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In Cramped and Costly Bay Area, Cries to Build, Baby, Build (nytimes.com)
210 points by rowanseymour on Apr 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 369 comments

The Times selected as an "NYTimes Pick" a comment from someone in Berlin who absolutely makes my blood boil.

(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.

Yeah, the comment section on that article is pretty sad. The number of people whose argument against building more housing is a fear that it will make the city "ugly" is astounding. It's mind-numbingly selfish and greedy to think that a family should barely be able to make ends meet, and children should spend less time with their long-commuting parents, just so that SF can meet your personal aesthetic sensibilities. Look, I love architecture and design, and I love beautiful cities, and I would love to remake all of North America according to my personal taste. But I'm not so entitled as to think that my occaisional aesthetic pleasure is more important than someone else's basic livelihood. Also, not to mention, the whole argument that density has to be ugly and "unliveable" is utterly ridiculous and false - there are lots of dense cities that are widely considered beautiful - Paris and Barcelona come to mind.


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.

Every single house in this city "ruined" the view of another house, or destroyed a piece of nature to be built, and was considered "ugly" at one point. Every single house except the first. Every single person who moved to this city either displaced someone already living here, or caused a new house to be built.

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 one hand, you have established residents pushing back against expansion, construction, and denser housing -- perhaps to preserve what they value in their community, or perhaps out of personal interest and to drive up their property values.

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.

Man "entitlement" is such a weird word, and such a weird way to frame the issue. There are property owners who would like to build on their own property, not hurting anyone. And being told they're not allowed to because rich people like the aesthetic. There's poor people being priced out of their own city because of this. Who's entitled?

And this is hardly the first time a US city has experienced growth.

You'd expect property owners to be entitled to build on their titled property, yet somehow this has turned into a pejorative.

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.

> Yes, it's completely selfish that someone would like to keep the money they've earned

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.

Taken to this extreme (wherein private property is selfish), human life is selfish. In living, you consume resources that no one else can use. As such, arguing that reallocation of your life (e.g. your death or enslavement) is selfish would be ridiculous.

> 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]

The other half of the sentence only makes sense within a property system. My point is that the very act of saying "That's mine, you can't have it" is already incredibly selfish.

How is it not equally selfish for someone to claim they are entitled to other peoples' money?

Not at all because it's not "I am entitled to your money" but "everyone's entitled to everyone's money".

Because it's more selfish?

Until you have a property system there is no "other people's" stuff.

Well we do have a property system so what are you trying to say?

That expecting there to be "your stuff" is already inherently selfish, so trying to argue that particular reallocations of "your stuff" are selfish is kind of ridiculous.

And now we are back where we started, with why is it selfish for me to claim it, but not you? Without property rights, no one has any right to anything and the world would be anarchy.

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.

"entitlements" as used as a framing for this issue boils down essentially to:


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!"

If someone pays $X million for a house in San Francisco with a view, you can assume it will hurt when an affordable-living highrise is constructed next door that blocks their view.

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 argued below that "ownership of a view" is a dubious claim. Taken too far and it amounts to no one being allowed to build anything, anywhere. Which sadly has become the norm in most places, see NIMBYism.

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.

Yes, it's somewhat a matter of perspective.

Although I'd point out that it's not just rich people who appreciate San Francisco's aesthetic.

Have you met poor people who care about vertical zoning laws in San Francisco or are you just assuming they exist and speaking for them?

I appreciate San Francisco's aesthetic, and I'm not rich. Many of my friends appreciate San Francisco's aesthetic, and they're not rich. Many tourists come to San Francisco every day to admire the city's aesthetic. I don't think you read my statement very well.

Are you suggesting there's no gray area between rich and poor?

But of course it's rich people who are prioritizing it above affordable housing.

> There are property owners who would like to build on their own property, not hurting anyone.

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.


"Ownership of a view" is a pretty dubious argument. It amounts to no being allowed to construct anything anywhere because it will always change someone's view. A taller building is not the same as a spite fence, at all.

> and that the city should rapidly rebuild itself to accommodate them.

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.

The city of San Francisco doesn't need to accommodate anyone, they simply need to get out of the way to let others do it.

If you're going by incorporated municiple.... SF is something like 21 on the list.

Well absolutely. And one commenter there (or here) mentioned the negative externalities of someone else's development driving down your property values or making your schools overcrowded or whatever.

All of these things are deserving of sympathy and consideration, but.. well, currently they're getting too much of it.

Actually, because of the "rent seeking" of using politics to artificially constrain supply creating artificial scarcity, their property is valued much more than it should be valued without the market inefficiency. So, yes, their property values will fall because they were artificially inflated. The same happened to NYC Taxi Medallion owners where each medallion had a market value of $1.2 million because of the artificial limit of medallions and once Uber came along, the value dropped to $700,000.

Similarly, billionaire developers like Donald Trump will see his property values drop but that is only because they were artificially inflated.

> the value dropped to $700,000.

Looks more like $500,000 now[1]. Although, I have no idea how accurate or trustworthy that site is, it just came up quick from Google.

1: http://nycitycab.com/business/taximedallionlist.aspx

Wasn't just uber and lyft, the outer borough taxis steppd up their game after they were allowed to pick up street hails (but not in Manhattan).


> 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.

With Prop 13 in place, cities and towns can't adjust taxes to cover their budgets. It behooves a Bay Area municipality to seek out commercial investment and drive away residential.

Agreed, Prop 13 is a huge part of the problem. Anyone concerned about the problem of housing in CA should consider calling their state representative and telling them to repeal prop 13.

Well, or new residential assessed at new rates. I'm not sure how free cities are to change their tax rates, my understanding is the major problem with Prop 13 is that existing owner's taxes can't go up very fast. But if a new resident displaces an older one, the tax value resets and the tax receipts go up. Same for building new residential, you get a bunch of taxpayers at the 'current' rate.

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.

This is behind the correlation between "new areas" and "good school districts".

> It behooves a Bay Area municipality to seek out commercial investment and drive away residential.

AIUI, (and I might not understand correctly) that's not quite right.

If you make significant improvements [0] 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.

[0] Like -for instance- adding on a new room to a house.

What you've said is true, but misses the point. Office buildings don't require schools in the same way houses do. Look at the development in Palo Alto over the last ten years. It's largely commercial and this isn't an accident.

I'm afraid you've missed the point. :)

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.

coughredliningcough :)

While prop 13 limits the rate cites can charge for property taxes, if your average tract home is selling for a million bucks %1 is still plenty of money for city services.

Paris has a height limit. It only applies within the city proper, though. So, at the end of the Champs-Élysées, there is now La Defense, just outside the city limit and full of skyscrapers. La Defense is now referred to as the financial center of Paris, much to the annoyance of Parisians.

Sure. The point is that Paris is about three times as dense as SF and it still is widely considered a "beautiful" city.

Paris's characteristic "beautiful" architecture is six stories tall stone, SF's is three stories tall wood. Unfortunately SF was started on a major fault, and probably without nearby quarries (which would be insane to use in an earthquake zone anyways).

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.

And Paris was started on a muddy riverbank. Also not ideal substrate for heavy stonework.

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,[0] and allegedly there are plenty of 10-story wooden buildings that have survived earthquakes in Vancouver.[1]

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.

[0] http://gizmodo.com/5846501/how-japans-oldest-wooden-building...

[1] https://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2015/07/how-tall-can-...

DC's architecture is converging on 12-14 stories steel and glass and it looks great while allowing a lot of density.

Speak for yourself. Considerations of urban policy and planning aside, I think the massive identical condo blocks popping up everywhere, and especially the developments in Navy Yard, are awful to look at and unpleasant to live around.

I agree. DC is really unfriendly at street level in a lot of areas. Giant blank-walled buildings that take up multiple entire blocks.

Also, San Francisco is already ugly. It's not like you'd be razing historically important beaux arts buildings to build more.

In my experience, San Francisco is a beautiful city when viewed from a distance, but rather unfriendly and dirty up close.

Really? The view from Sausalito is mistakable for that of a garbage dump.

Beautiful and ugly architecture can be pretty subjective. But, yeah, SFists have an above average tendency towards preservation. Not even sure why when in most other senses SFists believe in change.

Environmentalism is a movement devoted to stasis for its own sake; I bet it would poll pretty well in SF.

Many would disagree.

But if you think it's ugly, that's fine -- you don't need to visit or live there.

There are two things that continually surprise me about life in the modern, Internet-enabled age... two things that I would never have dreamed would happen, if you'd asked the 1996 version of me what American life would be like in 2016.

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.

Just leave.

The problem with your analysis is that it undervalues the benefits of living and working in a major city, especially as a young person. I don't really want to remote -- I want to get out, interact with people, take a coffee break and people watch, grab drinks with coworkers. I want to meet people my age doing interesting things. I want to go out drinking/clubbing/whatever without worrying about driving home after.

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.

And that's great, I wouldn't argue with any of the choices you've made for yourself. For you, the social benefits of urban life are apparently worth the costs, and that's fine. You and your friends probably aren't the ones who are doing most of the complaining.

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.

The real problem in the Bay is not SF, it's the lack of commuting infrastructure and quality. Lack of urban life around transportation hubs in the suburbs. The fact that CalTrain is a thing and BART doesn't go all the way around the Bay is a joke.

> they shouldn't complain when it turns out that real estate and transportation are limited resources that somebody has to pay for.

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 :-)

The truth is that real estate in SF is limited largely by anti-growth laws.

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.

Well, the 90s were probably the peak of suburban living, before people decided the hours of commuting per day and countless gallons of gasoline burned were not really worth it. So people moved to where the jobs are. (considering that most people still cannot fully work remotely).

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.

Nobody has left suburban living. Young people have just delayed marriage due to financial instability and career preferences, and thus delayed childbirth. Older folks have sensibly sought to downsize when empty nesting.

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.

Failure by who's definition? I live in Tokyo, the largest city on the planet. It's a "Hyper Dense Mega City" and it's an amazing fun city with a high quality of live AFAICT. There are certain things about Japanese work culture that suck for some but that has nothing to do with the city itself and everything to do with traditional culture.

After seeing how a number of Japanese acquaintances live, I've concluded the lack of personal space is a kind of paucity that makes them very poor. Barely room for a couple with one child to keep the tiniest amount of personal belongings. A pet, a small garden, bicycles for the family, any number of personal possessions I consider normal are out of the question. People living in other capital cities experience similar, although not as extreme, paucity of personal space. I don't understand how so many people feel this is a high quality of life.

You're not wrong. Any developer for example that can find remote work can benefit from the plummeting real estate costs to be found in any of the areas that have seen an outflow of people in search of work in urban areas.

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.

What cities or towns would you put at the top of this list?

Southeastern CT is cheap, and well located, in my opinion.

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.

>finally going to liberate us from crowded, noisy, polluted urban prisons

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?

They only do so for a specific type of person, who is happy externalizing and surrendering ownership. It is too expensive to own a workshop, so you go to a makerspace. You do not have land to have your own garden, so you go to a communal one. If you feel the desire to see nature, public park. To entertain, bars in stead of your own dwelling. You cannot transport yourself beyond walking distance, you rely on communal transport. In Japan, even bathing, quiet studying and reading, and practice for activities must be externalized.

To be uncharitable, urban areas are perfect for housing worker drones bereft of ownership rights.

>urban areas are perfect for housing worker drones

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.)

I love articles like that, because they're so good at packing the maximum number of leftist dog whistles possible into the available physical space and rhetorical spectrum. Just to pull a typical quote:

   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.
The entire premise of the article, as far as I can tell, is that the corporate pigs should be condemned because they kept their workers from unionizing by actually treating them like human beings. So, if the "welfare capitalists" hadn't tried to create "tidy, safe, and well-ventilated" factory sites, could we expect Ms. Mozingo's judgment, handed down on all history's behalf, to be more sympathetic? I'm guessing not.

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 entire premise of the article, as far as I can tell

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.

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.

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.

But ugh. Suburbs and driving.

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"

"techies/hippies/yuppies/homeless people/Republicans"?

Let me guess you write poems for a living?

Because I'm suggesting that overly-entitled whining is an equal-opportunity avocation?

Saw one about Sunset, "hey, maybe we should mix a three to four story building in there some places" followed by outrage about the ascetic value of the Sunset. Nonsense friend who grew up there used to get lost growing u because they built the whole neighborhood from a few dozen house designs... everything repeats after a few blocks, it's like Sim City 2000.

I'm not defending her view but in my limited experience (Houston) developers build for profitablility and not aesthetics, and actively fight any laws designed to constrain their aesthetic choices again due to profitablility.

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.

If you go to a city council meeting on the peninsula, 80% of the residents speaking say things like this. In my experience, even most tech workers speaking are the ones who bought property in the 90's and want to lift the drawbridge now that they've got theirs.

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.

As a 3rd generation San Fransiscan, San Fransisco is a dirty two-fisted drinking town, full stop. We are the descendants of the leftover dregs of society, the junk drawer of mankind. We are used batteries, bent paperclips, lint, and stripped out rusty screws. Any illusions to art havens are from the last batch of transplants. Romanticism is borne of a head injury to your hippocampus. This city is for the losers and weirdos, the people that can't fit in; hence the gays. That's not a paen to some crappy apple ad about being different. We are not liked by society, we are scoundrels and assholes, drunks and drug runners, we are the fags and chinks and every other horrible name. We are left alone. And now the transplants from the last wave of the hippies and the techys think this place is theirs now. Nice try. You aren't reviled enough yet. When everyone else turns you down, then you come to SF and can talk about your new home. Hell, have a beer.

Berlin? Denser than San Francisco? Huh? I just moved from the former to the latter, and I'm pretty sure that that's not the case, and Wikipedia backs me up (~4,000/km2 vs 7,124/km2).

Density isn't really the problem in San Francisco. The problem is available housing. Relatively speaking San Francisco is far less dense than many other cities. But these other cities don't have housing shortages.

Well, I didn't bring density up - I was just responding to the Berlin vs. SF comparison on density. But I do think that available building space can ease a lot of the discussions. Having to tear down low density (and possibly quality) housing, build in somebody's backyard, cover up small specks of green, et al. allows for far much more backlash/nimby than if there's copious unused/undeveloped land.

Thanks -- Cannot find my original source but perhaps it was a difference in how they measured land area.

Berlin used to have a lot more inhabitants, about 1 million more around around 1940 than now. Not all of the living areas from back then still exist, but it means there are some reserves. In addition to that, while there's obviously some pressure against just moving outward, it's in the middle of flat, mostly unused, land. Not comparable to SF's space constrained situation.

(Oh, and I do miss Berlin)

I visited once, and loved it.

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.

Wikipedia very unhelpfully tells me that SF has 17k/mi^2 and Berlin has 4k/km^2, which works out to about 10k/mi^2.

San Francisco is going to eventually collapse under its own weight. It's already extremely expensive to run a business there but if VC's get tighter with their purses going forward then it's going to be hard to start a new business there when your employee costs are so ridiculously high that you're burning at a 2x rate compared to your competitors in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Austin, Seattle etc (And yes I know some of those are closer than others to SF prices).

But this is old news. The vilified industry is different, but they were saying many of the same things in the 1990s.

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?

The people already owning in SF have a different and arguably better life than the current people in Tokyo or Moscow. Classic argument where people on the inside would prefer to keep it exclusive.

London has figured it out? Last time I read about rent in London it was a politically explosive topic.

Yuppies being pushed out?

'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.

I say this as a conservative: Building limits are systemically classist and racist. They maintain a geographical segregation system.

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.

If you want to fix the country then remove all limits, let developers develop whatever and whereever they deem there is demand.

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.

> 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.

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.

A school district is a system of assigning kids to schools via address. 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.

> A school district is a system of assigning kids to schools via address.

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.

Actually in Fremont, there is one school district with 5 high schools. The city is carved out into districts and generally based on proximity of home address, students assigned to the appropriate high school. The thing though is there is a huge ranking difference between the high schools. The top one is maybe in the 99% percentile in the state while the lower one is maybe 60% percentile. This makes for a huge pricing difference between houses maybe a few blocks apart to the degree of a 2x price difference. So the ones in the expensive houses will pay more property taxes but I believe the funding is equally divided among the high schools based on student population. In the end, probably the big difference is racial difference among different parts of the city and the affluence and education background of the parents that drive the difference in the school rankings.

What you say assumes that people want to purchase anything a developer builds, anywhere, at any price. In reality, market forces encourage developers to build nice homes in good areas well served by various amenities (which are publicly and privately available).

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 agree with the sentiment of vastly deregulating urban zoning conditions. However there are a couple of places where the market forces will lead to poor long-term community development. For example, outside of urban areas the market tends to incentivize suburban sprawl. In Toronto, you can see this in the GTA region like Markham or Brampton: vast tracts of cookie-cutter residential neighborhoods, without any consideration for integration with mixed use. Zoning does compound this, with density limitations, and parking requirements. However, the developers are perfectly happy with the high return on investment they can get building cheap single-family houses.

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

They aren't building mixed use because the residents do not want mixed use.

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.

In short, you are blaming the market for the results of zoning and land use restrictions.

I didn't blame the market for anything. You have reading comprehension issues. Fix that.

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.

Why would people with children move to a place without schools?

People without children have a way of turning into people with children, sometimes unexpectedly.

They don't usually suddenly turn into people with children of school age, though.

People with children move into places without schools because they're short-sighted or because other priorities are higher for them.

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.

Then doesn't it make more sense to prevent people with kids from living in these developments, than preventing their construction in the first place? After all, more than 50% of households have no children at all, why should they be prevented from living in a place without schools?

Homeschooling is underrated honestly.

It's a lot of work though. You're not going to do it with both parents working.

The lack of school district is the most hilarious objection. If you live in a rural area, then the government is required to send a bus miles out of it's way to get your kids to school.

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.

> If you live in a rural area, then the government is required to send a bus miles out of it's way to get your kids to school.

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. [0]

[0] I was literally the first child on and last child off of that particular bus. :/

"school district" - this is exactly what OP is suggesting. Another obstacle with classist and racist origin. It really blows my mind why some countries have such incredibly stupid laws. Can you image a law when you can buy only in one shop if you are from a certain district? That would suck tremendously. No competition.

Do you have a citation for the claim that school districts have classist and racist origin?

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.

>Do you have a citation for the claim that school districts have classist and racist origin?

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.


I'm not sure citation is needed to prove the origin and consequences of segregation. Black people could not live in white neighborhoods, black people could not go to school with white people until 1960.

Whether classist, racist, or coincidence, the results are obvious.

> I'm not sure citation is needed to prove the origin and consequences of segregation

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?

The sewer system and fire department were vastly inferior in the segregated neighborhood of Five Points in Denver, CO. Source: http://www.nolegacylost.com

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.

What does that mean, "without being placed in a school district"?

Is the next school 20+ miles away?

It might be 20+ miles away, or your kids might go to different schools: http://abc7news.com/education/developer-suing-fremont-unifie...

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.

So there is a school district, and what you wrote first was mere hyperbole?

It's more like an area that was previously unzoned between cities. There are different options for how to hook up water, power, data, etc; however due to the way that school districts work the kids will only be covered by one such domain.

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.

That's what I thought. It is in fact a major flaw of the entire USA public school concept that "kids will only be covered by one such domain", but you can't blame developers for that. School districts partition the state, and they do so in every state. Therefore this objection amounts to "the school district in which this development is located didn't prepare for new students while it was being built", and that objection may be lodged against any new development. Do public school boosters really want to reject all new development? Or is this more of what was mentioned upthread, that they only like development for certain types of people?

  > but you can't blame developers for that.
You can, when the developers lobbied to not pay taxes/fees that would have been used to add capacity to schools.

Because "developers lobbied to not pay taxes/fees" (stipulating, for the sake of discussion, a premise not in evidence), they can be blamed for the asinine concept of public school districts? That is not logical.

The perfect example of what you are talking about: the suburbs of Charlotte, NC (the ones I'm thinking of are actually near the SC/NC border).

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.

The NYTimes had an article on an absolutely unregulated city in India. Sewage bumped in vacant lots is a problem. Safety outside developed areas is a problem.

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.


You're making a massive leap from legalizing more different kinds of development in the US to a totally unregulated city in India. It's basically a strawman fallacy. The article clearly talks about a lack of many basic government authority and services way beyond zoning codes, like electricity and criminal justice. I think the lack of reliable power and sweage treatment might have a lot more to do with it being chaotic than the lack of laws banning multifamily apartment buildings.

If you think builders won't screw home-purchasers every chance they get, then you don't know many home builders.

There's a reason we have housing inspections at so many steps in the building process.

Building inspections are to enforce building codes, not zoning. Building inspections and building codes are a very good thing. I don't think anyone in these comments is saying otherwise.

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.

Actually, there are many reasons, some of which are good for home-purchasers. It might interest you to know that the inspection regimes of different municipalities vary drastically.

What does that have to do with zoning?

It's not my leap, I'm responding to the parent who called for completely unregulated development.

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.

There are a zillion other things separating India from California.

Compare SF to unzoned Houston instead.

I guess we're lucky that "Somalia" wasn't invoked for the nine hundredth time.

> Building limits are systemically classist and racist. They maintain a geographical segregation system.

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.

>"and to the environment"

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.

Suppose there were no green space initiatives. Then the only green space you could be sure of having would be your own garden. How would this discourage sprawl?

Peole wouldn't have to leapfrog over the greenspace to find a place to live.

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.

You can pick a spot between two extremes...

Simply saying "let the market decide who is worthy of housing" is also classicist and racist. Unless you explicitly define the market has to cater to "X income brackets", "Y racial demographics", and "Z% needs to be for personal housing, not commercial or industrial usage", you're basically saying "whoever has the most money". How is this better and more inclusive to the poor and minorities?

Because it works better in practice. Consider other markets where supply is not artificially constrained. There are no laws specifying how many cars can be manufactured, or how they can be priced. Manufacturers are able to make cars at a wide range of price points. And the used car market let's people buy at incredibly low prices. Or consider soap. We "let the market decide who is worthy" of soap, and yet there is no soap affordability crisis. Sure, you can spend $12 on a bar of soap, but you can get one for $0.49 too.

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.

Apples and oranges. The new car market dealership model actually obfuscates the price so much that prices can vary wildly by thousands of dollars for the same model and package options. It is a very consumer unfriendly process. You could even make a claim that regulation is partially to blame for this.

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.

> The new car market dealership model actually obfuscates the price so much that prices can vary wildly by thousands of dollars for the same model and package options. It is a very consumer unfriendly process.

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.

Those metros are considerably less geographically constrained. Atlanta is famous for being sort of crappy for that reason (they just keep building more metro rather than doing any consolidation).

We don't have to remove all limits; we can get a ton of benefit just by adjusting the stupid ones.

For example, the ones that require seas of single-family houses around most of San Francisco's major transit hubs: https://www.reddit.com/r/sanfrancisco/comments/3qu9uv/i_made...

And also height restrictions to protect views. You could still ask for nice architecture so views are pleasant.

I say this as a liberal: Building limits are systemically classist and racist.

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.

Bad zoning is really bad, but zoning is useful.

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).

I really like this idea of a subterranean highway that houses a self-driving fleet of electric cars. It seems like it would let commuters bring their own certified cars to use the system, while passengers who simply want a ride between dedicated stops could take an electric bus, perhaps.

I expect most people would prefer self driving uber rather than individual ownership. And I wonder if buses (analogous to subway cars) offer any advantages.

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.

Totally agreed. In fact, it turns out that all the ecological, economic, and cultural arguments raised against removing zoning are thinly veiled rent-seeking.

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: http://cityobservatory.org/homevoters-v-the-growth-machine/

I think some ecological zoning is necessary. But more of a "you can't build on this land" and "you can't build things like this on land near this land". There aren't any ecological reasons for zoning areas as (non-)residential areas anyway.

Japan (which is not a perfect analogue) handles several of these issues nicely, IMO. I live in a city of a few million people. Nearly every building is multi-tenant. Even homes are designed with two- or three-generation residents in mind. Large, functional apartment complexes are the norm. Many people live in so-called one-room apartments because they're affordable and available. I'm not familiar with zoning rules here, but just looking around tells me that there is far less segregation of commercial, industrial, and residential space. Also, housing in Japan is designed with a twenty to thirty year lifespan, so almost every space is relatively new. For example, I rent a brand new four-bedroom, two-bath house in a lovely, safe neighborhood with good schools and parking for two cars and a few bikes, for US $1,700 per month. (That is considered shockingly expensive to most people here, but I'm anchored on the American markets.)

This way of living might offend some people's aesthetics or their idea of what they deserve, but it works very well.

Im in japan too and there are very clear zoning rules per area. There are very clear bedtowns with no industries or commerces but its probably not near where you live. There is very little freedom to build new things that is why you get extremely expensive apartments and rents. This prevents people to live on their own unless they are married and get enough income for that.

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.

Yes, I can understand your views. I guess it's possible to disagree about this. I've seen how bad things are in America in terms of affordable housing, so the options in Japan seem quite nice by comparison.

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!

This interesting video of Kumamoto earthquake wreckage puts this discussion in context. You can see clearly the kinds of construction——old and new——that is typical in Japan. Most of it holds up to the quake very well, despite being disposed to quick, cheap, and clean building.


> 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.

In Japan in most places the height limit for wooden structure is 4 stories (higher than most of the US), they have fewer restrictions on building spacing, and fewer restrictions on how much sq. feet per person is required.

That makes it possible to have much denser towns.

They're one step closer to the ideal.

Some time ago I found an interesting article about Japan's zoning practices: http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com.br/2014/04/japanese-zoning.h...

That does sound great. Where in Japan?


"Remove property line setbacks. End parking requirements. End requirements about private kitchens and bathrooms. Outlaw Zoning entirely."

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.

You are misinformed. The city of Houston has very harsh setback and parking requirements that encourage an unending suburban style sprawl. Off the cuff it's 7 parking spots per 1000 sq ft of business and buildings in the non central business district area (about a 30x30 square block space) must be 10-20ft from the city easement.

Houston's a fascinating city. I lived there for a few years between leaving the Bay Area and winding up in Colorado. It's a vibrant and energetic place with a never-ending influx of new immigrant cultures from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Very, very few American cities have embraced pluralism to quite the same extent (and no, I don't include SF on that list).

Arguably though, people are implicitly willing to pay quite the premium for racial and class segregation. Why would a purely 'free market' approach (hard when there are so many externalities involved) work better than an inclusionary zoning approach? (rather than the exclusionary zoning regimes of, for example, most suburbs in he US) - Encourage/demand high-density infill mixed-income housing.

One problem is that one need not be particularly racist for segregation to occur spontaneously:


Just because something could exist, doesn't mean it is what is happening though. I think all complex systems modeling has things to teach us, and I've looked a lot at Schelling and other agent-based models, but arguably they don't hold up to empirical evidence. http://www.nyudri.org/research-index/2009/empirics

People can pay for class segregation. I suspect if we let them, it would become separated from race segregation over time.

Depends on your time scale I guess. Arguably class and racial segregation are highly linked in the US and is the primary way that racial disparities continue to be reproduced so persistently. See, for example, http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674018211

Zoning in the US should be abolished. The government shouldn't be micromanaging what individuals do with their own property. People complain that others will buy up the land next door and set up a puppy smelting plant that belches bone ashes into the air, but that's a separate issue. It's not so much the puppy-smelting that's at issue, but the ashes. I think it makes sense to force manufacturing companies to keep their pollution at bay, but not to prohibit them from using the property for any lawful purpose. If you can't observe what people are doing in a building, then it's none of your business.

That said, Japan[1] 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.

[1] http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2014/04/japanese-zoning.html

If you want to fix the country then remove all limits, let developers develop whatever and wherever they deem there is demand.

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.

There is infrastructure costs associated with new construction (schools, roads, etc.) Ideally a permit should add ~40k to cover those cost per additional dwelling which scales based on actual costs. Otherwise you keep having people who live in an area pay for new schools, water treatment plants, etc several times.

People averse to low income and brown people moving to their nice little town will just weaponize those permit costs to block developers. By putting those infrastructure costs exclusively on the developer, you're basically taxing poverty, because those costs will all have to go on to the new poor residents.

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.

> 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).

"By putting those infrastructure costs exclusively on the developer, you're basically taxing poverty, because those costs will all have to go on to the new poor residents."

Can you explain that?

I don't understand..you lost me.

Instead of the burden of paying for additional services to support additional housing being spread around to all residents, if you bake the cost into the permitting process, developers will be forced to charge more for the new housing to make up the cost.

I guess we are not on the same page.

So, how does this work?

More specifically, what ensures the new development is "affordable"?

Surely, the deciding factor is not the permit cost.

As the supply increases, and a greater proportion of demand is met, the cost will decrease. Remember this from Econ 101?

Or build smaller homes 40k @ 6% is only 200$ a month. Further people would be paying this anyway and new development directly competes with normal home sales.

It may promote smaller homes, but that increases affordability.

How do you ensure it sells for $40k and the person that buys it lives in it (not renting or sub-leasing for a profit)?

Doesn't matter. The point is to push the inventory mix toward smaller dwellings. Someone who want a big house won't buy 5 little ones.

Shouldn't this be covered by property taxes and the additional income tax of the new residents?

Property tax comes after the fact. You move to a new area with kids now. You pay your property tax at the end of the year. But the kids need school right now and the district has to: find property to build a new school, raise bonds to fund it, build the damn thing, hire staff.

A modern tract home can be built in as little as 2 weeks with modern prefab construction. Schools take much longer.

The students escaping the ghetto will still be getting a measurably better education on the strained suburban school than they will at the ghetto school they're currently stuck in.

What about the kids who go to the suburban school? Kids from the ghettos can simultaneously be the victims and causes of the state of their school.

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.

Does "escaping" imply segregating one's child from the "ghetto school"?

All parents who love their children would "segregate" them from awful schools if they could. The whole point of thread originator was that geographical restrictions are more unfair to the poor than they are to anyone else.

A modern school can be built in a couple days with modern portable classrooms: http://www.modulargenius.com/portable-classroom.html

Is there a warehouse where you can order a bunch of portables like you can USB cables off of Amazon? No, prefab doesn't mean prebuilt. And that still doesn't cover funding, staff, and all the various local, state, and federal rules that make a school. Buildings, the US has plenty of.

If you have somewhere to put it.

And can find and afford a whole set of qualified staff to teach and administer it.

Not all states have income tax, and why should all existing real property owners subsidize the new developer's impact on the existing shared infrastructure?

Because the impact is not that of the developer; it's not the developer's kids that will be going to the local school, it's not the developer who will be using the local infrastructure to commute to work everyday. It's the homeowner. The cost of the homeowner's burden on the public infrastructure should rest firmly on the homeowner's shoulders, not on the person who happened to build and sell a home to him.

That's why people are proposing to dramatically increase the fees on new residential building permits above: precisely so that the homeowner bears the cost of those infrastructure investments. (Don't confuse that the developer pays the permit fee in the first place from who actually pays it. Obviously, the new homeowner will be the one ultimately paying for that permit fee.) I'm not saying I agree with it (I see problems both ways); I'm just trying to explain it.

yep, my comment was directly responding to the notion (in the above comment) that this fee being passed on to the homeowner was somehow unfair because the developer is the one using the local infrastructure, which is obviously incorrect on so many different levels.

There are permitting processes for a reason. So that we do not have an epidemic of shoddily built houses that fall down or burn down, etc. or, don't end up with a nuclear power plant in the middle of a quite residential street. Granted, some limits are too restrictive and should be removed and/or relaxed. Others should be kept and/or enhanced. Blanket removal of all limits is just as stupid as limits that are too restrictive

Zoning is not the same as permitting - you can remove zoning restrictions without removing safety inspections, etc.

As I said, some zoning restrictions and/or permitting procedures in some places are too restrictive and should be relaxed. That in no way implies that it's a good idea to get rid of all zoning restrictions

Removing zoning permits does not equate to shoddily built houses. This is what you call, a straw man.

A straw house, even

Did you see the or in my argument ? Zoning is what prevents someone building a nuclear waste plant ( or an industrial plant ) on a quiet, tree lined street.

The nation will become more equitable economically when rich people and poor people all share the same zipcodes again.

I have seen this in Atlanta where someone making an ok living, say $50,000, can live in one of the greatest neighborhood.

As a liberal, I agree.

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.

But the reason foreign money is pouring in to SF real estate rather than a zillion alternatives is that it's a good investment.

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.

For a few years, I've been challenging people when this discussion comes up to give examples of situations where increasing housing supply resulted in falling prices. As far as I can tell, without a fundamental demand drop, this rarely if ever happens.

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.

Downtown Auckland, 2005/6. There was a big increase in the number of small apartments available. Prices did fall, and people I know "lost money" because of it. It was still a great thing for the city.

Auckland itself is growing quickly, and the price of houses is (like in many other places) outrageous. Apartment rents are still relatively sane, though.

Well, from the last discussion where Sonja participated:

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.



Generally, people don't build housing supply with the intent of oversaturating the market and losing money!

no but who said everything that happens is what was intended

It would help, but housing will retain value as an investment vehicle unless the rental value of the land itself is taxed. Only a Land Value Tax would entirely achieve this, for what it's worth.

This is a common intuitive argument, but the question that follows is why? Why must all housing be used? Could we not simply build more? Instead of looking at foreign purchases of homes as taking away an opportunity, it should be viewed as a stimulus program. The real problem seems to be that city planners are restricting new construction (to keep up home values, and allow them to 'shape' the city), and thus forcing foreign and domestic purchasers to compete instead of collaborate.

Vacant houses tend to be vandalized, infested by pests, and otherwise fall into disrepair (e.g. there's no one there to notice a plumbing leak). This is less of an issue for individual vacant units in multi-tenant buildings.

I'm not sure this is a problem for the types of housing purchased by foreign money. When foreigners invest in US housing, they tend to also hire property management firms that look after the property during vacancies.

You can buy a house way faster than you can build a new one. According to Rousseauian liberalism, a proper government exists for the good of the people whom it represents, and foreign oligarchs do not represent the people in the cities where they are buying property. It’s bad for democracy.

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.

How would they "collaborate" if the supply was higher? I think the point of the activist was that the demand is far too high (almost double what would be caused by normal incoming techies).

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.

The irony being that Vancouver real estate is only a great investment vehicle because they've had such strict building regulations, with the view corridors law.

Other cities are not such a sure investment, a spike in supply could destroy your capital overnight.

Could you please explain why the foreign investment is a problem? Every time I've heard this discussed, it's mostly been people saying "The CHINESE are buying up houses" with a racist glint in their eyes.

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.

>Could you please explain why the foreign investment is a problem? Every time I've heard this discussed, it's mostly been people saying "The CHINESE are buying up houses" with a racist glint in their eyes.

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.

In London they currently have 230 buildings 20 stories or more being developed, or planned for development. It looks like the investment capital is doing wonders there.

It's not because the buyers are Chinese it's mostly due to the volume of purchases affecting the market so directly. They could be "Newfies" if you had as many driving up prices so dramatically, you'd get an outcry. It happens in the US in Portland you'll occasionally see signs about No Californians.

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.

They aren't buying houses becuase they might need to live in them. They could rent anywhere easily. They are buying them as investments.

The idea of ownership is more important in Chinese culture so renting is not as attractive, plus ownership affords them a place to park their money away from central govt control.

In many cases the younger generation changes citizenship. The whole family could leverage that in a pinch.

Well given that I'm South Asian, I don't think their race is an issue to me personally, and people in Vancouver who've brought this problem up are the most racially progressive bunch there is (including a huge native Chinese population that has been there for decades). Chinese money is flooding in because of issues in the Chinese investment market and they are increasing their investment in the SF market too now.

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.

> Well given that I'm South Asian, I don't think their race is an issue to me personally

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.

> Could you please explain why the foreign investment is a problem?

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.

The Chinese people who are buying up houses aren't buying them to live in, they're buying them just to speculate. The owners stay in China. It would be just as bad if they were from another country, it's just that they happen to be Chinese.

Housing should be utilized. I could also say everytime this comes up someone is quick to start saying racist. I don't care the origin, I just care that this product could actually be used by locals.

We could test your idea if there were any French or Irish investors. Or even American investors.

There are, but they're harder to count.

In most studies the Chinese investors are counted by their foreign names. There is no public data on nationality of real estate owners.

Because local governments do everything they can to avoid collecting specific data in vancouver.

There was a time when people would've been just as worried.

This is a huge point.

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.

Yup. One possible solution we're considering in Vancouver is some kind of residency requirement - for example, if you don't live in your property (or rent it out) for more than x% of the year, you get penalized on your property taxes or something.

No foreign money is good! They are not sending their kids to local schools, or driving down on 101 every day to cause traffic. They also pay way way more property tax compared to someone bought a house 20 years ago..

It's been tried and the problem is that you end up with slums.

http://www.victorianweb.org/history/slums.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_End_of_London

> remove all limits

Really? Like let builders cut down all trees in Central Park, NY, and build some more skyscrapers?

Decades spent in business cured me of similar notions. Externalities, reflexivity, and information+power asymmetry are (among others) unsolved problems in our capitalist systems. Pretty much anything anyone can get away with that doesn't impact the metric being measured, they will. When the metric is price, all sorts of information is lossy-encoded into that metric.

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.

>The nation will become more equitable economically when rich people and poor people all share the same zipcodes again.

Sure. Works great in Brazil.


That "spiral staircase" of pool balconies is pretty awesome.

It sounds appealing to have no building limits. How about if I want to start fraking on my land near your land? Cities in Texas like Dallas don't like this, so they passed laws saying you can't have hydraulic fracturing on the land in the city, because it causes small earthquakes and could cause pollution. Guess what happened, the state legislature passed a new law saying cities couldn't pass laws against frakking.

...and that's why Dallas was swallowed up by a great crack in the ground.

Dallas wasn't swallowed, but they have been having small earthquakes where they used to have none. It's much worse in Oklahoma.

As a 'liberal', I disagree.

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?

Pretty much the only zoning needed is low noise and high noise (airport, late night music venues, etc). All the other things that tag along with zoning are not needed. The only reason for noise zoning is to prevent people from moving next to an existing high noise activity and pushing it out.

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.

Zoning isn't needed just for low and high noise.

You also have to consider factors like industrial safety. For example, fertilizer[1] and pesticide[2] 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.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Fertilizer_Company_explos...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

While I haven't though enough on the issue to have much of an opinion on abolishing zoning completely, zoning seems like the wrong way of dealing with hazardous companies like that regardless. There is already an extensive permitting process and a mountain of regulation that you'd have to go through to open one of these companies, so why not enforce the safety perimeter through that?

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.

That would prevent a hazardous factory from being built next to residences, but wouldn't prevent residences being built nearby after the factory is already there. For that, you'd need restrictions on the residences and/or the land.

Maybe a hybrid solution would work? Have a zone tied to the factory, no residential buildings within a certain radius of the factory, but if the factory shuts down or moves, the zone goes with it.

That's a really cool idea.

Is that the problem these cities have, too many fertilizer plants? It seems unlikely, but I haven't visited the West Coast in a few years. You might have better luck talking about natural gas storage.

> These laws exist, in some extent, to preserve the existing character of the area, for better or worse.

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.

How so?

>"If you want to change these laws, I suggest you get involved."

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.

Zoning isn't a federal issue and won't be one in the next 8 years.

kiiiindof - one of the strategies we are investigating is suing under the fair housing act to overturn large lot single family zoning. Also - HUD is starting to investigate exclusionary zoning cases.

So, if I bought the house next door to you, and had 8 separate families live there (I would be charging them rent), you would be okay with that?

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?

My parents live in a subdivision with 5,000-6,000 square foot houses occupied by empty nesters. There is a growing Hispanic population in the area and a lot of opposition to Hispanics moving into such houses with big extended families. But so long as everyone followed other laws, letting those extended families move in would be a win for both economic and racial integration as well as the general character of the neighborhood. And while we're at it, maybe someone could open a nice ethnic restaurant on a first floor of one of the houses. It'd be another huge improvement in the character of the neighborhood.

anyone can move in to those places if they have the money and the property is for sale. your restaurant idea is actually happening in some parts of south and east los angeles, illegally - i've seen youtube videos documenting the phenomenon.

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.

"But so long as everyone followed other laws"

Would you agree that the population density of an area has some correlation to the crime in that area?

NYC is one of the safest places in the world _per capita_

Why would people use his property to park cars? The developer would purchase property and include a driveway / garage. You are being ridiculous. The problem is that regulations wouldn't allow an 8 family home. I live in a dense area and there are single families, triple deckers, and apartment complexes all around me. Welcome to Boston

Why would I need to purchase or develop additional property?

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.

If 8 families want to live in a single family home, it must be an exceptionally desirable area, with very little housing.

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.

There are plenty of places where land is cheap but units are still too expensive for low wage workers and their nonworking children.

The parent poster is not advocating for trespassing and liter.

Nor am I, but what can he do to enforce his rights at that point?

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)?

I can put cameras outside of my home, I can have cars towed away, I can find the ripped up bill in their trash bag that tells me the perpetrator is John Q. Badguy.

But that is neither here nor there. My desire for comfort is nullified when it's being weighted against someone's human rights.

Yes you are advocating trespassing and litter. Saying that you'll rent to 8 families and they'll have no choice but to trespass and litter is advocating it. You literally say "I told my [hypothetical] tenants they can just toss their garbage bags over the fence into your yard, and you would take care of it."

How many people can live in a building generally isn't even regulated by zoning, it's set by building/fire codes and the certificate of occupancy. Removing the zoning isn't suddenly going to change the legal max occupants/residents of the building.

Increase crime, or expose more rich people to crime?

I totally agree that building limits are bad. But zoning and planning still have some virtues.

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.

So basically make life cramped and awful for everyone instead of just some?

Obligatory appendix: just don't do it where I live.

You're not a conservative, you're a libertarian.

OP may be a libertarian, but you can't determine that from what he posted. There is a strong conservative case for fighting segregation enabled by zoning. I'm currently living in a rich suburb of DC. The local high school, one of the best public schools in the country, is underenrolled. Per student spending in this county is far lower than in DC proper, because we're not trying to make up for all of the consequences of segregated inner city neighborhoods by ineffectually shoveling money at schools. If we could get some lower-income people into dense housing in this area, we could replace expensive DC teachers with cheaper Fairfax County teachers and probably achieve better outcomes for kids to boot.

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.

That's the same thing in the US. "Libertarian" is just what Republicans call themselves when most of their friends are Democrats, and they're worried people will think they're racist.


That's certainly not true.

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