The only time I went out there it was very suburban, with plenty of room for more buildings. Seems odd that the businesses with all the money paying all the taxes can't get a city council to approve giant apartment complexes right next to their headquarters.
Anyone have the answer? Must be the only place in America where corporations don't get their way, unless they don't actually want housing for their workers.
If Google builds a huge office park next door, their housing value shoots through the roof. Every residential unit that gets built means more supply, which reduces their value.
People are also fiercely defensive of the "character" of their residential neighborhood. They do not care nearly as much what happens to office towers.
For a lot of people in the peninsula, nearly all their net worth is in their suburban house - it's not something they could never hope to afford in today's market. It's terrifying to imagine anything happen to it.
FWIW, Google doesn't push for this sort of thing very hard. Corporate housing generally brings the specter of "Company Towns" and all that came with it, which makes it a tough sell all around.
See e.g. http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/23/mountain-view-slashes-...
Answer: NIMBYs who don't want new neighbors
In Mountain View they tried to build housing at the campus but were denied - among the stated reasons being that Google wanted to build 5000 units which is apparently close to the turnout in the entire city election. The city made the argument that Google could tell its employees how to vote
Furthermore, attempts to get regulations changed are very hard. The people who are comfortable with the status quo are long-term residents in power, and generally don't want to bring down the value of the homes they own/ spoil the 'charm' of their neighborhoods.
So, if you zone housing, eventually the cost of servicing that housing exceeds the tax revenues from it, and there is little you can do to avoid that process. If you zone businesses, you get sales tax and similar revenue from the workers. Financially, it's best to let your neighboring municipalities build homes for your workers.
There is also a backlash from locals who see higher density housing as the core cause attributed to most local issues: traffic, crime, overtaxed city services, etc. This is mostly an incorrect perception, but it's a persistent one.
These combine to prevent zoning for housing.
I'd have thought a municipality would have cracked by now and let everyone build huge residential buildings and used that population growth to fund everything else. Seems every weird no municipality isn't building houses like crazy.
Property tax grows at below inflation
Until with fix prop 13, residential development economically hurts peninsula city budgets. The taxes towns are able to levy against new construction don't make up for it.
2. Corporate housing that you need to move out of as soon as you leave your job sounds pretty dystopian.
And I wasn't actually talking about corporate housing, just giant residential buildings. But even then, company towns still exist, why haven't Google and Apple built them?
I think you've been reading too much political chatter. It's not that straightforward.
>So who is voting against changing the zoning?
The actual voters.
>company towns still exist
Well, they mostly exist in the sense that some modest-sized cities/towns mostly have a single employer for a fairly large radius. That isn't true in any meaningful way in Silicon Valley.
Le Lignon near Geneva, Switzerland, is one of the largest apartment complexes in the world by square footage, and it only houses ~6,500 people with ~900k sq. m of floor space across 28 hectares of land.
So you'd need something on the scale of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan, which houses 25,000 people on 32 hectares. Maybe Google could build a Stuytown or two of their own at Moffett Field (400 hectares).
2. Cost of living
3. Income potential
Pick two. Like everyone else, everyone wants everything. There's no place on Earth that has a short commute, low cost of living and amazing income potential. Compromise is the name of the game. Public transportation can help, but even still you'll have a commute. The only solace there is that you can do other things while you commute.
It'll be very interesting if commutes become on average 1.5+ hours each way and employers count time spent working while commuting.
There are so many benefits to remote work for humanity I don't know why it isn't the norm already. No commuting means less CO2 emissions, saner people, more flexibility, arguably more productivity, and the opportunity for the company to hure from a much larger and diverse talent pool.
Rmote work will soon be a competitive advantage.
Why not just move to another area? If there's something uniquely good about the Bay Area perhaps it's that same thing that makes the incumbents not want to let more people in. It's kind of a geopolitical problem.
As a bay area resident I look around and I see incredibly low density in SF, and most other bay area municipalities are extended suburbs. We do not have to build NYC density to meet supply as building Paris-style 5-6 story buildings on a subset of the properties would largely meet the demand.
So yes, increasing supply does lower price.
- Boston? Super expensive.
- LA? Super expensive.
- Seattle? Super expensive.
- New York? Super expensive.
Etc. You can just settle for a long commute to mitigate the problem, but then it comes back to pick 2.
and the demographia survey he refers to:
You can get all three of these things. Become a lawyer or doctor and move to Cleveland, buy a house near your work and you have it. Or Washington DC or Berlin or Canberra.
Restrictions on supply in some places as in the Bay Area is what is stopping all three being chosen.
If more apartments were allowed then affordability would rise.
Wouldn't it be nice of we could go back to the old times, and there was a choice between Philly, the New Jersey pharma cluster, Kodak in Rochester, Solvay in Syracuse, Dow in Midland, MI, Upjohn in Kalamazoo and many more?
They don't but, yes, there's a lot of clustering for various industries and industry sub-segments. I expect Kendall Square in Cambridge is bigger than most other pharma centers these days though.
This is great advice, it really is that simple. You have very little voice in California but you have plenty of exit.
> The issue with a place like California is that there are almost always going to be more people that want to live there, than there is space.
This doesn't seem quite as obviously true to me. While there's lots of people who want to live in California, along with all it's other bountiful resources California has a lot of space. We could, in theory, house many more millions of people before we really started hitting true space limits. It's not infinite of course, but the resources are very underutilized right now. Or at least they appear to be to my eyes.
I strongly believe that California needs far fewer people, and more efficient/better housing. I don't think more people + more housing is a sustainable solution.
Of course this isn't the popular narrative, but I think it's true.
Zoning etc. is part of the issue. But by all accounts, the (not so great) public transit--especially in SF itself--is pretty near capacity as, obviously are the highways. Can this capacity be increased over the timeframe of a couple decades? Probably. But there's nothing in the 5-10 year horizon that's going to make a [EDIT: not so big] difference other than a combination of people choosing to not live there, incremental housing construction, incremental public transit improvements, and incremental increases in congestion.
Another crazy low-footprint idea: connecting our city of hills with an aerial gondola network. https://www.fastcodesign.com/1671214/a-mass-transit-proposal...
And "a few decades" seems extremely conservative when we're already testing driverless buses in San Francisco today 
At the very least the supply of housing should expand until it's proportionate to the amount of office space (jobs) in the area (although apparently office space is more lucrative for municipalities than housing, so we get more of it).
It isn't unique to California either, most cities in the US with good job markets (NYC, Boston, Washington DC, LA, etc) have seen housing prices shoot up.
I'm not sure it's true that building more housing has no effect on prices, Seattle has had a lot more housing built and apparently they haven't had quite as extreme price increases, although they also have a thriving tech industry. Raleigh/Durham has been growing incredibly fast but adding a lot of supply too. And more people moving in surely must lower the price at least where they are moving from, so if several places build prices can't go up everywhere.
It might be late / politically difficult to address the issue in California, but the escalation of housing costs is such a common problem that the solution can't always be "move away from <job center>".
Of course how to manage growth without excessively burdening existing residents or communities is another matter, but hopefully not impossible? Development doesn't have to go everywhere, but surely it should go somewhere? At least around transit hubs would make sense.
People need to realize that location and where you live can be a luxury, and you have to pay proportionally for that luxury. I can't go move to Boulder or something on a $30,000/year salary and expect to ski year round then complain that I can't afford housing. The world simply does not, and should not work that way.
Some places definitely need to build more housing -- see, for example, the western 2/3rds of San Francisco, or the cutesy little suburban enclaves of Silicon Valley -- but this won't help until transit allows people to commute from those neighborhoods to their jobs. So we should also be saying "YIMBY" to transit infrastructure and reducing/eliminating the broken tax incentives that are helping to create the problem in the first place (like the ill-conceived Mid-Market tax incentives, which have replaced SROs with tech offices, thus making the homelessness problem worse.)
What pencils or doesn't is a direct consequence of the regulation and tax burden we place on construction, and there's probably an order of magnitude of levers we've yet to pull.
Reject what you like, but you're wrong. Investors don't finance real-estate projects where the per-square-foot returns don't justify the expense.
The expense, in the case of eastern SF, is >80% land and materials. It's been documented, extensively, by groups like SPUR. Taxes and regulation are less than 20% of the cost of construction in San Francisco. It's simply not the limiting factor 
(You'll note that this link shows $48,000 of a $469,000 unit -- or about 10% of the cost -- is attributable to permits and regulatory fees. The cost of land and labor and materials amounts for >75% of the cost.
When you read people complaining about "regulatory" costs in SF, it's really a political dog-whistle to the BMR housing subsidy, which developers hate. Most self-professed "YIMBYs" I talk to do not know this.)
That's like saying "there's a very significant amount of land in America that could become a very large amount of housing.".
Sure it could. Except, someone owns the land and wants you to pay for it (trouble, that), or it's being used for something else that has a higher value, or it just isn't practical to build there for whatever reason. Or maybe the owner doesn't want to rebuild. In any case, be more specific: I live in SOMA, and I don't know of many vacant lots around here that aren't already slated for development. These sorts of stories are usually apocryphal.
This is another part of the "YIMBY" narrative that I dislike. You don't get to point at every building you think could be taller and say "I think that building could be taller, therefore, SF isn't building enough." That's not how it works.