The problem with housing there has one simple cause: NIMBYism. SF doesn't want to allow taller buildings and denser housing complexes. It's vastly worse in the Valley. Towns like Mountain View and Palo Alto ought to be vastly denser, with apartment buildings, duplexes, and other multi-tenant dwellings. The people living there don't want that, though, so the laws prohibit it.
I don't blame people for wanting to keep their quiet neighborhoods and single-unit homes, or low-rises in SF, but until those objections are overcome, the problem is only going to get worse. So while I say that there's a simple cause, there's no simple solution.
The only solution is changing the zoning laws, and that requires changing peoples' minds. Once that's done, the money will flow in directly from tenants, and will ease pressure all around. If Google wants to build more housing, they need to spend that billion dollars on political efforts.
Unless the whole of Santa Clara county and San Mateo county work together instead of playing chicken with each other, we will make no progress on this problem. MV has been willing to do more but it would be unfair for MV to carry the weight while all the other cities limit housing to maintain the "character" of their towns.
The tech boom is a huge blessing that any city, state, or even country would be lucky to have. However, people wanting it all and NIMBYism are turning an opportunity into a problem.
The fact that it's perceived as a sacrifice to build housing is one of the core problems.
And one of the main reasons for this perception is that, for the city, it is true. Due to Prop 13, CITIES LOSE MONEY BY HAVING RESIDENTS. As long as that is true, don't expect much to change around housing in California.
> The fact that it's perceived as a sacrifice to build housing is one of the core problems.
In the short term, increased housing will decrease property values. This has to be the case because rentals are a direct competitor to real estate ownership.
In the long term, increased housing should increase property values; however, few people are willing to place much value on something even 2 years in the future, much less 20.
> Due to Prop 13, CITIES LOSE MONEY BY HAVING RESIDENTS.
I'm not sure how much I buy this. I'm not super familiar with California, so I'm not going to say it's false, but there should be a number of other methods (sales tax comes to mind) for cities to raise revenue from residents.
How? It means you get either a new nice property on a lot, or a lot more properties on a lot. (If density increases.)
Increased density increases demand which draws in services and attention, which increases property values.
Of course there's an inflection point, but the US/Cali/Valley/SF is a looooong waaaay awaaaaay from worrying about slums.
> short term
Yes, people don't like constructions, but that's it probably. After it's done, no one cares.
If you keep demand constant and increase supply, you will decrease price. This is one of the most basic tenants of microeconomics.
If that's too abstract, just imagine you're a landlord in SF who's used to increasing your rent by 10% per year (no idea what the actual number is) because there are 1% vacancies in the city. Now imagine that all of a sudden more housing came on line so that there are now 20% vacancies in the city. You probably wouldn't be able to increase your price and may have to drop it.
Now imagine that the number of bedrooms in SF increased by a factor of 10 overnight. The price of real estate would crater.
In the long term, the price of real estate will go up with density. All you have to do is look at places like Manhattan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc. This is because cities tend to draw in new citizens from the surrounding area until it is too expensive or too uncomfortable to live there. However, it takes time for those people to move to the city and fill vacancies.
I'm not following. Prop 13 doesn't apply to new residents. It only applies to existing residents. Building new homes increases revenue.
Or an I missing something?
Also doesn't help that prop 13 limits property tax increases for commercial property. And corporations live forever.
In year 1, yes. Then that revenue is never increased, while inflation goes up.
The alternate use of the land for retail (sales taxes!) and office buildings is far more favorable, especially long term.
Could it be that these Sunnyvale developments were just issued permits earlier (2016 or 2017), and we're just seeing it further down the pipeline?
Sunnyvale has been reliably pro-housing since about 2010, which means that a lot of new supply came on the market in 2015 and 2016, which has alleviated the housing supply issue significantly. I left MTV in 2014 after having my rent double in 3 years, from $1400 to $2800; my rent in Sunnyvale has gone up by about $30/month total in the 5 years since, and the 2 BR townhome I'm in now currently rents for less than the 1BR in MTV that I used to live in.
Put another way, restricting housing supply in Mountain View likely impacts rents its socioeconomically similar neighbor, Sunnyvale.
Among likely differentiators: 1.) Traffic. If you're traveling to Google or Facebook Sunnyvale adds an extra 15-20 minutes to your commute. 2.) Schools. They're better in Mountain View, at least for now, though both regions are rapidly gentrifying. 3.) Cachet. Mountain View has the name because of Google. Sunnyvale doesn't really, and also feels like more of a sterile suburb than a lively community. 4.) Shuttle stops. I don't know exactly where they are now, but that'd explain why the downtown areas go for relatively equal expensive rents, while my neighborhood (which AFAICT has no tech shuttle stops anywhere near it) rents for a lot less than other neighborhoods in the area.
I definitely don't have a nuanced enough understanding of the difference in civic liveliness of the two cities - and resulting desirability - they both always felt pretty suburban to me. But I've never lived in either one.
I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you - every single place should want to build more housing! But when has MV said "You know what? take your fancy office complex and move it somewhere else."?
Quick Edit: My point is mainly that all of these Bay Area governments are more than happy to get more lucrative office space built that employs thousands of employees, but suddenly hem and haw about "neighborhood character" when it comes to housing that lucrative workforce.
Yup, and that is straightforward, if time and money consuming. Changing zoning isn't enough: making an area denser without appropriate matching infrastructure investment isn't going to go well. If you want the next Tokyo or Paris (or even something significantly smaller), you need Tokyo or Paris' infra.
Then the next problem is that people can't stand each other. People don't want neighbors because neighbors are a pain. It's a problem everywhere, but in the west, the US has it particularly bad. I don't know about Cali, but in a lot of cities the building code is a total joke, and Americans are known to be LOUD. City rules are rarely enforced properly, either. So the only option you have is to prevent neighbors from moving in in the first place. That's easily fixed: better construction quality and clearer, enforced rules that make coexisting easier and nicer, alongside investments to keep the area from going down the shitter.
Do that for a while, and people just won't mind. Having moved from a dense city in another country to a medium sized American metro made me "appreciate" why NIMBYs are such a problem here. Living near people can become a nightmare real quick if you're not lucky.
Noise: All of my neighbors should be able to have active, stomping, marching band in each of their units, and I not hear a single peep. Contrast with reality: In every apartment I've ever lived in normal /quiet/ walking, sink use, and even bathroom fans were audible in other units.
Air quality: Smokers, "Marry Jane" users I think all who don't smoke can agree with; but I also dislike vaping, perfumes, and dryer scents. They make it hard for me to breath and irritate me (I think in both the medical and psychological sense). Scrubbed, negative draw exhausts are required for all of those things. Have a designated smoking room. Also have designated clean air intakes that supply positive pressure to the hallways and units (in that order) and proper door seals.
Also, yes, build a TOKYO grade subway that connects to parking silos in the outskirts. Then go ahead and ban (most) cars from the city. But ONLY in that order. Don't ban the cars first.
Source: from the Midwest in a very rural area. Someone moved in right next to my parents. They aren't happy, but nothing they could do about it (while remaining a responsible human, a productive member of society, and not a worthless mooch) - they didn't have the money to buy the lot, so it is what it is.
Before people start talking about strip clubs next to schools or factories dumping waste into the aquifers. These neighbors are well within their by-right zoning regulations. They just have a house, and they just happened to buy the lot right next to my parents'. In California, it would have been perfectly acceptable for my parents to tie that development up for 20+ years with all sorts of ridiculousness. But in by-right zoning states, you just get housing built and move on because that's how the real world works.
Sound is very much the problem. I don't want a huge amount of land, I don't want lawn, I don't want landscaping, I definitely don't want a neighborhood association, but what I do want is good soundproofing and no shared walls (or worse, floors/ceilings). In practice, there's no soundproofing that can substitute for an air gap.
Resilient channels basically work by fixing horizontal metal strips to the studs, and then hanging the drywall on the strips with clips. Because there is purposefully play in the connection, vibrations cannot easily transfer from drywall to stud to drywall.
Why doesn't it work? As soon as anyone nails or screws or otherwise attaches something into the stud through the drywall (say a shelf), the drywall is now mechanically connected to the stud again.
The proper fix is to have a separate frame for each dwelling unit, preferably with fiberglass insulation. This essentially doubles the cost of inter-unit walls, so it is less popular. My parents live in a townhouse constructed in this manner, and if they dial up the volumes on the movie to 11, the subwoofer can cause pictures to rattle on the neighbor's walls, but audible sound is nearly zero.
To clarify, I did indeed mean "no soundproofing in widespread common use", rather than "no physically possible soundproofing". And thanks for the great explanation!
> The proper fix is to have a separate frame for each dwelling unit, preferably with fiberglass insulation. This essentially doubles the cost of inter-unit walls, so it is less popular. My parents live in a townhouse constructed in this manner, and if they dial up the volumes on the movie to 11, the subwoofer can cause pictures to rattle on the neighbor's walls, but audible sound is nearly zero.
That does indeed sound like the correct fix. How would you know if a potential apartment has such construction? How would it be advertised? What would it take to promote a standard/certification for that?
I think that level of soundproofing would make a substantial difference in people's willingness to live in anything more efficient than a standalone building.
There are standards for sound-proofing, but they are construction standards, they require a particular amount of sound isolation, and resilient channel passes the current standards (since it gives "okay" levels of soundproofing at construction time, even though later modifications are almost certain to nullify that).
Now usually a fascia of some sort is applied to the concrete and what is used affects the sound transmission. If you plaster over the concrete, for example, you get much better sound insulation than if you just paint the bare concrete.
Sometimes drywall is placed over furring strips to leave room for electrical work and this even better.
Another child comment mentioned brick, and all of the above is true for brick as well, though I believe mortared brick conducts sound better than poured masonry, and AAC conducts sound better than either.
As a further hiccup, I live in california, and the earthquake regulations greatly slow the innovation in building. In order for a new construction technique to be approved, someone has to pay the money to demonstrate that it is seismically sound.
Sure, there are others, it's always a continuum. But this is probably a significant factor.
But for that infra to make sense, you also need the zoning. Running a subway line through predominately single-family home neighborhoods makes no sense.
Realistically though, you don't need a lot of new infra for going from SFH-only zoning to moderate density housing like fourplexes and townhomes. Better options for walking and biking, maybe more bus routes (bus-only lanes?) would suffice.
Lot of people complain about crazy people on buses, but this might be a US thing, but anyhow, it's not like it's impossible to introduce a simple way to manage this problem. (From simple disturbance fines to simply giving the right to the driver to suspend anyone from travel. Of course watch out for overzealous/racist/anti-whatever drivers.)
That wouldn't fly in the US. The moment you ban someone from anything, someone will find a way to push why it was wrong to do. But yeah, I haven't that issue in other countries.
Another issue with buses are cities with streets that are too small. In some US cities, drivers already have to do miracles to get buses through.
When you spend that kind of money, in additional to otherwise having a large economic presence in a city, the Government tends to listen. Moreso than to individual developers.
I'm glad there's more density, and it's near transit, for the most part. Of course, it will still increase traffic, but by going with density and near transit, it'll reduce the impact vs building more single family homes.
The quick summary is that the 2000 Building Code allowed inexpensive construction of 5-floor wood buildings over a concrete base. This "5 over 1" construction gives "near-high-rise densities at a wood-frame price", so it has become very popular in the US.
That's about the only perk of these places. Sometimes they have nice things like a pool, but with how cheap the buildings are, you are going to hear your neighbors above, to the sides, and below you all day. Toured a place like this and noped the fuck out when I heard some dog bark in another unit and it sounded like he was yapping from the bedroom.
My understanding is most of the price of housing in West coast cities comes from the value of land, the building permits, and the low supply. How much does construction cost really factor into rent?
You answered your own question. The fund manager of an REIT or developer is looking to maximize ROI, and in the absence of higher quality alternatives, they can afford to build to the lowest specs possible that will still rent.
Via 401k(s) and defined benefit pension fund investments, we all are responsible for maximizing for ROI.
The construction quality of multi-family homes in SV pretty poor.
I moved out after my first lease expired.
Nowadays codes and trends - at least in parts of Europe - caught up, and soundproofing has became important through the process. (For architects/engineers, developers/builders and buyers/renters.)
My point is that properties above entry level apartment grade are scarce in the valley despite the fact that rents can support it better than just about anywhere. It actually kept me from moving up there
And you can hear your neighbors cough.
We can do better, and yes, I'm willing to sacrifice the superficial stuff and pay a bit more for quality construction.
I also run a box fan almost all the time, so quieter sounds from neighbors are below the noise floor and not perceptible.
We desperately need to tighten up some of our regulatory codes and force better soundproofing.
Soundproofing simply was left out of the code because the buildings of old were sturdy and massive enough to implicitly take care of most of the noise problems. Now new materials and standards are lean enough to conduct sound very well. Oops.
Buyers also got wise in the last decade. Now anyone buys or rents the first thing - after location, location, location - is checking how noisy it is.
If all housing would have been built by committee, it's just as likely that it'd have taken a lot of time for the committee to change its ways.
These little steps help, but NIMBYism is still holding back potential housing inventory.
What IS an option is changing mandatory single family home areas to allow for "missing middle" housing, thereby reducing economic segregation currently present on most of the residential land. A lot of people prefer the current level of segregation, though, so it's a hard sell.
> Of course, it will still increase traffic
Actually, building housing near workplaces decreases traffic. Imagine people who used to drive in from Modesto moving in to these units.
Of course, the zoning law is clearly the root of all housing evil in the Bay area. But in order to fight against it, we need a clear demonstration which can rebut their FUD against a more dense zoning law. I guess Google is trying take that role here.
Pretty much. When I lived in SF I received fliers in the mail urging residents to oppose new apartment construction literally on the basis that it was too tall.
If you want to see how difficult it is to build there, check out this story of a laundromat owner who spent almost 5 years and $1.4 million attempting to convert to an apartment building.
This is even though it was already zoned for housing, didn't have any units above it (wouldn't displace anyone) and eligible for streamlined approval since it was close to public transit. And yet...
If you have been to any major city in Asia, they have WAYYY more people and are able to commute from much further distances because the public transportation is clean, safe, fast, reliable.
We have tons of land under utilized in the bay area, especially in the east bay, if we were to allow those people to reach their offices under 1 hour, then I think a lot of issues are going to be solved.
I also believe we should build more taller buildings, but that's happening already. I grew up in Cupertino and everywhere you go there are apartment buildings going up right now. Likewise with Mountain View where my parents work.
CalTrain during rush hour is operating many trains at 120+% capacity. As a ride, that number feels way too low given how many people are often without a seat. I type this on a ride where I didn't get a seat for the front half of the ride. Riderships what growing by 5k daily riders YoY, though I think it's finally topped out due to train capacity. Bikers get bumped on a regular basis due to space, and riders on rare occasion. My understanding is that CalTrain is also running essentially as many trains as they can during rush hours. (They have to allow a certain following distance between trains, and that's the constraining factor. Electrification will have locomotives that have better acceleration, and thus stopping distances, and thus will allow packing more trains — and thus capacity onto the tracks. I worry however that this will be too little too late.)
If the areas around the stations were denser and had a more diverse mix of destinations (offices, retail, schools, etc.) then there would be be enough all day demand to justify running trains all day on a frequent schedule, potentially even on 5-10 minute frequencies like the RER and S Bahn systems, which would also alleviate congestion at the peak.
He nicely has the exact per-car figure for the newer Caltrain cars ($5.7M / car…); he puts a $2.5M car at ~$162k/yr in depreciation, and $100k/yr in maintenance. If we double the depreciation to account for CalTrain's apparently expensive purchase, that's $325k + $100k / yr per car, or $2.55M/yr for a six-car train. (But: I don't get these depreciation numbers? This figure adds up to ~$13M over the life of the train assuming the 40 yr life in the article, which seems appropriate given that the gallery equipment is nearly 50 IIRC; why would depreciation be more than 100% of the vehicle cost, or is this a "it depreciates faster in earlier years but becomes more cost effective later"? This could greatly make most of the numbers I'm getting here make no sense.)
The passengers, meanwhile, assuming they pay the same price as I do for a Zone 3 pass (and Zone 3 is fairly popular, though some people will travel further to SJ which will cost more…) we get ~$1.6M/yr assuming 100% capacity (570 passengers, n.b. this is less than the current 722 per 6-car gallery, and IDK what Bombadiers have; also I kinda doubt that 100% load will happen in rush, that is, it'll still be >100%) and that they don't raise prices (I also doubt this.) Still, that's a huge funding gap, but should the passengers pay 100% of the required fees, or is some of it expected to come from taxpayers? (There's still a gap of ~$0.9M/yr … per train)
The worse situations is when a zoning change happens and goes into effects quickly and construction projects start without people having had time to get the hell out. Selling near those projects is hard (no one wants to deal with it), and the people who live there are stuck.
I bought a place near a construction project that was almost done, and right around the time it ended, the city issued special permits for other big projects across the street that no one really expected, and now we're a bit stuck (People in our building cant find buyers without losing large amounts of money, and until they do, have to deal with the unexpected construction).
Where I live, the transit agency has been building a $2B light rail extension with the understanding that areas around the stations would be rezoned for high density.
But so far, it looks like the city will cave in to pressure from homeowners for lower-density zoning, leaving a very expensive transit investment with far fewer people riding it than anticipated.
This attitude is exactly why people are uncomfortable with processes like this. It ignores existing inequities of property ownership that have impacted wealth distribution.
If where you decide to build the station is like most of the bay, the people living in these homes aren't the owners. Especially if they're presently black or latino-majority neighborhoods, American housing policy over the last 50 years has purposefully kept these communities from gaining ownership equity by explicitly redlining them or locking them out of the credit market.
They won't profit from selling the property, they will simply be displaced.
But yes, if you're trying to dump a subway station in the middle an area as you describe, your point is totally correct.
My thought is why I wouldn't want a skyscrapper popping in my backyard: because I can't easily get the hell out once the news drop.
It's certainly the case that more can be done for both of these.
In the real world, nothing has one simple cause or one "only" solution. The housing problem in California, and elsewhere is complex. This is akin to people who say, "The problem with homelessness there has one simple cause..." and then insert their favorite boogeyman.
There are many factors involved, other than NIMBYs, and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). There is corporate greed, geographic restrictions, land use issues, transportation issues, tax issues, and the list goes on and on...
The loudest among those on HN seem to be BEASTs (Build Everything to Achieve Skyscraper Town). That's not healthy, either.
† Amusing field guide to various types of NIMBYs: https://www.chicagoarchitecture.org/2015/08/19/a-field-guide...
Skyscrapers should be built where they are economically viable, i.e. where the cost of land is extraordinarily high to offset the much higher per-unit cost of construction. They shouldn't be pursued in places where they don't make sense.
It's pretty obvious that the housing shortage problem is caused by those who oppose building additional houses although demand is skyrocketting. There is no way around it.
Depends on definition of "possible". There is space, physically. But getting all the paperwork, lining up the money, placating all the NIMBYs and the special interests and politicians may be non-trivial. For Google it may be easier than for other developers, and Google may be more motivated to do it, since galloping housing prices means more salary expenses from Google.
> The people living there don't want that, though, so the laws prohibit it.
In San Jose, there are many multi-tenant developments. Prices are still crazy (compared to any other place outside Silicon Valley).
And there's also a question of infrastructure. Did you ever drive on 101, 85, 87 or 280 in traffic hours? Did you ever drive on adjacent connecting streets? Now imagine there's 3x or 5x people living in the same space. You'd have to start you commute previous day to get to the office by the morning.
The more housing is built near jobs in Silicon Valley, the LESS traffic there should be there, as people get shorter commutes!
Or, you know, build actual public transit
I'd also recommend looking at Janet Delaney's photos of SoMa from when it was a predominantly black neighbourhood. 3rd, 4th and 5th Streets have been rebuilt, but at the expense of pushing out the people of color that used to call that neighbourhood home. Delaney's work has been on exhibit at the SFMOMA, and studying local art in SF can help one understand the factors that lead to local opposition to housing development.
This announcement isn't going to affect the overall narrative around housing in SF. It's just "let's build some houses next to one of our south bay campuses", which Facebook already did a few years back.
Google's has also previously submitted plans to the city of mountain view that include houses on its land (not sure if any of these count towards the 20k number):
There is another solution - don’t locate on the west coast or build out satellite offices that aren’t on the west coast.
... which is the definition of democracy.
There's a housing crisis, and yes, many residents are using democracy to stand in the way of fixing the problem. That's bad!
If it's just for long-term landowners, that's a form of democracy, but we tend to not view it very favorably these days.
I only took a quick glance at the article, but seems like Google help may do quite a bit.
> First, over the next 10 years, we’ll repurpose at least $750 million of Google’s land, most of which is currently zoned for office or commercial space, as residential housing. This will enable us to support the development of at least 15,000 new homes
They are going to repurpose their own lands, which means there will be more space to build housing. They make it possible.
I don't know where are theses $750 millions of land, but that's still more space.
Should we make cities denser? Should we force people shoulder to shoulder? I don't know if we should and I never see the "wisdom" of the denser city questioned.
Instead Google and other groups should give money to residents who would be amenable to living elsewhere. $1 billion for freedom of choice instead of perpetuating that everyone must live in the same few square miles.
The world doesn't need to be denser, we need some elbow room, we need SPACE. Thanos was right.
What about pulling a HongKong / Singapore: Create a special economic zone that is a stand-alone municipality with extremely lax zoning laws to spur housing & transportation growth?
Google is kinda-sorta doing this. To avoid Mountain View NIMBYism, just carve out the Google land for this purpose.
It's harder to build denser if you have very little good public transit (or walk/bike infra) to speak of. Density doesn't exist in a vacuum.
I mean, Houston is the principal city of a metro area of 7 million people, and has no subway, no mass transit that's separated grade whatsoever. That's not a setup that's going to easily support higher population densities.
Meanwhile, you look at a city like Munich that's in a smaller metro area, and it has several subway lines, plus several hybrid commuter/mass transit lines that are separated-grade at least within the city proper. They're steadily building yet more, and Munich residents don't even consider their transit to be all that great! (lots of complaints about the S-Bahn, for sure)
If you wait until things are very dense to actually start planning good transit, that means you'll have many years where it's too dense for just cars and so things are borked, plus by then building tunnels or acquiring right of way will be much more expensive.
I know the benefits for being in the bay are substantial, but this problem is entirely brought about by tech companies, not the resident. Employers need to setup shop in less populated places and grow there.
You shouldn't pretend that there aren't negative side-effects from the collection of success and wealth in Seattle, Portland and the Bay Area.
Decentralizing the workforce would help decentralize the problem.
Of course there are bad side effects, but only because we've collectively decided to not solve the housing problem. It's not some obscure issue, we know how to fix it. We just choose not to.
> Decentralizing the workforce would help decentralize the problem.
If it was that simple, they'd have already done it because it would save them money.
Organizationally, there are advantages to physical colocation that you're just ignoring here. It's the triumph of the city.
I find that mentality vehemently disgusting. The government is expensive and wasteful, acts in bad faith, disrespects our rights, and steals from us every day. Why people idolize that, I have no idea.
We can look at successful models like Tokyo or Vienna, but instead of doing that people just throw up their arms and go, "what could possibly be done??" as if this was some novel, inscrutable problem.
There's a reason why companies have large offices in the Bay Area and are willing to pay the exorbitant salaries and rent there.
If they could reasonably relocate to middle America where land and salaries are cheap, they would - they all know how expensive it is to operate in the bay area, yet they choose to do so.
I'm not a fan of the idea of living & working for a corporate overlord in a company town, but I suppose one option to break the back of entrenched NIMBYism is to own all the backyards. Buy up all the things, flatten them, and go vertical.
It's definitely simple-sounding, as a single cause -- but unfortunately that doesn't make it so.
Any sober analysis of the current housing crisis points to a convergence of multiple, and in some cases highly nuanced factors -- ranging from shifting crime rates and the collapse of urban industrial base; to shifts in government policy (including the near-abandonment of federal support for new public housing initiatives); and a whole bunch of others. And yes there's something known as "zoning" which plays a part also.
But the idea that NIMBYism is the sole important factor - or even the most important factor - just doesn't hold water.
If you're skeptical of this, just ask yourself: "What causes NIMBYism?"
I mean, you could also say, "those tech companies created too many high-paying jobs!!" but last I checked, that's generally what we wanted companies to do, so getting mad at them for it seems pretty weird.
Maybe so -- but as a response it completely dodges the question of whether or it has been a contributing factor or not.
I'm pointing out that even though lots of high paying jobs is obviously an input into the housing crisis, 'blaming' companies for that is clearly stupid, because we want and encourage them to do exactly that, and higher housing prices is a predictable side effect of housing supply being constrained, not some out of nowhere surprise that the tech sector foisted onto an unsuspecting public.
We have met the enemy, and they are us.
Interesting to note that Mountain View is also trying to pull its weight, per a sibling comment.
I think the easiest solution here would be at the state, rather than local level. Start tying state budgets to housing supply: ie. figure out approximately how much housing need there is in the region and require each city to permit a proportional share of that per year or lose state funding for roads, schools, etc.
What will happen is in many of these same areas they will force rent control upon builders and existing landlords which will do the same work that zoning and political games did before.
California will require a state wide referendum to fix their government created housing problem.
For the people who own property, they are choosing laws that best help their finances. You can appeal to some sense of greater good but history would show such a plan unlikely to work.
In the coming months, we’ll continue to work with
local municipalities to support plans that allow
residential developers to build quickly and
Not sure why they feel like this is a good billion well spent...
And it sounds like they're 'investing' rather than 'spending' the $1 billion - if you take $750m of land and build flats and sell most of them at market rate, presumably you recoup a fair portion of your $750m - they might even make a profit.
That's all I'm saying. Just like the OP said, more private companies building on their lots isn't really going to budge the needle.
Is there a good reason for all of these people to live in one little area? No, I don't think there's a really good reason. Everyone wants to take advantage of what the city has to offer, but nobody actually wants to pay fair market value.
"We only have one bus route and a school, how can we grow this place? It's too crowded". Complete BS.
Those people still need to live somewhere, but bringing everyone closer together increases efficiencies by enormous amounts. Cities are the thing helping to save the environment.
It's true that there is one simple cause, but it's not NIMBYism, it's overpopulation, and it's a planet-wide problem. There are just too many people. They can't all live in the nice places because if they do, the nice places won't be nice places any more.
There really aren't. The fact of the matter is that NYC is a nice place to live (typing this from Brooklyn) and it's 1000x SF's density.
The world produces a caloric surplus (based on a 2k calorie diet) per capita. We're not overpopulated.
What you're saying is that you want your in demand area to remain exclusive and separate.
It's not overpopulation: it's self interest. Preservation of something you cherish.
Which is the textbook definition of NIMBY ideals.
It's selfish to stand in the way of progress simply because you like the unfair status quo.
NYC's population density is 27,000 people per sq mile, SF is 18,000.
The entire NY MSA has a density of 1700/sq mi, compared to 1100 for the SF MSA.
If you look only at Brooklyn, it has a density of 36,000/sq mi.
Worldwide, Manila has the highest density, at 100,000/sq mi
when people don't want to give away (for free or below market price) their share of GOOG nobody calls that NIMBYism. When people don't want to give away their share in a city (drastically increasing density/population does in many ways take away from existing residents without any just compensation) - that is suddenly becomes NIMBYism.
The issue can practically be solved simply - city is to be like a corporation with stock, and any new resident/development has to buy the stock on the secondary market. Density/population increase (i.e. zoning changes) is by issueing new stock to be distributed proportionally like dividends to existing shareholders(residents). That way NIMBYism would just disappear the same way like it doesn't exist when it comes to GOOG. That also would make gentrification into a buyout where people who create a city desirable to live in would materially benefit from it instead of being just kicked out being as poor as when they moved in.
No one is telling a SFH owner that they have to do anything. Instead, SFH are being allowed to have more options for what to do with their property.
In fact giving more options for property actually increases the value of that property.
This may be worth it broadly, but it absolutely enforces our preferences onto the SFH owner.
If we choose to overturn those collective preferences, we need to have principled discussions as to why our preferences should rule over the other groups'.
Geometry is an arbitrary basis for power, not a principled one. There’s no deep reason why the block is too small to decide and the state is too big to decide and the City of Sunnyvale is just right.
The same way with the proposed city stock shares - nobody is going to tell you what you can do with it.
>Instead, SFH are being allowed to have more options for what to do with their property.
no. It is a rich&powerful well-connected developer who is getting zoning changes and only to his properties (similar to the situation when only the major shareholder would get additional stock/dividend issued for free) at the cost to all the other residents and property owners. Privatization of profits with socialization of costs - the main reason for the NIMBY.
>In fact giving more options for property actually increases the value of that property.
Nobody is giving more options. Uniform re-zoning never practically happens. It is always a targeted action for the benefit of specific powerful developer who has already at least got an option on those targeted properties. At least the common stock schema i propose would allow to spread some of those gains toward all the others who also bear the costs, ie. the whole city.
Why fight such a huge uphill battle in trying to get housing in the Bay area? Wouldn't it be easier to start from a city or town outside of CA? or at least outside the bay area? Maybe somewhere in the middle of no-where (there's still so much unused land immediately outside the Bay area - even within -> just west of woodside there's hundreds of square miles of completely undeveloped land), where NIMBYs have no jurisdiction. Then create a high speed train or subway system connecting it to the rest of the world. Since out there land should cost very little, it would be a lot cheaper to create a highly effective transportation system then spending 1.5 million dollars per lot!
I know in the past new towns have failed, but that's because they didn't put employers there first. If we start a new town or city and put a major employer in the middle, people will move there.
Welcome to Houston!
Seriously, the typical model for growth here has been for a major employer to make a new campus out in the middle of nowhere away from town, then things spring up around it. As a result, we have lots of urban clusters with skyscrapers a long way from downtown. The energy corridor and the med center started out that way. Ditto for NASA and League City. Currently we have Exxon in Spring, Igloo out west of Katy, all of the Woodlands (weird place), etc.
It's not exactly good or bad, but it is a recipe for sprawl.
Land usage inside Houston city limits is mostly controlled through deed restrictions. E.g. I'm technically breaking the law by working from home as my deed is explicitly noncommercial. It's completely inflexible, as it was all set around 1900, but it is a form of zoning, nonetheless. Commercially-deeded lots are in planned areas that made sense at the time the property lines were drawn. There are also deeds that forbid residental development (often due to flooding, but again, it's inflexible).
The key differences are that there aren't any real restrictions beyond commercial / non-commercial. As a result, you'll often see a shipping yard in the middle of a residential district or similarly impractical commercial developments in unlikely areas.
Most of the examples people will dig up of flooding during Harvey that could have been prevented by zoning are actually in cities that _are_ zoned. The real issue is that developers get to dictate what the zoning laws are and get to develop however they want. For example, there's currently yet another development going up _inside_ the reservoirs on the west side of town. It's in a city that's zoned. They changed the zoning to allow the development there literally inside the reservoir, 10 ft vertically below the top of the dam.
I'm not saying that zoning is bad, or that Houston doesn't have problems, but I am saying that zoning here wouldn't help. Developers have infinite political sway and get to change zoning at will. That's the real issue.
In my experience the opposite is true. With relaxed zoning it's easier to live closer to work, and more likely that common destinations like grocery stores will be conveniently nearby.
Unfortunately, no new connections are currently available, but the already sold connections are not all 100% utilized and some are just assigned to parcels without use.
This implies a bad investment.
I'm sure this will be an unpopular opinion, but I first moved to SF in 1998, and in my experience it's San Franciscans who moved to the city to work in tech who don't want to see growth. The people who moved there for the culture of art, music, and radical self expression saw the writing on the way pretty early, and have been advocating for affordable, high density housing for decades now.
wait. why would that be? looking back at cost overruns on transportation projects from LA's metro red line to the Bay Bridge rebuild to California's high speed railway, i don't feel confident at all that an effective transportation system would be a lot cheaper. that has to come out of government budgets and go to government employees and union scale labor. that's expensive. and it might require new taxes. IDK -- are you talking about a bus line on a two lane road or something?
The terrain in that area would make it quite difficult to build dense housing there - it's even steeper than the very hilly area that Woodside itself is built on. It's not that it can't be done, but it is far more expensive (think about the cost of adding infrastructure like water, sewer, etc), compared to building housing in an already developed area, like infill development on land previously zoned only for commercial purposes.
And there are good reasons it's "completely undeveloped." Those include:
* No public sewer. So you'll need septic tanks. And the county regs that took effect a few years ago made it more difficult to install a new septic tank even for a single-family home, let alone whatever high density project you're envisioning.
* No public water. CalWater's Bear Gulch district (aka municipal water) extends only to the town boundaries on the east side of the hill. Skylonda Mutual on the west side of the hill keeps issuing boil-water notices when their (limited) water supply gets contaminated and out of compliance with state law. La Honda was trucking in water, or came close to it, during the recent drought.
* No DSL or cable Internet. Even inside town limits there are some areas that don't have Comcast (low population density, hilly terrain) or AT&T DSL (too far from switch, but you can get POTS). Hope you enjoy wireless!
* Limited access in the winter due to roads carved out of the hills over 100 years ago, not up to modern construction standards, that are prone to landslides. Skyline around route 9 was still one lane control last I checked because of last year's collapse, which was different from the previous collapse.
* Prone to wildfires in the summer--there was a wildfire off of Bear Gulch Road a year or two ago.
* No public transport.
* Distance from employers. I can't think of any large employers west of I-280, so you'd have to cross the peninsula on gridlocked surface streets or join I-280 gridlock north or south. Probably an hour drive to Google or almost that to Facebook.
* NIMBYites among the locals, who already say it's too congested.
* Subject to excessive zoning restrictions if inside town limits. This is only inside Portola Valley, Woodside, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, etc., and it's true that most of the land is county, but some of those town boundaries stretch to Skyline. If you're inside town limits, you'll need something like 5-acre to 15-acre parcels for a single family home. This is the very definition of low-density housing.
* Prone to landslides. The San Andreas fault runs along the base of the hill, and the Pilarcitos Fault and others spiderweb through the hills. This can be solved with the application of funds, but it raises building costs.
* The big one, if they can find a way to screw with you, is the California Coastal Commission, which views every act as illegal "development." And it has a bigger budget than you. You will not win. State law is not on your side. https://pacificlegal.org/commission-creep-rule-dis-functiona...
But good luck!
That's silly, there are more than two sides to this discussion. Development without allocations for affordable and public housing is just throwing money at developers and hoping for the best.
Only if you've never been anywhere else.
San Diego is the paragon of lovely weather in California, not the Bay Area.
SF is enshrined in a song made famous by Sinatra with the line, "She hates California/It's cold and it's damp."
And as a side point, I don’t think people need to travel the world to have a good idea whether they prefer humid 75 degree summers or non-humid 70 degree summers.
the 10-15 really hot days we have center around august, with some spillover into july and september. but it's nothing compared to texas heat, for example.
And it shows in the steep cost of real estate there, too.
If you're in the Valley (or at least a big city), the solution is pretty simple; take a day off, go to interviews and get a job. You don't have to move out and will have a good chance to get a job relevant to your career. The same thing doesn't apply to most of the other areas. The risk is so high that it can effectively end your career, those people with H1B just tend to pay more for living in the Bay.
So in order to have another big campus out of those big cities, there must be a pre-established, significant SWE ecosystem that can guarantee a level of job opportunity. Unfortunately, this cannot be done by a single company.
Arguably I did. Instead of New York or London, I moved to some dusty suburb an hour south of SF just because Google's HQ was there.
Now that I'm no longer on an H1B, but have a house and wife with a job in the area, I'm way less willing to do anything like that.
but you can go pretty far in a day. for example, a one day round trip from LA to San Jose, including time for a full work day, is within reach. people do that routinely.
Traditionally, successful businesses in a region paid taxes, and those taxes were used by the local governments to invest in infrastructure like public transport and urban development.
So in this regard Google usurps the mandate of the community government in favor of using their excess profits to invest in the community that only benefits them (well peripherally it benefits others as Google employees would otherwise burden city services)
What is wrong with that picture is of course that the people without advocates are literally left out in the cold. From the article Google is investing $1B in better housing for their employees and putting $18+3+1.5 ($22.5M toward homelessness which is 2.25% of a billion dollar investment. Contrast that with if Google paid $1B in taxes to the bay area communities where it has facilities, would those governments have the same priorities for those funds?
Literally every Bay area government has regulations (zoning, community review, etc.) that prevent housing to be put in place. On the transit side, we have multiple transit organizations (Muni, BART, Caltrain, etc.) that do not coordinate and operate as one entity; contrast this with NYC where the transit orgs have a common leadership.
What is happening in the Bay is that we are having an infrastructure crisis because a Nimby philosophy is preventing investment in critical areas like housing, transport, etc.
I agree that private industry won't solve this problem correctly because of its self interest, but frankly the problem is that the policy makers have no interest in solving the issue. Their loyalty is to their wealthy vocal residents who have no interest in creating housing or transit. They definitely do not care if underserved and disadvantaged people are suffering.
So while I agree that private industry will not tailor their solution to the disadvantaged (due to self interest), I don't think policy makers will either (due to self interest). Proposition 13 is a perfect example of how the voting population does not care about infrastructure for the poor. Prop 13 was marketed as a relief provision for the elderly, but the bulk of the measure is essentially a tax break for largely white wealthy landowners.
If building more housing in the Bay Area was legal there’d be more housing. If they built enough housing prices would even fall eventually.
Great. The mandate of community government has created $3400 / month two bedroom apartments and I, for one, welcome some additional housing units.
Of course not, because the goal of local Bay Area governments is to make land more expensive, not less.
The California housing crisis is a political choice and fixing the politics that caused it might be more effective long term than stop gap patches like this.
Maybe this young upstart has already tweeted something in their more free-spirited days, just waiting to be scrolled onto.
Much more effective to pump money into the political parties directly. They're going nowhere.
(a) It sounds like they're just becoming a larger real-estate developer? They didn't say "we're donating all this land plus some capital to a housing non-profit"; they're going to receive revenue from their investments. Are we supposed to say thanks?
(b) How does 20k units compare to their impact on Bay Area housing to date?
This is not my area, and I'm not aware of any region that has this requirement, but here's an idea: In the same way that we require large physical development projects to do an environmental impact study, and actively make mitigating affordances (e.g. setting aside land) to offset those impacts .... should employers who intend to hire large numbers of employees from out of the area (sending recruiters to schools across the nation, etc) be required to do housing impact studies, and actively participate in building the housing stock for the new residents they're pulling to an area?
How quickly would the Bay Area housing situation change if the ability of tech companies to grow headcount was tied to their ability to proportionally build housing?
Local governments love adding corporations. They pay taxes while using few resources. So corporate campuses get approved super easily - sometimes even with tax breaks!
New housing on the other hand is fought against tooth and nail because it brings new residents that require roads, services, and schools. Worse, if all the land has been used up, it requires larger buildings to be built where there used to be smaller houses and commercial strips which upsets local residents with voting power. Local governments sometimes even make residential developers pay extra taxes or make mandatory donations to the community.
It's these local city governments like Palo Alto and Mountain View that allowed Google to massively expand without also allowing developers to build housing to support the employees for that expansion. Hence, why Google is spending its own capital just to get some units built.
There's probably plenty of blame to go all around. IMO companies like Google (disclosure: I work there) caught on to the magnitude of the problem too late, and when they did, they ran into the local political resistance.
Why were they so late to catch on? Well I only have theories, including that it's only in the last few years that the cost of housing has made life difficult even for well paid employees, and those employees have voiced their frustrations.
In some ways I don't think that Google (and other companies that might follow them) deserve so much praise for finally attacking this by the horns at this late stage.
It isn’t the job of a company to provide housing for its employees. In the absence of constraints real estate developers will naturally build to satisfy this demand. However local governments have control over how and if housing is built and have systematically prevented building to meet this demand for decades. The blame is theirs since they are the only entities can and do constrain new housing. This is the part of the system that needs to change.
Which is why, IMO, the praise for Google on this matter is unwarranted. And it's not the political system that is broken, it's the regressive views of the elected officials and the people who have tended to vote in local elections.
> In the absence of constraints real estate developers will naturally build to satisfy this demand.
We don't need a policy that is absent restraints. We need housing policy with sane restraints, i.e. incremental upzoning planned at the regional level to allow more housing density and building employment centers accessible via transit instead of only cars and private bus systems.
Even public agencies like BART have had to fight at the state level to be allowed to develop housing on their own property.
This isn't really an issue of restraints vs no restraints but rather what the restraints optimize for, and currently they optimize for increasing property values and not providing sufficient housing supply.
At present, companies adopt strategies which require them to undergo rapid growth, including headcount, without planning for or making affordances for the other effects of bringing those people to the area.
Why is unreasonable to suggest that companies should be required to plan for and mitigate those effects at the outset, rather than one or two companies making feeble gestures several years later?
It's unreasonable because industry has already paid for it in taxes, and fairly high ones at that. It's not industry's fault that it's being squandered by local and state government.
We already have plenty of people that want to build, that's not the problem. Problem is local regulation and policies that don't align with regional interests.