Meanwhile... the highest and lowest hex I can spot is 1265 / 457 = a ratio of 2.76 with both endpoints having relatively steep curves compared to the rest of the histogram. With the graph's Z0 set to 457 and Zscale set to an arbitrary ratio, the sculpture-graph conveys the impression that there is a discrepancy of 5 or more times between the top of hill on the bottom tier vs the nearby flat area of the top tier. When the reality is something more like 1234 / 810 = 1.5
ie: You've got a $899,000 home sale, that's supposedly a ~$4000/mo rent, which leads towards a "25% rule" of $16,000/mo income => $192,000/yr => which is supposedly 93.9%-ile.
Going from $4000/mo => $5000/mo, it seems like it takes you to 96.8%-ile.
In theory as well. Small changes of the log of a variable are approximately equivalent to small percent-changes.
Edit: Though percentile is a little different than percent-change.
It's common to scale the elevation of a topographic map to exaggerate features , even non-linearly . If you try to 3d print a raised relief globe without exaggeration it is surprisingly flat. If you're buying an expensive classroom globe, the specs talk about the exaggeration .
This is a sculpture, so whatever goes, but perhaps the designer looked at the version without exaggeration and noticed that it looked less emphatic.
I also think, as data visualization, this sculpture nicely shows the extreme change in price which occurs over small spatial distances. That's really important, and, actually, the tendency to make real estate price heatmaps with models that force continuity and prefer smoothness, like cubic splines, suppresses that aspect of the data. Railroad tracks and some beautification really are sometimes the only thing between million dollar homes and mobile parks.
It would be cool to see this with neighborhood boundaries/names on the mesh.
 "A raised-relief map or terrain model is a three-dimensional representation, usually of terrain, materialized as a physical artifact. When representing terrain, the vertical dimension is usually exaggerated by a factor between five and ten; this facilitates the visual recognition of terrain features." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raised-relief_map
 "Raised Relief: Yes. Elevations from 0-3,280 feet are magnified 60 times, higher elevations and ocean floor are exaggerated by 40 times." http://www.1worldglobes.com/1WorldGlobes/classroom_relief_gl...
I must stress that I'm realize I'm being very analytic about a piece of art. As art and as a statement, I recognize that it is very well done. I just don't have much to say about it other than wondering if it is misleading.
Anyone who owns property in the city, whether they are a homeowner or a landlord, likes the current situation. For non-landlord homeowners, the current situation keeps their property values and home equity high and it ensures that the neighborhood and quality of life they bought into stays permanently stuck in time.
My local Nimby group, for e.g., sends out monthly notices (e.g http://pastebin.com/0TJiV0aM ) letting us know where the next development is, why we should protest it and sends us sample templates on how to email politicians to protest any new development. While large developers are probably able to lobby politicians, I doubt they're able to do this kind of astroturfing.
It is bad enough that the recent monster home epidemic is consuming every inch of a lot up to its maximum permissible limit to build supersized single-family homes. This legislation, in effect, enables the trend for a monster-home-plus-in-law at the cost of further eroding our mid-block open space that is a community resource providing residents with light, air, privacy, visual relief, and a much-needed psychological comfort zone.
I've never actually seen words like these penned, in favor of NIMBYism. SF is experiencing a "monster home epidemic"??? This is legitimately disgusting.
For other cities/locales you may be right, but in SF, it just seems offensive. We all know what the consensus epidemic is in the Bay Area, and attempting to use that word to imply that these poor landowners are being encroached upon is something I find reprehensible. Their "epidemic" is a trifling concern compared to what some are going through.
I can see why a block filled with yards/gardens and small buildings is preferable to a block filled with large buildings and not much else.
There are plenty of places in the country where you can find that. When very wealthy people stubbornly want to hold onto that in the middle of one of the most dense metro areas in the country, while people are being pushed out of their homes and homeless fill the streets, yeah I find it disgusting for them to talk about preserving their "much-needed psychological comfort zone." They can move out to the country if they really want all that stuff, they can afford it, not everyone can.
i find it hard to believe that the homeless problem is due to the soaring house prices in SF.
Preferable to whom, though? Look at it from the perspective of one of those people who are renting in SF, and can barely afford that rent given your paycheck (or cannot afford it, actually, if you had to pay market value). I bet they would prefer a residence they can afford to the one they cannot.
So long as freedom of movement and freedom to buy and sell property are in place, it's either-or - either a given block will be affordable, or it will have yards/gardens and small buildings. The latter carries an implied statement that people below a certain income level simply shouldn't be there. I think it's clear why some would find it "legitimately disgusting".
I don't see how "a legit neighborhood group asking residents to contact their officials" fits that model; why do you say it's astroturfing?
Telling the existing John/Jane Q. Public, who already agrees with you on the issue, to actually do something based on that agreement, is just regular activism and doesn't connote the "aha! caught you" aura of an astroturfing allegation.
Geographically speaking most of SF already suffers from poor quality of life. Except for the northeast quadrant of the city, SF is dominated by flat, boring, ugly zones of car-centered banality.
There's nothing in this photo worth preserving.
With high rise buildings, all you need to do is convince ONE place to build a bunch of them. Perhaps in a place such as south SOMA, which is packed with industrial warehouses that could be replaced with apartment sky scrapers.
Nobody is going to be gentrified when the old dirty warehouses in south SOMA get replaced.
FWIW, the city thinks that warehouses and auto body shops are an important part of its jobs plan for non-techies. Apparently it pays better than working in the service industry.
Well, there was a decent uproar when a large wholesale flower market was slated to be shut down.
Now, Eric Mar, the Supervisor from the Richmond. This is a man I detest.
In the Midwest, if someone built that photo (exactly) it would get called a strong downtown urban design, and the builder would be praised for creating "missing middle" housing.
"In the Richmond District neighborhood in San Francisco, CA, residents most commonly identify their ethnicity or ancestry as Asian (50.0%). There are also a number of people of German ancestry (10.9%), and residents who report Irish roots (6.9%), and some of the residents are also of Italian ancestry (4.5%), along with some Russian ancestry residents (4.1%), among others. In addition, 35.2% of the residents of this neighborhood were born in another country."
Holy crap. Every inch of ground is covered in concrete yet it looks like less actual housing than say a rowhouse neighborhood like: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/55d2a119e4b03323486a5e...
+street five times too wide
+snout houses with huge garages and driveways but few yards and porches
+low rise housing with one floor devoted to parking in a high demand area
+not nearly enough trees
+no street corner retail
But if you think that's bad, you should see 98% of the United States where it's much worse than the worst of San Francisco.
You also have to consider that decreasing cost in SF will lead to increased demand.
Including land costs, is that really true? I sort of doubt it, since those sorts of high rises are built in cities where land prices aren't that high.
> You really want your housing, jobs, education, retail, and leisure spread around such that people can conduct most or all of their daily affairs on foot.
Don't you want the opposite of that? If it is spread, you spend more time traveling. Public transit that is spread out is very hard to accomplish. Cities with that stuff all spread out are car cities.
I always trot out Paris, but that's only because it's such a good example.
I think adding high rise is the right choice, as long as it is accompanied with increases in transport links. It's all very well to add in a couple of thousand people, but they all have to get in and out and buy groceries etc. you don't want each of those people owning a car and making the traffic worse.
I think there should be mor emphasis on making other parts of the Bay Area more like the things people want from the city / peninsular proper. Whether that is transport, cultural or liveability, it should all be possible.
That point so often seems ignored in these discussions (with respect to many growing/popular cities).
So an example of the reality in the Boston area is that the Green Line extension is on hold last I read because costs have doubled to $2 billion or so. (And the Green Line is basically the oldest and crappiest line in the overall not-bad Boston metro system. It's essentially a trolley with underground sections dating to the turn of the last century.)
So 20 years and $20 billion or so in transportation infrastructure would certainly set San Francisco up to do more building in areas where there are good opportunities to expand housing stock beyond what's already being built.
The frustrating thing about this NIMBY argument, is that it's usually presented as the progressive option, it's standing up for the people. But in reality it's often selfish - homeowners/landlords who have a lot to gain are gaining support for their cause, by getting the disenfranchised to basically decide "If I'm going to be priced out of the city anyway, I'm gonna take as many other people as I can out with me". When in reality, many of them would have a shot at not getting priced out at all with better policy (or at least a shot at making "getting priced out" not so bad, e.g. more housing supply in the city & in neighboring towns -> prices drop a little in the city -> prices drop a lot outside of the city within easy commuting distance).
Fundamentally, if people outside the country want to buy our housing, we should be happy about that, and create jobs by building housing to meet the demand. Imagine if our reaction to Chinese demand for Buicks was to limit car manufacturing and complain that foreign investors are making Buicks unaffordable.
If we could prevent them from getting a visa to come at all, we could do the same thing and we wouldn't even have to build the building. Just allocate a few address numbers on ritzy street corners and sell the "buildings" to investors stashing Russian or Chinese black market cash.
Heck, we could do high-frequency house trading!
More realistically, investors rent out the properties they buy. So a market with tons of foreign investors spending irrationally would have an undersupply of homes to buy and corresponding oversupply of homes for rent. Renters would get a great deal and buyers would get bad ROI.
The problem is that "NIMBY politicians" are elected by NIMBY residents. If you are a homeowner, or live in a rent controlled apartment, SF is a fantastic place and there is little incentive to get rid of zoning laws. To fundamentally change the rental market in SF, you need to craft an argument that convinces these voters to change their minds. The "hey, lets get rid of zoning laws so we can build tons of apartments so more people can live here" argument may make sense if you don't live in SF, but if you are already living there, and vote in SF elections, in many cases, it's not going to be very convincing.
There's lots of places where the real estate values are very high, and poorer people are completely priced out of the area. Those places don't have a problem with that, because districts where lower-income people can live aren't all that far away, so it's not that big a deal for service workers to commute so they can work in or near there (as maids, housekeepers etc. for the rich people, or at the local businesses like restaurants located conveniently to those rich people).
The problem in SF is that it's geographically bound, and all the surrounding areas also have very high real estate values, so service workers who don't live in one of the rent-controlled places have to commute from very far away.
I think eventually, this is going to be a self-correcting problem if the NIMBYs prevent any new development. Pretty soon, it's going to suck living in SF because you won't be able to go out to eat there, you won't be able to buy any groceries there, you won't be able to hire a housekeeper there, etc. It'll be like living way out in the country, but you'll be surrounded by neighbors.
Personally, I think they should probably outlaw rent control (it'd probably have to be done at the state level). That's probably enabling SF to maintain itself this way, by giving lower-income people a place to live nearby. Eliminate rent control and those rents will go through the roof, pricing them all out of the city. Then the landowning residents can suffer without any services.
200$/month * 20people = 4,000$ per room.
My whole idea is to make it so service workers don't want to live in SF or work there either, causing services to either just not be available, or to cost an absolute fortune, seriously degrading the quality-of-life for SF residents. If you make it so service workers just can't live there (without resorting to illegal overcrowded occupation like you mention here), I think they'd just go elsewhere.
Even if you find a new job and an affordable place to live -- not that easy to do -- you're going to have to pay a lot of out of pocket expenses (i.e. rental deposit, moving/packing expenses), which is really tough when 47% of American's are so cash strapped they can't afford to pay for a $400 emergency. 
It also has a high social and emotional strain. You'd be leaving all your family, friends, and cultural identify you've built up in a city. Plus if you're in a relationship or have a family, your partner would need to find work too, and your children would have to leave school/their social circles.
It's a really disruptive life change, and though sometimes it can help improve someone's financial situation, it's a tough thing to expect of thousands of people. I can't blame them if choose to keep struggling to get by in their hometown.
Ah, the FULL ACCELERATIONISM option. Just beat down the working classes until they revolt!
(NYC density: 10,831 people/km^2. SF density: 7,152 people/km^2. Tokyo density: 6,200 people/km^2)
Adding enough additional units to the city to make major changes to its affordability is not just a quick change to zoning laws. It's not just that there are height restrictions. If you made a quick change to height restrictions, you'd still find high density projects are expensive to build and prone to being blocked by the various other obstacles to building that a high-regulation city like SF has. And also, creating and funding big building projects takes time -- and there's a lot of pent-up demand for SF.
AND, if you did add tens of thousands of new dwelling units in SF in the traditionally less-dense areas of the city, you'd totally overwhelm the already struggling transport infrastructure of the city in those areas (and I have no idea about other infrastructure. Could the sewers handle this?).
Should we still lower the restrictions on infill development in SF? Yes. The restrictions are well past the reasonable. Will that in a short period of time make a major change to the affordability of the city? Not unless you hand-wave away the entire reality of SF.
Seoul, HK, Beijing are similar and I think India has much higher densities still. Population densities in many parts of the world are much higher than SF. I could take a picture out of my window right now of a block of ~200x30story apartment blocks right next to each other standing like soldiers. It's not rare.
Do I want that for SF? No, but the density isn't that extreme... unless you're talking about total $ borrowing power of the individuals involved.
San Francisco County, not including any suburbs, averages around 90, excluding big open spaces like the Presidio. The Bay Area is closer to 30, just in built-up areas, not including parks and open space.
Manhattan is about 500 and Paris 300.
Gp, of course, has fallen into the trap of including open space in his calculations. Most metro statistical aggregates include a lot of surrounding farmland, ocean, and parks and don't reflect density experienced by residents or development intensity on available land.
San Francisco has BART at least (plus Muni to be fair). Oh, and the cable cars.
There are portions of Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, HK, Shenzhen that are at incredible densities. Having 6 neighboring blocks of 20-30 30+ story apt buildings isn't rare. I don't now how many people live per floor, but 15-30 seems very reasonable (they aren't empty). Each block has it's own schools and police/fire supporting 10k people in an area the size of a city block with Malls on the lower floors. Those neighboring blocks (still much less than 1km sq) are close to 100k/km2!?
The point is, the meme in HN is that San Francisco is some weird spread out suburb like, I don't know, Houston (1,414 people/km^2). It's not. It's already quite dense. Could it be denser? Obviously yes. Could it QUICKLY become SO MUCH denser that it radically changes the affordability of the city? Only in the fairy land where you ignore every part of reality that's inconvenient.
Being able to live without a car is the defining characteristic of a real city as opposed to a sprawled-out suburb, in my mind.
That said, there are very few US cities where you could live without a car without it being a hassle, especially if you want to leave your core urban area on a regular basis.
Maybe New York is the only real world-class city in the US. It's not a hard argument to support...
But, yes, if that's the definition, only New York (Manhattan in particular) really qualifies in the US. You can get away with it in other US cities but it tends to depend on stage in life, income, specific situation with respect to job etc., recreational activities, and how much hassle you're willing to put up with.
That said, living in Manhattan is a very specific lifestyle choice that isn't for everyone. I like visiting it now and then but the summer I worked there was enough.
"Tokyo has the lowest number in the nation–0.46 cars per household" -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/08/18/number-of-cars...
I can't find cars per household for Paris, but cars per adult appears to be around 0.5, (https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01069997/document), so cars per household can't be lower than that.
Hong Kong appears to be truly virtually carless.
In SF it's almost $12: http://yellowcabsf.com/service/cab-fares/
If we scale that to a 10-mile trip, assuming no waiting or traffic, which with SF is $33/hr extra, and in HK it's no charge (just by mileage) IIRC (having them wait is ~$12.38/hr):
This combined with their seriously great subway system ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTR ) make it very practical to not own a car. You take the subway for short and medium trips, and hop in a cab at the end to get out to a relative's house in the middle of nowhere.
And Hong Kong is relatively expensive. My experience in southeast Asia is that, in some places, you can hire a car and driver for the day for maybe $50 or so. So--combined with how horrible driving in the big cities there are--many people just have drivers.
We know this because there are currently places that are 27k.
Those place in NYC that are 10k could ALSO be much more dense if the NIMBY didn't stop them from being so.
And yes, it could be done quickly. Just stop preventing developers from development. The market would LOVE to make tons of money by massively expanding.
Now my point -
We became members of the the Cole Valley neighborhood association and the only involvement my wife and I had was reading the monthly newsletter. The newsletter's tone and NIMBYism was astounding! Laughably-so that it was a constant source of jokes and conversation. My wife and me kept returning to how, for she and I, that perspective was shortsighted; we believe that attitude actively works against protecting the very thing that makes the city great - diversity in arts, culture, and food & beverage. If NIMBYism truly prevailed this would all go away to a homogenous super-elite. ... but maybe that's the goal. :(
Seriously. From what I read here on HN, SF is pretty messed up. So, if someone doesn't want to live somewhere messed up, don't go there to begin with. One can't move near an airport and complain about the noise.
You probably shouldn't base your impression of SF entirely on the negative articles you read on HN. SF has some serious issues, but it also has a lot going for it. Namely, the job opportunities if you're in tech are great. The weather is great. Lots of the area is beautiful. It's a liberal area (great if that fits your views), including being LGBT-friendly. It's got some great culture if you're in tech.
The biggest problem with SF seems to be housing affordability, and that's frankly not a huge problem for 6-figure earners (not the way it is for the real middle class), despite all the self-pity. 6-figure earners in the bay can afford housing, even if they can't afford what they want to own.
> So, if someone doesn't want to live somewhere messed up, don't go there to begin with.
This isn't helpful for the nearly million people who already live in SF or the millions who live in the surrounding areas.
Honestly, I find the culture of Silicon Valley's tech industry to be utterly degenerate. Even if the area was affordable, I wouldn't live or work there in large part because SV puts me off.
I work in tech, I'm LGBT myself (multiple letters of LGBT at that), and the Dallas area is pretty much everything I want in a city.
I honestly don't get why the Bay Area doesn't just expand outward. Sure, you can't go farther west because there's an ocean in the way, but what's stopping it from sprawling north, south, and east? I'm from Dallas, which has experienced booming growth for as far back as I can remember, and we've kept housing prices down without sacrificing suburban culture by simply expanding outwards. Nobody cares that none of the expansion is in Dallas proper; the locals here see each suburb as neighborhoods, not separate cities (albeit, neighborhoods with their own street signage and lane markings, but still). Not just housing; workplaces are moving outwards too. Hell, right now, I live in the burbs, and my workplace is in a suburb that's even farther away from Downtown from where I live.
I'm not sure what that means. I was mostly referring to the fact that there are a ton of techies there. If you want to strike up a conversation about microservices with a stranger on the street, SF is probably the easiest place to do so.
> I honestly don't get why the Bay Area doesn't just expand outward.
Traffic, probably. It takes about 30 minutes to commute from Oakland to SF, and those two are pretty close geographically. Your commute could be far longer depending on where you live and work in the existing Bay Area. I doubt most people want to commute an hour from San Ramon to SF.
Plus there are mountains not far east of the Bay. I'm not sure how much of that land is easily developed.
IMO if we had proper mass transit, it'd alleviate many of the real-estate problems we see now. All the low density and NIMBYism makes that a pipe dream, for now and the foreseeable future.
And no, it's not the same as SF, but that's really a far different question than whether the surrounding towns are self-sustaining. If you want to live in a truly urban area, then MV and Sunnyvale will not be for you. If you want a place that you can work and live, then they can. It's unfair to pretend they have no food, bars, or culture.
The thing that really stood out to me, however, was that there seems to be a lack of psychiatric care. Almost every day I was there I would run into some guy who was having an argument with an imaginary person. Often a very aggressive argument. Cops even came by once. Not something I often see in Europe, and I've lived in 5 cities in 3 countries now.
But you can have a good time there. Nobody will actually know if you live in an apartment and have startups give you free food everyday, or if you live in a tent under the highway.
Now if you are trying to earn enough to make a downpayment for a place in San Francisco.... thats not in the cards.
I go to the museum a few times a year; I take the train twice a day. I'll stay in the city with good trains over good museums.
> great universities
Politicians are NIMBY only because they know voters are.
Asking people to vote against their interests doesn't work very well.
If they're long-time residents, they're paying $800 a month for that exact same $4k/mo apartment.
You're basically asking the long-time residents to vote for measures that will detract from the San Francisco-ness of SF and won't benefit them at all. This is why the NIMBY groups are so powerful.
The only way that you're going to beat them is by getting enough newcomers who can overpower said NIMBY folks in municipal elections. That's going to take a long time to happen.
That's especially important during a boom (or bubble, depending on your view). With the rise in prices, many companies are finally looking at putting offices elsewhere, or allowing more remote work. Building more housing would have only dropped prices if the pace of building outstripped the tech sector's ability to create jobs, which is prodigious. At a recent SF CTO conference, a number of speakers talked up non-SF options, something I wasn't hearing 5-10 years ago.
As to who likes the status quo, you ignore that "more building" here mostly means "tear down existing buildings and build bigger ones". That is a gain for the people moving in to the eventual new units. But it's a clear loss for the people forced to move, and a disruption of existing communities.
I have yet to meet a SF "build more" advocate so committed that they tore down their own home and replaced it more units.
Complex problems often look simple from a distance. That doesn't mean they are.
You are correct - that is the solution.
However, voting for the opposite is also the solution and is an equally valid expression, and result, of democracy.
Sometimes democracy delivers results we dislike.
Trying to "correct" for what federal and state laws and policies do the housing situation in a specific location is quite burdensome. In order to fix some of what goes on in San Francisco, you would need to figure out the impact of those federal and state laws and policies and see if, realistically, anything can be done to counter them at the local level or if you would need to fight them at the state and/or federal level to have any hope of resolving the situation.
Just because the problem is obvious in San Francisco and significantly impacting the locals does not remotely mean it originates there and can be solved there.
I think we should ask why people still want to live here when it costs so much. Yes jobs are part of it. But the other fact is that 30 story apartment complexes have negative externalities. Unique, historical victorians are part of what makes this city special (and parks), and if we let them be replaced with apartment complexes it'd destroy a piece of this city's appeal.
You can't go wrong with what the experts seem to agree on, right?
There's no shortage of housing in San Francisco, only a shortage of affordable housing.
If you placed sever restrictions on car production you'd find the surviving brands would be the luxury brands.
And developers don't tend to want affordable housing. That's why it usually has to be enforced by regulations of some sort. They're quite cheap and want to maximize their profit (like any other business). City, cultural, etc concerns come second.
"Due to the capital cost ($1.578 billion for the 1.7 mile light rail line), the Central Subway project has come under criticism from transit activists for what they consider to be poor cost-effectiveness.
In particular, they note that Muni's own estimates show that the project would increase Muni ridership by less than 1% and yet by 2030 be adding $15.2 million a year to Muni's annual operating deficit."
This is awesome work, really cool concept and fantastic execution.
It's cynical manipulation of the selfishness of already entitled-feeling tech kids. All restrictions will be lifted, massive high-rises will go up, the property in the shade of them with be purchased by multi-billionaires, REITS and hedge funds, they will all instantly stop building and collude to keep rentals at the current prices, or even raise them, and all the tech kids will still be renting.
edit: it's a fantasy to think that rental prices will go down if high-rises get built. Call me Nostradamus, but half of the units in those high-rises will sit empty and be used to write-off taxes from the owners' other holdings (at the current neighborhood rental value of course) just like in every other hot property market in the world.
But actually, people only care about their cheap housing, not cheap housing for everyone.
This is why issues like this are complicated. Both sides have some merit.
(also, not taking sides since I don't live there any more)
Otherwise, can people come live in your apartment? Why do you keep your place and your food and your car to yourself? Certainly a lot of people would want to change that.
If there was universal health care out in the world that said vaccinations and emergency procedures were free for everyone, but if you were born on Feb 1st, you also got a personal trainer and free cosmetic surgery, everyone else would be within reason to complain about such a system. This is effectively what is happening here.
I would be interested to see what it would look like with a more linear scale though.
I guess I don't buy that the home prices are dividing the landed gentry in Noe valley from pac heights as much as the rich elite from everyone else who's not buying homes in SF.
One comment, and not at all a criticism of the art: I'm not sure if relative property values between neighborhoods really describes how SF is being ripped apart over time; for that, it might be more accurate to graph, say, proportional difference in median rent over the past n years, which might more closely hew to contested neighborhoods (ie, Pacific Heights doesn't usually catch headlines for how much it's changed in the last 5 years).
Interesting that, from an artistic standpoint, the high delta's in nearby neighborhoods house price leads to a more interesting sculpture. The city may be 'torn', but in this case it's a good thing... assuming you think mixed neighborhoods are better than the alternative (gated communities and slums).
then, when i read the article, i was like... WHOA!!!
The only problem I see with sculpture for data visualization is when your boss asks for an updated report next week.
Thanks for sharing!