People don't realize how conservative SF is: "The most innovative solutions don’t matter when your government has been captured by interests that want to freeze the city in amber" SF won't even allow companies to put more buses on the road (something that would benefit everyone!)
This was news to me: "Support for More HOMES in San Francisco was even stronger, at 74%. Despite this popular support, every member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to oppose More HOMES, except for Asha Safai and Vallie Brown " It seems that politics in SF doesn't represent the majority view.
This is part of a much larger set of problems. As we continue into the future all the tech problems get solved or already have been solved. What we're left with is all the problems that can't be solved: those are all political. There will come a day when instead of starting software companies, we'll be starting companies that solve political problems.
I don't get to control who owns my tech company, which means I don't get to decide what our superordinate goals are. I don't get to decide who our customers are. I don't get to decide the extent to which we participate in the Military-Industrial Complex, or the Prison-Industrial Complex, each of which threatened to destroy people like me.
Due to the constraints of office hours, my social development and creative passions are extruded through a meager four hours before sleep—most of which must be spent on trains, due to housing and transit limitations.
If you don't think tech workers are alienated, you're fooling yourself. It's industry-standars to "burn out" every 3 years, and flee toxic, stagnant positions for a fresh workplace. This tells me that firms are unaccommodating, and foist the risk of personal development on us as individuals. That refusal to accommodate us is precisely the inhumane factor fomenting alienation.
What you've "come to accept" is your own vitality's truncation.
Edit: people are downvoting me for saying "I can't afford to live near my work or my friends"? Or because they're in denial of Tech's complicity in Military- and Prison-Industrial atrocities?
I have goals, earn six figures and had a 3100 square foot house built in the burbs within a 30 minute commute of where I work less than three years ago. I’m also “in tech” and probably, my six figure salary is a lot lower than yours.
and as an individual, and from where I don't get to control who owns my tech company, which means I don't get to decide what our superordinate goals are.
The last company I worked for decided to move their offices to a place in the metro area that wouldn’t have been the commute I desired. “I changed my office location” by calling up the many external recruiters in my network and had them find my a job closer to where I live.
I don't get to decide who our customers are. I don't get to decide the extent to which we participate in the Military-Industrial Complex, or the Prison-Industrial Complex, each of which threatened to destroy people like me.
I decide that all of the time by choosing the company I work for. I got to make all of the other decisions by choosing to live in another part of the country where the cost of living versus what I could make as a software developer was a lot more in sync with my goals. My last three jobs have been in the healthcare industry.
The harsh reality is that we need a military and prisons, and there's nothing inherently wrong with tech companies selling to those industries. While there are occasional excesses and even criminal acts, those are best dealt with through governmental channels.
There will always be someone telling detractors to “let the government deal with problems” and there will always be people telling detractors to “use their own personal wallet—let your cash do the talking” and there is always someone telling concerned people to “band together with others who feel the same and take action.” etc...
I’m certainly not accusing you of personally using all of those other slogans, you seem content with your own choices, but at some point, people have to realize, address it how you personally see fit, there will absolutely never be a way one can draw attention to an issue or even attempt to change an issue which would be free from someone condemning their choice. Someone will always say “no, you’re doing it wrong.
Someone will always chime in to say “do nothing” or “organize” or “spend the correct way” or whatever. In the end, I’m not sure we accomplish much by condemning others personal choices. Unless of course our goal is to just not rock the boat, in which case, this never do it correctly approach probably works.
You don't know what steps I'm taking.
You assume I'm taking none, but actually I am taking drastic, radical steps in light of these circumstances.
Edit: if you think worker-organizing to establish vehicles for collective bargaining is domestic terrorism, then: yes.
Conway's theorem : "Any organization that designs a system (defined more broadly here than just information systems) will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure."
> we'll be starting companies that solve political problems.
That already exists : lobbying companies, "CivicTech" and "GovTech" companies. I understood CivicTech and GovTech are startups that take the current political processes, and try to digitalise them. But they don't revolutionize the rules nor change the balance of power, since they must be reviewed and approved by the current government. In the short term, they follow Conway's law.
It’s not like everyone is clamoring to live in say, Georgia.
And let’s be honest. $1,050,000 “the median house price” doesn’t get you much.
A lot of people who work at Facebook and Google would still rather live in SF and commute 2-3 hrs roundtrip each day rather than live in Menlo Park/Mountain View (or surrounding cities).
Tech companies are going to start where the talent is, and a bulk of that talent want to live in SF.
I lived in cupertiuno for 2 years and you could cut off all my fingers and I could still count how many times my friends that live in the city would rain CalTrain south to come visit me.
> what people consider an
> authentic San Francisco
> experience in 2019
(HN isn't compatible with the authentic San Francisco experience...)
I've long marvelled at why Oakland rather than SF is not the natural hub of the SF Bay Area. It has everything SF lacks: indigenous water (EBMUD), a working port, space, improved climate (still gets fog, but not as socked in as SF), transporation (highways, BART, airport), a major technical university at its doorstep (Cal), and bedroom communities at its back (MorInDette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord), as well as the east-bay communities to the south, and a direct BART link to downtown San Jose (as of quite recently).
But somehow it's SF, PA, MV, and Santa Clara that own tech.
Until the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge was built, railcars were ferried across the Bay (though yes, the Peninsula SP lines also existed, and have some interesting corporate legal landmark case history and shenanigans). Then, after the tracks were torn up for the lower-deck reverse auto flow, Oakland and Richmond served as the principle railyards on the East Bay, for the Santa Fe.
I don't know what port tonnage compared across the years in SF and Oakland, but I'd be surprised if Oakland hadn't surpassed SF at least during WWII, if not before.
Source: A Tale of Two Bridges, p. 20, https://books.google.com/books?id=XiyVDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT20
The reason SF and not Oakland is simple racism.
But ... what's Santa Clara University's significance? It's always seemed a minor local school to my knowledge.
If anything, SJ State would be a bigger factor, turning out armies of technical and applied (rather than theoretical) engineers.
Also Fairchild semiconductor was in Sunnyvale and was a hub for a lot of the following Silicon Valley development. Finally William Shockley moved to Mountain View to be closer to his ailing mother and founded Shockley semiconductor.
These are all why peninsula and not Oakland, but SF vs SJ I am less clear on. When I moved to the bay about 13y ago the center of tech was on the peninsula but people were starting to look to SF. I think the refocus north is relatively more recent.
Then Shockley, and Intel, and we're off to the races.
The move to SF is definitely more recent. South Park, Reddit, and Twitter led much of that.
Finally William Shockley moved to Mountain View to be closer to his ailing mother and founded Shockley semiconductor.
Or are there other political/zoning reasons that make SF more attractive? I believe SF is giving some rich companies discounts to keep them around and reap (I assume) local taxes?
It didn't emerge in SF. Quite the contrary, virtually all tech startups for most of the Bay Area's history were no farther north than Menlo Park, and often much farther south (Netflix was founded in Scotts Valley). That's why YC was headquartered in Mountain View until recently.
SF only became a startup hub within the last decade, IMHO in response to the desire of Millenials to live in urban environments.
It it only during the present decade that startup activity has appeared in force in SF, away from Silicon Valley. Due largely (I believe) to the tax breaks SF created in 2011 to encourage that.
I knew a number of people who moved to the SV area, got FAANG type jobs way down in the Valley, and yet still chose to live in SF enduring hellish commutes. I never could quite understand why.
SJ is part of the Bay Area and absolutely has skyrocketing costs; it usually tops the lists of cities with the fastest growing housing prices.
When I got a job in Redwood City (in between the two), I thought about moving there from SF, but found the costs to be about the same to live there versus SF.
So I stayed in SF; it's definitely the anchor of culture of the Bay Area. For everything outside of work it's a much better place to be (for me, a single queer person, especially). I since got a job in SF and have no intention to move or work south again.
In fact, the general trend has been for companies to move towards SF away from the peninsula, but mostly because it's where workers want to be. It's much more easier to get by without a car in the city than in the peninsula, it has much better clubs/nightlife, etc. For a young person, the city (meaning SF) is often much more appealing, though of course different people have different preferences.
Of course, late at night I once did SF-SJ in 45 minutes. Having tried every solution at all times of day (e.g., biking to the caltrain, carpooling, etc) the "big bike" always wins; truly off peak the car is just as fast, in theory (and, hey, safer and more comfortable... but less fun).
But, let's be honest all the solutions are stressful and sucky. You can trade time for stress to a certain extent, but you're spending a lot of both no matter what.
But far from theoretical.
I'd not recommend it.
NYC is way more dense than the Bay Area. It’s not exactly a cheap place to live.
Most of the young people I know who work in tech want to live in or near San Francisco -- it has nightlife, restaurants, cultural events, etc. This is especially the case for people who are not from the Bay Area originally. When they start looking into buying property or having children a lot of them leave San Francisco and move closer to the suburbs.
I grew up in the South Bay. I can answer that question.
The South Bay is eye bleedingly BORING by design. It's an absolutely terrible place for a teenager or young adult. Most of the fun stuff in the city is illegal in the south bay.
(This comparison is unfair to both Queens and the Bronx, mind you.)
Because VCs are mostly investing in software startups with twentysomething who are stupid enough to believe the hype. Those who believe hype want to live in the "cool" area, and that's San Francisco or Berkeley--not San Jose.
Those people building real businesses don't care, and probably aren't even located in the valley anymore.
Population of San Jose: 1.0 million.
Population of San Francisco: 880k.
While I have distain for a lot of politicians, at the same time I'm not sure anything would convince me to be one, it's a pretty thankless task full of no-win situations in which people will bitch and main no matter what you do.
I live in Bath, which despite being a world heritage site, is actually building quite a lot of new home, some in developments on the outskirts, and lots of infill on brownfield sites. Not a fan of some of the architecture, but glad to see more being built. Now if we ould just sort out the bus network...
Or they want lots of new housing, but they also want the owner to rent control all units.
Or they want at least 30% of the units to be under market rent.
In other words, they want something for nothing and they’re fine with YOU being stuck with the consequences.
Or, as PitchBook puts it, "traditional hubs still account for preponderance of activity" (https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/the-state-of-us-venture-...)
NY and Boston get their share of funding dollars, too, but compared to the rest of the United States they aren't cheap places to live, either.
Beyond that, even in what are otherwise major metros, the game is farm league. LA, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Boston.
Several of which still have expensive housing, relatively.
The US are digging their own asset-inflated graves.
I feel like many places aren't even on the radar for companies or people. States in the South are attracting a lot of people like AZ, TX, FL. TN is very nice too, and I doubt their winters would be as bad as here. I think weather is part of it, but things like less red tape and taxes draw people in too. ID and SD are growing too, even though they get pretty cold I feel like the cost of living and smaller more efficient government helps.
I follow some full time RVers and people pick SD as their domicile and the state makes it easy to do since still need to live somewhere on paper legally but I was amazed you can renew your license online every other time. I'm surprised a state with less population is more technically advanced than larger states. I feel if they wanted to do something like that here, there'd be too much bickering going back and forth that nothing would ever get done. They kept arguing back and forth about getting rid of front license plates and it passed, but now someone is wanting to repeal that change before it comes into effect next July. So I think some of these states are organized and more efficient too which is drawing people.
I like to look at data on a site called Where Money Walks and it shows that the Northern States, California and parts of the midwest are losing a lot of people and money. I can't wait to see what the 2020 census will be, as I feel that will show more details. Maybe states will lose federal dollars and wake up where they need to come up with a strategy to compete for people, tech, tourism and many other areas. I think some of these politicians are too comfortable as we've seen a huge shift. Last time the census was done the iPhone was only a few years old and that changed phones are we know it for example.
I know states can't compete with weather, but there's many other things that they seem to be leaving on the table. Why would anyone want to live in a cold place like New York with high taxes, vehicle inspections, ugly yellow license plates which in some states get confused with party plates (people who were convicted of a DUI get them as a punishment in my state, but I think it's only if more than once), people who like sports cars get turned off by front plates when they could enjoy Miami with a lot less bs and warmer? If they had infomercials for both, I know which one I'd prefer. I know I was reading NJ is one of the most moved out states, these places are driving people away. Wouldn't surprise me if the schools were even better in FL. I think NYC would be cool to visit, but I don't think you could pay me to live there. California and Maryland have a bunch of problems too, so hopefully looking at the data is a wake up call for places to improve and start competing. In California you are more likely to be arrested over smog than committing a federal crime, plus people can't afford to live there so Austin is a growing tech hub full of California license plates, Apple is expanding there too and is going to be the cities largest employer. Then you have Facebook, Google, Oracle, etc too in Austin.
Students graduating with technical, programming, maths, and/or engineering knowledge leave not only the univerisity and its immediate surroundings, but the state. Marc Andreeson as an example from U of I is a classic: he co-invented the graphical browser ... and immediately departed for California. (Apparently annoying a fair fraction of U of I faculty and students in the process.) Chicago certainly can't hold that talent.
And I don't think it's just the weather, though it's not only the winters that suck, most of the summer's not so hot, or rather, far too hot, and humid, as well. It's hard to think when your brain's a puddle on the floor.
High taxes, at least for housing, may be a red herring, as that actually helps keep housing affordable. Dysfunctional government, gridlock traffic, an actively anti-intellectual and often racist general population, sprawl, and the rest, don't help. There are scattered locations of focused intellectual activity, but not concentrated enough, and/or in the wrong disciplines, to leverage off one another.
And most of the region lacks the easy recreational escapes of the SF Bay Area -- you're not minutes from a bayside trail, or the bay itself, or beaches, hills, or mountains. Or a couple hours' drive from snow and alpine hiking. There are some opportunities, but they're far less immediately accessible, attractive, and rewarding.
NB: New York City does clearly appeal to many and draw much talent, though most of that has been in FinTech. Which I'd criticise, though compared to what Silicon Valley's produced over the past decade, I'm afraid it's a case of arguing for lesser evils. Front plates don't seem to deter people from California. And taxes, generally, pay for government services and infrastructure which supports and encourages economic development, so long as waste, misspending, and incurred institutional obligations are reasonable.
Places to register residency on retirement (SD) and places to work ... have a different attractions and qualifications, that's not really a legitimate comparison.
Smaller or mountain states might mount a challenge. I've been impressed with Colorado (who wouldn't be) and Boise, though that's a long way from nowhere.
So was San Francisco, once.
Some of the RVers aren't retired and work remotely or own businesses too. I guess in a way full time RVers or digital nomads are homeless in a way but the traditional world expects you to receive mail somewhere, so mail forwarders and SD DMV makes it easy. I know there's a theory the state makes it so easy because they hope it will increase their federal funds, while in some states they won't accept full time RVers so even if you wanted to stay a resident they make it almost impossible unless you claim you live with someone else when you don't.
I've thought about Utah but even though Utah would be a nice state to live it does get cold. The mountains are attractive though, I was thinking it'd be cool to own a log cabin somewhere in the smokies. I think snowboarding would be cool to try, so even if I lived somewhere warm a vacation to a snow covered place would be neat for a week or two since snow is pretty but be glad not to be forced to stay in it.
I think I'm more set on traveling full time when I can make it work instead of settling down though as I feel like no area would make me happy long term 365 days a year. Even somewhere like Vegas or Orlando would probably get boring after a while I think. Do some travel by plane or ship along with RVing across the US.
Not sure how high taxes would help with housing... California is one of the highest-taxed states on income. I think a state with no state income taxes or a flat low rate like Utah would be better. I was surprised to learn cities in Utah don't tax income, only the state and fed unlike here where there's a city, school district(some areas do it by property taxes while some it's a separate income tax) and state along with the feds. So with multiple different income taxes instead of a single one seems much better. Some cities with taxes don't even have a way to e-file or so localized tax software doesn't include them. I know Trump's changes to deducting local and state taxes are another thing cited as people moving, and some states like California and New York are suing over it but haven't been following the case. I tend to see more conservative states as more efficient and less bloated.
My problem has been sticking with ideas but the goal is to get a prototype and either get funding or bootstrap it but still very early... So at some point, if things do work at, I'd need to decide where I'd want an office or just make the company completely remote. Having a company ran by nomadic travelers sounds cool and even niche job boards for that. But I wonder how accountability and distractions come into play... But other companies have experimented with this too... Another idea I had was maybe 3D virtual world environment might work too, so while somewhat roleplay with a virtual office building and conference room might be better than just regular chat and more dynamic. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I know people are saying the future of tech are all remote, but I kinda wonder though too as it seems a bit less social. Plus security and trust being a larger factor to probably for some roles. If Google ever went 100% remote, I wonder if they would want some guy working out of their bedroom to have root access to some systems.
California's Prop 13 is actually a key driver of the state's housing problems. Not the only one, but a major factor.
Utah, in parts, isn't all bad, though it helps a lot if you get along with Mormans and don't care much for beer or coffee. Community values and institutions seem generally strong.
There is no universe where bootstrapping a brand new region with world class universities and infrastructure is cheaper than just fixing a broken bureaucracy.
The major problem is NIMBYism. It is extremely difficult to create new homes for homeless people. Even trying to build a new shelter, there is a lawsuit filed by nearby landlords trying to stop it.
NIMBYs also make market-rate housing expensive, and make transit difficult to expand. Thus, the pay scales that the city can afford are not high enough to fill the vacancies in SFMTA and SFPD and other agencies.
I think some tea got thrown in a harbour once in an argument about almost this exact point.
I live in Houston and I concur. The company I work for has a lot of trouble finding talent that we need. That's not to say the talent doesn't exist here. It absolutely does. It's just that we can't afford Silicon Valley level compensation.
To my knowledge there aren’t any anti-development supervisors at the moment. The key differentiator is the type of development the supervisor is pushing for.
So, the majority claim to be for development, but they saddle it with conditions and processes to make it expensive and less likely to succeed. They claim that this process makes the final result “better,” but more often than not what we get is not “better” but “nothing.” And nothing is worse than bad, because what we have is a deep shortage.
They’re letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
You realize having restrictions and governmental regulation is exactly the opposite of 'conservative' (in the republican sense, which it's usually used in pejoratively), right?
Anything that hopes to replace Java had better come armed with a couple billion dollars and the support of thousands of engineers.
Maybe spread-out beyond SF & the Valley? There's a whole big world out here.
I'm not a huge fan of excessive NIBMYism, but the industry's inability to take advantage of the entire rest of the world seems like a much easier problem to solve on all fronts, and yet everyone takes it as a first principle that everything must be done in this one place.
Prop13 really needs to go away. It chronically defunded local government and schools for almost 50 years and directly brought us to the crisis where we are at today.
One memory in particular was when the San Diego Union Tribune ran a picture of new computers from one of those supermarket programs, sitting under a hole in the roof because the district had been underfunded on maintenance for three decades.
All the school districts near me have chronic teacher shortages, and there’s tremendous teacher turnover. Occasionally a teacher will go homeless before leaving for a district with lower cost of living.
A prominent neighborhood activist has switched from NIMBY to YIMBY because his wife was recruited on an emergency basis to teach high school English without a teaching certificate, and has been teaching for the past several years.
All the teachers I know of my age are living either with parents or with their parents’ financial assistance.
The one mitigating factor is that young parents are having difficulty affording this region, so schools are starting to close and not need any teachers anymore.
One thing to notice is that plenty of industries have followed this pattern until they became mature (cars, breakfast cereals, aircraft to some degree). And you see this in software: the pressure discussed is at the frothy end of the market.
> it’s a just so story commingling
In science and philosophy, a just-so story is an unverifiable narrative explanation for a cultural practice, a biological trait, or behavior of humans or other animals. The pejorative nature of the expression is an implicit criticism that reminds the hearer of the essentially fictional and unprovable nature of such an explanation.
com·min·gle: mix; blend
Also it's not worth it where the valley is behind the curve (e.g. engines are designed in different centers of excellence).
Even for venture-backed (intended-to-be) high-growth companies, the Bay Area is only about 50% of all US venture capital investment. And there has been some spread: in my professional lifetime the "Valley" has grown to encompass SF and parts of the East Bay. When I first started working here people lived in SF and commuted to tech jobs in MP and points south.
But some products are just so high margin (iPhones, Internet search, USB-powered vape tubes) that it's cheaper overall to be here and take advantage of the affordances available.
Aka factories minimize distance between inputs, other factories, and customers. So Coca Cola builds multiple factories because buying water locally and shipping the finished bottle 10 miles is cheaper than shipping it 1000 miles. For car factories there are some costs for traveling in between factories so most of them are still clustered in certain states, but the factories can be spread out. Plus, once a city has too many factories increasing wages, the next company that comes along will build their new factory elsewhere.
Tech offices have effectively zero distance to customer cost (at least within the USA, you might build another place for say the eu) So the main costs to minimize are input costs (employees) and costs between offices (coordination).
Unfortunately the "cost" between offices is relatively high. Unlike multiple factories, aka ship the plastic bottle from one factory and the plastic cap from another factor to the main bottler factory, multiple offices require coordination with one another. Or to put it in tech words, it's not easily parallelizable. The more offices spread out in multiple cities you have, the more meetings you need to coordinate between each city.
And the cost between offices is essentially "time" the most precious resource for a tech firm, which cannot really be removed. And so tech firms pay the higher col rather than spreading out into other cities; well until the col really increases too much.
Remote work is a viable option. Some "remote first" companies have been very successful. And ... there are lots of talented people who do not live in SF.
Perhaps it is the founders and VCs that are clinging to the status-quo.
Also, this isn't exactly a revelation for those who are in businesses that hinge on physical location (retail, restaurants, etc...). Landlords provide little of value, in most cases did nothing to earn their money (around here the landlords in downtown business districts are the descendants of those who owned that property 100+ years ago) and merely act as parasites.
In the case of those who own residential properties, they merely bought at the right time, and due to the scarcity of land are earning far more than whatever value they're providing.
- Not sell
- Ask for ridiculous amounts
As the old real-estate saying goes: "Location, location, location".
Furthermore, land as has a pretty long-term maturing period. It can easily take 10-20 years for land to go from cheap to really expensive. Oftentimes that process involves rezoning of land, and eventually gentrification.
Lots of cities are plagued with the same levels of bureaucracy and regulations as SF, where it can take 10 years from planning to first shovel in ground.
You could have a perfectly fine spot of land in a major city, but because it's not zoned for your use, it's essentially worthless now - but everyone knows that it could be very valuable 10-15-20 years from now.
And lastly; There are tons of real-estate investors that focus 100% on these kinds of things.
The original claim was that landowners are basically just freeloaders, making easy money.
Land presumably can't cost ridiculous amounts, only what people think it will be worth - how much money they can make with it.
That it takes years to maybe appreciate, maybe not - wouldn't that indicate that perhaps it is not so easy to make money with it after all?
Everybody is free to buy land, no?
Also I don't think people can just ask for arbitrarily high rents wherever they want. It is a gamble to buy in a location where rents will rise.
People then only see the winners and not the losers and get envious.
Take some risks of your own, then complain.
The only reason not everyone does it is because they don't have the prerequisite capital (and pooling wealth usually doesn't work because people suck at sharing, although I do know people who have done it, even without being in a romantic relationship).
If your grandfather bought the same lot for $600 in 1922, the returns today are quite something.
It’s very hard to become a large-scale land owner today, unless you happen to own a time machine.
The returns are consistently well north of 10%, and that includes deals pre-2008. Naturally that may be harder to do at scale.
But the point is you don’t need a time machine, you need skills, effort, discipline and focus.
And why not buy something today that can be worth millions for your grandchildren?
Because it is not so easy, after all.
So you think it is unfair that somebodies grandfather bought land, and it appreciated? Do you think ownership in general is unfair, or what exactly is the unfair part?
For example if you ponder buying a plot of land, presumably the rules there would factor into your decision. If there was already a rule of "no skyscrapers", then everybody could have factored that into their decision.
It would likewise be unfair to change rules after the fact, because it would devalue people's investments.
As for tax rules, I can't comment. But that is a fault of the government, not of the landlords.
Alas, mostly the rules have changed quite a bit to favour the incumbetents and the grandfathered-ins
But if you can afford it there is no better investment. Practically no home in LA county lost money over an arbitrary 10 year period. The problem is the source of these profits is from squeezing middle and working class renters absolutely dry.
Personally I don't believe it is really so easy. But that is the narrative of the leeching landlords.
In the same vein, would you all say people who earn money in the stock market by investing in the right things are just leeches and parasites?
When do people deserve anything?
Just wondering how deep the socialist attitude runs.
So investing in something is stupid, because if you are successful you don't deserve it?
When is anything deserved?
I am glad though that you focus on the simple ROI calculation of election costs to investment efficiency!
This past January, the Commonwealth featured a panel on Bay Area housing crisis, featuring Pastor Paul Bains, Fred Blackwell, Priscilla Chan, Janet Liang, Jennifer Martinez, and Erika Aguilar -- an impressive, intelligent, and motivated group of experts.
What floored me, and several friends I shared this with, though, was the collective response that there was no single silver bullet, no way to throw money at the problem to solve it. Which betrays an immense ignorance or denail of San Francisco history.
Henry George's Land Value Tax is not only a concept that was developed in (and concerning) San Francisco, but literally raises money from the crux of the problem at the same time it solves it, by creating an effective incentive to increase density. Very simply put, San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area must grow their way out of this mess, and if they don't, other areas will, and are.
And it's not just about outsiders -- it's SF and Bay Area natives who are and have been priced out and forced out of the area, and present residents who will find themselves and their families -- elderly parents, young children -- facing similar fates.
And yes, I'm aware that Proposition 13 is political kryptonite, but it's also increasingly economic kryptonite, killing off what once made California an attractive and viable place to be. Though I've known of the initiative for decades, it's only in recent years I've realised just how toxic it truly is.
I've also become increasingly aware of the economic toxicity of the tendency toward and incentives for asset inflation, most especially of real productive and essential assets -- land, housing, education, healthcare, essential utilities. Some of the most interesting research on this was conducted in the 1930s and 40s by Bernhard J. Stern, for example "Resistances to the adoption of Technological Innovations" (1937). He traces the practice across numerous innovations, from printing and transport to energy and, yes, housing, naming some very familiar names and tactics. (The post-WWII suburban boom broke the logjam for a time. Oh, and you may have heard of his research assistant, a student named Isaac Asimov.)
You're absolutely correct that this isn't a technological problem. It is an organisational one, and a political one, and pits families and the working class against homeowners, banks, investors, and landlords. And it will destroy California, if it hasn't already.
Opposition to Prop 13 is building, and I think we will see meaningful reform within 10 years. Hopefully full repeal within 20. But this is an even bigger political lift than fixing our broken Bay Area governments.
If you haven't already, check out http://thecommonssf.org/, an org based in SF that's centered around LVT.
As for zoning, that's likely a chicken-egg issue, but once holding nonproductive land becomes nonviable, reversing restrictive zoning may become far more tractable.
Alternatively, cracking the nut outside SF (and yes, I realise you're in the City) might be an option, where if a sufficient alternate jobs-and-housing magnet were formed, SF would be forced to follow suit. Not my first choice, but I'd take it.
Tackling this as a strategic "having defined our point B, how do we get there from A" question, and finding the least-cost path seems the right approach. Finding examples of other areas which have successfully tackled the problem is another.
As a comparison, California in the 1950s represented an alternative to challenging development-averse and innovation-averse practices in points East -- New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and other established centres of population and industrial power.
Rather than fight on home turf, innovation packed up and headed West. A classic example being RAND Corporation, which literally loaded a train with researchers and families and headed to the (then cheap) locale of Santa Monica, CA.
The history of research and academic centres as being adjacent but removed from centres of commerce and power is a long one, dating back to Plato's Academy, an eponymous grove about a 30 minutes' walk outside Athens, then centre of the Western world.
I've been diving a bit into the history of major research laboratories, such a DuPont, Kodak, AT&T, IBM, Xerox, and others. Similar trends. The Manhattan Project is an extreme case, with additional constraints (secrecy, not disturbing the neighbours).
There's a bunch of graphs showing rents increase, but no real reason for why that's a bad thing. The big number that's supposed to sway us is the rent increasing by 30%, as funding increases by 300%. Maybe there's better numbers somewhere else, but this just tells me rents are not really a problem, at least for the tech industry.
And the solution? It's just build more houses, so the rents go down (a little). Do you really want more houses? The NIMBY people don't seem to. Infinite high density cities aren't all necessarily the best thing. Maybe if you think too much money is disappearing in these wealthy people's vaults, raise taxes?
Then SF shouldn't have permitted the office space that brought all these people. City planing needs proportions. When a city adds offices, it needs home, schools, grocery stores, etc
We're not talking about Manhattan-esque high rises. 3/4 of the city is limited by law to single family homes. Allowing mid-rise buildings like Amsterdam and Paris would more than solve the problem
Right, but the problem is that it's largely illegal to actually build more houses in San Francisco.
The reality is that owners are older, wealthier, stronger-rooted voters -- while renters are younger, transient and don't vote. This is the result.
Things like height restrictions, "shade" restrictions, NIMBY-ism, red-tape -- all the way down to mortgage interest tax deductions -- are to the benefit of owners and to the detriment of renters. They're all political issues that can be resolved but we choose not to.
Rent costs are complicated. A big part of the reason that SF housing is so expensive is that it is so desirable to live and work there. Companies want to be there because that is where the talent and capital is, and talent wants to be there because that is where companies and capital is, and capital wants to be there because that is where the companies and talent are. High cost is what keeps some companies/talent/capital away DESPITE the benefits of being in the area... but if we lower real property costs, MORE companies/talent/capital will want to be there and the cost saving won't persist. There is latent demand ready to fill up any extra housing you build.
There have also been studies that ask this same question, and they have found that opening up housing development in high rent areas just means developers build more luxury living places, and costs don't go down.
It is not views and weather, it is access to the startup environment, venture capital, tech talent and so on.
Nevertheless, there has to be a ceiling to the prices. If no space for living is available, eventually the tech companies won't be able to grow further because they can't hire more people.
What a useless, unconstructive comment. It's sad that when anyone wants to improve anything in this world, people like you come out of the bushes and say "if you don't like it, why don't you just move!"
> "There's a bunch of graphs showing rents increase, but no real reason for why that's a bad thing."
How thick and delusional can one be to say something like this? Have you taken a look at San Francisco recently? It's littered with homeless people and feces.
> Infinite high density cities aren't all necessarily the best thing
Right, because there's no medium between San Francisco and "infinite high density cities"
> "Maybe if you think too much money is disappearing in these wealthy people's vaults, raise taxes?"
A Land Value Tax would be a great idea. Further burdening the working class laborers who are already being raped by landlords with tax increases would only be more destructive.
Building more houses will do just one thing, let more people live there, which means more people will move in, maybe rents go down a little for rich programmers, and the homeless will stay homeless.
But yeah, please do complain both about feces in the streets and homeless people and taxes at the same time.
"Politics is an organizational problem, not a technological one."
If we could just build more houses by saying that we decree them into existence, we wouldn't have this problem. The author proposes some ways to bolster the pro-housing community and get tech voters involved in local politics (including joining https://yimbyaction.org/), and here we are still wondering whether we want to have lower rents or not.
No VC worth their salt would be ignoring the enormous potential that lies in investment property... especially if their own VC funds can feed back to them as rental income.
And in the extremely unlikely case that financiers aren't also the landlords... well nevermind. They are smart people; there's no way they are ignoring this opportunity.
"Startups are ways of exploiting geeks to work hard chanelling money from VCs to local landlords."
Do not feed the landlords.
Just don't live there.
If you can make driving your SUV from the cul de sac to the strip mall to the office park cool again, there are many millions waiting for you at GM, Ford, and Lennar. If not, then no you cannot "reduce demand" for SF and places like it.
Soon, we'll all live in Bay City!
This makes no sense. It doesn't take a 2/3 majority for an Initiative Constitutional Amendment -- just 50% + 1.
Oakland and SF makes less sense than SF and SJ imo, because there's no space between them. At least Oakland has the bay.
If there was a train between SF and SJ that took 30min had frequent departures and free wifi the cities would merge over night.
There must be some truly special about SF to be so hated...and yet apparently so loved.
Adjusting for inflation and rerunning the same calculations:
* $2,600 -> $2,902.47 -> 2011 median rent adjust to 2018 dollars
* $3650 - $2900 = $750 / month increase in rent.
* $750 / .69 = $1086 / month increase (pretax)
* $52000 -> Increased yearly burn for a 4 man startup.
* $208000 -> 4 year pre-tax burn
* $208000 * .69 = $143520 -> 4 year amount to land owners
* $500,000 -> $558,166.51 -> Average seed round in 2011 adjusted to 2018 dollars
* $2.1M - $558K = $1.5M -> Increase in venture funding
So $143K / $1500K goes to Landowners, which is $1 in $11, not $1 in $8, or 30% less than originally calculated.
Here in Sydney we've had absolutely no problem managing to flood the market with apartments, but there's been a substantial disconnect in terms of funding and regulation to provide transport, education, healthcare and green space for all those new people.
It's like, you could fill your bedroom with 4 or six beds, but there won't be enough bathrooms, living rooms, the house internet speed will degrade... it won't be a nice pace to live.
At some point it's sensible to go somewhere else.
Now, about Sydney in particular and Australia in general: we are dry, don't get much rain, most of the continent except for the costal strip is arid and infertile, and that's where something like 80% of the population live. Sydney's water supply is limited and there are only so many people the water resources can supply reliably (we nearly ran out several years ago, and we currently have level 1 water restrictions in force now). That population is much smaller than the number of people that can be housed on the land in high density developments.
was a super fascinating article depicting local zoning as a social shaping tool all the way back to the 1800s.
Same thing with student loans. Feels like the mafia is taking $1.2k/month of my paycheck. I figured I'd rather just opt out than participate in this extortion.
It's funny how tech, by definition the most technologically industry, is so backwards when it comes to things like remote work. But VCs by definition are so wealthy that they have more money than they know what to do with, so there's no real incentive for them to change the status quo until it's disrupted underneath their feet. It's like the whole "nobody ever got fired for IBM" trope.
Some folks are going to say "let's have high affordable housing requirements in new projects." They may genuinely want lots of affordable units, or they may want to freeze housing supply and thus preserve the value of their single-family homes. Pro-tenant renter groups may not care about a "neighborhood character" argument, but they may care quite a bit about a "gentrification" argument, which is almost the same thing. Depending on what kind of YIMBY you ask, you could get someone who cares deeply about affordability, or someone who believes the market will fix everything.
All of this to say: this is a political problem about getting enough different groups with distinct interests to work together. Nobody gets a magic wand to deregulate everything, nor would it help.
If creating that coalition is something you care about, join the group the author recommended: https://yimbyaction.org/
But, that's not how reality works. Instead those people end up working two, maybe three jobs, cohabitating with multiple people and just end up having their quality of life continue to deteriorate. Leaving the city's not necessarily an option.
Developers aren't building more _now_ because it's illegal in the majority of the city, and where it _is_ legal, your permits take about four years to get. By the time you're approved to build, the market has moved out from under you.
We have to change the laws that make building illegal, and to do that we have to change the politicians.
If the solution doesn’t including bringing everyone along I don’t want it.
Nearly 75% of land in San Francisco alone is zoned for low density single-family or duplex homes. 37% of it is just for single-family homes alone. 
Nearly 98%(!!) of land in San Jose is zoned for single-family homes. 
Replacing every ~10 single family homes with even a 6-7 story apartment building can easily increase the supply necessary to reach equilibrium, and that's ignoring the fact that you can build affordable apartments that are >20 stories (see: Long Island City, New York).
Nearly 98%(!!) of land in San Jose is zoned for single-family homes
More likely, the data says that 94% of precincts have at least one single family home.
Well over 10% of land is rights of way (e.g. streets, watersheds, etc.), easements, or is public property.
But even that could be misleading, since San Jose has massive city boundaries that includes hills and other places that really couldn't be built on regardless of what they were zoned for.
Per the parent comment, the prescribed solution is to eliminate (or heavily curtail) such zoning laws. In other words: “deregulate housing”.
For example, here in Chicago the value of land downtown is upwards of $40 million per acre. It has nothing to do with the location of the land or that we're completely maxed out for development. It has everything to do with the fact that you can build 250+ units on that plot of land.
Real estate always has to do with the location.
People will sell their homes in the market, as they do today. Today it is illegal for a buyer of such homes to build multi-story apartment buildings in their place. The argument is to simply allow such construction to happen.
You have a strange definition of "force".
We have hundreds of examples of "come down on landlords like hawks and make them suffer" working.
Stop it. Do some research.
> Tokyo, Japan’s capital city, has a growing population of over 13 million people but house prices have hardly increased in twenty years. Why? Tokyo has a laissez-faire approach to land use that allows lots of building subject to only a few general regulations set nationally.