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Anti-NIMBY movement is winning with a simple message (eastbaytimes.com)
213 points by inostia on Nov 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 277 comments



In San Francisco, I think the real story is what YIMBYs are looking to do on the 2018 ballot: An initiative (https://yimbyaction.org/prop/) to allow affordable housing and teacher housing to be built "by right" -- which is wonky terminology for "The architect will be told the rules (zoning, etc) in advance, and as long as they design something that complies with all of them, a permit will be issued easy peasy".

Under current law, even if you abide by all the rules that were stated in advance, you still have to wait years and might be denied in the end anyway.

The reason I think this is such a key move is that until now, the landlords and homeowners who reap all the benefits from the status quo have somehow been able to dupe the housing have-nots who suffer from it (low-income renters, etc) into thinking that blocking housing construction will somehow keep their rents low or stem evictions. But anyone who stands against this measure won't be able to pretend they're doing so in the interest of the less-fortunate. They'll have to admit that they're really just looking to protect their view / parking space / skyrocketing property values.


    They'll have to admit that they're really just looking to protect their view
I dunno, if I bought the most expensive thing I'll ever buy in my life and part of what I paid for was a good view, I'd be pretty choked if someone put a big building up and took that away.


I guess part of the counter argument is that you did not, in fact, pay for a good view. You may have thought you paid for a good view, and the person who sold to you may have told you you were getting a good view... but, since you didn't buy the land between you and what you were viewing, you weren't buying that view. You were just lucky to get it.


I bought a house in 1993 with a good view. Neighbor built house where front window viewed. Stupid me, should have thought about it but the lot was a drainage pond for a year or so after I moved in, then suddenly got filled with dirt and a house built right across my living room window.

But it is my own fault for not noticing that the drainage lot would be eventually filled in. Oh well, was a nice house to live in and I enjoyed living there. Sold in 1996.


Yeah, that sucks for you. But again - you didn't own the view, you just expected the view to be there. If you wanted to own the view, you'd have to own all the land in eyeshot.


You don’t have to own the land. A view easement would suffice.


> but the lot was a drainage pond for a year or so

That's okay. Last laugh as I'm sure they're dealing with settling/water issues (especially if there's a basement).

'Member when builders used to build around the landscape? I loved growing up with 100-year-old maples (especially around fall)

I 'member.

Now they're stacking 3x median homes right next to each other.


But the market value of that house surely reflected the value of the view. So in very real terms, you paid for that view.

You can argue that the entire market was over-valuing the property, but... that just seems kind of cold.


Cold, but probably true. There are a lot of things people pay for that they have no control over when buying homes. It's kind of a risk assessment - 'I like this aspect, but how likely is it to change?'


Property developers in the city where I live are deliberately deceptive about this.

They buy a large plot of land near the coastline, build condos on the far land side of it, and sell the condos advertising "bay views". Once the first block is sold out, they build the next one in front of it closer to the coastline, and sell more "bay views".

It's crazy how they can get away with advertising the view even if construction on a building that will block the view has already started.


> Property developers in the city where I live are deliberately deceptive about this.

You mean, you need somebody else to tell you if you're sold "view" today, it does not include guarantee nobody will ever build anything on the land between you and the "view" ever, just because otherwise you'd feel bad? You can not figure this out just from knowing you only own property rights on the small piece of land and not on anything else, and did not buy any "view" rights? Maybe if you can not figure this out, buying expensive property is not the best way to go for you, at least without consulting somebody knowledgeable in these matters. You can not expect everybody behaves in your best interest, and they certainly do not owe that to you. If you don't own the rights and the land, there's zero guarantee the view will be there tomorrow.


I'm not sure why you are so upset by my comment.

Of course I can figure out the misleading advertising from property developers, it's common knowledge and has been going on for decades. If I become interested in buying a place one day, I'll look up planning permissions around the area and judge the risk of the neighbourhood changing.

But that doesn't mean that we should accept or approve misleading advertising.

It's not even a case of "who knows what might happen here in the future" - they keep advertising the views when they themselves are building in front of it, and the basement has already been poured.


That is absurd. Almost feels like they should be forced to have a warning annotation at the bottom like they do with raw or undercooked foods on menus.


"Buying a house does not make you The God-Emperor and other people still are free to do with their properties as they like, including building on it in a way that upsets you". Yeah, probably should have that warning.


And yet you get penalized or outright refused to build up in order to get your view back...


> You can argue that the entire market was over-valuing the property, but... that just seems kind of cold.

Cold or not, it happens all the time. It surely happened in 2000s in Silicon Valley, then prices took a big dip in 2007/2008. Now they're back, but if you're assuming somehow this time it's "real", I've got some bad news - it's never real, and entire market is completely capable of overvaluing your property and then regretting it and dropping your property value by 50% or so.


Similarly, you might have thought you were getting clean air...

You may not have legal authority over everything that happens, but there's more to the land you purchase, than the dirt within the lines.

Otherwise, why does anyone pay extra for a house near a school, or in a happening city? They didn't buy the school or the city, after all.


> They didn't buy the school or the city, after all.

No, but they didn't buy the right to control the school or the city either. And if they thought they did, they were wrong and had an unrealistic sense of entitlement.


"Sense of entitlement" comments like this show that what this debate really boils down to is control, with neither the "we have had control and don't want to give it up just because you want change" side nor the "we want to take some of the control" side coming off looking all that great. I happily wash my hands of all of it.


In all fairness, the comment he was responding to literally equated a nice view to breathable air.


When a small group of people have most of the control, and they are using it in a way that hurts the majority of people, asking for a more level playing field doesn't seem like a bad thing to me.


So who does? People who don't live in the city, or attend the school?

They at least have a stake, as evidenced by ballot items pertaining to the city and their school. Or do you believe that's wrong?


Exactly: they have a stake. That shouldn't give them the right to make unilateral "no" decisions for everyone else, but that's basically what we have in SF.


I don't live in SF but it sounded like the community was making unilateral "no" decisions, which is what happens when all the stakeholders get together and agree. To which, the system is working exactly how it was designed. Does one person actually have the power to make unilateral decisions in SF?


More or less. Only a small minority of the community needs to complain, and that can delay or completely scuttle projects. The people who do complain usually do so loudly and obnoxiously, which really gets the gov't's attention for some reason.


Yes, and if the city decides to close the school, or change traffic routing, saying "but I bought a house because of it!" does not entitle you to veto those decisions.


That's a good point but I'd argue the rights of the existing residents to a good view is lesser than the right of all potential new residents for reasonably affordable housing.


You do pay for a good view - you just don't own a good view. GP's property value almost certainly went down after that other house went up blocking the view.


You did buy it if the law/zoning said it would stay that way. Hence people getting worked up when people talk about allowing big buildings where they currently aren't allowed.


Quoting eganist from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15683853:

  Sounds like the regulatory environment was an investment risk that wasn't taken
  into account.
  
  Persistence in regulations isn't some sort of right. Laws change all the time.
  Any investment made without considering the risk of the anti-NIMBY movement is
  no different from any other un-diligenced investment -- foolish.
  
  Holding an asset and concerned about the risk of diminishing property values in
  the face of shifting regulations? Unload. You'd do the same if you're seeing a
  company where you're Long run into potentially difficult headwinds.


Yeah that's totally true, but I feel strangely about it, like treating the YIMBY's as a force of nature takes the morality out of it. If I owned anything else, like a bike, then it's mine because the law says you can't take it. You can't say it's ok to take it because I foolishly didn't account for you changing the law and then taking it. You aren't a force of nature, you're changing something someone else bought.

I'm all for affordable housing and mostly side with YIMBY's, but there's something weird about changing the rules and saying "sucks for you, shoulda seen it coming."


Sometimes laws change in a way that makes something you own illegal. In those cases, sometimes you need to turn it in. Its rare, but it's something that needs to be taken into account as a risk when you buy something.


There is a case for owners getting some sort of compensation if such a thing happens. People do get damanges by a chance in laws, and generally the State should respond to those damages.


If you wanna go that route, the value created or destroyed by a change in laws never belonged to the owner in the first place, and any increase in value created due to zoning should have been recuperated via a land tax.


> , the value created or destroyed by a change in laws never belonged to the owner in the first place

That's not really true. The state can't pass a law saying your house was actually never yours and you are now trespassing get out.

Zoning is a rulebook the state invented, it has to be held accountable to some degree for it. I wouldn't call it reasonable for the state to turn the houses around you into garbage landfills and telling you 'tough luck'


The primary reason why some land is more valuable than other land is due to the government. When the government builds roads, pipelines, sewer systems, transit systems, schools, emergency services, etc., land values go up. In our system, the landowner profits from this, not the government. So if the government happens to do something that makes land values go down, why shouldn’t the landowner take the loss too? Privatize profits and socialize losses is an unsustainable modus operandi of government.

You get what is on the deed, no more, no less. When you buy land, you assume risks. Just like stocks, there are no guarantees of resale value. The government can’t revoke your ownership (outside of criminal use of property), but the government is free to do any number of things that inevitably alter what some people will pay for it. If you want to counter that risk, go buy some insurance, an easement, or all of the adjacent property. The government doesn’t owe you a dime for allowing property owners to do something with their own property that you or potential buyers of your property happen to not like.


> In our system, the landowner profits from this, not the government.

This however misses one important point. They build it using taxpayers' money. So, if I give you money and tell you "please build me a shed" and then benefit from the shed, of course I keep all the benefits - after all, this shed was built for me with my own money!

> The primary reason why some land is more valuable than other land is due to the government.

This is probably not true either. The primary reason why some land is valuable, usually, is location, location, location. It can be close to natural things or to things built by people (e.g. a house within 10min drive of Google campus is probably more valuable than a similar one which has 2hr commute to the closest source of employment). Government-built infrastructure is important too, but usually secondary - nobody would build schools or transit systems in place where nobody wants to live, and people rarely move somewhere just because of sewer and transit system.


> This however misses one important point. They build it using taxpayers' money. So, if I give you money and tell you "please build me a shed" and then benefit from the shed, of course I keep all the benefits - after all, this shed was built for me with my own money!

If we used land taxes like the georgists proposed, this would be an apt analogy. As it stands though, the property owner is paying, but so are non property owners as well as property owners that aren't benefiting from improvements. It isn't much different from a lottery: the benefits are concentrated, but the costs are diffused. Did the lottery winner pay for his payout? Sure, but so did all of the lottery losers that didn't get anything.

> This is probably not true either. The primary reason why some land is valuable, usually, is location, location, location. It can be close to natural things or to things built by people (e.g. a house within 10min drive of Google campus is probably more valuable than a similar one which has 2hr commute to the closest source of employment). Government-built infrastructure is important too, but usually secondary - nobody would build schools or transit systems in place where nobody wants to live, and people rarely move somewhere just because of sewer and transit system.

There a billions of miles of beautiful coastline in the world, but people generally build coastal homes where there are roads, and don't where there are not. There are billions of locations where google could have built their campus, but they chose a place with plentiful government funded infrastructure. They even payed more for the privilege. Why would anybody choose to live or build a business in a place where there are no roads, potable pipelined water, electrical grids, schools, sewers, emergency services. Government isn't a secondary determinant of land value, it is primary and foundational. The private markets may build upon the land values that the government created in the first place, but take the government away and everything else will go with it.


Well, if the state does not compensate me as an owner for damaging things it will do around my property, i will lobby and vote against it and thus nothing will happen.

How is that a win.


And that is exactly what has happened here in the western US, right up until the point where it caused housing prices to shoot through the roof, displacing or inflating away the earnings of millions of people who also have the right to vote.


A buy out is a way out of the problem. Thats precisely the point of compensation, reducing the animosity against it.


Privatizing profits and socializing losses always reduces animosity. It’s also a perverse incentive, and should never ever be done.


> The state can't pass a law saying your house was actually never yours

Depends on context. A state can decide to nationalize private property.


And has to compensate you for it.


In theory, in practice might be a pittance + we won't send you to jail.


So if we wanted to e.g. raise property tax, existing owners would be able to get damages for the difference?


Taxes are uncompensated damage by definition. Some people even call it..what is it?


There's a problem there, in that "Right to a View" is protected in Common Law. There is specific provisions in the application of this law (like all laws), but this is a case in point that view is and has been protected.

https://www.samuels-solicitors.co.uk/news/right-to-view


Absolutely false in the United States: https://imgur.com/a/ksWTu

Source: https://amzn.com/0873376501

And if you read your own link, it's the same in the UK.


City and Town Councils in the Bay Area decline projects based on views and other issues all the time. They just label these as "aesthetic concerns" and tell the architect to try again. Ask any builder.


The article you posted is about the UK and says the opposite of what you claim: unless there is a specific covenant for a view, it is not protected. Does this covenant thing apply to SF?


I'm guessing no, but SF does have a concept of "right to light" that blocks construction of tall structures that cast "significant" shadows on public spaces.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Long-shadows-crea...

>But critics argue that economic benefits don’t justify a violation of 1984’s Proposition K — the “Sunlight Ordinance” — which blocks construction of any building over 40 feet that casts an adverse shadow on Recreation and Park Department property unless the Planning Commission decides the shadow is insignificant.

>The project would throw a shadow on Portsmouth Square between 8:05 and 9:10 a.m. from late October to early February. It would shadow St. Mary’s Square, also in Chinatown, in March and September. It would also shadow Justin Herman Plaza, at the foot of Market Street, from mid-October to late February, and Union Square from early May to early August.


I wouldn't expect you to be pleased about it, but you would have purchased a parcel of land, not the right to freeze the world in stasis in the vicinity of your land.


If I invested a bunch of money in some company, and the company tanked, I'd be pissed off too. That doesn't mean I'm entitled to compensation for taking a risk that didn't pay off.

I'm not saying I don't sympathize with people who lose their nice view. That sucks, and I'd be sad if it happened to me. The disconnect comes at the point where you think your right to a nice view trumps hundreds of other people's right to affordable housing.


Then buy all the land between your place whatever it is you want a view of. Otherwise, why should you expect other's to lose out just for your own view?


Did you really buy the entire cone of land/air that provides that view? If so, you have nothing to worry about.


Totally understandable, but that doesn't mean the government should restrict others right to build on their property. Especially in a city, you should expect changes in the surroundings.


Your comment begins, “I dunno”, but nothing that follows contradicts anything I said.


You should have bought the air rights for your view then...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_rights


Yea, but it’s a terrible at convincing anyone but you.


It's a fair point, which is why it's probably a good idea to try to work it out with the property owner rather that appeal to the government to put him in a vice.


In dense urban areas, increasingly the property owner is a complex series of foreign tax shelters that probably doesn't even resolve to a real human being (or group of them) in any human-discoverable way.


Why limit to affordable & teacher housing. Seems unfair and might not effect the current cost of living for those getting market rate housing....aka the tax payers.


Because it would allow the opposition to trick housing-have-nots into opposing it, under the false rhetoric of, “You’re just looking for a blank check to build luxury bro frathouse towers for tech millionaires”.


If rational arguments about market-rate housing worked on the San Francisco electorate, the bad housing situation would never have developed there.


Because if you're putting something on the ballot, you've got to make the beneficiaries extra-sympathetic. Hopefully this will be extended after the initial proposition passes.


They tried, it got too much resistance. There are essentially two anti-housing groups:

1. People who have a vested interest in inflating housing prices, e.g. because they own property

2. People who seriously, genuinely believe that more market-rate housing won't help affordability

Targeting just affordable & teacher housing swings group (2), which combined with the YIMBYs is (hopefully) enough to get policy passed.


It seems like a lot of the problem is that, if you tell developers that they can build any housing they want, they'll mostly build high-end apartments because they can make more money off those. If you want affordable housing to exist in sufficient quantity, you have to incentivize it in some way.


Yes, production increases when incentivized by high prices. That’s the core of how markets are in any way useful.

The only meaningful difference between luxury and affordable housing is whether it’s allocated to the highest bidder or randomly among low bidders.


High-end apartments is still more housing. People moving into the high-end apartments will leave some other, perhaps cheaper apartments free.


In sf generally 15-30% of units built in a high end apartment building need to be affordable units.

So why restrict the measure for teacher and affordable income housing.

This measure could end up creating a ghetto.


You can pass rent controls as a separate measure. But I think adding high-end apartments will still open up some of the regular apartments and lower prices.


The website says "teachers and working families." Seems to me that that working families catches a decent chunk of the population. Single people will still benefit because with increased supply in another area will reduce the demand for regular apartments.


The specific language of the initiative is supposed to come out next week. I believe the teacher part is going to be defined as strictly referring to housing built on SFUSD-owned land and designated for teachers, and the working families part is going to be tied to income bands.


> Under current law, even if you abide by all the rules that were stated in advance, you still have to wait years and might be denied in the end anyway.

The reverse would be nice as well and would remove a lot of corruption at the local level.


> The architect will be told the rules (zoning, etc) in advance, and as long as they design something that complies with all of them, a permit will be issued easy peasy"

This should be always the case, it is very sad one has to struggle and take extraordinary measures to make it so.


> the landlords and homeowners who reap all the benefits from the status quo have somehow been able to dupe the housing have-nots who suffer from it

And by that you mean the people who worked and saved to invest in something wisely to have that take out from under them? I cannot stand people who think home owners and landlords as evil people just because people who come after them cannot have it easy. It was never easy for anyone. It's not the have and have not's, it's the market and hardwork, sure some people are born into wealth but most the time it's just hard work.


> And by that you mean the people who worked and saved to invest in something wisely to have that take out from under them?

How is dumping your savings into a single asset "wise investment"? The idea that housing should be a good investment is ludicrous on its face when you consider its potential volatility, constant upkeep, and lack of liquidity. I'm not sure why it continues to be promoted, and I think people should be disabused of it. Not only so they make better investment decisions, but so that housing speculation is less of driving force in real estate costs.

What you're suggesting is that we allow putting barriers to new development to artificially keep this asset class valuable for its owners. Why does this make sense for housing but not for stocks or mutual funds?


I own a house and stocks. I can live in my house. And it allows me to grow tomatoes. They are both good investments for different and overlapping reasons.


You mistake the term investment to mean solely a financial context here.

There's a thing as investing in stability, investing in the ability to modify things as you please, investing in not having to answer to a landlord, investing in having a place for your dog or children...

Your desire to change the rules to favor your taking that same block of land for yourself doesn't seem inherently any more holy than their desire to keep the rules as they are today. And when it comes to setting policy based on the whims of 20-something-newcomers, some potential downsides increasingly start to poke out. Let's put a pause on YIMBY-ism, let's fix the NYC and SF Bay Area transit systems to properly serve the density that's already there, first!


That's a bit dismissive way to put it. "The whims of 20-something newcomers". A lot of of these people are people who grew up and went to high school here but as the article says anecdotally that 2 of 400 high school graduates from one class are in the same area, the rest having been forced to abandon their native home because of housing rules preventing construction.

Also the word "whim" is just as dismissive to a group of people who are organizing, lobbying, petitioning, etc to get the right to build apartment buildings so they have a place to live and sleep and raise children. It's not a bunch of millennial google employees who just showed up and casually decided they want to buy a house.

But it's so easy to turn this into a "entitled millennials" story instead of discussing a real housing crisis that has been developing for the last 50 years due to restrictive building codes that favor the wealthy I suppose.


No one is trying to eminent-domain your land. If you own a place, you’re not going to lose it unless you choose to sell.


It's not a perfect analogy, but I typically say that people are born short a house. That is, your first house is merely covering your short position and is therefore not an investment.


>I'm not sure why it continues to be promoted, and I think people should be disabused of it.

Same goes for any IPO, or any investment in a startup, etc... Or is it?

Im advocating not changing the game because the new players find the rules unfair.


I think you've missed his point a bit. If I invested in a cigarette company and then a state decides that smoking can't happen within 5 meters of an eating area and this will affect cigarette sales I don't have a right to stop this law just because my investment might be hurt.

Same with Herbalife, it's considered a pyramid scheme and a scam by many people. Maybe one day the US government says they have to shut down because some new law passses targeting them. In my world, I don't think they should be allowed to stay open just because some investors might be hurt.

Property carries a risk just like any other investment and just because property was scarce at one point doesn't mean it needs to be forever. If the bay continues to have skyrocketing rents and no construction then eventually people will leave and the owner's investments will go to shit anyway.


If housing is a business like every other, then why can't the rules change? The rules change for other businesses all the time: from tax changes; new laws; new technology; changes in interest rates; investment climate; etc. The rules are always changing, and businesses have to adapt. Why would housing be immune from change?

You say it's all hard work.. then why be afraid of opening the market to more competition? They can put in some hard work at maintaining their position... like every other business in existence.


> it was never easy for anyone

Are you familiar with the property tax structure in San Francisco? It's wacky in a way that causes old homeowners to have vastly different rates from new homeowners, in a way that is frankly ridiculous. It is vastly easier (more affordable) for existing landowners.

The OPs bit that you quoted is accurate. The laws in the bay area surrounding taxation, eviction, and construction significantly disadvantage anyone that isn't generationally entrenched. We're not talking about stealing people's land via eminent domain or anything similarly draconian... old owners and new owners are not on a financially level playing field, and that should change.

Even a cursory amount of research should leave you with the impression that bay area housing is not regulated in a way that allows normal market forces to play out, so saying "it's the market and hard work" is disingenuous.


> the people who worked and saved to invest in something wisely to have that take out from under them

Sounds like the regulatory environment was an investment risk that wasn't taken into account.

Persistence in regulations isn't some sort of right. Laws change all the time. Any investment made without considering the risk of the anti-NIMBY movement is no different from any other un-diligenced investment -- foolish.

Holding an asset and concerned about the risk of diminishing property values in the face of shifting regulations? Unload. You'd do the same if you're seeing a company where you're Long run into potentially difficult headwinds.


When did I say they were evil? My point is that yes, they're acting in their own self-interest (which is fine), but crucially, they've somehow convinced the housing-have-nots that artificially restricting the supply of new housing is somehow in their interest, too.

I think this proposition will break that spell, and in a democracy, when the housing-haves vote their self-interest, and the have-nots vote theirs, the latter will win in a landslide.


It comes across like people complaining that there are no pensions anymore and its unfair.... If you don't like the circumstances whose fault is it for staying in those circumstances?? The bay is tiny land locked piece of land, its never going to be good/better. It's a bunch of smart people making poor decisions.


> If you don't like the circumstances whose fault is it for staying in those circumstances??

Are you suggesting that I leave my home, my job, my social life, etc rather than trying to affect changes in policy?


If its having such an abject effect on your life? Why would you stay? You obviously had the skills to put yourself into such a position, you have the skills to get yourself into a much better position.


Are you saying people should just run away from whatever problem they have? Why can't people fix things? Policies are just things people have agreed to. They're just words on paper. People can write new words on paper.


> Are you saying people should just run away from whatever problem they have?

People are complaining about moving to an expensive part of town and finding that it's actually expensive. That's not a problem, just poor judgment.


Just like that time when you bought property thinking you could control all of your adjacent surroundings through zoning policy, only to find out that you didn’t get that in the deed. Super foolish.


> If its having such an abject effect on your life? Why would you stay? You obviously had the skills to put yourself into such a position, you have the skills to get yourself into a much better position.

Because we believe we can effect change. I don't want to screw anyone over but home prices MUST come down regardless of how many second and third mortgages go underwater. What can we do to get you to support new construction?

https://youtu.be/dcbjWGj3jBk


It is the fault of the politicians for not changing the laws, and for us not pushing for these laws to be changed.

But let's fix that. Let's do the right thing and get rid of these ridiculous barriers to entry for building affordable housing.


> It comes across like people complaining that there are no pensions anymore and its unfair....

Firstly, we can and should renegotiate not only outrageous pension plans but also outrageous public salary. Or we can just let the local government go bankrupt if the unions won't blink. Maybe we need compensation caps in public office. Sorry for going off-topic but I just wanted to address your premise because it is not solid at all.


Only if we take your “right” to low building heights as sacrosanct.


"I cannot stand people who think home owners and landlords as evil people just because people who come after them cannot have it easy."

They're not evil, they're just selfish, and making life harder and more expensive for the rest of us.


> they're just selfish,

This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black


A person selling a good is protective of the value of the good they're selling. Selfish bastards. If I'm renting high-end apartments why would I want developments that make them or the area less attractive?


You don't want them, but what you want is entirely irrelevant. This isn't a discussion about what existing landlords do with their own property, it's about not letting them block the new housing that they have absolutely no stake in and that benefits everyone else in the city.


If it really benefited everyone we wouldn't be having this discussion and if landlords had nothing at stake they wouldn't be weighing in on the debate.

Just because someone doesn't have a financial stake in the literal plot of land doesn't mean that they aren't affected by new developments. Mediating disputes involving negative externalities is exactly the government's job.


Except that it does benefit everyone, which is why the Yimby movement is gaining traction at the rate it is. It just wasn't as clear-cut and financially painful to the average person until a few years ago which is why it took so long to correct.


It's not really a Yimby movement though, this is more of a YIYBY


Everyone wants to see more housing built in other people's backyards -- NIMBYs and YIMBYs alike.

What sets YIMBYs apart is that, in addition to this, they also support building more housing in their own backyards, too.


Indeed - and a country made of single family homes has catastrophic externalities via its car dependence. Exclusivity in cities with economic opportunity denies it to all but the already-privileged and widens the gap. Housing scarcity hurts the poor and burdens local social services.

Beyond the hyperlocal level (like, block level) the externalities lens says build, build, build.


It's pretty ironic to throw around words like "invest", "market", and "hardwork" while making an argument that the government should prohibit new development to protect your property value.


Is it really that surprising that the value of a house is more than the literal plot of land it sits on? The neighborhood, the community, public spaces, small businesses, the school district, transportation options.


Yes, and all of these things change. You didn't buy the right to freeze time.


Nobody, on any side of the debate, is advocating that people who own houses have their homes taken away.


Just the approval of housing developments that radically changes their neighborhood and communuty. Good thing those things don't influence a person's housing choices or property values.


The lack of new housing is radically changing the neighborhood and community. Neighborhood and community come from people, not buildings.


How do you think it got there in the first place?


> And by that you mean the people who worked and saved to invest in something wisely to have that take out from under them?

If you purchased real estate on the understanding that no new buildings would ever be built near your land, you did not invest wisely, and it's no one's responsibility to protect you from the consequences of your lack of foresight.


If you live in the Mission district of San Francisco and want to get involved, come to the Mission YIMBY general meeting at the end of November. I'm one of the organizers and we're looking to grow our membership base! https://www.facebook.com/events/771212863081381


"If you live in the Mission district of San Francisco and want to get involved, come to the Mission YIMBY general meeting at the end of November."

I am genuinely interested in what it means to be a Mission district YIMBY.

The recent history of housing politics in the Mission have pitted left-liberal progressives against housing development on the assumption that: new development will be market rate, this will bring "tech workers" and gentrification, ergo: new housing will (paradoxically) force more existing mission residents out of housing.

So it has been left-liberal, progressive, tenants-rights NIMBYs vs. gentrifying developers (and sometimes, very explicitly, "tech-bus-riders")[1][2][3].

BUT, the YIMBY movement in general seems to present itself as a left-liberal, progressive response to incumbent property owners.

Given that context, what kind of reception does "Mission YIMBY" receive and where does it fall in the politics of what is the Mission district in 2017 ?

[1] https://48hills.org/2015/02/11/teachers-protested-google-bus...

[2] https://48hills.org/2016/01/25/problem-google-bus-program/

[3] https://48hills.org/2015/04/24/thebattle-over-sf-bus-stops/


Most of the opposition to housing I've seen in the Mission has been to infill. Look at the controversy over development at the 16th street mission BART station. This would be dense housing in an urban core literally on top of public transit. It would displace a... Burger King. I find it hard to swallow that Burger King is a core component of a sustainable, progressive urban landscape, while high density housing with easy access to public transit is not.


If you look at the original plans for the 16th Street/Mission Station, you'll see it was intended to be built as part of a multi-use complex with housing, offices and shops. This was killed off in the wake of community opposition that it would---among other things---destroy the character of the neighborhood because of how the urban renewal projects in San Francisco of the 1970s came to be seen as threatening the very thing YIMBY seems to be trying to restore: affordable housing.

The real problem seems to be that people have forgotten why certain rules were put in place. BART was largely built as a cut and fill effort; this caused very real problems for businesses along Market and Mission as it was being built since they were harder to get to. It is likely that most people in San Francisco were quite aware of another famous victim of urban renewal in Santa Monica and what it could do to the character of a neighborhood. Coupled with what was happening with the redevelopment in South of Market and the Financial District, it is understandable that voters decided to pull the brakes on this nonsense. The problem, of course, is that like tax cuts, these rules are nigh impossible to revise once in place even if the situation has changed.


Anti-gentrification isn't the same thing as xenophobia. It's not a fear of new (or even rich) people entering the neighborhood, it's the fear of even higher property values raising property taxes and rents for existing owners and renters, respectively.

The problem is that it's a virtual impossibility to build enough housing throughout the Bay Area in a short enough amount of time as to have a meaningful decrease in property values in every neighborhood, thus preventing gentrification. So in the real world, with limited yearly construction, developers' aims will be to build upmarket housing.

You can't really work around this without dictating to developers what they can and cannot build. SF tried to do that with community approvals being a way for the community to de facto dictate to developers what they can and cannot build, but it's clearly not working.


> So in the real world, with limited yearly construction, developers' aims will be to build upmarket housing.

I don't understand the line of thinking where this itself is a problem. Who cares what the new housing is, what matters is the total supply of housing. If we build new affordable housing, then lower-middle-class people will move there and upper-middle-class people will move to the older buildings. If we build new upmarket housing, then upper middle class people move there and lower middle class people stay in existing housing.

The problem with building only affordable housing, is that 1. it doesn't seem like you could ever build enough because as soon as you do you create pressure for more people who qualify to move to the city, and 2. there will always be a step function where someone just barely doesn't qualify for affordable housing but can't afford market-rate housing because you've been restricting the supply. Building a lot of both is the only reasonable way forward.


Yes, building more helps everyone, even if you build upscale housing.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/12/the-p...

Though I think we do need to find ways to make more affordable housing available as well.

http://projectsro.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-two-percent-solut...


> If we build new upmarket housing, then upper middle class people move there and lower middle class people stay in existing housing.

If the Mission were a closed population, I would agree with you. However, there's a pool -- or rather an ocean -- of people on the housing market: people in different parts of the SF, people looking to move to the bay, etc. If the upper middle class in the Mission got new housing, I don't see the landlords dropping rent prices so the lower middle class can afford it, when someone from one town over is willing to pay the same or even +10% over their competition.

> Building a lot of both is the only reasonable way forward.

I agree with you here. I think new housing supply should meet demand across the market. My guess is that _new_ housing supply could be 10x what it is now in the bay.

There's something about the housing market in general that's different from typical goods markets. People buying a car don't care as much about depreciation, whereas people buying a house expect it to appreciate as much as possible over time. It's some kind of positive feedback mechanism that counters the typical negative-feedback that lowers price as supply meets demand. There's probably a name for this kind of market but I'm unfamiliar with it.


The outsiders are coming in anyway, renting existing Mission apartments when their leases are up. New buildings are not required to stimulate new residents - that’s already happening.

(New buildings can make a previously-ignored place newly attractive, but usually we’re taking about neighborhoods that are already popular and/or have good immutable features like proximity and transit access).


If you come to the meeting, we'd be happy to talk more about these things in detail! Politics in SF is very complicated and fraught with strange alliances.


Who says there can only be one left-liberal progressive side? Let alone only one that claims to be left-liberal progressive?


If you live in San Francisco you should consider supporting Sonja's campaign for the Board of Supervisors (City Council)

http://www.sonja2018.org/


“I’m committed to ... preserving the Tenderloin as SF's most economically diverse neighborhood.”

Re Tenderloin: I understand it’s part of District 6 and her campaign website needs to say something, but that sounds like an anti-gentrification line, which in SF is usually used as an argument against new homes. Is Sonja anti-development in the Tenderloin?

The area is rife with homeless and drug use. It feels to me like an area that would greatly benefit from some gentrification. (I.e. add some rich techies demanding cleaner streets and more policing, and the existing low income residents gain.) Yet I’ve heard more than once that to change the planning rules there is politically “untouchable”. Can anyone explain why?


The city "pushes" a large part of the homeless population into the Tenderloin. They seem to be quite happy with this set up and don't want to have the homeless spread out throughout the city. It may be altruistic in that it is easier to help them out when you know where they live or a cynical approach to a problem but there isn't much interest in changing the status quo


The Tenderloin is already made of medium to high density affordable housing; to convert it to luxury housing or “clean it up” would be the opposite of what YIMBYism is about. The people living there have nowhere else to go, so it’d also be pretty cruel.

We want currently exclusive low-rise areas to become mid-to-high-rise and less exclusive.


> “I’m committed to ... preserving the Tenderloin as SF's most economically diverse neighborhood.”

Translation: "I would like dumps to remain dumps"


Gentrification does not benefit lower income earners and native residents in any long term / meaningful way. You can argue that building new high rises in the tenderloin will help meet market demand, but nobody can seriously argue that it's going to help the local homeless / underemployed population.

If this were true, San Francisco would be a shiny utopia at this point, but income disparity and hyper inflated cost of living have made it just miserable for most people except whatever CTO of the day is moving in.


To everyone looking at this, please visit the site to make up your mind. There are no details on how she is going to do what she wants apart from using catchy phrases such as "more housing for homeless" and "taking away cars away from roads".

Also, this is irrelevant to the topic.


And feel free to support the campaign financially even if you don't live in SF!


Note, District 6.


They’re not winning in Boulder. 4 of 5 seats on the city council were just won by Nimby supporters. And no wonder... the largest contingent here is wealthy boomers who moved to Boulder because its Boulder. Why would they want that to change?

I’m not one of them by the way. But I do think that increasing supply in crazy high demand markets is a linear solution to a logarithmic problem.


1) O(linear) > O(logarithmic), I'm going to assume you mean polynomial instead of logarithmic. Soooo I'm going to address that. Increasing density in markets with large amounts of single family zoning is not a linear solution. Yimby is about turning 2-dimensional single family neighborhoods into 3 dimensional multi family zoned neighborhoods by adding a heigh dimension to the equation. It is by definition a polynomial solution.


Got a link to read more about boulder?


Is it possible that Boulder and San Francisco are actually quite different places?


Is there any actual evidence of "winning" outside the headline? The best the article can muster is a single pending lawsuit that, if successful, would allow the construction of one (1) home in Sausalito.


There were several bills in the CA Leg this year that passed thanks in large part to YIMBY support.

See:

SB2 - Subsidized housing bond

SB35 - Streamlining construction

SB167 - Housing Accountability Act enforcement, written with help from YIBMY affiliate CARLA (carlaef.org)

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert...


> Is there any actual evidence of "winning" outside the headline?

The legislation that Scott Wiener was able to recently get through the state government, for one.


The SF Chronicle editorial board thinks so:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Editor...


As a Bay area home owner, I will stop being NIMBY when I see housing advocates accept that schools, parks, roads and retail must see consistent investment also.

So far I see a lot of advocacy for housing density but no concerns for quality of life.

More units will just mean more new residents...developers have no obligation to build to serve existing residents.

If we build 100k new units now, that is just another 100k new residents who will suffer abysmal traffic.


I don't know what to tell you except that more residents equals more property taxes equals more available money to make those investments in infrastructure. And thanks to California's famous Proposition 13, those new residents are paying property taxes at a MUCH higher rate than old-timers, so it's hard to argue they aren't shouldering their fair share of the burden.


> So far I see a lot of advocacy for housing density but no concerns for quality of life.

I see density as correlated with quality of life. I want to be able to live near work (so no car needed), with easy access to restaurants, bars, music venues, easy access to cultural opportunities, farmers markets, grocery stores, etc. Neighborhoods with these things are an absolute joy to live in.


What you want are frankly the typical goals of those derided as NIMBYs. They tend to want amenities balanced with housing.


Without density you can't have these in a walkable neighborhood. It takes X number of customers to support a grocery store (or a bodega, or a restaurant, etc). If you want one nearby, you need more people in a smaller geographic area.

Besides, it is not one or the other. Ground level retail, upper level residential, and you get both.


The amenities he wants stem from “more neighbors, closer to me” and the amenities NIMBYs want are the opposite.

One is cooperative (cities get better as they grow, new residents and businesses and buildings add to the energy) and the other is exclusionary (once too many people live somewhere, it’s ruined).


Well most our schools already suck. So put the new buildings in the worst school districts. Maybe the new tenants can move the school up a few rankings.

However I’m with you that building a bunch of high rises in Mountain View, Palo Alto, Cupertino is not a good idea.

However in East Palo Alto, redwood city, San Mateo....the schools are pretty bad and you could place them near Caltrain.


New residents are suffering today that they cant move in. I think that affects them a lot more than poorer traffic.


Increasing density both requires and enables building out excellent public transit. You’re right, it’s not compatible with mass car usage. But it’s the car usage which will have to go.


I'm very much a pro YIMBY kind of guy, but I feel like there's a hard pro-urbanization, anti-expansion aspect to this. And the reason that gets to me now is that, while I totally get the pros and cons of both urban and suburban settings, but this debate always seems to be binary, when in reality, it's like every other socioeconomic factor, and is just a matter of tradeoffs. I'm saying this as a guy who has done the 2+ hour commute each direction, but who also is fortunate enough to live in a suburb and my commute is a whopping 4 minutes, so I obviously am prejudiced here.

But I really think that expanding development into further areas brings with it economic advantages for those outlying communities (and yes, gentrification as well), and we have far more space right now by going out rather than up. Why not use it?


That's a complicated question to answer. Suburban sprawl certainly can work to get low or lower housing prices, but it has its own set of downsides.

Suburban sprawl tends to cement car-dominant infrastructure in an area, and eventually leads to a situation where more people are commuting by car into the principal city than the roads can handle, but mass transit is not a feasible solution because most of the area has too low density to support the stations (and the people who live out there are now set in a car-only way and won't support his change). This also helps make people fat as hell.

Suburban sprawl is less environmentally friendly: takes more energy as a lifestyle, and necessarily means cutting more into nature to build homes.

Suburban sprawl tends to be financially unsustainable. The Strong Towns blog goes into this more if you're interested, but the gist of it is that sprawly development means more miles of road, power lines, water lines, etc. per person, without a commensurate increase in tax revenue. It works okay at first, but then thirty, forty, fifty years down the line when things need to be replaced, there's not enough money to do so.


I don't disagree about many of those trade-offs, because they do happen. However, car dominant southern California is also a very big chunk of economic activity and also has much of that infrastructure that is actually updated (though, yeah, not very often, but there is a separate debate about whether it's an inept state legislature that manages an extremely large land mass or whether it's sprawl itself).

I feel like much of that could be improved by businesses at that point though. Why not set up shop in one of those suburbs (which I've seen many a company do over the years) and use that as a way to not only build up that area, but also bring with it people who are skilled in different fields and reduce general congestion?

I grant that that's a little pie in the sky, but I have seen it done, and even from startup levels.

Maybe this is something academia could lead in, as I've seen a lot of colleges that are setup in non-urban settings, and they could be the initial hub of activity and a talent pool for businesses to draw from.

I'm not saying you won't have the downsides of not having a large concentrated talent pool, and it for sure makes recruiting more time consuming, but if you're looking to build a company that is sustainable long term, employee satisfaction and happiness can be greatly improved by a dramatically shortened commute and affordable housing, at least in California. The recruiting constraint also gives you a chance to explore alternative paths of hiring, such as hiring people with non-traditional backgrounds but who are uniquely gifted for what you're needing. I know we have found some of our best developers in people who graduated with a wide array of degrees that wouldn't make sense on paper.


> However, car dominant southern California is also a very big chunk of economic activity

Oh, you mean the LA that's turning away from cars to solve its problems and is moving to walking, biking, and especially transit? That LA? http://www.latimes.com/opinion/livable-city/la-ol-metro-elki...

> Why not set up shop in one of those suburbs

That's a question you need to be answering. The suburbs are already cheaper and less crowded, so why don't businesses set up shop there? Do they hate money and love traffic?

> if you're looking to build a company that is sustainable long term, employee satisfaction and happiness can be greatly improved by a dramatically shortened commute and affordable housing, at least in California.

Employee satisfaction can also be improved by having a successful company, which I think is probably a higher priority for most businesses, hence why you've seen more companies recently moving from suburbs to major cities (e.g. GE).

> The recruiting constraint also gives you a chance to explore alternative paths of hiring, such as hiring people with non-traditional backgrounds but who are uniquely gifted for what you're needing.

Whoa there bucko, maybe take off your hippie hat? "When you think about it, handicapping your recruiting is actually a good thing!" No. No it's not.


> Oh, you mean the LA that's turning away from cars to solve its problems and is moving to walking, biking, and especially transit? That LA?

That very one. Even with it's car issues, it has gotten to be successful. Those "solutions" don't work all that well in so cal because of the sprawl. I'm not arguing it's a 100% pro. There are cons, but I think you're missing my main point, which is that there are tradeoffs, and definite benefits and cons to sprawl, but it's the same with urbanization.

> > Why not set up shop in one of those suburbs That's a question you need to be answering. The suburbs are already cheaper and less crowded, so why don't businesses set up shop there? Do they hate money and love traffic?

They choose different tradeoffs, and I believe there may be an inherent preference of many people who start certain companies for certain areas for multiple reasons. The founder of my company had his life in the suburb we work out of, so it started there and remains there.

Some suburban spots are inconvenient to reach from only specific other suburbs, so there's an infrastructure issue involved as well.

Lastly, my point isn't that it's the right move for every company or even every industry. But I have seen and worked for companies that didn't even consider moving outside of certain urban areas because of image reasons. I'm just saying that there are other benefits worth considering.

> Employee satisfaction can also be improved by having a successful company, which I think is probably a higher priority for most businesses, hence why you've seen more companies recently moving from suburbs to major cities (e.g. GE).

My point is that success and location aren't mutually exclusive. It's easy to fail in both types of areas, and a different kind of hard to get it successful. And the company doing well doesn't always lead to employee satisfaction. Not every company passes on those benefits, or the company culture is toxic.

> Whoa there bucko, maybe take off your hippie hat? "When you think about it, handicapping your recruiting is actually a good thing!" No. No it's not.

Accepting a trade-off isn't handicapping anything, it's accepting reality and working within constraints. And constraints are very often a good thing, and they're still there with urban cities.

At the end of the day, each company should pick whatever delivers the best economic outcome for them, and the smart ones make sure to account for the long term, which includes retaining smart and good people. If your company turn over rate is high, yeah, you'll need to focus on recruiting, but IMHO, that's not a good way to work in this world, hippie hat or not. Maybe it all comes down to how and where we prefer to work, but I think the benefits are often not even considered.


I am wish even people who owned houses could improve on them. I own a home in the Bay Area. If I could extend it out near the sidewalk I could probably double my living space and get rid of a dead yard, but he setback rules make reasonable expansion impossible.


Eventually they'll work out that land cannot ever be a functional market - because they don't make it any more.

A far more useful regulation would be to require those business owners funding these lobbying operations to release their own massive pads, demolish them and build high rise, high density accommodation for millennials. Then they get to feel the cost of over centralisation personally.

If you want to make a fortune out of this, buy land in the bubble areas and just sit on it. It's a one way bet.


There are already lots of people who voluntarily want to demolish the house they own to build apartments; why not allow them to do so first, before we start talking about making people do it against their will?


Well it's about allocating the cost. Surely the cost of intensification should be paid by those needlessly intensifying.

Certainly amongst technology firms there is little need to be in a particular place. That requirement is largely down to a power play and lack of management and organisational skill


I think adding more people to a city is a benefit, not a cost.

Most people moving to urban areas do so because they like all the good things that come with high population density.

It's only a problem when you artificially restrict the supply of new housing and create a shortage.


San Diego seems to be keeping up with new housing demand. It's still California and on the beach.. Probably the best place to get in now.. Tech companies will develop there.


I recently looked at San Diego's housing market and was surprised to see how much more affordable it was than LA. Seeing that they're building enough units to meet demand is probably one of the reasons why it's still affordable. Because it's certainly a desirable location to live.


That is all good, but what will they do with transportation? When the supply of the housing is increased, it will attract a ton of people who now simply can't afford (as many not-so-top, but still good coders - i know a ton of people who would move in, but can't afford the Valley rent). Can you imaging the traffic then?


The simple answer is to concentrate development around transit stations and to increase frequency and length of trains on existing service. For example, by-right authority to build towers, but only within half a mile of a BART station.


We don't even need towers; six-story apartment buildings would do. See http://tinyurl.com/6storySF


The land near BART that’s available for development in the near and medium term is the parking. Six story apartments on all BART parking is what, a couple thousand units? That’s a drop in the bucket. To replace enough SFHs to make a difference with buildings of that height, we would need eminent domain seizures of entire tracts. Not gonna happen.

It’s true that an entire city built out of six story apartments could work, but realistically development needs to squeeze in the gaps (infill). A mere six stories is a huge waste of a gap.

Path dependence is weird like that.


We absolutely would not need eminent domain. The city is full of tenantless low-density buildings close to transit hubs where the owners would voluntarily build six-story apartment buildings if we allowed them to.

(If they wouldn't, then why did it need to be forbidden?)


Of course they would build six story buildings if we allowed them to. But why would we stop them at six stories?


I'm saying, whatever height you want, there's no need for eminent domain. Plenty of landowners want to build.


Appeals to Paris and vast tracts of six-story apartments as an alternative to high-rise construction are dangerous because they create the illusion that a six-story height limit is okay. If we could build the whole city over again tomorrow, it might be. Today, recognizing the reality that most existing low-rise structures are in it for the long haul, when there is an opportunity to build, every floor counts.


Good planning laws should require the developers pay for some of the transport and government services used by the new residents. The UK's section 106 does this, I've seen it build or improve roundabouts, junctions, roads, GPs offices (PCP offices), train stations, bus stations, schools, community centres, water and sewage links.

Or the plan by South Korea to build a city where cars aren't needed.


I think it will stop without starting because any real planning will come to conclusion that fitting any more people in comfortably is simply not possible, or at least not until Musk's Boring Company delivers.


If your political opinions are little more complex than "does this involve government intervention", it'd be wise to avail yourself over whether the proposed alternative actually entails more state intervention or less.


As much as I support what YIMBY is trying to do for San Francisco, I think this is trying to solve the symptom of a greater problem: that our economy has shifted to not needing (yet still somehow requiring) our workers to work in a physical office.

I recently became a remote worker and I cannot imagine going back. If this became the norm in the US I think this would do a lot for fixing the housing problems.

We have enough space to house everyone, the problem is we believe we need to house them close to where the "jobs are."

But if employers allowed their workers to work from anywhere, then not everyone would need to live in NY, SF, LA, Boston, et al. The cities that experienced the worst emigration (e.g. Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee) could stabilize. Housing prices would normalize as a result of everyone not being forced to live within a 2-hr commute of the country's biggest employers. And those same employers could pay less for talent because they wouldn't have to give them a salary to afford places where the average starter home is over $1mm.

And yet, we see articles in the NYT how big companies like IBM are already rescinding their offers for giving people more flexibility. We're not moving in the right direction.


Companies would love to encourage remote work if it would work out well for them. They would save tons of money by reducing their office space, and they could lower their salaries because they wouldn't need to support the big-city cost of living.

So, why don't more companies encourage remote work, and why are some companies rolling back remote-work policies? Because they learned from experience that it doesn't work out well. Maybe some of them are just being stupid, but others are well-established companies that have been very good at running their businesses.

I've worked at a company that had very flexible working hours and a generous work-from-home policy, and now I work somewhere that doesn't. I much prefer the situation I'm in now -- my coworkers are much more responsive when there is a problem, it's easier to schedule and conduct meetings, there are far fewer slackers, etc.

Ever worked at a company that has office locations across the country (or the world), and tried to conduct important meetings with people in those other offices over Skype or the phone, or even expensive telepresence equipment? It kinda sucks. Imagine that every meeting, and every interaction with your coworkers, and every "whiteboarding" session was like that. That's not a world in which business is easy to conduct -- in fact, it's so difficult that companies are willing to forgo the massive cost savings they could realize by encouraging remote work.


I have a sense that remote employment works best for everyone concerned when the company workforce is entirely distributed (no offices anywhere). A level playing field avoids the "remote workers are second-class citizens" problem.


> it's easier to schedule and conduct meetings, there are far fewer slackers, etc.

That's a lot less a problem with telecommuting work and a lot more a problem with your company not being able to hire effectively.

If employees are incapable of being responsive, or even productive, without someone over their shoulder, I'm really not seeing where that is any issue but one of personal responsibility/capability, and if that's a question mark in enough employees to render a telecommute policy ineffective, I have to wonder how these people make it through the door.


Even if your company was able to hire only people who work well from home, all of those other people have to work somewhere.

Plus, how is a recruiter supposed to measure someone's productivity at home?


> Even if your company was able to hire only people who work well from home, all of those other people have to work somewhere.

Well sure. I don't think going completely decentralized is something most larger orgs can embrace yet. But there's no reason that some engineering staff could not perform their work remotely. If on-site staff complain it hampers their productivity, then I ask why productivity is predicated on the "drive-by" model of engagement, which is universally disruptive to programming flow.

Most companies are paying for a combination of Slack/HipChat and WebEx/Zoom/Bluejeans, and you should make use of them liberally.

> Plus, how is a recruiter supposed to measure someone's productivity at home?

They're not. Their job is to ingress a pool of potentially suitable candidates into the hiring process based on experience, acumen, and career interests. The job of determining productivity, and ultimately fit into the environment, is up to the hiring manager/s and the interview process.

If you're already conceding that you can't determine whether an employee will be a productive contributor in their potential employment environment, remote or otherwise, that's a problem with your hiring process.


I think part of the in presence problems can be fixed with better virtual spaces. If slack was more like an mmorpg with buildings and rooms that you physically navigated in then teams could start building better camaraderie by having an avatar and a space that's there's. VR tech will take this to the next level and we'll have virtual offices where remote workers can all meet, collaborate, and build there own spaces to work together within.

Part of me hopes that valve is working on this already, bigscreen already is an example of the beginnings of a virtual office space.


What is hard to escape are time zones. In practice what happens is you have a few offices in your continental timezones, and a bunch in other continents timezones, and because of team purpose churn, different continents will have to start working with each other. It doesn't matter how fancy the equipment is when you are asleep and awake at different times.

You get 1 day (vs 10 minute) response times and nobody really wants to schedule a meeting because you have to get up very early or stay up very late, well out of working hours. Something that would be 1 day of back and forth becomes 1 week. It starts becoming very frustrating.

On top of that with tech, the tech worker hotspots are north america, europe and india/china. And each band have big differences in timezones. It's difficult to say 'we will only hire in the american timezones', because there are barely any tech workers south of the USA.


I don't understand the timezone argument. If your employer wants you to work from 9 to 5 in the timezone of the employer then you either don't take the job or you adjust your schedule to the timezone of the employer.

This may rule out australian employees working for an american company but it doesn't rule out NYC employees working for a Washington DC company.


Why would high-quality employees be willing to do that, when they can get jobs at other companies that operate during normal working hours in their timezones?

You can either be flexible about working hours for people in different timezones, or you can end up with people who couldn't do any better than take hours they don't want to work.


The perceived need to continually conduct meeting is itself a problem.


There are 2 problems to combat here.

1. Difficulty of building trust between individuals remote 2. Lack of understanding concerning communication skills & tactics required for remote work (upholding trust)

Anyone that has played the older generation of mmorpgs actually has these 2 skill sets well practised. But that is a very small portion of the workforce.

For this group I hypothesize a high upfront(2-3 weeks) time spent in person building trust. Once trust is established, remote work time could increase in a cyclic manner. But this required back and forth travel, but the intention is for the new employee to become 100% remote over time so they don't stress about moving and solidifying housing in the expensive markets. They can maintain a cheaper more remote long term lease, and only short term expensive leases when in person time is required for teams to synchronize.


As a West Coast tech worker who relocated to the Midwest to work remotely, I certainly agree that the arrangement is an attractive, and ultimately mutually beneficial one. I have a slightly different take on a couple of points though:

> If this became the norm in the US I think this would do a lot for fixing the housing problems.

Ehhhh... It would allow a small subset of the tech/engineering population to relocate to places with better CoL ratios, but I think we're talking a tiny dent, if any, in housing affordability.

Other comments have touched on it, but to me the most pervasive problem is that housing/real-estate has been allowed to turn into an investment/asset-class first, and living space for human beings second. As long as interest rates stay low(and they have for a very long time to this point), real-estate presents a very attractive class of investment with a non-trivial chance of providing good returns. Couple that with the rise of the sharing economy and things like AirBNB, and the system very much favors those with access to ample, cheap credit(i.e. "the rich").

Take a look at some of the 2017-2018 lists of "best places to live" and "places with most constrained housing inventory"... I guarantee a lot of them aren't tech hubs, or even close to one. Anywhere considered "desirable" by a metric that people identify with will see an influx of money/investment, and one of the first places that will land is in real-estate. As a consequence, home prices skyrocket, and rents climb as well as newly minted landlords look to start making their money back.

That's why I don't think remote/telecommuting work will fix the housing problems except for those who are allowed to work remotely.

With regards to remote work:

> And those same employers could pay less for talent because they wouldn't have to give them a salary to afford places where the average starter home is over $1mm.

Please please please do not accept this as a necessary paradigm of remote work. The company is not doing you a favor. Your skills, in a modern global economy, are worth what they are worth. Trying to use some arbitrary gauge of CoL based on your geographic area to meter your pay is a laughably futile exercise when you consider the vast sums they save in commercial real estate costs and operating overhead if they implement WFH programs for even a few employees.

> And yet, we see articles in the NYT how big companies like IBM are already rescinding their offers for giving people more flexibility. We're not moving in the right direction.

I swear to god someone is paying a penny to pump that story on everyone's LinkedIn feed like once a week. I gotta be honest: I'm not breaking a sweat over the "death of remote work" when the headlining examples being cited are.... wait for it... IBM, Best Buy, and Yahoo. Give me a )#($(* break.

By virtually every metric relevant to a modern tech company, IBM is getting pantsed. They barely exist in some of the biggest growth verticals. They're still clinging to the same company model they ran 15 years ago. Claiming you're going to "drive innovation" by strong-arming a decent chunk of your workforce into either re-locating or quitting is thinly-veiled management speak for "we needed to let some people go, and this looks way better for us than calling it a 'layoff'."

Best Buy? I guess years of hyper-expansion and being an overpriced Amazon show room have finally caught up. Like so many retail outlets, building a store anywhere you can find a big enough field that's not either a flood plain or a toxic waste dump looked good on paper(and to shareholders) for a few years, but those chickens are starting to come home to roost. They spout the same noise about "driving innovation and collaboration", but again it's a threatened, suffering company with an opportunity to trim some head count.

Yahoo... well, better writers than I have penned eloquent prose to that vast empire of failure, so I'll spare my keys here.

I have found a lot of remote opportunities in the last few months, more-so than I did the last time I looked even a few months ago, so every indication to me(albeit anecdotal), is that remote work is growing, not dying.


Does California really want or need more people? If it's so hard to get housing, then move out. The rust belt has really good deals on housing. It just needs something to jump-start its economy. Something is out of whack.


If companies are hiring there... yes? Like, it is an objective "yes, California needs more people."


Can someone "explain like I'm 5": why does this need government intervention? My gut reaction is that if these people can't afford to live in/near San Fran, a massive, amenities-filled city, they should find jobs elsewhere? If enough people take that approach, maybe the jobs will move elsewhere too? My family wanted to move to a big city but we saw the cost and decided not to. I don't want to assume it's an entitlement thing, but it sure reads like it.


I'll give it a shot.

Every city has rules about what you can and can't build within its boundaries. Even lightly-regulated cities like Houston still have rules about density, lot sizes, and what you can build where. There isn't such a thing as a city without "government intervention."

The current rules were put into place by previously powerful people who wanted the Bay Area to be low density. There are new powerful people who want to change the rules so it can be higher density.

Other people (not the people who are the main focus on this article) also want the local government to help pay to build homes for poorer residents. There are families which have been living in these areas for a long time who can no longer afford to stay. Many communities are only strong because there are people who have been there for a long time, who know each other and have worked hard to build that community. Kicking them out to make room for new comers, who may only be there temporarily, in time weakens the quality of life for everyone.


Makes sense. Thanks for the thoughtful response.


It doesn't need government intervention. The government is intervening to keep the city expensive and they're trying to get it to stop.


In particular, the state government is stepping in to prevent local governments from passing rules that artificially restrict housing supply. As an example, in Dec 2016, the state of California issued a memorandum [1] that explicitly forbade cities from passing rules that outlaw the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), which are rental units people build on their own land adjacent to their existing house. Previously, cities had a lot of latitude to prevent these sorts of infill developments outright. Now they can't.

[1] http://www.hcd.ca.gov/policy-research/docs/2016-12-12-ADU-TA...


Is there some guide that explains the division of responsibilities between different levels of government in the US? I have lived in the US and have always been aware of my lack of knowledge in this area. (In this specific instance I am unsure whether the City / State is responsible for urban planning / transportation capacity that might possibly be impacted by sudden changes in inventory.)


Generally, the overriding principle is that the state has ultimate authority, but how this works in practice is that the state makes rules for local governments to follow, collects tax revenue, and decides on the distribution of taxes.

The biggest area of difference between states is the balance of power between city and county, from New England (where counties are basically just statistical divisions) to Hawaii (where cities are just statistical divisions, and counties handle everything). Whatever that balance is, it's at this level that things are administered day-to-day; no state that I know of, for example, has a single state-wide police force (only state forces with limited jurisdiction, like the California Highway Patrol), or a statewide primary and secondary education system ("school districts" run those instead).

That last (school districts) touches on a complicating factor in understanding US local government - special-purpose districts. These are bodies formed by agreement between a set of local governments (usually with a state veto) to jointly handle certain policy areas. For each area of responsibility, the lines are drawn differently - for example, the LA Unified School District runs services for Los Angeles and neighboring cities, which do not share the LA Police Department. The East Bay Municipal Utilities District has a jurisdiction which is based on a collection of cities, and overlaps not-quite-perfectly with the AC Transit District (a body run jointly by Alameda and Contra Costa Counties). The policy areas a special purpose district manages are often quite granular - for example, while AC Transit runs buses, a separate transit district (SF Bay Area Rapid Transit District) - run by Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties - runs the BART commuter rail. Despite BART running into South Bay counties, those counties do not participate in BART governance, and instead participate in the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties), which runs CalTrain, a different commuter rail service.

The results are... suboptimal. For example, in public transit, the result is a disjointed system where different transportation modes, and even different lines of the same transportation mode, are badly coordinated (have fun trying to get from Oakland to Mountain View by rail!). Compare with the gold standard of Germany, where Deutsche Bahn runs everything from intercity high-speed trains to local commuter rail and makes coordinated plans for the development of the transit system as a whole.


Thanks!


Government intervention helped create the problem. In California, there is a protectionist tax policy that helps keep houses bought long ago affordable to stay in. If this didn't exist, a lot of old people would sell their houses because they couldn't afford the taxes on the current assessed value. They would take their winnings from the California real estate lottery and move someplace cheaper, freeing up supply.

The insane house prices kind of only apply to newcomers on the scene and the system is rigged. It is inherently unfair and also undermines a functioning economy.


Government intervention is what is preventing housing supply from meeting demand. And jobs are moving elsewhere, hence this new drive for deregulating and building more housing.


You realize the NIMBYs have had the law changed for their benefit? Why did that need government intervention?


Because governments everywhere are typically sympathetic to developments that hurt property values.


Govt intervention via tenant laws, homeowner's laws, zoning laws, city councils/planning commissions are preventing new housing from being built- also shielding long term residents from increased property taxes- Prop 13

Therefore govt intervention/reform is needed to allow more housing to be built.

It is entitlement on both sides- but the law currently favors long term residents extremely- homeowners feel entitled to keeping their neighborhood the way it currently exists.

Most love the high property value (and low property tax!) for potential retirement and rental income- but some are frustrated their adult children cannot purchase a house and enjoy stability.

New residents feel that the law has been rigged against them and has created this situation.

>If enough people take that approach, maybe the jobs will move elsewhere too?

That is what is starting to happen now, but then there are millions of people desperate for jobs that are willing to put up with terrible conditions to make the finances work.

Given current trends of homelessness (both on street and in vehicles), extreme housing inflation, it will be interesting to see what happens without significant changes.


"why does this need government intervention?"

why aren't there more houses? maybe the government intervention already happened. anyway, they're just using their first amendment right to lobby the government, so yeah, it's an entitlement thing, in that they are entitled to do that.


So I know what part to explain, could you clarify: do you think the owner of a parcel of land that’s close to a transit hub should be allowed to voluntarily build a 4-to-6-story apartment building, or that the government should intervene and require that parcel be a single-family house forever against the owner’s wishes?


Let them build. My only opposition is stopping at 6-stories. Populations go up and so should our housing.


Okay, but who will clean / teach / deliver to / cook for / care for (for example) your city of the rich?


Not to mention students.


This is non-economical thinking. If a city becomes too expensive for service workers, service workers will leave the city, lowering supply and increasing wages. Its a non-problem from an economic standpoint.


Has this ever happened in reality?


An example I can think of is that Monaco (tiny but wealthy city state) is serviced by mainly French and Italian citizens who drive 2 hours per day for higher wages in Monaco, so it does seem like it works. The downside is that this creates a lot of traffic during rush hour.


Do you think service workers in San francisco have the same wages than in Flynt Michigan?

Of course its reality. Wages can't go lower than subsistence for long, either people move out or wages go up.


Flint, MI.


You have it backwards. Excessive government regulation is what keeps prices high in the first place. Asking for upzones to allow more housing necessarily means loosening current regulations that are very restrictive.


ELI5: Government intervention IS the problem.


I don't know about California, but isn't it reasonable to want to live where you were born, where your parents, grandparents and relatives live? Where you kids friends are if you have children. Moving to another city is easy for someone who doesn't have these values and is just hunting for the best paying job.


The big elephant in the room that no one wants to touch is the massive immigration to San Francisco Bay Area from all over the world. The population stands at 7.68 million. Just in 2010 it was 7.1 mil. And in 2000, it was 6.7 million. So you essentially have an extra million people living in what was already pretty densely populated area.

I doubt NIMBY or anti-NIMBY is going to solve any problems.


The San Francisco Bay Area is absolutely not by any stretch of the imagination densely-populated. At 332 people per square km (859/sq mi), it's a third as dense as Peoria. It could grow by 50% and still be on par with New Jersey, which isn't exactly Hong Kong.

Even if you're just looking at the city of San Francisco itself -- or even just the neighborhoods of the city that surround underground train stations -- the population density is a joke: https://www.reddit.com/r/sanfrancisco/comments/3qu9uv/i_made...


This is obvious to the naked eye. The mission is all 3 story buildings, for example. For the rental revenue you would expect everything to be torn down and built into complexes.


Thank you, at last a simple fact that I can relate to other parts of the world. That's actually less than the average for the UK: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/2967374/England-is-.... So really not dense at all for what people seem to be regarding as an urban area.


Anti-NIMBY will definitely solve a lot of problems. A lot of the South Bay and peninsula are incredibly under-developed for the amount of people working in the area, and simply allowing taller buildings to be built (among other things) would substantially decrease the average commute and rent of many residents.


>The population stands at 7.68 million ... in 2000, it was 6.7 million.

So that's about a 14% growth rate since 2000, compared to Houston's 35% growth in the same time period (3.4 to 4.6 million). And I've heard that Houston even before Harvey had one of the more affordable big-city housing markets in the country.


Houston is in exactly the opposite situation of SF regulation wise. It is famously unregulated, which did lead to massive sprawl into the flood plains. So maybe we should aim for a middle ground. Clearly letting people build housing communities in areas that are expected to flood every 10-20 years is not good, but stifling construction under a mountain of red tape is also bad. It shouldn't be hard to find examples of sensible growth with reasonable regulation.


Nobody is suggesting Houston levels of deregulation. People want to change zoning to allow for more housing, they don't want to get rid of zoning altogether.


Ha, absolutely not. Other commenters here have already made the population density comparisons pointing out that there is plenty of room, but I think it's best conveyed visually:

http://acme.com/same_scale/?48.84937,-357.65363,37.7749,-122...


What am I supposed to be seeing here? It's just a map of Paris and SF...


That they are approximately the same size. There was an assumption that you know how populous these cities are, but to to be clear, roughly the same administrative area (Geneva Ave or so North vs everything within the Périphérique) has a population of 865k for SF and 2,244k for Paris.


Next someone will say, "But Paris doesn't have to worry about earthquakes". Then you reply with a map of Tokyo.


There are an endless supply of rebuttals to the idea that a place could be more dense than it really is. They’re almost entirely provably false, but that’s not the point: they come from people who don’t like the implication, and they’ll grasp at any straw they can find.


Or more perniciously, to stoke up anti-immigrant sentiments.


Ah yea thanks, didn’t know population for either of top of my head.


As someone living here: this place is one of the least dense cities I have ever lived in.

It’s insane how low density it is for a major city.

It’s only high density in comparison to the usual CA sprawl.


How so? There are huge parts even of SF proper that have extremely low density. Just look at the vast area that's the avenues. Is there even anything at all with more than four stories? What keeps us from theoretically filling that space in with 80 floor skyscrapers if demand is that high?


The Bay Area is bigger than most people think. For example, Sonoma county is technically part of the Bay Area, even though it doesn't even touch the bay.


I'm not sure the evidence suggests that building a lot of high-density housing will reduce rents.

Compare New York (very high density, very expensive) to Tucson (low density, very cheap).

Building more housing may just induce demand: more people will decide to move to SF but rents will remain the same.


NYC’s demand for housing is more than an order of magnitude greater than Tucson. If you want to argue that increasing supply doesn’t matter, you need to compare two examples with similar demand.


That is exactly my point. I don't see why we should expect San Francisco to turn out differently from New York. Building more housing will allow more people to move there, which will drive growth, which will in turn attract even more people...


We could debate how this works, but since neither of us is an economist, that would be as silly as a couple of non-scientists arguing about climate change -- when the overwhelming majority of scientists are all saying the same thing, just listen to the scientists.

In this case, an overwhelming majority of economists are saying that increasing the supply of housing in our cities would bring prices down.

SF's Chief Economist: http://www.sfhac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Ted-Egan-Pre...

California's legislative analyst's office: http://www.lao.ca.gov/reports/2015/finance/housing-costs/hou...

The Obama White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images...

Even if they're all wrong, and we increase the supply of housing by 100,000 units and prices stay the same, that's 100,000 fewer families that get displaced.


The first link was a delight to read!

It does mention that it has a strong elasticity for demand. Particularly higher for medium+ income. Since its very hard to measure future elasticity of demand (i.e. SF now known to be expensive, if housing was built agressively and it became "famously cheaper" demand could be even higher) its possible that prices wouldnt go down much.

The correct answer to the OP's concerns is that the goal is not to lower rents, but to increase the total utility: you do that by providing more and better housing. New buildings at same rate for the same amount of people is still better. And naturally, same rate and more people is also better.

There's no doubt that San Francisco needs a massive shock to the supply curve.


Don't put science up on a pedestal. That's the magic: There is no priesthood. Anybody can do (and talk about, argue about) science.


Bizarre.


> Building more housing will allow more people to move there

I live in New York. Nobody moves here because they want to live in a nice building that happens to be in New York. They move to New York and then find housing. Demand is largely unaffected by new supply in large cities. Also, I live in the Flatiron neighbourhood. A bunch of new development has held my rent flat for 3 years now. My building tried raising rents; I met a potential tenant looking at a unit on my floor. She went to the new luxury building down the street for his $50 more. My building, facing the new competition, dropped their ask by $100.


The people are attracted by the jobs which are attracted by the massive amount of commercial real estate compared to the much smaller amount of residential real estate.


Surprised you are being downvoted, you are absolutely right. "Housing" supply is kind of a joke, because what we're really talking about is land, which is fixed in supply. And not just any land, but prime land that is near jobs and infrastructure.

You can build as much housing as you want, in the middle of nowhere, and it will be useless.

What is needed is housing in prime areas, but those areas are held as speculative investments, because it is cheaper and safer to just wait for the price to rise than to take on the risk and cost of actually doing something with the land. Or maybe they only do some trivial use, like a surface level parking lot, in an area suited for skyscrapers.

Every vacant lot or abandoned building is owned by someone. The trick is to make it too expensive to idly hold. At that point, the artificially high demand for land as a speculative holding will go away, and prices will decline.

But, rent itself will always approximate the value of the location, and if the location keeps getting more valuable, the prices will keep going up. The question is whether they are high because of real production or artificial speculation.


Classic case of over-regulation. "Let's solve it with more regulation!" I'm a millennial, and I apologize for my generation's stupidity.


> Classic case of over-regulation. "Let's solve it with more regulation!"

I find this to be a fairly feeble argument. Regulation, to me, is a necessary evil. Most especially when it comes to protecting the common good, or interests of those who do not have other forms of power to get a seat at the table. I’m also a millennial and I’d be just thrilled if you’d hold off on apologizing on my behalf. Regulation is not some bogeyman. It can be effective or ineffective in relation to particular goals.


I know regulation is necessary and I know it's not a bogeyman. That's why I addressed this specific problem and this specific proposed solution.

Less housing available in SF because of too much regulation. That's why the market is not able to satisfy demand. The correct solution is not "more rules" and "government-built housing". This is a typical case of trying to solve an issue caused by over-regulation with more regulation.

So will you address my point or just pick up some other strawman again?


My point is that “too much regulation” is an insufficient criticism. It means nothing, except that it suggests you think regulation itself is the problem. If you do indeed believe regulation is necessary, then we both accept that. It then becomes about what kind of regulation best addresses the complicated problem of housing in high-demand cities. I’d address your point but I don’t know what it is, beyond what I’ve already said.


The YIMBYs have been trying to reduce regulation for a long time at the local government level. Unfortunately entrenched players don’t want to build more housing.

In response the YIMBYs have taken it to the State level to enact a regulation which effectively reduces local power (and regulation) over housing.


Yimby solutions are almost always based on less regulations, or just changing the parameters of the regulations we already have. Usually, there is a bullshit terribly regulated onerous way to build housing, where you can follow the rules, and then get deined at the end by a random decision. YIMBYs want to take the baby step of not allowing the random reckoning at the end of the process at which a project can be randomly denied.


They want to do this by overruling the authority of local government which is fundamentally wrong in a democracy. They also want the government to build housing. Another classic blunder committed by people who do not understand history, politics or economics.

Both are examples of over-regulation, and government overreach.


The comes across sounding like a "The Civil War was a conflict over States Rights" argument.

This is one of those cases where the entrenched local interests have no intention of ever solving a blatant and growing problem (sometimes referred to as: "Got Mine, Fuck You") and it is in the State's interest to force a little sanity at the local level.


Huh? Several of the legislative initiatives (at the state level) have restricted what cities can do regulation-wise. That's a decrease in regulation, not an increase.

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