could have been used for racist and classist purposes, so doubt that their origin was such.
The 1896 Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson. Among these facilities were public schools, often located just miles apart, which separated white and colored students. In almost all instances, schools which educated colored students were underfunded, extensively degraded, and/or lacked the necessary materials to rigorously challenge the students. It was also estimated that the amount of per capita expenditures devoted towards colored students was 40-50% lower than for white students, further deepening the educational inequality between the two ethnic groups.
Whether classist, racist, or coincidence, the results are obvious.
And I didn't ask for one. I want one on the origin of school districts. As you noted, neighborhoods were segregated. As a consequence of that, everything local was de facto segregated, but that doesn't mean you can infer that everything local has a racist origin.
For instance, since neighborhoods were segregated a neighborhood's sewers were generally only available to one race. Do you conclude that public sanitation has racist origins?
I'm surprised segregated/poorer neighborhoods having worse services is up for debate.
Segregation had racist origins. Segregation was by race. But I concede, not everything local has a racist origin, obviously.
Is the next school 20+ miles away?
The school district has designated this new area as unassigned, meaning the children will have a seat somewhere, but no guarantee of a close neighborhood school.
Within that domain, this new source of housing has not been factored in to the balance of how to divide resources. (Think of classroom seats as hyperthreads and teachers as processor cores).
The kids going to different schools (lack of CPU affinity) is the issue as differently aged kids might go to different schools, have to travel needlessly far to get to a school with free resources, and potentially even two kids of the same age from the same family might not go to the same school.
> but you can't blame developers for that.
Wild grow with little planning for transportation and water. It's a complete mess. You can sit in traffic jams in the middle of nowhere. And the crazy thing, they are still building like crazy so it's only going to get much worse than it is now.
I've been visiting the area for 15 years (my Dad lives there), and each year I go back I'm amazed how much worse it is. 15 years ago it was lush forests. Now: mall and housing developments are everywhere, and the roads are mostly the same--there have been some upgrades to roads, but not nearly enough.
Still, removing parking requirements might be a good thing if creates incentive for public transit. Removing single family home mandates seems like it would be great for avoiding sprawl. But as you say, just these two.
There's a reason we have housing inspections at so many steps in the building process.
Zoning and building codes are two vastly different things. Zoning controls how buildings can be used, what types of new buildings can be built, and, in some cases buildings' overall shape and size. Building codes specify how buildings can be built, and what quality and safety standards the construction has to meet.
Like many other pro-housing-affordablity people, I believe we should massively relax zoning laws in most places (though not necessarily abolish them entirely). I do not think we should change building codes in any way.
The original comment: If you want to fix the country then remove all limits, let developers develop whatever and whereever they deem there is demand.
Compare SF to unzoned Houston instead.
This. Outlawing dense, urban growth does real harm to people's lives, and to the environment. It's one of the clearest examples of xenophobia and greed coallescing to extract wealth and concentrate it in the hands of the privileged few. Just because it's, say, a crowd of mostly Bernie Sanders supporters pushing to "preserve neighborhood character" in the Berkeley hills at a local city council meeting, and not a skyscraper board room full of bankers in expensive suits, doesn't make it any less nefarious or the impact any less real.
That's a great point, and one that has been largely missed here.
I used to live in a city with aggressive green-space initiatives. (85% of the city had to be green space.) Locals would tell me that it was "good for the environment".
I'm sorry, but no. Green space initiatives force sprawl. They're bad for the environment, full stop.
I think urban green space is great, as long as it also comes with housing density. The problem is excessive greenspace coupled with mandatory low-density single family dwellings. You end up creating more sprawl and more carbon emissions as the people who can't afford to live in the close-in suburbs sprawl outward.
Also, I say all of this as an environmentalist. Suburban parks do more to protect homeowner wealth than they do to protect our planet. Carbon emissions, ocean acidification, widespread habitat loss (think palm oil plantations in Borneo, not racoon territory in your backyard) are far more pressing environmental problems than suburban densification is by any stretch of the imagination.
Seeing a few trees torn down to make way for an apartment building is a very tangible loss of greenery, but it's ultimately better for the environment. Density allows people to be more efficient in their use of resources, and ultimately preserves more habitat for wildlife.
Imagine if we applied SF housing laws to the car market. Only allow a few thousand new cars to be made every year. Then say manufacturers have to pay a $10,000 fee per car they sell, in addition to taxes on their revenues. Of course the super wealthy start bidding up the price of cars - they're hard to get, and becoming expensive, so it's a status symbol to have one. Existing car owners are happy to see that their current car is going up in value, so they don't want to change anything. Since cars are now so expensive people decide to mandate affordable cars. So a lottery is set up where a handful of new cars get sold at bellow market rates to some very lucky people. This does nothing to make good cars more affordable to the vast majority of people who can no longer afford them. But it lets the people contendedly driving their valuable BMWs and Volvos pat themselves on the back for having done something.
Also, going back to housing, fast-growing metropolitan areas that have fewer zoning restrictions tend to have more affordable housing than ones that are anti-housing-construction. Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta have all seen incredible population and job growth but have housing that is far more affordable than in California.
The used car market is full of scams, and has the used-car salesmen ever been seen as a trustworthy individual? The independent used-car inspector I went through had a disclaimer that they charge extra to inspect cars on lots out on 82nd ave in Portland because of how notoriously bad they are at selling people lemons. There are many salvage sellers on Craigslist, who fail to mention how badly the car was damaged before being repaired, and those repairs are usually poorly done. Some of the cheapest options are cars with recalls that the seller never mentions in their ad.
Soap? The raw materials, use cases and costs involved with soap are so out of align with that of housing, I can't see "it works for soap" being a viable argument. In many poor neighborhoods there are "food/grocery deserts", so access to cheap soap can be an issue.
This is even more true for housing, where prices vary wildly by tens of thousands (or occasionally hundreds of thousands) of dollars for very similar quality/space/location housing.
A used car can usually purchased in a single day. A used house can take anywhere from 3-6+ weeks to purchase (from initial offer to actual possession).
And housing purchases are so unwieldy that both parties must hire their own agents and insurances (at a cost of thousands of dollars, each) to represent each of them through the entire transaction.
Purchasing processes don't get any more unfriendly than that.
> The used car market is full of scams, and has the used-car salesmen ever been seen as a trustworthy individual?
This is even more true for housing, where scams are so common that they're just automatically factored into housing costs by default as "maintenance".
It's even more insane because "multiple things quickly failing" is expected even for brand new housing. To the extreme that brand new cars typically carry a 36 months "everything" warranty, but new houses usually only carry 11-12 months of similar guarantee, despite costing 10-20x more.
If anything, I wish the housing market was more like buying a car. Because despite all car-buying's flaws, it's at least possible for me to get something I'm fairly content with, at a price I can reasonably afford.
For example, the ones that require seas of single-family houses around most of San Francisco's major transit hubs:
Where we may differ is enthusiasm for (de)regulation. Your rights end where my begin. I still don't want my neighbor's bad choices impacting my property's value, my personal safety. Or creating externalities which then must be covered by tax payers. Buildings must still be made to code, lest everything catches on fire. Runoff must be still be mitigated, so the hillside doesn't collapse or my basement gets flooded with sewage.
Where "liberals" need better messaging is showing that protecting the environment and public health can be better for the economy. Stuff like protecting wetlands to minimize flooding, reducing runoff to protect waterways from pollutants and fecal matter, etc.
What you need is mixed offices and housing with street level retail. Coffee shops, restaurants, places to go. You also want underground transportation because parking wastes space, cars interfere with pedestrians, and stoplights are a pathetic drag on movement.
Self-driving electric cars could have high utilization for underground tunnels. Like a subway, with stations in dense areas and on/off ramps to highways. Self driving cars can keep to closer tolerances (narrower tunnels, shorter following distance) and electric cars mean simpler ventilation (no carbon monoxide).
Think of the average utilization of a subway tunnel. Despite the high density of people in a subway car, the vast majority of the tunnel is empty.
Incumbent property owners benefit immensely when you must seek government permission to build on your land (to what standard: different conversation).
In then end, they are gonna shoot themselves in the foot as the big tech companies become rational and move away from san francisco toward more reasonable growing cities like Denver.
Here's a study that demonstrates the control existing homeowners have over zoning policy:
This way of living might offend some people's aesthetics or their idea of what they deserve, but it works very well.
And its the first time i hear someone say that 30 years limit for buildings is a good thing. In practice they use shitty and cheap materials, have no isolation so its too hot in summer and cold in winter and it looks like shit. They dont build anything to last and its not a good aspect since its wasteful.
As for bedroom communities without commerce, I would attribute that to: (1) an excellent public transportation infrastructure, and (2) an overall migration of livelihoods to Tokyo/Osaka-scale urban centers. My experience (in Nagoya) is that there are offices and light industry mixed with residential in every direction until you reach 里山. In fact, many people that I know operate businesses out of their homes, including light manufacturing, restaurants, etc.——something you cannot do in most American cities.
And finally, I can certainly understand your view on the "disposable" nature of housing here, but I still think it makes good sense. This is earthquake and typhoon country, so the codes change with advances in technology. The industrial nature of the housing business here drives the cost way down. In America, residential construction projects are notoriously difficult, over-budget, and late. Compared the efficiency of scale of a company like Sekisui, American contractors are an unfunny joke. I have seen homes built in Japan with a crew of no more than three or four men, plus a few traffic guards, in just a few weeks. And they work quietly and keep the area clean. I can build a new house in my city in Japan for around US$150,000——something that is completely impossible in most American cities. (The price of land here in another matter, of course. It's very expensive.)
I will never understand why Americans pour money into old houses. Even 伊勢神宮 is rebuilt every twenty years, and it's more than two thousand years old!
A lot of Americans are under the illusion that when they buy a house, most of the value is the house. It's actually the land (bought as a package deal), but the perception that the house is valuable drives the behavior that's confusing you.
That makes it possible to have much denser towns.
They're one step closer to the ideal.
It's called Houston. You should go there and experience it. My personal favorite was the convenience store-cum-liquor mart being run out of a residential front porch.
I'm not judging. I am merely pointing out that what you describe has been done in the United States and that you should go there and check it out.
That said, Japan has an approach to zoning that would be an improvement: They classify land into 12 different zones, 11 of which allow increasingly 'undesirable' buildings to be built. You can build a house in an industrial area or shopping mall if you want, but you can't build a factory in an area zoned for more desirable buildings. Zone 9 is for heavy manufacturing, so it doesn't allow residential or commercial buildings.
For something like blocking a shopping mall, you don't actually need the government to ban someone from building one in your neighborhood. Just find 1000 like-minded NIMBYs, set up a corporation with investment money from each NIMBY, get a loan from a bank to cover the rest, build or buy a new town, and simply vote as a shareholder against Walmart's proposal to buy out your land. My view is that you have no right to stop Walmart from doing what it wants on its land, and it has no right to do what it wants on your land.
It's hilarious that some replies to this proposition complain about the Mexicans moving in and using local services like schools and sewer treatment, while others complain about the Chinese buying and not using local services! I'm hoping that these are not written by the same "well-meaning liberals", but it does seem likely.
We already have an income tax system, it spreads the burden well. If the city needs more taxes to pay for infrastructure they should raise their local income taxes.
Difficulty: Not every locality is allowed to impose an income tax.
Example: Seattle is having what one might charitably call an infrastructure problem due to its massive population growth. Washington State does not permit an income tax at any level and further imposes some rather stout limits on the amount of any other taxation.
Follow-up: What now? Washington State voters--to change the law would need to pass at a state level, including in an inevitable referendum--have repeatedly turned down both an income tax and repealing tax limits. In fact, they do the exact opposite and vote in more draconian limits (which, because the drafters of the initiatives are usually either poorly-informed or paid initiative campaigners who want initiatives to keep going to the ballot, keep getting tossed by the state Supreme Court as of late but the earlier ones stand).
Can you explain that?
I don't understand..you lost me.
So, how does this work?
More specifically, what ensures the new development is "affordable"?
Surely, the deciding factor is not the permit cost.
It may promote smaller homes, but that increases affordability.
A modern tract home can be built in as little as 2 weeks with modern prefab construction. Schools take much longer.
Just an anecdote, I went to an upper middle class suburban high school. The poorest kids in my school were the biggest bullies and class disruptors.
I have seen this in Atlanta where someone making an ok living, say $50,000, can live in one of the greatest neighborhood.
One problem, foreign money. It is mentioned in passing in the article but Vancouver (even with more sensible building laws) is still getting screwed because foreign money keeps pouring in.
And the reason for that is precisely the very restrictive policies designed to maximize real estate value.
So if you legalize housing construction, the foreign money problem will disappear as well.
And you've hit on one of the reasons: the investors who want in want into a market where real estate commands the prices it does.
Auckland itself is growing quickly, and the price of houses is (like in many other places) outrageous. Apartment rents are still relatively sane, though.
Philadelphia, additional housing, plus market crash. It doesn’t say that prices on existing housing went down, but the new “luxury” housing did not sell for close to the expected luxury prices.
I hear that Vancouver looks well-built, with lots of huge buildings, but come evening, and a whole lot of the windows in those high-rises remain stubbornly dark.
In other words, I can’t afford to couch-surf until all the foreign capital has been exhausted buying luxury condos. I need housing right now.
Besides restrictions on supply so that it doesn’t match demand, I think the problem here is the whole idea of your house as your major investment. It seemed nice to the earlier generations, who could buy a house with 1 year of earnings and sell it for 10 years of earnings, and they in turn could sell it for 40 years of earnings, but this pyramid scheme eventually has to collapse. When only the bank can own a house, then housing prices have to go down, and the poor people who put all their investment into home equity will be the ones who suffer from losing their money.
My worry is that this investment is "flight-y" (they are not actually residents) if we double up supply and this investment leaves, SF becomes a Detroit that looks like Manhattan?
P.S: Obviously, increasing supply to meet actual renters'/new residents' demand is a no-brainer.
Other cities are not such a sure investment, a spike in supply could destroy your capital overnight.
I don't get the impression these people would be as worried if the foreign investors were of French or Irish parentage.
If I've misunderstood the issue, people correct me.
It's pretty much any major world city oligarchs have decided to throw their ill gotten gains at. In London it's Russians and Arabs with oil wealth. In Vancouver and SF it's Chinese.
These oligarch investments physically occupy a massive amount of premium space, pushing the poorer residents further and further out of the city.
In a lot of cases these people are pretty much criminals. It's rare to earn a lot of money in Russia, China or the Middle East honestly. Hence the desire for a foreign bolthole and an investment the host country can't touch.
But sure. Racist glint or whatever.
It doesn't help that many of those are not "regular" Chinese but people with money and connected, the Chinese .1%ers, so to speak, who are buying properties as a pied de terre in the event things go bad in the homeland and they need to hightail it as well as a place to park their connected money.
The by-product is that the demand side is doubled up! Protectionism doesn't work, so what do we do? I'm firmly in the 'Build More' category but this one problem, I'm not sure how to solve.
First I've heard of some sort of racial friendship between Chinese and Indians. I can assure you it's not reciprocated by the Chinese.
I'm not sure, but I get the impression that the concern is partly about non-resident populations. Non-residents buying homes as investments or as a hedge against corruption driving them out of their home countries uncaps demand. More demand might end up causing wealth transfer from the renter class to the owner class.
In most studies the Chinese investors are counted by their foreign names. There is no public data on nationality of real estate owners.
The same thing is happening in other attractive pacific rim cities. In Auckland, they are experiencing the same problem as SF and Vancouver but the government is very active in encouraging new housing development. Because of the foreign investment, it's not enough.
Really? Like let builders cut down all trees in Central Park, NY, and build some more skyscrapers?
I agree with the overall direction of your sentiment, it is just that ample time in the trenches of doing business has disabused me of the effectiveness of capitalism to regulate markets the way we think it does. It regulates the markets all right; the amount of human ingenuity spent trying to game the system at others' expense either now or in the future never ceases to impress me.
Sure. Works great in Brazil.
It has nothing to do with race, it is economic disparity.
These laws exist, in some extent, to preserve the existing character of the area, for better or worse.
If you want to change these laws, I suggest you get involved (not necessarily to the same extent as Starchild in the article).
What you are suggesting, would lead to a lower quality of life for everyone, rich and poor. It would increase crime and decrease sanitation.
Do you own real property?
Zoning laws effectively turn into a tax on new comers to an area as things like "protected views", height restrictions just add to the cost of housing and running a business. Also these laws reduce density which makes having good public transportation harder and means you have to commute more to your job.
Permitting could be more streamlined, but should be required for any non cosmetic change as people try to cut corners to save $0.50 that can easily kill someone.
Disclaimer: I own property next to a large airport.
You also have to consider factors like industrial safety. For example, fertilizer and pesticide plants must be built a certain distance away from populated areas. There are, of course, many other industrial processes that also require a safety perimeter, but those are two that come immediately to mind.
It makes more sense to me to place the restrictions on the company/factory than the land itself, and building permits are already used by municipalities to negotiate location, etc.
You're agreeing with parent.
> What you are suggesting, would lead to a lower quality of life for everyone, rich and poor. It would increase crime and decrease sanitation.
I've been considering campaigning for Donald Trump. Given his background, I think he may be the most likely president to push for the sort of anti-Zoning laws I'm interested in. Perhaps you're right.
>"Do you own real property?"
Yes, I own a home in a wealthy suburb just outside of Philadelphia. I am well aware of the growing pains this would cause. But that can't stop us, this is a human rights issue, as far as I am concerned.
Also, since garbage storage would be a problem, I told my tenants they can just toss their garbage bags over the fence into your yard, and you would take care of it.
And since parking is now an issue with 15 additional cars, and friends visiting in their cars, I suggested they use your driveway or yard as parking.
Are you okay with that?
having said that, i don't think those existing homeowners would be any more willing to let white extended families move in and open up burger joints downstairs either.
Would you agree that the population density of an area has some correlation to the crime in that area?
He supports my right use the house I purchased (next door to his) in any way I see fit.
So, If I have 8 families living in a single family home, there may be some sanitation and parking problems.
It stands to reason there are probably many more people who want to move in to the area, but who aren't willing to be one of 8 families in a single family home.
So given the huge amount of pent-up demand, there must be some building laws in place keeping this specific city from growing upwards, and generating supply for this demand.
This is probably a building limits problem.
My tenants don't car about his property, and now he has to figure out which tenant violated his rights?
Yet, all these families now have legal rights and protections to live next door to him.
Call the police? Now you are taking a disproportionate amount of taxpayer resources to protect this specific individual's private property rights.
What if it keeps happening? Assign a special task-force to my specific rental property (the one next-door to the parent poster)?
But that is neither here nor there. My desire for comfort is nullified when it's being weighted against someone's human rights.
I think we need something to swing the balance towards more housing without throwing out zoning. So perhaps targets for housing units created, and if a city isn't doing enough, everything is already up zoned to, say, 4x the density previously allowed.
A lot of the symptoms liberal policies try to fight are caused by the underlying disease of segregated cities and suburbs. If we had more integrated communities where minority populations weren't relegated to looking in from the outside, the demand on the welfare state would go down.