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Mountain View approves 10,000 homes by Google's North Bayshore project (2017) (bizjournals.com)
235 points by luu on Feb 21, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 203 comments

Parking would be less of a deal if they built mixed developments, which are more desirable anyway. It’s quite nice being able to walk out of your house and drop right into a coffee shop, bar, or restaurant. Walking to work or school is amazing too.

People here seem to be so afraid that their neighborhoods will begin to look more like Dubai or Hong Kong. But clearly what we’re doing now isn’t sustainable, nor is it even that pleasant. Much of SV looks like it did in the 1970s, and you have to sit in a half hour plus of traffic if you want to do anything. I think we would be in pretty good shape if maybe we didn’t go to the extremes, but took a housing model more like Paris, London, or Amsterdam. We can limit heights, but still build dense and create a place people really want to live in.

Honestly, after visiting the bay area, this is among my top reasons for not wanting to move there. It is so beautiful, and yet.. for someone coming from a city lifestyle, it just doesn't seem.. livable. At all.

I got lost walking to my meeting from the train station in Mountain View, and people didn't even know how to give me walking directions to where I needed to go. It was crazy. It wasn't that far by a straight line on the map, so I figured whatever I'll skip the taxi, but I had no idea what I was getting into. I finally had to ask a bunch of cyclists and it turned out I had to walk about a kilometer along a raised highway to get to the bridge and then cross several insane intersections.

At lunch I was driven to a burger place a couple of km away.

Ok. I get it. You need a car to live there. That just doesn't sound nice to me, frankly, and I don't know if I could convert to that way of living.

Mountain View proper has a pretty nice downtown area but it sounds as if you were trying to traverse 101 from the Caltrain station to Shoreline Drive or something like that. Yeah, that's not going to work very well. 101 is an extremely busy multi-lane highway.

But, yeah, in general Silicon Valley is pretty much a sprawl. There are some nice small downtowns scattered around but you mostly need a car to get from place to place and most big companies are on their own disconnected campuses and others are scattered around industrial parks.

A lot of those barriers are there for a reason. In the 90s East Palo Alto had the highest per capita murder rate in the country. Meanwhile, just across the 101, Palo Alto was the land of million dollar homes. Like the cold war, the suburbanites chose the containment strategy.

The more I dig into this, the less I realize I know.

I asked, "did the slums exist before the highways and freeways that divide them from the wealthy whites?" The best I've come up with is "Sort of."

Apparently, in the 50's and 60s, city officials throughout the US thought of urban freeways as "a good opportunity to get rid of the local 'niggertown.'"[1] But that attempt at clearing the local slums ended up further disrupting and distressing them, deepening the problem.

[1] Google Books: Downtown, Inc: How America Rebuilds Cities https://goo.gl/mdgYXE

The Guardian published a good story on this just today: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/21/roads-nowhere...

I appreciate the mention of West Oakland. I walked past Esther's Orbit Room on my way to work today. A derelict jazz club, a holdover from the time when West Oakland was flush with money and culture brought from all over by the people who worked the railways.

That was before the Cypress freeway tore West Oakland in two, or 980 sheared it away from downtown Oakland, or the trans-bay BART tracks, or before the USPS distribution center was built. The last, for those not familiar, is a 6 story concrete windowless menace that I've started calling the "Ministry of Truth."

Slums exist because the privileged spent a century paving over neighborhoods filled with people that they wished would just stop existing.

> did the slums exist before the highways and freeways that divide them from the wealthy whites?

You mean Oakland and Vallejo? Yeah that stuff has been there before the start of SV. See MC Hammer and Too Short for references to past gang activity in Oakland.

...you think MC Hammer predates SV? We started out as the site where transistors were made. That is also why the ground is so horrendously toxic. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Semiconductor

Those references are not before the highways and freeways mentioned upthread, and also do not predate Silicon Valley. (Too Short and MC Hammer were in elementary school when Silicon Valley was first recognized as a thing.)

Although aspects of this sort of separation go much further back. Being from "the wrong side of the tracks" is an expression that probably dates to the 19th century. (Of course, that was less of an actual physical barrier.)

In the case of East Palo Alto, the disparity can be traced back to at least the prohibition era (1919). EPA was the openly "wet" town during prohibition (after the now forgotten city of Mayview's speakeasies were shutdown), and I speculate the behavioral norm to overlook laws, no matter how misguided, fostered an environment where other undesirable business ventures thrived.

Another way to view it would be that speakeasies thrived where the police didn't bother (or accepted discouragement) to go. Police resources are financial and political, and often stretched thin over poor or minority neighborhoods. So it is strange to divorce something and call it just "norms" when such strong economic forces are in play.

It really depends on where you decide to live. California in general was designed around people getting everywhere by cars. Especially the Bay Area, which is basically suburbs which suddenly became the Tech Center of the world. Like others have mentioned the downtown areas are pretty walkable: I visited a friend in Mountain View and there were so many bars/restaurants downtown, there was always something to do once you parked and started walking (granted, there weren't quality nightclubs, but that might just reflect the demographic of the city). And the train station is nearby too.

For what it's worth, Southern California is far less walkable than the bay area is. Much of Southern California (San Fernando Valley, Orange County, South LA, ect.) doesn't even have downtowns like you see in bay area communities, just long streets with buildings that have huge setbacks for parking.

At least in the bay area the places where there are shops aren't hostile to pedestrians (although if I recall you do see more of this as you move down the peninsula into San Jose).

What about Gas Lamp in San Diego? Downtown Santa Barbara? Tons of Southern California communities have walkable downtowns...more than I can list...Montrose, Fullerton, Redondo, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Sierra Madre. Honestly, you could do a year of day trips just visiting them all. Way more than I can list here.

I’ve lived up and down the peninsula and haven’t relied on a car in 10 years. Thanks to a mix of choosing strategic locations, biking, BART, Caltrain, Lyft, Zipcar / Getaround, and friends with cars. Anecdotal, I know, but just chiming in to say it’s definitely possible.

It's possible everywhere. The last two places I lived in St. Louis had Walk Scores in the 90s. If you prioritize it, you can get it. (But obviously some places have a lot more of it than others.)

Not everywhere. I live a whopping 30 minutes from the city line and no uber, no bus, no train, etc. There is a local who will drive you to the airport, and thats it. You overgeneralizing city centric viewpoint is not applicable to MOST of the world. We still need cars, and gas ones at that. Hell, I am one of the few with ACCESS to "high speed" (1.2mb) internet. I am on a major highway, not some obscure hole either.

By "everywhere" I meant "in at least one neighborhood in every major U.S. metro." I did not say (or mean to say) that it's possible anywhere in every U.S. metro, just that it's possible somewhere in every U.S. metro.

(I mentioned my experiences with high Walk Scores in St. Louis to imply that they are anomalous in the St. Louis metro, but that dense, walkable neighborhoods exist even in such car-centric MSAs.)

On my first trip to Hong Kong (decades ago, as a teenager) I remember my family stayed in a hotel with a shopping centre on the lower levels. You took an elevator down from your room that literally opened out into a supermarket, food court, department store, etc. I remember thinking it was awesome. Add other facilities within enjoyable walking distance and you're laughing, for those keen to live with that density.

I don’t see why people think HK is a bad model, sure Kowloon walled City was bad, but modern HK is quite nice.

I also got the impression that Dubai wasn’t very walkable, but I’ve never been there.

I've travelled all over the world and lived in LA for 22 years. Dubai is the least walkable city I've ever seen by a wide margin. It would hold that title even if the weather did not already make it feel like hell on earth.

The weather makes it impossible to have the city walkable and enjoyable. If you want to see another city less walkable than Dubai, it is Qatar. There isn't even public transportation there (though a metro line is in the works).

Bahrain is the same.

I was stuck there for a few days for a job and wanted to do literally anything other than sitting in the hotel. There was literally nothing within a 30 minute walk (in brutal heat) so a taxi was required, but I didn't have any local currency, so I asked the hotel concierge where the closest ATM is. I then had to walk 30 minutes, just to find a broken ATM inside of a little structure with a broken A/C. At that point, I realized if I walked another 30 minutes, I would be at the mall. 2 of the 3 ATMs at the mall didn't work. After 20 minutes of realizing the mall was full of Gucci and other designer shops which I had no interest in, I took a taxi 15 minutes to the next nearest mall. Again, nothing but designer shops. Taking another taxi to visit yet another (unfinished) mall, which was worse than the last two, not to mention only 1/3rd of the shops were even open, but according to multiple people and the taxi driver, it was the "hot spot to go". The taxi driver refused to park inside because the line of cars was hundreds long and would have taken ~30 minutes. I ended up walking 15 minutes from the highway to the mall.

I dunno, Vegas and Montreal have pretty crappy weather and they are 10 times more walkable than Dubai.

Vegas? Most of it is sprawl and the Strip (where few people live) is enormous hotels that are actually pretty spread out.

I agree the Montreal core is fairly walkable. Cold is generally easier to deal with than heat. There's also a large connected Underground that people use when the weather is bad.

Vegas has wide pedestrian boulevards, escalators for elevated pedestrian crossings, throughways inside casinos, and even a pair of monorails. The Strip is mostly linear and there aren't long stretches with nothing there - food, lodging, entertainment, and (of course) gambling are never more than a few dozen feet away at any point.

But I have to say, Rochester, MN - the Mayo Clinic - has to be one of the more extraordinarily walkable places I've ever been: the whole city is not only interconnected underground between apartments, parking structures, and offices but there are plentiful underground facilities as well. It amazed me to have streets so empty when I first showed up: I had no idea where everyone was! The answer is: why on earth would you go outside? :)

But it's pretty much just tourist stuff: casinos, a mixture of crappy and mostly high-end restaurants, souvenir shops, bars. I'm not sure I can think of having seen a grocery store outside of rundown convenience stores. And the transit is fragmented because most of it only runs between hotels with the same owner.

So the Strip is walkable but mostly in the same sense that a big shopping mall with tower or two of apartments is walkable.

Toronto also has extensive interconnected underground walking space. Even though the weather isn't terrible it is often bad enough that you don't want to walk outside. You can still go many places downtown on foot without being exposed to the element. Walkable doesn't necessarily require good weather year-round although that makes it easier and certainly more pleasant.

Vegas isn’t really that bad compared to Phoenix, but especially compared to anything in the Emirates. It can get hot, but not incredibly so.

To be fair, for Rochester that's an exceedingly small city core zone of a few square blocks that is interconnected like that. You're driving from where you live to that zone for 99% of the people working there.

The rest of the city is basically giant soulless suburb. I've had friends who have lived there for close to a decade now.

Though interconnection isn't common there are a number of older small cities in the Northeast with walkable, revitalized downtowns. I worked in downtown Nashua NH for a number of years and there were plenty of little restaurants, places you could run various errands, and so forth.

But the nice area was really only a handful of blocks in each direction. And beyond that you are in mostly rundown post-industrial mill town and beyond that it is very spread out.

The monorail(s) might be more useful if they were accessibly priced and not so far from the strip. At least walking through the casinos is a fairly interesting and air-conditioned experience.

Maybe it's the weather conditions what produces a city like that. I live in a city that reaches 110F every summer, and walking is something I avoid as much as I can with that heat. (And I love walking)

Dubai is a horrible place to be a pedestrian, at least the areas I briefly visited. Everything is at a huge scale so the distances are extreme, and obviously the climate doesn't help at all.

I wonder if anyone has ever built a city, or significant part of a city, with either a purely subterranean transport layer, or all pedestrian layers a storey above? (Obviously I'm talking beyond a subway system.)

In Montreal, we have the largest underground complex called "The Underground City". It's a series of tunnels of a total of 32 km that allow going almost everywhere downtown (add to that the subway and soon the electric train, we could say almost everywhere in the city) without going outside.

Canadian cities (sans Vancouver) seem to have a lot of pedestrian tunnels (often doubling as downtown malls). In HK you can get pretty far underground as a pedestrian in some parts (you can basically walk between subway stations in an underground labyrinth to avoid rain).

Also, Minneapolis has a nice skyway network. Then there is La Defense in Paris where the pedistrian level is above street level.

Yeah Toronto has the PATH system and you can get around much of the downtown core that way (though I prefer not to...). Toronto itself is really quite walkable for hours in most directions if you live downtown. However to get to anything in further reaches of the city—Scarborough, Etobicoke, or Vaughn—it's far better to have a car. Living downtown and visiting the zoo on transit is a long stretch ;)

Calgary also has a skyway network (called the Plus-15 http://plus15.com/). Living there one winter was odd to me after Toronto—you'd never see anybody on the streets. And downtown Calgary is reasonably quiet on a normal, nice day. That said that town is also quite walkable—though it's best parts are relegated to certain parts of the city that are separated by less interesting areas.

Victoria, BC is one of my favourite walkable places so far. I also really enjoyed my time in Montreal, but I'm a little conditioned to the cold.

> a storey above?

To seanmcdirmid's point:


It has become a lot more pedestrian friendly compared to 15 years ago my first visit and 1 year ago my last visit. But the problem of afternoon heat cant be solved.

It takes time to build up a high density culture. Thicker skin, a bit more aloofness, etc.. many run counter to what is considered "good" in sparser area.

I've seen people run to strangers aid in the biggest cities on earth. Perhaps "aloofness" is just more acceptable to some.

In my experience in London, the people living in the centre are not aloof, but it's the commuters who switch off their brains on the train or in the car and forget to switch it back on when they're in town. But that's an extremely broad brush, so don't take the categorization to heart.

In DC the natives are plenty friendly. It’s the suburban transplants who moved here from elsewhere who tend to be wrapped up in themselves.

I found this wasn't universal. Grew up in relatively unfriendly (especially for a Canadian city) Toronto and then moved to Chicago, found people were much more outgoing and friendly in the midwest, even in the city. In the bay area now and it seems like spending too much time driving with other angry drivers (from themselves spending too much time driving) makes everyone irritable.

Just have been to HK at Admiralty/Center. And the stairs up and down to get anywhere over the streets is super annoying. Especially at night. But surprisingly not much traffic, and lots of buses and trams. But maybe that was due to new year.

That's because you have been conditioned to look for the streets. The midlevel is amazing and protect you from the heat/rain plus makes your walk less of a pain (no need to cross roads).

Ha. Yes. That is very true. I take back the 'super annoying'. But still i have to go up and down, its not connected, so its still annoying. Beat that.

One of the things I miss most about HK, having grown up there, is just how far you can get in a (roughly) straight line without touching the ground. There were parts where you could go for 10-15 minutes at a stretch, and that was ~25 years ago. I can only imagine that's grown since.

This. I grew up in Los Gatos, but now live in London. Virtually anywhere in the city there are decent shops within a 5-10 minute walk; this fact alone makes London vastly more liveable than 95% of Silicon Valley. This is only viable with mixed-use zoning and a certain minimum density. This in turn makes public transport more viable, further increasing the quality of life. Done right -- and it really isn't that hard to do it right -- high-density mixed-use development produces a very virtuous feedback loop.

Major European cities have had centuries to develop, and were built in large part before automobiles existed, which necessitated density and walkability. Silicon Valley, by contrast, was largely agricultural or undeveloped even 50-60 years ago, and development of suburban housing represented a significant increase in density (and automobile transportation was cheap and fast then, so relatively low density housing made sense).

Now, we are left with the problem that the suburbs aren't going anywhere for the most part, due to lack of political will, and lack of a reasonable market-based solution -- single family homes are often in the $1-1.5 million range for ~1/8 acre lots in less desirable areas, and redeveloping even a relatively small subdivision would be extremely expensive, even if you could get everyone to sell (they wouldn't), and get permission from the city. Redevelopment is limited right now to the commercial corridors, such as El Camino Blvd, and existing commercial/industrial/business districts, all of which are undergoing pretty heavy redevelopment in much of Santa Clara County. Transportation infrastructure including both public transportation and public roads are also undergoing multi-billion dollar improvements, though some of the work may take a decade or more to complete.

source: I have lived in the Silicon Valley area for over 30 years -- its changing faster now than at any point I can remember.

This has been causing me more and more despair the more I think about it. I feel like the US had one chance to decide how most of it's cities were, fundamentally, going to be, and that chance ended about 50 years ago. The choice made was "design everything around cars". This now looks like a disaster on a near cosmic scale. Even worse, it's almost impossible to reverse.

That is exactly why urban planning needs to be from the top down, at least for high level activities. Arranging for an entire area to be re-developed at once is a top down planning activity.

Conversely, the precise details of what goes in to an area should be 'bottom up', but within zoning policies similar to how Japan does it.



Top down is how were got where we are. Even now most zoning single use.

Support Scott Wiener's SB827, which will require zoning restrictions to be relaxed around California metro public transit stations. Currently many BART and other subway stations in California are in neighborhoods where you can't build anything other than single family, 2 story houses.

Lots of our streetcar suburbs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streetcar_suburb) are walkable and low density. A key aspect of auto-dependence/sprawl is separation of uses (think big box commercial w/large parking lots vs numerous small commercial spaces throughout neighborhood). More central areas of Portland, OR are good examples (eg: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ladd's+Addition,+Portland,...).

Grass is always greener on the other side.

Having lived and grown up in ultra-dense urban cities like Hongkong, Singapore and Tokyo, I very much prefer somewhere with a little more breathing space. Though not to the extent of American suburbs. The European cities are probably a good balance.

HK and Singapore I get, but I didn’t find most parts of Tokyo to be very dense at all. More continuous low and mid-rise density (but not high rise density) levels like Europe.

If you want breathing space get out to real space. I own 8 acres in the middle of nowhere. Suburbs don't give you enough space to enjoy the rural lifestyle, but you are spread out too much to enjoy the advantages of living in the city.

Of course there are not that many affordable lots with land near any jobs.

I roll my eyes at a lot of the urban infatuation but I mostly agree. I've always felt that conventional suburbs brought together the worst of urban environments (you're in fairly close proximity with others) with the worst of rural living (you have to drive everywhere). I live in an exurb on a fair bit of land. If I were to live somewhere different it would probably be in a city or at least a town center of some sort.

Although nearly all of the new building in some parts has been mixed use. Sunnyvale has nearly completed replacing the old mall and town and country commercial shops with mixed apartments and commercial. Ever since Santana Row in San Jose turned out to be a huge success it seems one of the few types of development that gets approved.

It will be interesting to see where it all leads. I applaud Mt. View's willingness to add 10K homes. its about a tenth of what is needed but it is a great start.

Probably not a tenth. MTV's population in 2013 was around 77k. Adding 100k homes would get the city to s standstill. As much as I want more housing here so I can buy something myself, the infrastructure is nowhere close to handle that right now.

If I understand your comment you are equating more houses to more traffic. (the 'standstill' point).

If that is the case, you may find, as I have, some interesting systemic properties in the various studies of Bay Area traffic. The part that really struck me is that traffic is more closely related to people living 'outside' a town or region than people living 'inside' a region. The analysis postulates a model like this:

Lets say you have a single large employer in a city, and no housing. Then every person who goes to work comes from somewhere else to get to the employer, then leaves to go back to where they live. This pattern was exacerbated in the 60's when new cities were all work and the communities around them were 'bedroom' communities. That leads to arterials to the city that get massively clogged during rush hour (and greatly reduced night life / commerce because no one lives there).

Now consider the opposite extreme, you have a large employer or industry and everyone who works there lives in the same town. Now you get short rush hours because people near to the employer can get there easily by walking or biking, people further away can drive but the drive is short. Additionally because there aren't any employees coming in from out of town there is no traffic on the roads between the town and other towns that is commute related.

I am not saying that any place is at either extreme, but in the Silicon Valley area (aka the 'south bay') it is believed that an imbalance exists between available housing and jobs, and further that the imbalance contributes to congestion on the freeways and arterials throughout the various cities. Many of the cities are building additional housing and doing it near transit so that it maximizes the choices the residents have for how they want to travel. There are however some cities that are not so convinced, Cupertino comes to mind, which continues to add office space without adding housing. This is forcing more people to drive through Cupertino to get to work.

Mountain View has done a decent job on the streets near me on San Antonio with a lot of three-four story apartments/retail going up versus say Palo Alto or Los Altos right next door. The mall going under around the same time helped of course.

Personally I can't imagine a more ideal living situation than taking an elevator down in to a grocery store. Easy access to two completely different styles of grocery stores a block or two from my home has been amazing.

There are pros and cons of each model. You probably won't see the cons until you experience it yourself for a few years.

Somewhere in the middle of South Bay Suburbs and taking an elevator to grocery store would be ideal. Somewhat like European cities.

>There are pros and cons of each model. You probably won't see the cons until you experience it yourself for a few years.

I'm curious what you feel the cons are. I've lived in essentially this format now in two cities in two different continents, for a while overall, and I haven't really noticed downsides, except that sometimes I would need to cross the street to go to a different "grocery store" because the one I lived above didn't stock something, luckily the bodegas/farmers markets/produce stands nearby did.

>I'm curious what you feel the cons are.

All the cons about living in an apartment/condo vs a single family home (which all basically boil down to a reduction in one's personal freedom on/in their own home).

> All the cons about living in an apartment/condo vs a single family home (which all basically boil down to a reduction in one's personal freedom on/in their own home).

I personally grew up in a spacious single family home, but love my current life in an apartment. I don't feel it restricts my personal freedom at all, plus I get the perks of living in a vibrant area.

Ah, I thought you meant something specific about living in an apartment/condo in an urban area with things in walking distance, vs. rural/suburban. I consider those somewhat orthogonal, but I see your point.

Some of the recent developments in Bangalore are heading in this direction. Mixed use is absolutely one of the better approaches to provide a good lifestyle to people. The sad drawback is that you get isolated and will lose the belongingness to the city as a whole. This is not a big deal in the short term, but in the long term, a set of isolated societies isn't that harmonious for the society.

By isolated I don't mean walled, but a natural preference to just be within your conclave.

What might rather work is super fast door to door transit, which in the present is quite unrealistic. Congestion creeps in pretty fast.

What I find worst about modern city life is not having a relationship with my neighbors. I'd much prefer a neighborhood where everything I want is within a 5-minute walk.

Being in a modern city doesn't prevent you from having relationships with your neighbours. We live in a dense mixed-used neighbourhood in Berlin, in a 4 stories apartment building and have good contact with most of our neighbours.

The key is mixed-use. If you're in a large block of apartment buildings, people go elsewhere for everyday things, only coming back to the neighborhood when they want to be alone.

"What I find worst about modern city life is not having a relationship with my neighbors"

To each its own I guess. I used to live in a small town where everybody knew everybody and absolutely hated it. Now I live in a city where I don't know even my closest neighbors, there's no pressure to interact with them and I love it this way. Though it's a personal choice, I see some neighbors socializing in a yard all the time, looking after each others' kids etc.

Outside of the downtown areas, a lot of Dubai is like this too (low rise developments). From one side of the city to the other is more than 60km / 40 miles, so there is a lot of urban sprawl.

IMO Dubai is a pretty poor example of what cities should aim for, as you can’t get to a lot of places without a car. Public transport is good to the main tourist areas of the city, but if you want to go somewhere slightly further afield you need to walk (good luck doing that in the summer) or take a taxi.

If by mixed do you just mean residential over retail?

Is the Bay Area actually opposed to that?

Not sure about Mountain View but I've seen a bunch of new complexes in San Jose and Santa Clara with the residential over retail construction.

yes, it's opposed but it's not usually for that reason, more often has to do with height or traffic. two recent examples:

- adjacent to Millbrae BART/Caltrain https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/millbrae-station-p...

- adjacent to Hayward Park Caltrain in San Mateo https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/major-mixed-use-ho...

Financing development is a big constraint - loans that conform to existing types can be resold. This is why strip malls, industrial parks, malls, and housing developments look the same all over America. If a developer wants to build a multistory, mixed use development, they have to negotiate exceptional financing as well as zoning variances. Even if a city greatly loosened single use zoning, it would still probably be slow and expensive to redevelop.

I'd be worried you'd never fill the retail on the ground level. The small neighborhoods that have the retail/residential buildings have a ton of vacancies even now due to high rents.

The "Two Worlds" development on El Camino in Mountain View, which is residential over ground-floor retail, is at least 30 years old.

It is difficult to find developers that are experienced with building housing in the bay area, and experienced with building mixed use housing, and the location is suitable for mixed use.

Its a little bit of hyperbole to say it still looks like the 70s when there used to still be a lot of orchards back then. They never could have anticipated this growth

>They never could have anticipated this growth

That's silly. San Francisco isn't the first city to boom. Detroit added more than a million people between 1910 and 1930. Brooklyn added a half a million people per decade in the early 1900s.

And neither of those cities look like Midtown Manhattan or Tokyo or whatever else SF residents seem to imagine is required to support fast growth.

They did it by building vast areas of multi-story mid-density mixed-use developments. There is zero mystery here, both about what was clearly starting to happen in the SFBA 30 years ago and what should have been done about it.

In less than 50 years, Chicago went from a town of fewer than 5000 to the second largest city in America, with well over 1 million residents, yet during that period: a) Skyscrapers didn't exist until the end of the period b) Mass transit as we know it didn't exist until the end of the period c) Half the city burned down in a single fire, leaving more than 100,000 people homeless

My grandfather told me that his commute from Santa Clara to Lockheed in Sunnyvale involved mostly driving past orchards all through the 1960s and into the 1970s. He left the area in the 1980s, saying that traffic and livability had become too much of a problem. It's been decades of intentionally not addressing the problems - nobody can reasonably claim to not have known or anticipated.

>Nobody can reasonably claim to not have known or anticipated.

Suggesting that people could have predicted the dot-com boom of the 90s or the tech/startup driven boom of the past 15 years (and that it would be so heavily focused in the Bay Area) seems a little far fetched. It might seem obvious now that it has already happened, but in the 60s and 70s I don't see how you could have known (the industries driving development then were Defence and Manufacturing, both nearly nonexistent now). Plenty of areas in the US were increasing in density and economic development during that time, only one of them became Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley was admittedly relatively pricey even by the late eighties. I turned down at least one job in that timeframe because of the CoL difference and I lived in Massachusetts which wasn't extraordinarily cheap.

But there certainly have been rapid changes, especially in some currently popular cities. For example, I believe Boton was still losing population in the 1990s and, at one point, when Teradyne moved out that was pretty much the last tech company in the city (including Cambridge) leaving. There may have been some early biotech but pretty much none of the Route 128 computer companies were in the city.

New York City was also in pretty dire straights in the latter part of the eighties.

Mimic cities like Boston or Vancouver that grew along mass transit lines: commercial frontage (with apartments or small office space them) on major avenues that feature dedicated mass transit (either dedicated bus lanes or light rail), and then radiate out apartments and homes a few blocks. The mass transit can take you into a city core, but still be within a walking distance of various types of housing.

Masdar City, also in UAE, aims to be environmental and walkable.


Robert Llewellyn's profile is optimistic, but gives the basic vision and much technical basis.


I disagree. People want to be here despite the cost of living, the crowding and transit. Mixed use is a scam. Nobody that works in the shops at Santana Row can even approach having the income to live there. The whole justification for these strip malls with million dollar apartments above them is s farce. And it’s the only plan some local cities have for accommodating future growth (which the citizens don’t want in the first place.)

You're contradicting yourself several times here. People want to live in SV despite all the downsides you've mentioned, which drives housing prices to such an insane level that local workers can't afford to live there, so the cities plan for more growth by building more density and more mixed-use neighborhoods to increase housing density.

All of the above is true, which you've mentioned. You then say that citizens don't want higher density living, but if citizens want more affordable housing in a housing crunch, the way to do that is to increase density. And if you want shorter commute times, the way to do that is to increase density. And if you want workers to be able to afford housing, the way to do that is to push higher income citizens into more expensive housing, freeing up the more affordable housing for those who actually need it.

You can't complain about the cost of living and then refuse to increase density. Keeping density and new construction low during a housing crunch is how you get insane housing prices.

You picked a luxury shopping street as your example. I live in an apartment complex which also has trader joes and starbucks and a few other restaurants. I walk to those places every now and then. Now imagine scaling this up a bit more.

Every time they mass-build housing, the results are horrible. The quality of the homes is always "transitional". In Europe or even New York, you can rent flats which are large enough for a family and constructed to give you a sense of privacy, even with density. Floors and ceilings and walls are solid enough you barely notice you're sharing the building. Shops are always close by, as well as public transport and schools. California high-occupancy buildings are always in the middle of nowhere, made on the cheap, meant to last years - not decades - and aimed at single 20 somethings without any thought to the long term or general community. If you can't buy a bottle of milk and some bread without getting into a car, you're doing it wrong.

I grew up in and around Boston, where three family homes and corner groceries were the norm, schools were in the neighborhood and the T could get you just about anywhere. I remember seeing Karate Kid when I was young and boggled at the apartment he lived in (with the empty pool and all the doors facing in like a motel) and couldn't imagine that was a real apartment building, but even 30 years later, they're still everywhere in California, and newer versions aren't much better. Apartments are for collecting poor people and built as such, and suburbia everywhere else.

> In Europe or even New York, you can rent flats which are large enough for a family and constructed to give you a sense of privacy, even with density

Not in Ireland. The last housing boom (late 90s/early 00s) gave us poor quality apartment blocks along with deficient building control regulations which in essence allowed developers to self-certify.

Which leads me to agree with your statements: "Every time they mass-build housing, the results are horrible" & "aimed at single 20 somethings without any thought to the long term or general community"

Made horrible as:

1) plenty of work so sub standard builders get away with it.

2) plenty of work so jobs are rushed

3) far left shouting for loads of (mainly free) housing to b e built right now.

4) plenty of work that any and all officials rush through decision making/inspection so that they don't have get chewed out of it.

Even with good facilities around and location being very walkable, nothing can compensate for not having a nice peaceful place to lay your head.

Not sure that's true about Europe, most mass-built housing globally suffers from the same issues.

I have to admit that when I say "Europe", I'm talking about Spain where I lived for 4 years, and a few other countries I've visited over the years. My son's family in Spain bought into the real estate boom and the flat they eventually got in a new highrise is actually great and just like I described. It's smallish by American standards, of course, but not insanely so. And you can't hear anyone else. It's a real home.

(Dec 13, 2017) -

This is a great start. But I think we really need more like 100,000 new units built. Just to help reverse some of the astronomical housing prices.

I have no idea how a teacher would be able to live in SV and plan to have a family and everything else. At this rate, the housing costs are unsustainable. We wont be able to have a functioning city with all the needed staffing like teachers, nurses, sellers, etc.

I'm rather disappointed by lack of vision from SV and SV companies in this regard.

Apple has enough money that they could buy a huge block of land across the hills in Santa Cruz county. Build a large housing community of 10,000+ and hire the boring company to dig tunnel connecting that community to their new campus. Probably using autonomous electric shuttles.

That kind of housing project probably lessens the salary demands and I would imagine the project could not only pay for itself in 5-10 years, but it could also help increase Apple's retention rate.

Unfortunately Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz have anti-housing factions similar to everywhere else in the Bay Area, and the pro-housing faction is in earlier stages of organization than in the Bay Area. Scotts Valley City Council actually had a member say in open meeting that they don't want "those type of people" living there, in reference to renters and presumably others without the means to buy a home. Santa Cruz is similarly non-inclusive, and both are extremely homogenous communities that tend to scare away the typical racial diversity seen in a tech company. Many people of color in tech I've met say they simply don't feel welcome here like they do in the Bay Area.

Santa Cruz also has a green belt. But instead of encouraging density and all the environmental benefits of density, the aging political crew that enacted it now prefer sprawl, since they have their single family single story homes that continue to appreciate at astronomical rates. (At least until the homes are bought as tear-downs and replaced with single-family two story homes that extend to all corners of the property to maximize square footage.)

But if anybody can change attitudes, it's probably Apple or Google.

why can't someone buy enough land and incorporate their own city?

I'm hoping there will be more land-reclamation projects from the Pacific or even inside the Bay itself.

Maybe that's Ellon's plan: use Tunnel Boring machines to make transport tunnels, and use the extracted earth to push back the coastline to make more habitable land!

No let's not wreck the marine environment. The coastal waters are a very sensitive ecosystem. People can live elsewhere.

> why can't someone buy enough land and incorporate their own city?

Because you can't just incorporate your own city because you own land. In California, you need to convince the Local Agency Formation Commission for the county you are in, and, if your land is in an existing city, also a supermajority of the residents both of the land you own and the existing city from which you are splitting.

you mean like how Disney made Disneyland?

you'd need quite a large amount.

I would stand up and oppose dense urban housing plopped down in the middle my suburban single-family home neighborhood, too. I guess that makes me an evil, dirty NIMBY, but oh well, I'll live with the label.

When your message is "dense urban is the only acceptable way to live" don't be surprised when people who don't want their neighborhoods to turn into apartment complexes push back.

Yikes, stop with straw men. Live however you want! Nobody istearing down your house. Nobody is making you move. And NOBODY is plopping down density in the middle of single family homes, or even proposing that.

But please just let me live the way I and many others want. Just stop interfering with mixed use buildings in the middle of commercially zoned areas. So you might drive by a commercial area that has housing on top of retail, in a commercially zoned areas. What skin off your back is that?

And yes, it really is one of those small evils to make up crap like this in order to deny others housing, or a chance at opportunity like previous generations had.

> And NOBODY is plopping down density in the middle of single family homes, or even proposing that.

There is a fair amount of rumbling about upzoning single-family lots to permit mid-rise apartment buildings, i.e. SB827.

Those are along transit corridors, so it would be along busy routes, not in the middle of single family homes.

Along rail and the very busiest bus routes is exactly where we need and want apartments that have 3-4 stories. It would make no sense to put them in the middle of single family housing because those are deserts unless you have a car, and most people that would appreciate density would love to be able to do most of their tasks without a car. That's the appeal of density.

And we shouldn't be building rail without such density, because otherwise the rail is going to underutilized. Similarly with bus routes; why send tons of buses along a route if there's no possibility to pick up lots of people?

SB827 is about fixing planning processes to allow such density where it works, and letting the sprawl stay sprawl.

Take a look at the map. Most of what’s covered is exclusively or predominantly single family housing today. In SF the houses are much closer to each other than in postwar suburbia, but all along our transit corridors, it’s mostly houses. The only neighborhoods this avoid are those which don’t even have bus service.

Upzoning is needed and transit is the right place to start, but we have to acknowledge that this would certainly have a massive effect on many single family neighborhoods.

I wouldn't say "many" single family neighborhoods, it's really only San Francisco, a city. Even where there are pockets of single family houses, it's not what people usually think of as "single family home neighborhoods." Dual-unit buildings are extremely common, especially in the avenues. And in the Avenues there are plenty of tall apartment buildings sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods, they just had to be built long ago because they are illegal to build today.

>And we shouldn't be building rail without such density, because otherwise the rail is going to underutilized. Similarly with bus routes; why send tons of buses along a route if there's no possibility to pick up lots of people?

Park and ride is a thing. That said you need whatever the "ride" is to be cost competitive for people to take advantage of that and that's a tall order given the quality of local government in many places.

Yeah, park and ride may make sense as gathering points from exurbs, but on the flip side, putting parking close to train stations also prevents putting housing close to it. The only place where I've seen park and ride work is for some places in New Jersey, where you commute to a Manhattan density area. Not sure if, for example, Millbrae BART is as well utilized as that.

And as you ride those NJ lines, you see how many more people are supported at stops that have housing instead of parking. Parking is >200sq ft. that could be used for living instead.

A lot of my feelings are about my personal experience though, and I wouldn't want to stop park and ride if it works for enough people to support a train stop. For me, driving, then parking, then traversing a long ugly parking lot is a significantly worse experience than living there and walking out.

>For me, driving, then parking, then traversing a long ugly parking lot is a significantly worse experience than living there and walking out.

This assumes that "there" isn't a terrible place to live and also affordable.

Your NJ example is exactly the use case I was thinking of. It makes sense when density is uniform and job distribution is not because it's effectively a spur or extension of the mass transit line.

I wish it were a straw man. Whenever one of these threads starts here, half the responses are "we need high rise condos, town homes, and dense urban units everywhere in the bay area!". If that's not the message intended to be sent, it's often the message received.

I don't care what you do to an already-urbanized area. Build housing on top of retail, knock yourself out. Pack another apartment high-rise next to the last one. Just please respect the desires of people who went out of their way to find one of the fewer and fewer affordable single family neighborhoods in the Bay Area to hang on to their lifestyle, too.

The places where people are proposing new development are almost always along existing transit corridors or adjacent to job centers, like El Camino Real or Caltrain.

Even those projects generate opposition. San Mateo just rejected a 10-unit, 35 foot condo building fronting El Camino Real, that had 26 parking spaces, because... it was "too tall."

Millbrae residents fiercely oppose 5 and 8 story buildings located... adjacent to the Caltrain and BART station we paid $400 million for two decades ago.

The original comment was about someone in Scotts Valley opposing urban development. Why does Scotts Valley need urban housing, when there are plenty of already-urban areas in the Bay Area that can continue to be built up? It makes much more sense to build up in front of El Camino Real or Caltrain.

I don't live in Scotts Valley, so don't have a horse in that race--I'm merely picturing myself in that person's shoes. Is it that surprising that someone who went out of their way to move somewhere far from an urban area, probably having to suffer a 2 hour commute because of it, would oppose nearby urban development?

No, read again, it wasn't "urban development" it was "renters." And that was truly the objection. It wasn't even a high density project.

This is the type of false exaggeration and straw men that is endemic to the discussion. And such straw men have to be made up, because otherwise there is no sensible objection to these projects. However the city council member wasn't being sensible, they were being bigoted. What was surprising was that they were open about the bigotry against those with less than <$300k/year incomes, usually there's at least a fig leaf of propriety.

Alright then, fine--I wrongly assumed you were talking about a development project since that's what the article was about. So he was objecting to renters moving into existing suburban housing. I'll concede that's not right.

What do you count as urban development? Would a duplex count as urban development? how about a 4-unit condo building? or a 10-unit building?

Reasons to build more densely there would include

- accounting for a growing population,

- senior citizens who want to live with their adult kids/walk to downtown

- increased property tax revenue from construction with a 2018 basis to offset budget deterioration under Prop 13

- an increased number of school students (pretty much every city on the Peninsula is slowly aging, and many are dealing with budget crises/school closures)

- provision of BMR housing (if you can build it) for city staff and other service employees, which is cheaper to build as part of a larger structure than as single family units.

It's subjective--I suppose I'd count as "urban" anything that would significantly increase already congested automobile traffic and/or significantly increase neighborhood population (noise). Duplexes? Probably not so much. Townhomes, apartments, multi-unit buildings? Absolutely.

What will significantly increase already congested automobile traffic is more suburbia, more doubling down on the idea that people must live equidistant from each other and drive everywhere.

The proposed bill I've seen people supporting - SB 827, by the SF state senator - defined "along existing transit corridors" so broadly that it covered the entirety of San Francisco and anywhere else with a vaguely functional bus service, and used state preemption of local laws to set a minimum height, remove parking minimums, and require local planners to allow dense mid-rise apartment buildings in the entire area. Its more keen proponents insist that it's absurd to call this radical in any way because it's obvious that dense buildings around transit hubs is the way to go.

I mean, if you want to live in a suburb, don't live in San Francisco?

SF isn't a real city but pretends to be. SB 827 will make it one.

>local laws to set a minimum height,

This may be a typo, but that's now what it does. It sets a minimum on the maximum height; people can still build below that.

Not just an evil, dirty NIMBY, but an ignorant, misinformed NIMBY. Nobody is suggesting that they are going to tear down the house next to yours and put in a high-rise condo.

Honestly, you live in the wrong place if you want to be in a cheap suburban, single-family home. There's just too much demand for housing, and something is going to give. The markets will drive housing density up, whether though building of multi-family units, or just having multiple families living in SF homes.

There are tons of American cities where the suburban dream can be maintained, but the Bay area is not one of them.

It does get hairy when people start throwing eminent domain into the mix.

It’s not the industries issue, it’s the NIMBYism that has been at the heart of the Bay Area for decades, especially the peninsula.

Despite the reputation of the Bay Area as a liberal and progressive region, the reality is that almost everyone who “makes it” here quickly changes their tune to “I got mine, now screw you.”

Given the San Andreas fault, I am not sure I want to be riding in a Santa Cruz mountain tunnel.

Why not instead just run high speed commuter rail to the Central Valley? A maglev or something?

Definitely far more immediately useful than that San Fran — Los Angeles boondoggle.

The problem is that most people making the decisions own one or more units. If they decided to build more housing, the value of their investments would decline.

I'm not sure this is true - the value of their land would skyrocket if rezoned for a more productive use.

Instead of selling one $6M mansion, they could sell a multi-unit building with $30M worth of condos though.

Heck, they could just build rail over the old South Pacific Coast railroad right of way. I've hiked it from Felton to the coast; it's gorgeous.

Georgian Land Tax.

Kill the asset appreciation, encourage density.

> I have no idea how a teacher would be able to live in SV and plan to have a family and everything else.

The math teacher at my high school in Santa Cruz was a retired electrical engineer with a Ph.D. from Stanford. There's no rule that says teachers need to make a living from teaching. It's known for being pleasant work.

Granted, the school hasn't pursued that strategy since then...

Teaching? Pleasant work? I've tried it and it's worse than the ops job I have now. Very stressful. Even teachers I know agree. You do get long vacations to compensate, but it's not all good.

Yes, many, many people enjoy working and generally interacting with the children. The vacations are a perk, but they're not even the primary perk.

Not sure where you get pleasant perk from - a lot of teachers I know are often working 12 hour days.

Every job we as a society want done should pay a living wage. Teaching children definitely is one of them.

Interestingly in Germany teachers often earn more than software developers. I wonder how some countries end up appreciating teaching so much higher?

To be noted though, it's a specific Master's degree that's required to be a fully qualified teacher.

If retirees prefer teaching to watching TV, and everyone is happy with their performance as teachers, they should be stopped from doing it because somebody else could have earned more doing the same work less satisfactorily?

10k is a drop in the bucket. We need blocks of high rises going up around all the Caltrain stops, and a corresponding increase in Caltrain capacity.

Please call your state Assemblymember and Senator about SB 827 and 828, which will allow this to happen. They are certain to be contentious bills. You can find them here: https://sankarravi.github.io/yimbyscorecard/

Caltrain capacity increase is on the way in 2-3 years thanks to electrification and a new fleet of trains.

Note that 828 is purely declarative ("It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would do all of the following"); only 827 would have immediate effect.

828 is still worth watching, to see who comes down on which side.

For what? To turn them into ghetto in 10 years? Examples are almost everywhere in the world.

BS ... Manhattan is dense and not a ghetto. Stop scare mongering. A lot of people are sick of paying 3-5K for single-two bedrooms in Mountain View. Just because you have had yours doesn't mean the rest of us don't deserve the opportunity to live in SV.

There are high rise "settlements" all over the former Eastern Bloc countries, and none of them have become ghettos. It's social inequality, lack of access to good health care, and education that lead to ghettos; not density and public transit.

Your points are sound, however you're simply wrong about Eastern Europe not having high rise ghettos.

Bucharest has several that are among the most dangerous urban areas on earth. And Romania is better off than some of the poorer Eastern European nations such as Moldova or Bulgaria.

From Eastern Europe. You are wrong about none of them being ghettos. Plenty of ghettos in Eastern Europe including high rises.

The center of Paris is an extremely dense urban area packed with over7-story appartment buildings.

I hope they also invest in roads and mass transit. A lot of residents in those 10K new homes will be working outside of North Bayshore. Heck, even if one is working at Google, it could be at any other myriad campuses across Sunnyvale / San Jose / Mt View. There would also be kids, who need to be transported to schools.

Without roads and transit improvements, North Bayshore can easily turn into a nightmare.

Building roads/auto-dependence will exacerbate said nightmare: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand

It's time for a serious change to building around transit, walking, and biking.

The peninsula isn't really walkable.

For it to become walkable, we would have to build buildings close together.

Agreed, but

>There would also be kids, who need to be transported to schools.

We should be building neighborhoods such that kids can walk to school. Even my single-family-home dominated 2.5 square mile "village" could manage that.

Yeah, 10k homes is more than enough to support a school of it's own. They shouldn't need to be bused anywhere until middle or high school.

10k apartments (20-30k residents?) is plenty enough for a high school too

  A lot of residents in those 10K new homes will be working outside of North Bayshore.
Yes. And they will all be jamming already-gridlocked Shoreline Blvd. and Amphitheatre Parkway, since US 101 separates them from the rest of civilization.

Having lived in the valley a couple times for months-long stints I never quite understood how the Valley doesn't get how cities should be built.

I live in Ljubljana (https://www.google.si/maps/place/Ljubljana/, ~300k), a capital of a tiny nation of Slovenia. I live in the city center and have in 5 minutes on foot radius (50m): multiple grocery stores, schools, kindergartens, parks, market, cafes, restaurants...

In the valley, it's impossible to live without a car. Just getting a freaking coffee usually includes a ride. ATM = ride, burger = ride, ... You guys spend hours in your car just to get the basics done. I actually didn't know what to do in Palo Alto until I got a rental.

And SF ain't any better. Sure there are parts of the city that are actually similar to what you would expect in a normal, livable European city, but most of it is not really. And you still need a car to move across town.

I find east coast much better - Boston is quite walkable and New York even more so.

Can anyone explain to me why do you have this shitty setup in the valley? Feels so random that it must be some kind-of wierd policy enforcement that caused this.

No mention of high density apartment blocks. I find the fascination with urban sprawl in California really unusual. Maybe I'm missing something but why not built up instead of out and focus on better transport etc?

Though there are many that agree with you, all it takes is a small minority to completely block development. And if it's not completely blocked, it can be delayed with enough changes of plans to significantly increase building costs.

Why cause such problems for others? There are some people, even in this thread, that view the existence of such options as threats against their way of life. See for example the quotes in this opinion column about a San Francisco project in its 26th (!) public meeting:


Those have to be condos, right? There isn't acreage for 10k single family homes in that area...

Ideally a mixture of medium and high rise condos and some higher density single family homes, duplexes and town/row houses would be great.

10k in that space has to be midrise condos throughout given that high rises will meet stern neighborhood resistance.

How do we know what kind of house is planned?

Or apartments

Isn't that the same type of building? I thought an "apartment" in the US was just a rented condo.

The type of housing is called "apartment", because it's a part of a larger building.

A condominium is an apartment that is owned by an individual, who then pays maintenance fees to the condominium association, who in turn manages the building.

If you own a condo, you may be allowed to rent it out to someone else.

A more common option for rental apartments is that a landlord of some sort (an individual, a corporation, etc) owns an entire building, and rents out all apartments.

The USA is weird, in most of the world you might buy an apartment, in the USA you would most certainly buy a condo instead. Except in NYC you might buy a coop.

Is the condominium not a part of a larger building?

Condominium is an economic relationship and can apply to apartments, detached houses, townhomes, etc.

Generally yes, but not always.. Sometimes they are just single family homes and can skirt distance requirements/setbacks.

Other times they are just side by side "duplex" that are self-managed...is you are responsible for everything and have to depend on your neighbor to have money in the bank when the roof eventually fails

Article is actually from December 2017.

60,000 per year - https://qz.com/1189388/conservative-californians-are-moving-...

The bad part about that is that if the valley already seems like an extreme mono-culture a mass exodus certainly won't help.

I fail to connect the renderings shown in the article to 10,000 homes. There's no way 10,000 units fit into this building. Why are they so obsessed with building low?

The elephant in the room wasn’t addressed. There is an affordable living developer involved yet no mention of pricing strategy? That said, hard to imagine it being any different than the highest of comps.

Building more high income housing still reduces housing costs at the low end. Every person who rents in a new development - even if it's $5000/month - is a person who isn't competing in a lower cost market.

Surelly there's a threshold which must be crossed before the highly paid pool is depleted enough to make such an impact.

Edit: To clarify, it's not as if tech companies, especially Google, are going to stop hiring and attracting more highly paid people to the area. 10,000 sounds like a number small enough to be gobbled up pretty quickly by SV tech growth.

Not that I'm in favor of turning the bay area into a high density population. A lot of what makes the region so nice to be, especially the peninsula, is the relatively low density. I really wish tech companies would make more of an effort to distribute their workforce and better leverage technology to enable remote work. It's really messing with the demographics, culture, and gender distribution of places like SV. When San Jose is being referred to as Man Jose, you've got a real problem.

The demand curve is continuous so the effect on prices is continuous. There is no threshold effect.

I tend to agree, though it might be interesting to consider dynasmics in which this wouldn't hold.

Housing-as-asset-class, with phased new supply and demand stimulation might have opposite effects if the stock substitutes for other investment vehicles. Typical asset bubble.

Supply and demand. If you increase supply, prices overall will go down.

“Affordable” or other non-market schemes simply raise the prices for everyone else — including the non rich that don’t win the “affordable” lottery.

More market housing everywhere solves the affordability crisis.

Yes, more housing of any type will help! But, it seems like developers are only building high end housing, which means only units priced at the very top of the market are added. It would be great if developers built normal apartments that do not include every single possible amenity. Not every renter wants to pay a premium for granite countertops, a fancy gym, a pool, bathrooms for every bedroom, etc. I just want a well-built apartment that is within a mile of a caltrain stop, not a $5,000 2 bedroom luxury apartment...

If you passed a law that car manufacturers could only sell 1000 cars per year, you can bet those would be some really fancy, expensive cars. Just let them sell cars and they start doing market segmentation and producing budget cars all on their own. Same with homes.

Look at the price differential between apartments in similar geography that do and don’t have these things. I have not found “luxury” to command a significant premium, particularly since “luxury” buildings are sometimes the only ones offering small units where the older stock is all large. The crappiest old buildings are still exorbitant. The amenities and countertops are practically free next to the cost of the fixed costs of a “well built” building of any kind.

That's still a supply problem. So long as there is an artificially limited supply forced by NIMBYs they'll continue to build higher margin housing.

If you open it up to allow 10x or even 100x more housing units you'll get ones in every price range.

How long will it take for people to actually move in?

  ... it will likely like take years or even decades to 
  build out the 9,850 units that Mountain View has slated 
  for North Bayshore, depending on market conditions.

Slightly off topic, are there any good books on urban planning? It’s a topic I want to educate myself more on.

You might take a look at the OpenCourseware for the MIT Urban Studies and planning department: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/urban-studies-and-planning/

A classic is Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. There was a fairly recent documentary on her as well. This book is a bit of a Rorschach test though. People who rail against cars highlight her opposition to Robert Moses' highways. But opponents to large-scale high-rise construction highlight her general opposition to urban renewal projects.

Thank you for the suggestions

The housing crisis in the Bay Area will never be fixed at this rate.

"....a culmination of more than six years of planning and nearly three years of public meetings....". Now why would you say that? /S

I wonder if it works: Company buys land to build office but sets apart a certain percentage for employee apartments. In essence a company town. Hires a management co to run it, no buys just lease. When the company folds, downsizes or whatever, the apartments are part of it. It costs, but it's cost of doing business.

Otherwise a huge company can distort the home market .

Maybe not enough land is available, especially in places like NYC or the city wont let them build 50 stories high apartment buildings?

  but sets apart a certain percentage for employee apartments.
It would be difficult to do that legally due to Fair Housing law.

Companies could certainly do more, but a lot of cities don't really want them to. Cupertino stands out in this regard; they wanted the huge office space but none of the housing for the 14,000 workers the new Apple office would generate.

My Microsoft HQ friends tell me Redmond is in the same boat.

A lot of millionaires from Microsoft competing for a relatively small supply of homes close to the office, and everyone else commuting for miles and miles.

The Eastside is not that expensive yet, unless you want to live on the water, have a view, or buy one of the gated slums out there on Lake Sammamish.

Downtown Redmond and surrounding communities still have 1 bed, 1 bath apartments at cheap prices ($600 to $700), and a newly built apartment with 3 bedrooms near the MS campus can easily be had for $1800 to $1900 a month.

When I worked at MS in Redmond, I lived in Seattle and my commute was 25 minutes. I knew people who had houses in Redmond, and their commute was around 5 minutes. This is not "the same boat" as Cuptertino and MV.

MS has moved so much out of Redmond, pushing employees to Downtown Bellevue & opening up a satellite office in Vancouver, BC. Its quite a change from just a decade ago, but apparently talent retention is better in Bellevue than out in the hinterlands of Redmond.

Then again, I don't think I'll ever take a job or live on the Eastside, perpetually trapped in my car!

I live in downtown Bellevue and rarely drive my car. I wanted to live in downtown Seattle, but wife and baby objected.

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