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Why is SF so opposed to building up? Build more high rises filled with apartments and condos, there are plenty of areas that could be rezoned to accommodate high rise living.

The book Left Coast City (https://www.amazon.com/Left-Coast-City-Progressive-Francisco...) describes the characters of the anti-highrise “growth wars” of the 1980s. In short, San Francisco’s 1980s-era progressives believe that the private market is greedy and irrational (since big business redeveloped slums in the 1950s and overbuilt vacant downtown offices in the 1980s) and can’t be trusted to build what people need, and therefore we need community veto power and strong eviction protection. These activists also grew up back when the media taught that urban life was un-environmental (see the chapter on ditching the Lorax in Triumph of the City https://www.amazon.com/Triumph-City-Greatest-Invention-Healt...), so they support height limits too. The same anti-development activists of the 1980s (e.g. Tim Redmond, Calvin Welch, Sue Hestor) are still active today to oppose all big development including housing.

I lived in SF for 17 years (moved to NYC 3 years ago), and there is one very simple reason: NIMBY. Most SFers would rather see suburban sprawl and the destruction of precious farmland than build up "their" city. They are fundamentally opposed to the "Manhattan-ization of SF".

There are a lot of buildings going up, however many people (who are ironically most affected by the high prices) oppose new building because it displaces locals. It's a catch-22 of displacement: high prices are making the city unaffordable, but adding new housing displaces current residents. So in the end, people just blame tech, because it's an easier boogeyman than dealing with the issue of housing directly.

It's not; there are literally tens of thousands of new units currently under construction[1] in the City. The issue people have is most proposals for new construction in San Francisco consist almost exclusively of luxury housing.

There's no shortage of housing in San Francisco, only a shortage of affordable housing.

[1] http://paragon-re.com/San_Francisco_Housing_Development_Repo...

Generally construction of luxury-only housing indicates high regulatory barriers. Because it is hard to make a building, then demand is high, and the costs of meeting the regulations is also high. The rational response to that is to make he unit-cost high.

If you placed sever restrictions on car production you'd find the surviving brands would be the luxury brands.

According to your link, there are about 10,000 new units under construction. That's about 10-20 buildings worth. Not exactly a huge boom.

It's better than nothing.

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.

This ignores the impact on all the services and infrastructure that would be effected by additional housing: transit, roads, hospitals, schools, etc.

All of which could be paid for much better by distributing the taxes over the new residents. Economies of scale should make denser cities cheaper and more efficient.

It is very expensive and time consuming to do major infrastructure projects in San Francisco. Case in point:

"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.[20]

In particular, they note that Muni's own estimates[21] 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."


I don't know about SF, specifically. But some places already tax new developments - in order to fund existing infrastructure (because property taxes aren't high enough to actually pay for it). So it becomes a pyramid scheme, where you have to constantly build more to maintain what's already there. For the city councils, it becomes a game of hot potato - what matters is that the pyramid doesn't collapse while you're in charge...

Ground moves sometimes and the fancy commercial ones (like.nee Salesgorce obelisk) bring higher price per sqft than residential.

Existing home owners and landlords make enormous amounts of money off of blocking all new construction.

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