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Marc Andreessen says he’s for new housing, but records tell a different story (theatlantic.com)
487 points by danielmichaelyc 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 731 comments

I'm not terribly surprised. In my experience the calls for more housing from the wealthy and business class are disingenuous; more often really a call for more apartments to be built exclusively in neighbourhoods dominated by the poor and working class and a continued ban of apartments in the low density single family home areas that the wealthy business owning class live in.

Often this is called the "Grand Bargain," that new housing can be allowed, but only if it is constrained to a tiny area (which becomes increasingly dense), while the bulk of single family homes are left untouched.

The challenge for voters is to discern between those that are calling for more housing that are genuine YIMBYs, that want to build more housing for everyone more equitably, everywhere in all neighbourhoods, and those like Andreessen, which merely want to continue on with Grand Bargain thinking, and want to continue the status quo by which the poors live as far as possible away from him.

Honestly, having had lived in mixed-income neighborhoods, the wealthy are missing out. Dense mixed-income neighborhoods, pockets of which are holding on for dear life in parts of New York for example, are an absolute delight.

We need to find a way to rebrand the American dream to be this.

As a New Yorker driving around middle america is super depressing. I can't imagine growing up trapped in my own home on a street with no sidewalks, only being able to go where my parents take me and finally growing into driving age so that I can go from parking lot to parking lot.

I've lived in rural, suburban (McMansion-dominated), and urban parts of the US, including NYC. I grew up in a semi-rural place.

NYC was by far the most depressing and soul-crushing for me. It's lonely despite being crowded, it's filthy, it's unreasonably expensive, it's hard to get anywhere, and it's unfortunately full of people with a similarly condescending viewpoint about people/places outside the city.

I now live in a large southern city with lots of sidewalks and love it, and returning to New York makes me incredibly sad for the people who still think it's the only city to live in.

My point is not that I'm correct. It's just how I feel. Rather, I suggest you examine how you talk about your viewpoint to avoid sounding so confident about things you have no actual experience in.

I was actually born in Poland and spent the first half of my childhood on the outskirts of a mid sized town, 2 blocks from a huge forrest, and enjoyed it a ton, as a 10 year old I was able to walk or bike to any corner of the town on my own.

I'm not being condescending about living in suburbs or rural areas, just the design of a large portion of car dominated suburban areas of the US. As an example, I just got back from Pittsburgh, where I was staying in an AirBnB that was only 2 miles north of the city. I was really excited to explore Pittsburgh and was hoping to bike or walk down to the city after work but it would have been a 50min walk down a narrow road that's dominated by F150s and mini vans, something that even as an adult I didn't feel safe doing. I got to see a large portion of the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh and most of it looked like that, as I was driving through it it hit me that there are no kids out even though it's the middle of Summer, the only place we saw any was at shopping malls with their parents.

NYC is not a soul crushing place full of condescending people if step outside of the touristy areas of Manhattan. I grew up in Queens (Ridgewood / Kew Gardens Hills) and lived in Harlem and northern Brooklyn as an adult, all of which are some of the most diverse zip codes of the world with a ton of friendly middle class people. As a teenager I was able to bike or take the train to any basketball court in the city, say hi and play with people from all over the world. These days with all of the bike lanes that they added I can bike to almost anywhere in the city in under 30min and it's my main mode of transportation.

EDIT: Good biking video demonstrating soul crushing new york https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77nmYdbJSJ0

> I'm not being condescending about living in suburbs or rural areas, just the design of a large portion of car dominated suburban areas of the US.

It sounds like your experience in Pitt was bad and I'm sorry you didn't have fun. I'm glad you found a home in NYC that you love.

What's not okay is projecting your suburb in Pitt onto the entire Midwest. There's a large geography to the US with many different cultures. What you wrote felt condescending and classist when framed alongside your projection that doesn't ring true for most of the towns in the Midwest.

To frame this with your example, if I only spoke about the worst parts of NYC and then projected them onto the entire city I doubt you'd have a very high opinion of me. That's why people don't like what you said.

He was talking about the car-mandatory suburban design of the USA, which is pretty much everywhere by law outside of a few grandfathered places that were built before the car was invented and some commercial down towns. They also tend to be very expensive since they are in short supply and high demand. It has nothing to do with the people or culture per say and his experience exists everywhere! Look at pretty much an identical experience in Houston: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxykI30fS54 . The channel also has few examples of the same thing in london, ontario, canada.

In Europe, small town life is not necessarily suburban life, there are a lot of of walk-able villages connected via a train line that you could take to commute to your job in city, and they're wayyyyyyyyyy better than the sadness that is US & Canadian suburbia.

The offense people took had nothing to do with cars and more to do with generalizations and common microaggressions by coastal folks from large metros.

Honestly, I am very frustrated that this forum struggles so repeatedly to empathize with voices outside large metros, but I will attempt to break this down shotgun-style for you.

> As a New Yorker driving around middle america is super depressing.

Imagine if I called the place you're from, the place you grew up "depressing". All for a lack of sidewalks? As others shared we have woods, parks, lots of activities, etc. Yeah, it's not the same culture as NYC, but I don't think it requires being insulted. It's also not factual that you can only get around with a car. I survived til I was 16 with just a bike and rode everywhere. Still do, and now I live in San Jose.

> I can't imagine growing up trapped in my own home on a street with no sidewalks, only being able to go where my parents take me and finally growing into driving age so that I can go from parking lot to parking lot.

To most of the midwest and south, this is an extreme exaggeration but conveyed as commonplace.

I don't owe any more mental energy to this thread, so this is my last reply. I do hope that you (and him!) can be aware of the microaggressions in this thread and why they're not okay.

Many of us grew up in "trapped in my own home on a street with no sidewalks, only being able to go where my parents take me and finally growing into driving age so that I can go from parking lot to parking lot." and escaped to cities or loathe the suburbia we live in today.

Pittsburgh suburbs were just an example, there's plenty of nice walkable spots all over America, what I was talking about are car centric sprawls where you can't really go anywhere unless you get in a car. Having traveled most of North East, East Coast, Rust Belt and West Coast of the US, this is not a rare thing that's only seen in Pitt, even fairly dense parts of Long Island are just isolated homes and strip malls.

The North Hills (suburbs) of Pittsburgh are depressing indeed. I love the work the city proper has done to make walking and cycling a priority though!

Yeah I actually really liked proper Pittsburgh and was impressed by all of the bike lanes and greenery.

You’re still just generalizing your experience in a way that implies that you actually know what most of middle America is like, when you don’t. And having lived in Poland doesn’t somehow prove that you do.

I’ve lived in the US for over 20 years and have been to more than half of the states, including all of the east coast, west coast and large parts of the mid west. The states I haven’t been to are way more rural than the ones that I’ve seen. If I had to guess I’ve probably seen more of the US than 95% of Americans.

I’ve also done road trips through large parts of Europe and can tell you that none of it is littered with strip malls, parking lots and houses on streets without sidewalks.

I also find New York City to be extremely depressing, and radically subpar urbanistically compared with Berlin, where I currently live. You can take an S-Bahn in 30 minutes or so to S-Bahn Schlachtensee and swim clean, chill and easily accessible lake - a journey to the water in New York will take much much longer, involve more walking, and involve dirtier water.

It is easy to find scapegoats for the poor urbanism of the United States, but very difficult to think of a solution without a radical change in the nature of governance.

And in Berlin you can cycle! I'm not a regular cyclist, but on holiday I felt totally comfortable renting a bike and using the bike lanes to get around.

As a resident of Berlin (that likes living there) I feel it's important to also mention NYC has almost 2.5 times as many people and unlike Berlin is part of a large urban agglomeration (the northeast megalopolis - total population ~50m).

It's not quite a fair comparison.

Right, but the original comment was (condescendingly) comparing NYC to middle America, so differing densities and other demographics are precisely the point.

No, my point was about the car centric bend of a large portion of suburban / rural America. I wrote that message at like 1am, see my comment here for what I meant https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32355777

Compare Pittsburgh suburb (https://goo.gl/maps/bFBWcsJ6EeL1kgVe7) to the suburbs of the town that I was born in (https://goo.gl/maps/ktkWzAUa3tyz37hQ7).

This is an even better example: https://goo.gl/maps/cAECdLXaBVoErtsFA vs https://goo.gl/maps/oBmruFK2Sqaxg6TW7

EDIT: Same goes for the Bay Area, staying by YC offices for the interviews was depressing too. Look at this: https://goo.gl/maps/ERCkS7zrHw8tM2or9

NotJustBikes has some excellent videos on the differences between US and European cities, this one captures many of the issues - https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oHlpmxLTxpw

> "And in Berlin you can cycle!"

You can certainly cycle in New York. Cycling has increased dramatically in New York City over the past decade or so with the installation of more cycle-friendly infrastructure, including over 100 miles of protected bike lanes, city bike sharing, e-bike rental apps, etc.

Cycling in nyc has changed drastically in the last decade. It's almost good now!

>> a journey to the water in New York will take much much longer, involve more walking, and involve dirtier water

It's not hard, not far to reach.

And for all of the cleanliness and convenience you also have to put up with 3/4 of the population blowing their cigarette smoke in your face. Especially indoors in bars, despite it being illegal.

This can't be quite true. In Berlin smoking is prohibited in public buildings, public transportation including nearly 100% of all train stations (the exception being designated smoker areas of ~20m² on open-air platforms), shops, bars and inside restaurants. Many places offer open-air seating (they call it Terrasse but it's the sidewalk); there, being outside smoking is not prohibited. There's an exception for small-ish bars which are clearly marked as being smokers' places and for adults only (>18yrs). So I'd say you've got a good chance of not getting smoke blown into your face.

Also, while you're right in that comparatively many people in Berlin are smokers (although that might be a commonality of cities as opposed to the countryside), they're still a minority of <30% [1], so more like 1/3 than 3/4 (it can feel like every second guy in the street though).

[1] https://www.abnr.de/tabakpraevention/daten-fuer-deutschland/...

Every large club in Berlin is full of people, staff included, smoking in violation of the law.

The rules are not enforced.

What? Smoking indoors is illegal in Germany, yet germans do it outright? This is a blow to the stereotype of the 100%-law-abiding-germans that I grew up with here in only-12%-law-abiding-south-america. I'm actually being serious. I never thought that germans would smoke indoors if it became illegal. I mean, here in Brazil it's illegal (I think it became illegal in the early 2000's) and nobody does it.

Berlin is a special, lawless place. It’s the capital of German halfassery. 50% of the packages I order from Amazon never arrive.

I’ve lived here since 2008 and it is unlike any other major world capital.

Note that if you're the sort of person to be bothered by smoke, one person lighting up in a room with 100 people will be noticed by the other 99 people. It only takes 1% non-law-abiders to make everyone think that Germans smoke in bars.

I'm from Germany and this is pretty unusual. There are very few pubs where smoking is kind-of tolerated and sometimes a drunk person will light a cigarette in a club, but it's really rare and absolutely a non-issue in my experience.

I live in Berlin and u must have not been out here coz many places, especially clubs, allow smoking indoors.

I didn't experience this in Berlin; to be fair, however, I didn't spend much time in Bars there.

In Berlin, the inside smoking laws are pretty much never enforced. Some bars have dedicated smoking rooms, but many don’t. As for clubs, you can mostly expect smoking indoors. A lot of people smoke, so you _will_ encounter smokey environments when out and about, especially during the winter

Hm, I'm suprised too, where I live it doesn't happen. Perhaps Berlin is different.

There are a lot of bars that don't allow smoking, but unfortunately almost all "good" (in my opinion) do.

There's some odd dynamic going on then. What happened here in Norway was that the indoors smoking ban was at first immensely unpopular (it didn't help that the health minister at the time, who pushed it, was a Christian Democrat who fit nicely into moral busybody stereotypes). But as soon as the ban was implemented, attitudes changed overnight. Even the smokers agreed that things were a lot more comfortable. And I've heard similar stories from other places with public smoking bans.

I bet that even if a place managed to hide it from the public health authorities (they DO regularly do unannounced inspections anywhere food is served or made, after all), it would just be a colossal competitive disadvantage in most places. How strange that Berlin is different!

People use new york because it's the best america has. When you have the whole world, there are better places.

NYC has serious and complicated problems and it's perhaps not the best idea to hold it up as the pinnacle of a "walkable town". There are better choices to use for that example.

As you sort-of implicitly suggest, it doesn't have to be a choice between a soulless suburb with no sidewalks and a piss-soaked urban hellscape-- with NOTHING in-between.

What we do need, however, is more urban centers with walkable, complete streets, human amenities and a broad mix of different housing types for a wide spectrum income levels and NOT separate isolated enclaves for the wealthy and the poor. Especially important are appropriate and truly useable "third-places" rather just bauble shops for the wealthy, dollar stores for the poor, and distant megamalls for the middle-class surrounded an ocean of asphalt.

Where are you going in NYC? I live in a tree lined neighborhood with pleasant little cafes and restaurants. I bike a lot of places and I'm equally close to two large parks. There's some mix of incomes as the adjacent neighborhoods blend together. I hear the schools are pretty good, and there's good train access.

Some people think New Yorkers live in Times Square or the Empire State Building.

woah... I am not "against" NYC. I think it's awesome as a whole and I go there frequently. But yeah, it does have deep problems, the cost-of-living is borderline insane and it REALLY DOES smell like pee in far too many places.

I am just saying that NYC is not the best example of where we want urban centers to aspire to. For one thing, nothing in the USA is as big and or has the financial resources of NYC.

Towns in the US that want to improve their housing situation need to look towards what OTHER SIMILAR towns are doing and are successful at. NYC is such a weird case on the basis of scale and density.

Yeah, cost of living is a serious issue. We've been under-building housing for nearly 30 years.

I think that's all basically fair. I'm interested in how some places in Utah are trying to tackle housing, but haven't spent much time reading about it yet.

This is the kind of comment you write when your only experience with NYC is as a tourist in the densest parts of Manhattan.

NYC is not midtown manhattan. Please go check out Queens or Brooklyn next time you visit, I promise you it's safe and full of walkable and bikeable streets.

It's the cars for me. I hate driving. I hate how everyone having a car makes it necessary to drive everywhere. Very few cities in the us let you get away without owning a car.

NYC isn't perfect, its just better than everywhere else ive lived.

> I now live in a large southern city with lots of sidewalks

So you pretty much agree with the person that you're implying is an elitist, and live in exactly the same neighborhood they would choose if they found a good job in your city. You're not defending McMansion-dominated neighborhoods very well.

I don't understand the aggression.

It's not that that person was wrong. They were right -- about their own preferences.

They feel sorry for people who are different from them and want different things. Some people love being able to drive places (my disabled sister is one of them).

I feel sorry for people who don't know they're in a bubble. Maybe they truly want to live in a cookie-cutter McMansion suburb and just won't allow themselves to consider it for cultural reasons. That specifically is unlikely, but some version of it is probably happening, and they're missing out as a result.

I think it has to do with what stage you are at in life. If I was an eight year old kid NYC would be terrible: no pool, no pet dog, no backyard, rough schools, dirty public transits, restaurants don't have kids menus, etc etc. If I was a 23 year old college grad - NYC is the place to be: high paying stressful work, awesome happy hours, awesome C level mentors, easy to find roommates, killer Manhattan apartments, etc etc. If I was a 43 year old family man, NYC would again be horrible: terrible schools, long commutes, high crime, expensive beer, no car parking for kids, insane mortgages or rent, parks covered in homeless, old run down apartments.

Sound like urban living is not your cup of tea. Which is entirely fine and something YIMBYs strongly support.

YIMBYism is about options: those who do prefer to live in an area should not face artificial restrictions like bans on new homes in desirable areas near well paying jobs.

I love urban living and currently live in a dense part of a large city.

Condescension toward people who don't fall into that category is what isn't my cup of tea.


Growing up in Middle America was nowhere near as depressing as you’re describing it. We had bikes to get around, woods and empty lots and big backyards and parks to explore. Not to mention friends on the same block. Of course NYC would be much more exciting once you’re allowed to ride the train on your own.

I for one had a very isolated childhood because I couldn’t go anywhere on my own, and pretty much nobody in my development ever talked to each other, so I basically didn’t know anyone local. That said I didn’t know any better so I thought that was just normal and didn’t experience it negatively.

Man, it just depends. In my youngest years, it was exactly as you describe. But then we moved to a new state. It was a little bit more suburban (not quite rural, but closer), and houses were a bit more spread out. Populated streets were more spread out, connected by roads I wouldn't feel safe cycling on as an adult, let alone allowing a child to do so. I couldn't wait to get my license to drive so I could actually do something outside the house without requiring permission.

And now those woods are a new suburb, the empty lots a new target.

Maybe on the popular coasts, but most of inner USA is little pockets of development spread out among large wilderness

Hell even the California countryside is like this, once you get far enough away from the big cities

Agreed. I think people on the coasts (or at least the east coast) fail to appreciate the vastness of the rest of the country that they so often look down on.

> once you get far enough away from the big cities

This is the key statement.

Build more SFH suburbs, gonna take you longer and longer to get far away from those cities.

Yes, but it really isn't that far. As soon as you leave the edge of suburba-mega-town you're in wilderness again. Where I live it's much less than a half-hour of driving, from the most interior parts of the city, in most conditions.

Let the haters hate. It gives more outdoors to us.

If you let those people who prefer density have their density, there's more sparsity left over for the rest.

I can’t tell if you intend to agree with the parent or if you are trying to rebut his argument, but this is the parent’s point. Moreover, the US is still not very dense, and there is plenty of sparsity for everyone. People should leave their metropolises a couple of times in their lives and experience the vast expanses. suburbs aren’t threatening nature in most parts of the country (agriculture OTOH…), and I say this as someone who personally dislikes the stereotypical American suburb for many other reasons.

I wasn't trying to rebut the parent's argument (assuming the parent wasn't trying to be ironic or so).

Denser cities make it easier to leave them for a short stint, too, because there's less sprawl.

Yes, it's probably a good idea to live outside a city for a while in your life. Though that's up to individual preferences.

I'm not quite sure whether it makes much sense one way or another to say that the US is 'still not very dense'.

In some literal sense, that is obviously true. In another sense, just because eg Russia has huge empty lands in Siberia bringing down the average density on a federal level, doesn't really make a difference to someone living in the suburbs of Moscow.

Similarly, if Russia lost Siberia tomorrow, the person in the Moscow suburb wouldn't experience density any different either.

I only chose Russia as an extreme case example. You can replace Siberia with Alaska or the flyover states, and Moscow and its suburbs with eg San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

After spending years in quite a few different places around the globe, I'm quite happy to live in Singapore these days, one of the premier global cities.

In the US it is sad that because of building restrictions so many people are excluded from its most productive cities; unnecessarily setting back the economy and thus the prosperity of the people. Including even of those people who wouldn't want to live in those most productive places.

>> there is plenty of sparsity for everyone

This will be my koan for the day.

Fun fact. We could fit the entire world population in a mega city the size of Texas.

Not sure what numbers you used. For comparison, here's a worked example:

Singapore has a size of 728.6 km2, and a population of 5.7 million people. For a density of 8,400 people per km2. (That includes water reservoirs, military bases, an international airport, areas for heavy industry, nature reserves, garbage dumps, power stations, 1.5% of the world's crude oil refining capacity, a few semiconductor fabs, etc.)

There are 7.96 billion people on the planet. That means if you scale up Singapore at the same density, you'd need 952,000 km2 to fit everyone.

Texas has a size of 696,000 km2. So our mega-Singapore would need about 1.37 Texases of area.

That's pretty close to your number.

Wikipedia gives New York City's population density as 11,313.68/km2, but the borders for that calculation will by necessity be drawn a bit arbitrarily. And I assume that doesn't include as much of the support infrastructure as Singapore does.

Human-scale housing means more wilderness for everyone.

I have no idea what “human scale housing” means, but single family housing is not a threat to wilderness in the US. There is a ton of wilderness in the US, and it is far more constrained by agriculture.

It's a geometry problem. SFH takes up too much space.

You're absolutely correct that there's heaps of wilderness in the USA, but the more SFH there is, the more sprawl that is required, which means that that wilderness is further and further away.

I'd rather get to the wilderness faster and not have to drive through hours and hours of sprawling SFH suburbs.

Geometry has a solution! If you want to be closer to nature, move closer to nature. That seems a lot more reasonable than insisting that everyone around you uproot and reorganize. I'm strongly biased toward letting people live how they want so long as they aren't harming people (and I don't think "living between urbanites and nature" constitutes harm).

Mixed use development where you can walk or bike to nearly all daily needs (work, grocery, kids school) within 20 or so mins.

Work is usually the kicker, many suburbs are actually quite bikable if you're willing to bike on the street.

What people really want is their work, stores, school of choice within walking/biking distance, which is harder to accomplish.


By the time I graduated college all of the empty fields and forests where I had roamed as a teenager were now developments.

Where? In the midwest fields and forests still dominate, and the west is still vast expanses of wilderness. I don’t think your experience generalizes well (although perhaps it is more common on this forum considering it’s atypical demographics).

Sure, but odds are he lived in some outer suburb that is no longer the outer suburb. That woods might have hung on for a while, but it was always doomed just be the fact that it was near a large growing city where most people live and thus remember. Get out a little farther from the city and the wilderness is going to do just fine, but that isn't what people will remember as a kid just by virtual that they never lived near it.

I don't doubt it's true for him. I'm expressing a doubt that it's indicative of the American landscape broadly, a claim which seems to be implied by his opening "had.".

As a current Seattleite who grew up in middle America biking around as a kid anywhere I wanted, I have the opposite feeling. I thought it was great! Maybe it’s more about the person than it is the location.

A lot of people can't imagine how nice it is to be able to go out casually into the woods or wilderness With Friends on the weekend or even a school night

Arent most single family homes in suburbs or similar places where there are no woods and often no sidewalks? Then everywhere you go, there are just more of single family houses and going to nearest wood requires a car.

I guess it depends on what is meant by middle America in the parent post. In my experience, if neighborhoods don't have sidewalks, they are more rural than suburban.

Indeed, you typically see fewer sidewalks near houses that are closer to woods/etc.

I also wonder what sorts of distances people think of as "far" in this thread. I've lived in both suburbs and in NYC. It's easy to walk a mile in the city without realizing it, whereas that is sometimes unthinkable to suburban folks. But if I walk a mile from my house I hit: woods, trails, the downtown area, the train station (to NYC), a school, fields, and etc.

At least in the U.S. - think it matters quite a bit where you are. Lots of areas in South and West were developed entirely around car use whereas suburbs in the Northeast can be quite tightly packed.

It doesn't help that suburbs aren't designed for walkability or ease of navigation. Even if something might only be 500 metres from your house getting there requires a twisty stupid path to one of the handful or perhaps only entrance to the subdivision. So that 500m can easily turn into 2KM.

This is actually part of the secret to making walkable neighborhoods - make them hell for cars (one entrance, have to snake around) but have paths that go directly through walls/hedges. I've seen some very nice housing developments that are literally 100 ft from a shopping center, but you'd never know it because it's hidden behind a gate.

Love it, agree, I wonder how many suburban towns are able retrofit their neighborhoods like this. My guess is not many based on ownership and configuration, but it would really cool to see pathways snaking through neighborhoods like that.

If you find older ones, you often find unofficial "secret" paths in convenient areas (the poor areas will have actual holes in fences, etc).

The main downside is often the houses are packed in such a way that there's no path without going through someone's yard.

That's a fair point. My town (outside of NYC) is very much like that. With that in mind, the 1-mile walk I mentioned in my original response is based on the paths available to me (twists, intersections, etc.) rather than straight lines.

In my mind, this is another the under-rated aspects of parts of NYC - grids. Simplify the process of walking, judging distance, knowing where you are.

In a lot of suburbs of Atlanta* (and even within Atlanta itself!) you will find residential neighborhoods with no sidewalks. And these are definitely not rural.

* The choice of city is due to personal experience, but I doubt it's unusual - e.g. I'm pretty sure it's exactly the same in/around Miami.

Most subrubs don't need sidewalks. there is zero traffic, so kids can play in the streets just fine. Stop the game when a car is coming. The car can even go slow (though it probably won't if there are no kids) as there is noplace to go on that street and so it doesn't have far to go.

Growing up in a midwest suburb during the 1980s, not only were we not trapped in our own homes, we were almost never in them at all.

Everybody just biked from place to place and spent like 18 hours a day outside of the house, playing basketball, duplicating cassette tapes and making music in various garages.

I feel it's interesting to see how many here touts bikes as the savior and best way to get around.

The US suburbs are now generally so bike-unfriendly. Big and dangerous cars dominate. Speeds in residential areas are high, so dangerous to play in the streets. The suburbs you grew up in are no longer the same.

What happened? Why did you all stop biking around and got a car instead?

Not sure you've spent time in too many suburbs but traffic tends to be minimal and the ubiquitous nature of kids means most drivers take some reasonable care.

No different than when I was growing up. Don't play in the street unless it's a quiet part (cul-de-sac's are great), or block it off with stuff you can move when cars come by.

I had great memories of living in the suburbs. I would rarely be indoors and had half a dozen friends within a minute or two bike ride. We'd hang out in parks, in front of people's houses, spend our quarters at the store buying snacks, doing kid stuff.

> Big and dangerous cars dominate.

Just how many cars do you think are zipping around in a suburban neighborhood at any given time? The roads in a neighborhood are empty most of the time. I find it rich that people talking up the benefits of riding a bike in a big city would seem concerned about the safety of using a bike in a low density neighborhood.

> Speeds in residential areas are high

What? No they’re not. In any given neighborhood the speed limit usually tops out at 25mph.

The speed limit is of no concern to the parent in a big SUV driving their kids to practice. After all, their own kids are safe inside the car.

And my point is that at some point, kids stopped biking everywhere. But it's the same people that used to bike around as kids now driving them everywhere. Hence my question: What happened?

> What happened?

The rise of structured activities. Now kids don't have free time, they go from school to soccer practice to a math tutor. Gotta have extracurriculars if you want to get into a good school.

> Hence my question: What happened?

What happened to a lot of activities kids used to do? They got replaced by ubiquitous internet-connected devices that allow them to watch any video or play any game at any time. They’d rather do that than play outside, and childhood obesity rates track well with these developments.

To put it another way, the neighborhood I grew up in 30+ years ago still exists, and the roads are the same size, the sidewalks are just as non-existent as they used to be, and there’s no more traffic than there used to be. But as you point out, sure there’s less kids out and about in the neighborhood when I was a kid.

But I would note two things about that. One, when I was a kid, there was much less inside that could occupy my time than there is today. And two, I’d argue that if you’re an adult who has to work all day during the summer, you may not be noticing how many kids are actually playing outside during the day.

I think the devices thing is a bit of a chicken and egg in many ways. I have a 10yo nephew that I see a few times a year, and he uses the iPad and loves playing video games to a very large degree. But if you give him the opportunity to go outside and play with him or other kids, the device play time is pretty much ignored most of the time, and it's definitely not because of rules or structure the parents are setting, the parents have problems putting many restrictions on him due to various issues. He also love sports.

If there were always 30 kids outside in your neighborhood to play with and you didn't need permission or help from the adults in your life, I really bet a lot more kids would be having a lot less screen time.

Kids use the devices because there is not much else they are allowed to do, and playing by yourself or a sibling you are sick of in your back yard gets boring quick for most.

Adults need to create an environment where there is something better, and that is the sad truth for most children.

>> there’s less kids out and about in the neighborhood when I was a kid

I would have to agree with this.

I live in the same neighborhood I skateboarded in 35 years ago. Packs of us roamed the streets. We were all over and we got into all sorts of trouble.

Not only can't I remember the last time I saw a kid skateboarding around here, I can't remember the last time a saw a kid in the neighborhood doing anything outside without an adult present. I know there are still kids around because I get the property tax bill every year that's supposedly paying for schools, but kids don't roam the streets around here no more.

That world is gone. Which is good, because if there was a bunch of kids on skateboards fucking up the handrail on my front steps I would have to go try to run them off like the oldsters tried to do to us circa 1988.

We also now call CAS on parents if their eight year old goes biking on their own. Two generations ago it was okay for a kid of that age to roam several miles on their bike. Now they need parental accompaniment at all times.

They’re not likely to blow stop signs or jump curbs, thus regulating their speed.

US suburbs are more bike friendly than ever. In 1950 the car was the future and they quit building sidewalks in the suburbs. Today in new suburbs people want to see sidewalks so they build them. The roads are no wider today than the 1950s, and the lots are smaller. (in the 1950s people remembered the depression and still demanded large enough a lot for a large garden)

The above is of course a generalization and thus there are exceptions all over. It is still fairly true though.

Vehicles are taller, have worse visibility, and are more numerous than the 1950s.

This is paranoid nonsense. I grew up in the suburbs and played in the streets and biked all over the place every day.

Yes, but what about the kids growing up there now? Is it like it was?

And paranoid, really?

I'm raising my kids in a subdivision that has a pool, a playground, and several parks close by, this is very standard for the subdivisions around here. My subdivision is full of kids unsupervised riding bikes, playing on the playground, riding scooters. All the subdivision roads have a low speed limit and its very easy to go miles on dedicated bike lanes that aren't just painted lines on a busy road but instead are separate paved areas off the roads. It helps that I live in one of the safest states in the union and that until relatively recently this was a very affordable place to buy a house and have a family.

This exists in a lot of the newer larger metros, places that have seen lots of growth in the last 10-15 years.

My hometown is much more bike friendly now. It wasn't an issue 30 years ago when I was a kid, but now there are major bike/jogging paths cutting through town in a few different directions, bike lanes are wider and clearly marked, sometimes with barriers.

I grew up in various Midwestern suburbs in the 2000s-2010s and it's almost exactly how you and the OP describe.

As many of the other posts point out, helicopter parenting happened. Instead of forming a bicycle gang with other kids in the neighborhood and rarely even encountering adults, now kids are dragged to structured activities by their parents. They have to be dragged by their parents because if they were sent on their own, most would find something more fun to do on the way and skip their training lessons. This is orthogonal to whether people live in cities or suburbs.

> Speeds in residential areas are high, so dangerous to play in the streets.

Speeds on trunk roads are ridiculous, but the streets with the actual houses on them are not the nightmare you describe.

That stopped happening in the 90s, where you would get reported to child protective services for letting your under 12yo children play outside by themselves unsupervised if it was outside of your property.

Other parents hear it and it creates a huge chilling effect. As a result, there are no other kids outside to play with, so for the few parents willing to buck the trend, it doesn't matter anyway and helicopter soccer mom has to play chauefer and sign them up for a million structured activities and play dates so the kids don't go nuts inside their houses with not being allowed to do anything.

I had to ride a bike everywhere until I was old enough to inherit the family beater car and hop in the back with my girlfriend.

Sucked, it did. Tragic really. Almost child abuse, if you think about it.

I had to wait until adulthood to see a pile of festering trash taller than me sitting on the curb. Robbed!

I feel bad for people who live like ants crammed in small depressing apartments. I’m not in a rural area by any means but I have so much nature and wildlife around me I could never live in a concrete jungle.

People are different. I have friends that live in Miami and NYC, both absolutely love it there but whenever I visit I always want to ask why in the hell they are paying so much rent for so little. Likewise my friends visit me in Colorado and wonder why I'm so obsessed with going outside.

Honestly, I found this a bit insulting.

I grew up in a dense urban core and can’t imagine putting kids through it.

Little to no green space, no riding your bikes down random streets until it’s get dark. No exposure to nature. Cramped in tiny $1M apartments immersed in the rat race.

There are plenty of very livable US college towns with medium-density downtowns, condos for far less than $1M, plenty of green space, and streets I'd feel comfortable letting my kids (if I had any) ride their bikes around. Bloomington, Indiana, Madison, Wisconsin, and Davis, California (granted, that last one isn't as affordable as the others) come to mind among places I've been to. I imagine places like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Champaign, Illinois rank up there too.

Those aren’t suburbs to you? Sure the main commercial street (maybe a few blocks total) isn’t, but Ann Arbor is 90% suburban single family homes.

It’s like San Mateo. The Main Street is more dense but very few choose to live there. It’s mostly endless single family homes.

Hell, I’d call a good part of SF “practically” suburban. Sunset is mostly block upon block of single family homes with maybe 1 corner store within a 10-15 min walk. Transit is easy on a narrow strip, otherwise you’re screwed without a car.

I personally don’t see much difference between that and what people rail against as suburbs.

You mean American, crappily designed urban cores. Plenty of cities around the world that are safe, have plenty of green space, and are much more affordable than those in the US.

Yeah, no.

I spent time in Singapore. Incredible transit system, carefully designed "Garden City" with plenty of outdoor areas, modern, efficient, affordable public housing.

And what did people aspire to? Single family homes, with their own yard and a car. What HN sees as "people are forced to live in the suburbs", is in reality, people just choosing what they like best.

Same in all the other countries I've lived in. Sure, 20-somethings love living in "hip" cities with "trendy" restaurants and "fun" bars to go and are willing to trade all that for tiny apartments. I don't deny that.

But a very substantial part of the population don't want that. They want space, quiet neighborhoods and are willing to have to drive to get that.

I'm very confused. Singapore doesn't have the space for single family housing. The vast majority of homes there are flats/apartments.


I think what he means is that, given the choice, people there would opt for a good class bungalow (essentially your 'detached home', but most will never be able to afford it).

That is an obvious statement, but the analogy breaks down a bit as in Singapore, whether you live in a GCB or in HDB (social housing), everything is relatively close by regardless. Hence, there isn't really much of a trade-off at all - living in a GCB just affords more space and privacy (at an exponentially inflated cost).

Good class bungalows are not your typical single family home. They are on huge lots even for a US single family home.

There are townhomes (shophouses), duplexes, single family homes as options as well.

“To qualify as a GCB, the property must have at least 1,400 square metres (approx. 15,070 sq. ft.) of land area, and the bungalow itself is limited to a maximum of two storeys in height”

People in HDBs want to live in condo, condos want to live in shophouses, shophouses want to live in detached freehold homes.

Everybody wants more space. And despite the great transit system, parts of Singapore can be more remote to the point a car being almost a requirement. And that’s what many people strive for.

Yes, but the most valuable are the freehold GCBs.

Sure. Everyone also aspires to fly private.

The point being we need to figure out how to not destroy nature while allowing people to live meaningful lives and the suburbs ain’t that.

That may be true in some countries, but it's not true in the US or Canada. In fact your comment is just bizarre when you look at the numbers.

The US has enough land to give every single person (man, woman, child - not household) almost 7 acres of land.

The idea that we need pack ourselves in to <1% of the land mass in dense urban cores or else, as you put it we can't live "meaningful lives" (do you decide what's meaningful?) or "destroying nature" is just wrong.

And the best part? We can afford it! We don't need the federal government backing "jumbo" leans for $1M apartments in San Francisco - instead they can back mortgages for 5 homes in the mid-West.

And this is a big shocker - a lot of it's already developed because we need places to grow food!

How do you economically electrify all those those evenly-spaced 7-acre plots of land? How do you build roads to all of them? How do you deliver mail to all of them? How do you get water and sewer lines to all of them (wells don't work everywhere, and septic tanks pollute and just generally suck)? Hell, what company is going to lay down fiber or even coax to all of them? How do you build grocery stores such that people don't have to drive 90 minutes to get one, but there aren't so few customers per store that most of the produce spoils before it can be bought?

I know you're exaggerating for effect, but every degree that you spread people out means greater and greater investments in infrastructure and utilities you need to build and maintain, and some things we take for granted today just become infeasible.

And I agree that it's ridiculous to pay $1,000 per square foot (or more!) for housing in San Francisco. But that's not because of some sort of natural consequence of things, it's actually because it's not dense enough, and the political will to force more building just isn't there. Housing is so expensive here because, despite all the bad things about the city, despite the alleged COVID exodus, we still have far far more people who want to live here than the available housing can support.

Who pays for the infrastructure to connect all of these places?

Usually the developers of the subdivision? Hence the buyers of the property?

I take you’ve never asked utilities the costs for hook ups? They are happy to give you a quote.

It’s sure not the taxpayers the next town over paying $50,000 for a sewer hookup.

Why, the taxpayer does.

Wow you really hate nature huh?

Like sure the space exists (ignoring the fact that most of that land is inhospitable and/or already used for agriculture), but maybe we should leave something for the other species?

But hey, maybe your 7 acres is at the top of the Sierra and you can get some good fire insurance.

For what it’s worth I have 0 aspiration to fly private and also 0 aspiration for a suburban McMansion.

Even well planned Urban cities provide very different opportunities to the rural situation. You can't go casually hiking or mountain biking or camping in the afternoon after school

Dense cities can offer this too when there's not much in the way of suburban sprawl.

One thing I miss since moving to San Francisco from the UK is now I need a car to access nature. There was something very pleasant about taking a train to the edge of the city to go on a hike and ending up at a pub for a few beers before taking the train home again.

In Oslo in the winter you'd see people with cross country skis on the metro since the forest trails at the edge of town were easily accessible.

You absolutely can. Especially hiking (even living in Paris of all cities, you have two dozen trails you can get to by train). Mountain biking idk because I'm more of a sea guy, but i was doing a lot of river kayak after work in my previous city, and now I'm windsurfing a lot.

I live in very central Berlin, and regularly go 'mountain' biking after work. You can ride from the city to endless forests in like 30 minutes in relative safety. There's also a huge amount of green space in the city itself.

I'm glad you put "mountain" in quotes, because we sure as hell don't have anything which counts as a mountain in this town - and no, that tiny hill in Humbolthain where the nazis built anti-air guns doesn't count.

I can take a train from where I live in Tokyo and be doing any of those things within an hour.

Define "Urban city"?

I live in the center of a 1M+ city and went for a 1.5 hour bush hike 15 minutes drive from my house.

A 12–year–old can’t drive 15 minutes out of the city after school in order to go hiking. In a rural area the fields, farms, woods, streams, ponds, and other such attractions are all right within a few minutes walking distance. Indeed, that kid probably has to bike right past all of those things in order to get to his friend’s house to play Contra. Even in a suburban area some of those things might still be reasonably close by.

When people talk about how wonderful it is to live in a dense, walkable city, they are thinking about all the nightclubs they can go to, the bars, the restaurants, art galleries, libraries, etc all within a few minute’s walk. But that’s not everyone’s vision of an ideal living environment.

Folks who move to a suburb want more stability, less noise, fewer people, more open space, nice lawns, a pool in the back yard, a deck to sit on in the summer while you watch the kids swim, etc. They don’t want a nightclub on every block. Even a convenience store would not be very well regarded (especially if it’s really a gas station that also sells candy bars; Japanese–style stores that are part of the owner’s house would actually fit much better).

I don’t know much about what folks living in very rural areas like, but some of my relatives who live in a quasi–rural area value the fact that nobody in the area mows their lawns. Instead the local farmers bring their tractors over once or twice a year to harvest the grass out of everyone’s back yards to make hay.

> When people talk about how wonderful it is to live in a dense, walkable city, they are thinking about all the nightclubs they can go to, the bars, the restaurants, art galleries, libraries, etc all within a few minute’s walk.

Sort of, but that's not all of it. I like that there's a corner store a half block away, and a small but well-stocked grocery two blocks away. There's a hardware store four blocks away. There's a park four blocks away, and another six blocks away. I can go for a six mile run without having to drive myself to a gym (and my partner can walk to her gym). My partner walks a couple blocks to get her nails done or hair cut. If I need to see my doctor, I walk 20 minutes to get there. Sure, I have to drive sometimes, but it's rare.

I wish there was a way to get the best of both worlds. I do have to drive to go on a hike or find a forest to wander around in. I don't feel safe cycling in many parts of my city. As I get older, I go to bars less and less, and nightclubs pretty much never. I cook at home more often. I get annoyed rather than smile knowingly if I hear a pair of happy-drunk people walking home from a bar at 2am on a Friday night when my windows are open and I'm trying to sleep. But damn, I love being able to walk everywhere to get normal everyday things done. I hate driving for simple things; it just adds so much overhead to everything.

Not trying to say dense urban living is objectively better, just trying to point out that "I like walkability" doesn't merely mean "I like bars and restaurants and clubs". I agree that my particular city might not be a great place for kids to grow up, though, frankly, I don't see many kids out and about on the occasion that I need to drive into a residential area of a suburb, so I feel like in general it's just not the same as when I was a kid in the suburbs.

I would also like to see suburbs become more walkable and abandon the strip mall concepts. I would like to see more, smaller grocery stores and other commercial intermixed amid residential areas.

But I personally feel trapped in a dense urban environment. Going out to restaurants and bars and shows are neat experiences, but they aren’t fulfilling for me never mind the enormous expense of it all. I would rather live where I have access to nature and visit the city for its attractions on a weekend when the mood strikes. I want a house that my wife and I own and can do projects in without worrying about the condo association rules or disrupting my neighbors. I want at least a little bit of yard so my elderly dog can lay in the grass off-leash. I want less crime, a saner politics, and a local government that isn’t so dysfunctional. I really think a little bit of space is good for the soul, but I also think the American model of suburbs can be improved to get more of the benefits of urban life.

i live in a rural one-stoplight town and all of those things are the same distance if not closer. even if i lived in an outlying suburb none would be more than 15 min away or maybe 30-45 min on a bike. 'nature' is about a 90 seconds walk from my doorstep. there certainly isn't much of a nightlife though.

it feels like the whole NIMBY/YIMBY dichotomy loses sight of the fact there are other development models besides midtown manhattan or the exurbs of tuscon.

My city had more dog parks than kid parks. As the lone parent raising a kid in the city when I can make it to the city planning meetings I’m usually drowned out by the dog park “lobby”.

Living in the city is great; access to museums, art, culture, food, and transit is tops.

Like most cities, yours has pushed out parents and the concerns of kids.

Suburbs are more welcoming to kids in general because here we have more parks for kids than dogs. Here we don't have museums - but we don't miss them because we know from experience our kids can only stand being in one for about 10 minutes before they start doing that will get us kicked out if we don't leave first. A good portion of your art not kid friendly. Culture is everywhere, we don't get the "high culture" of the cities, but we have our own culture that works for us. We do a lot more cooking at home as we can't afford eating out as much, but I will grant when we do go out there is a lack of choices. All you really have that we would even use is much better transit.

It doesn't have to be that way. I'm told NYC is still welcoming to kids. Most cities though are not places where they have things for family.

> Here we don't have museums - but we don't miss them because we know from experience our kids can only stand being in one for about 10 minutes before they start doing that will get us kicked out if we don't leave first. A good portion of your art not kid friendly.

As a kid, I loved going to the natural history museum and the science museum. There's plenty of museums that caters to kids and that are really great with kids (not sure in the US to be honest but at least that's true in Europe). Museums doesn't mean art only.

Likewise for theater plays, that's the kind of things that are only available in bigger cities but can be tons of fun with kids.

We have kids museums in the US too. As a new parent I just discovered 2 nearby that have been here for decades. They have old donated vehicles like a police car, city bus, ambulances, or science stations, things like that. Things like plays exist, but it rural places they tend to be limited productions, either school or a traveling group. It may not make financial sense to have a play offered 6 nights/week all year in a small town, but a couple weekends throughout the year is common.

Tiny $1MM apartments aren't the alternative to SFZ.

Be careful though. Until we fill all the demand of people who can afford to pay for those $1MM apartments nobody will be building cheaper stuff. That there is demand for tiny apartments says we have a problem with supply.

I totally relate to this. I once had to stay in suburbia with far apart houses (Dallas). Nowhere to go without driving. It was very very lonely (I was single, to boot).

I went on a business trip to NY, and I immediately felt alive. The 'energy' of people even though you don't know any of them, seeing so many faces, late night hustle & bustle - all very invigorating.

> only being able to go where my parents take me and finally growing into driving age so that I can go from parking lot to parking lot.

Part of this is because we hover over kids and let them do less. I'm from middle America, and when my dad was a kid, he and his friends would bike 100 miles round trip and it was fine.

Oh plenty of us figured out how to get out and have fun/cause trouble.

Yeah it's isolating, though the internet was an incredible improvement in access to new information and interesting/smart people to learn from. There are major benefits to being in or at least close to a more populated hub.

this describes my childhood. I was growing up in a bigger city, and then moved to the suburbs when I was a teenager, it was horrible. Growing up with the autonomy of a big city kid, I couldn't handle the dependencies, only relieved when I had my own car. Now I frantically hold on to my big city life, even we live in a very dense place with ridiculous rent.

Plenty of middle America is not like that at all. We also have these things called bikes that work really well in small towns.

This is an American problem because they built suburbia around the car.

Village life you see in Europe is a world apart.

God forbid that kids have yards and empty lots to play in, ponds to go fishing in, and the woods to go hunting in. I could tolerate New York as an adult. I'd rather jump off one of those skyscrapers than live in one as a kid.

Consider that your current beliefs and preferences exist specifically because of your experience as a kid, when your brain was developing and assimilating its environment as its worldview.

I know plenty of people who grew up in NYC and have happy memories of childhood (and as an adult, I know several people raising kids in NYC, and they seem fine). I grew up in the suburbs and have happy memories of a lot of the things people are praising here. But my mom also took my sister and me on the 45-minute bus ride to the city a few times a year, and that was a different kind of adventure. Ditto for tagging along on my dad's business trips to Baltimore and DC.

Neither is better, neither is right or wrong. They're just different, and we establish many of our preferences and attitudes toward things based on our experiences as kids. That doesn't make those preferences correct or incorrect. It just makes them preferences.

The parent is sharing his preference in response to the grandparent’s preference. Surely turnabout is fair play?

If all you know is living in a cage, and you're told that being out of the cage is a bad thing, then you're going to make a value decision that being caged is actually okay. Just look at all the people on HN who can't believe that there are people who don't want to be stacked on top of other people in tiny, expensive caves. Making trips to the city isn't the same as living in one.

The growing up part was good. As a late teen, not being able to get to anyplace that mattered was maximally soul crushing, yes. The sole source of my suffering for several years.

Weird, that's the same feeling most people have had watching you guys handle COVID.

Ah yes, let's compare the 98% case with the 2% case as if they're the same thing.

You think living in New York under COVID lockdown is like normal living in the midwest?

Everyone assumes multi-family development means 10-story apartment buildings, but SFZ rules prevent duplexes and town houses from being built too, and some of the most charming, walkable, vibrant neighborhoods in the country are defined by those kinds of buildings.

If it's me, I'm authorizing all the 10-story buildings too. But we don't have to rip the band-aid off all at once; municipalities could start by letting up just a little bit and letting two households share a lot.

Something I don't get about America (and most of Europe) is that 10-story is seen like "wow, too big".

I live in the 14th floor of a 18-story building (4 apartments per floor), and next to me there are other ~20-story strictly residencial buildings. Life is amazing here, I have swimming pool, gym and sauna in the condo and it costs me next to nothing since the costs are shared between all residents. And it's never crowded. But the best part is that there's a positive side-effect: since I have everything at hand, I don't need to leave my home often and that made me switch to remote work full-time (the office started to seem boring).

It means, I'm living in a densely populated building and commuting less than I was when I lived in a smaller apartment complex.

I really think cities should consider this for their future: taller buildings with built-in amenities, ready for remote work. Make people want to live there and also don't want to commute. You get the density without the associated traffic congestion.

This sounds horrible to me. I don't want to share hallways or lobbies or parking lots or pools. When I lived in an apartment someone hit my brand new car. No such problems at my house. My house has a pool and hot tub. I can use it at 3 am if I want to and I don't have to even think about it.

I have family in Europe too. They live in a 4 story townhome in a small German city with their own garage and driveway and front door very similar to American townhomes. It's the middle of town next to a three story American style mall built right into the town center near a castle tourist destination. But it's also so rural there's nothing if you drive even 10 minutes out of town. And there's nothing to do at night.

They also own a small piece of land nearby where my grandparents hang out all day and grow food. In essence it's not much different from an American lifestyle just with excellent walkability and a train direct to Berlin or Hamburg

I'm not a fan of that either; I'd rather live in a townhome or small condo building. But I'd still prefer that apartment in the 20-story building over a single-family home in a neighborhood where I have to drive everywhere.

> When I lived in an apartment someone hit my brand new car.

The point is that you shouldn't need a car.

You’ll own nothing and be happy.

You’ll be forced to buy an expensive car, pay for insurance, maintain it, get in car crashes and become maimed, pay for gas, and advocate for politics that require massive amounts of death and destruction to secure your oil supply and you’ll be happy.

Most people, given the choice, do prefer to own cars.

For most people a car is the best compromise. There are cost is worth it, but the car is just a tool for getting around. There are a few collectors who own a car for other reasons, but most it is transportation. If they lived someplace where public transit was enough better they wouldn't own a car.

Enough better for transit is complex. It is a factor of cost, how nice it is, ability to get places when they want to, traffic, and a few other factors. The denser the city the more likely it is that transit is better.

There a few problems here.

The first problem is that we don't need to frame this discussion as "cars vs no cars". I'm not advocating for getting rid of cars because that wouldn't make sense and would be wildly impractical. Instead, what is being advocated is not having car-first infrastructure.

The second problem is that this preference, like other "decisions" is done without complete information or a feedback loop besides a monthly payment and gas prices. You don't feel the weight of the maintenance and taxes that go to paying for new highway construction. You don't really experience climate change in a feedback mechanism. You also aren't presenting equivalent options. Would someone prefer to walk over to the neighborhood grocery store to get their groceries or drive 5 miles away to a big-box retailer? I bet if you actually polled people you'd get 90%+ preferring the former. Framing it as "I want a car" versus not having a car presents the person being asked a question which implies taking something away from them, which is bad practice.

The third problem is that people prefer to own cars because we intentionally design our cities such that owning a car is the only choice. There's no competition. But you can clearly see that this isn't society's actual preference, because walkable neighborhoods across the country built before cars were prevalent usually have higher property values than the suburbs in the same city. If there was a mechanism such that people could choose neighborhoods they'd vote for or buy medium-density mixed-use neighborhoods where they can have a car with street parking or in the garage behind their house for less frequent activities and then they'd walk to the local grocery store, let their kids walk themselves to school, etc.

> Would someone prefer to walk over to the neighborhood grocery store to get their groceries or drive 5 miles away to a big-box retailer? I bet if you actually polled people you'd get 90%+ preferring the former.

Would they? Because I have actually had it both ways and I much prefer driving to a huge supermarket. Prices are lower, quality is better, selection is better.

> But you can clearly see that this isn't society's actual preference, because walkable neighborhoods across the country built before cars were prevalent usually have higher property values than the suburbs in the same city.

Per acre of land, sure, because you can cram in tons of apartments in the same area that one house would take up. That doesn’t mean more people actually prefer to live that way.

It is nice to be able to walk to school or church or whatnot, but when it comes to commercial retail, my experience is that suburban car-bound freeway mayhem is pretty fucking great. From my current suburban house in Texas I can reach almost any retail or commercial business I need within 5-15 minutes, and those are full size, full service retailers. Instead of a “neighborhood grocery store” that’s barely one step above a convenience store, I can go to H-E-B and get almost any kind of food I can imagine for extremely reasonable prices. Instead of a neighborhood hardware store I can go to Home Depot or Lowe’s. Either one. I used to live in an apartment in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, close to an actual supermarket (which kind of sucked), and even then I had nowhere close to the same access to retail. Maybe the biggest point in favor of walkable neighborhoods was that it was relatively cheap and easy to go to bars, but at some point I realized I could save money and drink with my wife at home (especially if we can drive to a cheap big-box liquor store!)

I do understand the appeal when it comes to things that are more community oriented than commercial. For instance, I understand that Orthodox Jews tend to live within walking distance of their synagogue because they can’t drive on the Sabbath, which means they live within walking distance of everyone else who goes to their synagogue, which means they can have physical communities. And that sounds really nice. But for the typical secularized, atomized American, what’s the point? Living cheek to jowl with total strangers and learning to ignore homeless people fucking sucked and I’m glad that part of my life is behind me. And the reason most of this country is built out the way it is, is that most people actually feel the same way.

I go grocery shopping once a week for my family. I'm not carrying home all of those groceries. You can count me in the < 10% preferring the latter. Our very good grocery store is about a half mile away. I drive about 5 miles to get a majority of our stuff at Costco, and on the way home I stop at the grocery store for the very few items that make sense to get there.

Ok so why would we design all cities and all infrastructure to cater to a small minority of people and use cases to the exclusion of all others? And the worst part is that if we designed for the 90% you’d still be able to do the thing you want to do, and it would be cheaper and faster for you. Instead we all have to drive to Costco.

I'd greatly question your 90% figure. I live close enough to live like you want. You could easily move within walking distance of a store, which is next door to a pharmacy, a couple of local restaurants, a barber, and a laundry mat. The reality is that people that live nearby still don't predominately walk to these places. Occasionally, sure. I'll go for a stroll.

The reason for that is because the infrastructure is still designed for cars. Roads are hostile to walk next to, people literally throw things at you. You can't ride a bike half a mile because there's either no sidewalk, or if there is you're supposed to use a painted bike lane and ride alongside traffic going 40-60 MPH. At least that's what keeps people in our current suburban area (and pretty much every one that I've ever seen or visited) from walking anywhere. It just comes down to infrastructure, which is extremely weak and fragile in America by design. You can't protest what your government does when you have to find parking first. You can't boycott Russia when you depend on them for your livelihood.

You can see that this is true because when you visit an actual neighborhood there are lots of people walking around and bikes and greater levels of economic activity. I'm not sure what metro area you live in but if you live in one I bet you have an area like I'm describing. It's probably where you and your friends or significant other go out for a nice dinner. Most of the country could be like that and you could still drive your car to Costco once/week.

You're literally inventing problems to explain why people in my town don't walk to a grocery store. We have quite a few grocery store spread out. Most of the city is easily within walking distance to one. It is not hostile to ride bikes here, we have sidewalks on every street, and I've never had anyone throw anything at me. The streets aren't clogged with traffic. I even see plenty of people walking and riding bikes, they just look like they're doing it for recreation.

Well I can't speak specifically to your town without knowing where it is, but it sounds like you live somewhere similar to where I currently live, and both areas are pretty hostile to anything but driving to participate in society. One of the red flags to spot is walking for recreation and only seeing people ride bikes for exercise versus day-to-day activities.

Even if you disagreed with some or all of the things I've said, dismissing them as an "invented problem" is pretty unfair.

> Ok so why would we design all cities and all infrastructure to cater to a small minority of people and use cases to the exclusion of all others?

In this case, the people who don’t want to own cars are the small minority. And I was one of those people for about a decade.

I've lived in Hong Kong and Kyoto for a long time and most people here do prefer not to have a car. Even though it's relatively affordable in Kyoto, out of 15 people in my company only 2 had a driver's license.

That's because they didn't pay for the externalities or suffer from them. But that's changing fast. Maybe they'll change their mind.

10 stories is expensive. 3-5 stories is less than half the cost while getting you halfway there to a 10-story building. My parents live in a condo in a 20 story building, and the fees to maintain the condo are more than a brownstone apartment costs in some areas.

I live in a three story, single family home located at the top of a hill, with views for miles, surrounded by wooded acreage, in an area zoned “forest”.

Life is amazing here. I exercise outside, explore the landscape and the hiking trails surrounding me, and not only is it never crowded, it’s also safe, quiet, and beautiful.

The best part is that since I have everything at hand, including natural beauty, I don’t want or need to leave my home often, and have worked remotely for a Bay Area company for several years.

I often walk out my front door and go for a hike before starting my work day.

Living in an 18-story building surrounded by 20-story buildings would be, for me, a hellish existence.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to want to live there.

Well, but those things can coexist. That's the difference between living in the heart of a metropolis vs living somewhere far away.

Since I've grown in the countryside, surrounded by all the forests and hills, I really find the cosmopolitan life I've there more exciting.

It may change overtime, sure, but at least I will never have to complain about having lost my time commuting.

It does coexist in some cities, Hong Kong has amazing hiking trails less than 15 minutes from where I live while being one of the densest city in the world. Likewise Kyoto is a relatively big city, 30 minutes away by public transit from Osaka which is even bigger but there's easy access to nature (although in the last 5 years before covid it was overrun by tourists)

> Well, but those things can coexist.

In theory? They can coexist. If you want density, move to a dense city.

In reality? Activists and developers are constantly pushing to upzone and pave over everything in sight.

Who pays to maintain the roads, electricity, water, etc. to your house?

Electricity and water are usually close to 100% paid for by the bills and if not it's not exactly a big difference if they are. The roads and the occasional big investment in something like a water treatment plan are paid via taxes. The money taxes a circuitous route to get there since so much money goes to fed and state taxes who then fractionally fund these sorts of infrastructure upkeep things. Unless a community is exceptionally rich or poor the people living there pay roughly what it costs +/- a few percent. Rich communities get less because their taxes get redirected to poorer communities to a larger extent. If poorer communities were not benefits of this wealth transfer they find ways to make do with less but it wouldn't be the financial devastation that many here like to imply.

Unless a community is exceptionally rich or poor the people living there pay roughly what it costs +/- a few percent.

You’re not taking school taxes and costs into consideration.

In my school district, they spend $18,211 per student each year. Average school taxes per house are $8,100.

So a house with 1 child costs $10,111 per year. But the average house with children has 2.1 kids costing over $30,000 more than is paid in.

This is a very common problem and why development, especially of larger homes (with likely more children) is a net drain on the local tax base.

Schools are an infinite money pit. Their expenses grow to consume what is available. Likewise their expenses can be trimmed if the money is simply not available. As we've learned from pumping poorly performing schools full of money, expenditure is only loosely correlated with results.

Sounds like your problem is children. Children need to be schooled whether they live in a large house or are crammed into a tiny condo.

Children need to be schooled whether they live in a large house or are crammed into a tiny condo.

True, but doesn't seem relevant to the discussion. GP said homes pay as much in taxes as they receive in services.

I disputed that by pointing out that even with very large homes, the people in the home receive far more educational services than their taxes pay for.

Your response to that is to say children need education?

Most of the suburbs, small cities and towns I've been in are predominately single family homes, yet they somehow all have schools paid for by taxes. People that tend to live in very large homes tend to pay disproportionately larger shares of taxes.

small cities and towns I've been in are predominately single family homes, yet they somehow all have schools paid for by taxes

That somehow is because they tax people that don't have kids in school. In fact, municipalities can nudge this.

Approve a 55+ community and it will give the community a net tax benefit. Same thing with a condo community. But approve a plan for a community of single family homes with 4+ bedrooms and you will have a huge drain on the tax base literally forever.

It seems to me that's where most of the world is going (except America?). I moved yesterday in a similar setup in Istanbul. I could take the elevator down and in a 100m radius there is a coffee-shop, convenience store, gym, food places, and other commerce. There is also a co-working space in the next building. I've been in similar places in Bangkok/Kuala Lumpur.

America is seriously the only country that seems to think single use zoning is a good idea. Mixed use has always been the default in the rest of the world.

Canada too, I think.

I think the problem is that buildings like you describe don't contribute to the city at street level. If the residental buildings are smaller then the gym, sauna, swimming pool will have to be in the neighborhood available to everyone.

I wouldn't swim in a "neighbourhood pool", doesn't seem hygienic.

A neighbour gym would also be crowded all the time, all my friends that have to go out for the gym always complain about that.

The public sauna seems ok, but I've never seem any of that in the streets besides "erotic saunas" that are not really intended for the same purposes...

> I wouldn't swim in a "neighbourhood pool", doesn't seem hygienic.

It is as hygienic as any other swimming pool. Unless you literally have your own pool in your backyard, which overwhelming majority of swimmers dont, you are not getting more hygiene.

> A neighbour gym would also be crowded all the time, all my friends that have to go out for the gym always complain about that.

This may depend on locality, but fair solution to that is allowing simple capitalism and more businesses. Someone gonna build second gym.

> It is as hygienic as any other swimming pool. Unless you literally have your own pool in your backyard, which overwhelming majority of swimmers dont, you are not getting more hygiene.

(Former) private pool owner here. I'd bet most public neighborhood pools are much more hygienic than a private pool where we'd only test the water when algae started growing. Public pools have proper maintenance and much better systems for chlorination/salt cleaning.

One thing I learned from friends in Panama: a pool comes with a pool guy and if it doesn't it'll quite literally convert into a cesspool all by itself. Pools need regular upkeep and that's a lot of work.

This is one of the most affluent and sheltered comments I've seen on HN ever. Literally made me laugh out loud.

It’s not “affluent and sheltered” at all. My cousin just moved from Bangladesh to the Dallas suburbs, after having lived in Queens. I bet if I asked her how she feels about having a house with a pool now she’d say the same thing.

This is exactly same attitude Andreesen has. Entitled attitude towards others.

Meeting other people might be scary at first. But ultimately sharing is caring.

See, I've never actually heard about these sort of high rise mini neighborhoods here, I think we only have a handful of buildings that count as skyscrapers at all. Most building are actually 10 story or less and we have a huge amount of small terraced houses for one family.

There is hope. Wheaton just approved a ~330 unit 7 story apartment complex downtown on a 2 ac parcel, which came as quite a surprise considering the housing composition in the area.

We've had some successes in Oak Park, too, and I'm really grateful to our board for navigating the onslaught of negative commenting and campaigning to get new multifamily developments approved. But the fact is that it's too much work, and not reasonable to expect sane, pro-development people to be permanently vigilant and organized against the too-powerful default of saying no to these things.

The other way of looking at zoning changes is as a gift for the future. It's unlikely to ever be subsequently down-zoned (network effects of utilities, tax revenue, etc), so it's a one-time battle. Even if per-parcel.

And those fighting for YIMBY need not do so perpetually; tap out when you’re weary, and the next folks are up to bat for the next project. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

The multi-trillion-dollar national real-estate investment firms thank you for your service towards growing the permanent rental class from which they will extract wealth in perpetuity.

They are most welcome!

It’s an incredible PR coup.

The progressive position in the 90s was anti-gentrification, anti-greedy rent-seeking developers; “the evil developer” was a common trope in pop-culture.

Now? Dust off your ceremonial hard hat and golden ground-breaking shovel, because apparently, facilitating a massive and permanent wealth transfer to those same greedy developers is now progressive orthodoxy.

Density proponents are just unpaid lobbyists.

Sure. Nobody needs to pay me to lobby for density. I'll put energy into advocating density on its own merits.

What merits, other than enriching real-estate investors and disenfranchising more of the population, exactly?

Could you rephrase that question in a way that makes it perhaps less clear how much bad faith it's being asked in? Thanks!

You know that people own townhouses and apartments right? It’s not always just companies.

I don’t know about America but in Germany apartment buildings are often owned by the residents and they have to work together in a financial collective for certain things like roof repairs, city negotiations, fencing, etc. But then internally to their unit they are able to make many permanent alterations within limits.

I don’t list these constraints claiming them as benefits. No these are the hardships one must endure but the benefit is of course property ownership. The benefits of property ownership in general are well known, it’s primarily a matter of accessibility to those benefits that is being discussed.

Exactly. If there's an issue with ownership, then that's a completely separate topic from density.

I do think we should encourage individual home ownership, even in dense developments. And would have no problem with legal nudges towards this. I.e. upzoned for density only if units which will ultimately be individually owned.

Furthermore, in the majority of desirable areas, creating high-density, individually-owned homes would increase access to home ownership, as the unit economics would allow lower pricing than equivalent single family homes in the same location.

(And before someone pulls out the construction cost economics / high-price-only rebuttal, that's yet another topic, with a different set of fixes)

I spoke to a housing advocate who worked for a city government in the Bay Area some time ago, and he said that one of the best ways to convince people to allow for upzoning was to actually give them pictures of what their neighborhoods could look like. Showing them pictures of walkable neighborhoods with boutique shops and restaurants, space in the streets and sidewalks for children to play, musicians to perform, art to be displayed, etc. makes them believe that increasing density can lead to a more livable community.

Some of the most desirable and expensive neighborhoods in the world are also some of the densest. NYC’s Upper East Side, for example, is it’s most densely populated.

I would prefer we did not do that. Just personally. As an introvert and someone with a general distaste for being around most of the public, I'll keep my not-so-dense living situation. Whether it's mixed income, mixed familial structures, cultures, the last thing I ever want to be - if I can avoid it - is on living on top of people.

Speaking only for myself - and yes, I am keenly aware of the injustices many groups have faced here over the years - at least some of the American dream was to create an environment for both of us to share these mutually exclusive stances in harmony. I am grateful for the ability of some percentage of Americans to have more space between their neighbors than simply one wall, even if that percentage is much smaller than it ought to be. And I grow increasingly resentful of the mechanisms both internal and external that keep that number so small.

The natural response to this might be that, of course, you should be able to live on an SFZ lot with a big yard and lots of distance from your neighbors. You just shouldn't be able to enforce that condition within walking distance of Palo Alto.

I agree. I’m not even defending Marc here, which seems to be how my comment is perceived so obviously I didn’t articulate the way I wanted to. I was responding to the GP’s sentiment of density becoming the new desired standard. I’d prefer availability of less dense neighborhoods in at least some capacity.

As an introvert myself, I quite prefer Density to Over-crowding. There's a difference[1]!

Millenials moving back in with their parents because there isnt enough housing is the true introvert nightmare playing out right now tbh.

[1] https://twitter.com/cayimby/status/1259679621785759744?s=20&...

You can make your choice without laws forbidding others from making a different choice.

I’n not advocating for that, it was pretty clear in my OP.

That's fine if you can afford it. Don't want appartments buildings around you? Buy the land

Right. And then the obvious continuation: and if you can't afford it, maybe you're trying to hoard space in an area where too many people want to live, and you need to move further out.

Don't want a pig rendering plant around you? Buy the land

Have you tried living in rural areas close to surbubia? Can get your own large property which no one will come near, no randoms walking down the street, and lots of privacy.

Yes, that is where I have lived most of my life - grew up in a town of about 4000 people. In Massachusetts though, so calling it “rural” feels a bit of a stretch, haha. But definitely feels as you described.

Just because you live close to others doesn't mean you have to interact with any of them.

Not in my experience. If my neighbor now has a house party, I don’t hear it. Not so anytime I lived in an apartment. In an apartment building my dogs would have to be taken to a community dog park (often small and neglected in many apartment complexes). They have their own small yard here to do that in, and I don’t have to deal with people who bring an entire breakfast meal to the dog park and start fights. I like barriers between me and others.

> Honestly, having had lived in mixed-income neighborhoods, the wealthy are missing out.

I cannot understand why cities in the US are built the way they are.

I live in a relatively big city in Germany in a somewhat dense neighborhood (most buildings have 3-5 stories). I have two grocery stores within five minutes of walking, a great Italian restaurant around the corner. If I want to go to the city center it is a ten minute train ride, going to the lake is a 12 minute ride. I can quickly get around the city center by using the subway and all of this for a fraction of the cost of owning a car.

I grew up in a more rural area and personally, living in a denser cities feels more "luxurious" than living in a town where I can't get anywhere if I don't drive. The cities are still far from perfect, but this is mostly because they desperately try to accomodate the car obsessed public (but not as desperately as American cities)

The car dependence in America is so strong, that I think 99% of the population doesn't realize what is possible even with slightly reduced (not eliminated) car dependence.

I grew up in the suburbs and felt *trapped* until I was able to drive. Legitimately didn't feel like I could be independent.

This is most people's experience, whether they realize it or not. I only became aware of what car-less life could be like when I lived in Chicago (the city, not the burbs). Even then it took me a year to realize how convenient everything was because I could mostly walk or bike to what I wanted.

IMO - the resistance to developing density in the US is because people associate independence with the automobile; and it's a very, very deep association. I don't think people understand that density can actually make you more independent because they haven't really experienced it.

And to be clear I don't want to ban cars. More so, just want to see our country have more options for actual cities other than NYC and Chicago.

> And to be clear I don't want to ban cars. More so, just want to see our country have more options for actual cities other than NYC and Chicago.

I don't think banning cars would even solve the issue. Cars are legitimately a good option for many people. But governments many governments want to pretend cars are a good option for anyone, which is just not true. Transportation modes should be treated equal, depending on the starting position this would necessitate taking back space dedicated to cars.

Some of it is just how pervasive car ownership is in the US, how young of an age you can get licensed, and the degree to which parents are expected to drive children under the age of 16.

I did an exchange to a rural village in Germany, and anything other than going to a party at someone's house in the village involved convincing (or bribing) one of the 18 year olds they knew from two years previous at the Realschule, so the most common evening event was drinking beer (or Diesel which was half beer, half cola) with friends.

This place was not even remotely rural by USA standards, being maybe 20 kilometers from the state capital, and even closer to another city.

> anything other than going to a party at someone's house in the village involved convincing (or bribing) one of the 18 year olds they knew from two years previous at the Realschule, so the most common evening event was drinking beer (or Diesel which was half beer, half cola) with friends.

This has been my experience growing up as well with the only difference that we had a somewhat decent train connection to the next bigger town (30 min train ride, but last train departured at 10 PM). Anything that was out of the (small) village required either an expensive (and unreliable) Taxi ride or someone who loosed out and became the dedicated driver.

It's not a super useful comment but I feel like I need to reply every time I see a corresponding opinion-only comment ;)

Many people apparently disagree. Why try to "rebrand" it for them? I have grown up in Moscow, lived in Yaletown in Vancouver BC, Richmond BC, Bellevue WA, and in SOMA in SF (all slightly different types of walkable, dense places), and I hated suburbs. Then I moved into suburbs and realized they are so much better! I wish I'd moved earlier, and to suburbier suburbs instead of the still-walkable ones that I have chosen. I've lived in dense neighborhoods for 34 years and now I don't think they have any advantages for me, other than perhaps it's more convenient to be drunk, and it's more convenient to be a kid who cannot drive.

Oh and yeah, mixed income. I've heard quite a few middle class and higher immigrants say that one major advantage of the US compared to <their home country> is that you can move away from poor people. In Russia/Mexico/... the poor are fellow Russians/Mexicans/..., so it's not based on race either. I grew up surrounded by "mixed income" (well to be fair we were lower middle class if that, ourselves). Thanks but no thanks. I'd rather live in the cheapest house on the best street :)

Can you explain what changed about your opinion after moving into a suburb?

Driving is better than walking (I do outdoor stuff a lot, so 10-minute walk doesn't really count as exercise for me, it's just a hassle), except when parking is scarce, but that is specifically a problem of dense areas. Driving is also much faster than transit in most places... this was actually a "mind blown" moment - I was surprised it takes so long to get anywhere on a visit in Moscow, then I realized this used to be my "normal" to take 30-60mins to get places by transit, after starting to drive everywhere I think 20 minutes is kinda too far away. Weather is also less of an issue when driving.

I used to buy groceries by bike or on a walk from the bus every 2-3 days, turns out buying a bunch of groceries every week or two is much more convenient.

It's much quieter and somewhat safer (could be safer yet if I moved further away from town). One of my apartments was on a busy street and it's kinda funny how I notice a single car rolling by now when I used to have to tune out constant hum of traffic, sirens and honks.

There is much more greenery, birds (from hummingbirds to eagles), trees, animals even. My friends who live in a really distant suburb had a bear in their backyard once, I guess that could be a disadvantage :) More space for the same amount of money (that actually translates into even less need for density - e.g. I have a squat rack at home now so I don't need to go to the gym).

One hassle is that if I go somewhere to drink I need to take an uber. Also house is more pain to maintain than a flat, that actually does kinda suck, I am particularly averse to that kind of stuff... I wish there were condos in suburban areas, or e.g. some company where you pay a fee like a HOA and they have to keep track and do all the maintenance :)

I grew up in NYC with these dense mixed-income neighborhoods you speak of.

It just means all classes share the same problems equally (emphasis on equally)

The history of my youth in the city is knowing practically a trail of dead friends lost to drugs, abuse, murder and suicide. And I went to private school.

When I was in middle school some kids I knew at the school behind mine made national news for murdering a guy in Central Park. During the OJ Trial.

IMO anyone who raises a kid in an environment like I grew up in is insanely wreckless.

NY has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/suicide-mortality/... / https://khn.org/news/among-u-s-states-new-yorks-suicide-rate...), is on the lower side for homicides (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/homicide_mortality...) (5.5 for NYC).

Same goes for drug overdose rates (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/drug_poisoning_mor...), for which the state wide rate is skewed by more rural northern parts.

I spent a large part of my time in the more dangerous areas of NY (Jamaica, Bushwick in early 2000s, Harlem) and never felt really unsafe.

I didn't say that NYC is unsafe. Most of NYC is rich neighborhoods, comparatively.

I was specifically referring to those described dense mixed-income neighborhoods where every classes's tragedies end up being spread equally. If you have means ans you raise your children in one of these environments, you're stupid.

Well, that would likely lead to greater unhappiness…


I somewhat agree, it’s a delight for the wealthy or middle class. But the lower class often have a much more negative view (having come from said lower class). The reality, is the upper and middle class dominate in politics and try to do things that are the opposite of “good”. Take for example, “cheap housing for everyone”. Nah.. they want the opportunity to own a nice house, not a hand out. Frankly, you’d be right, if I had any faith the upper class wouldn’t have a god complex to try and “make things better”.

Your link does not seem to support your thesis here, unless I'm missing something?

"Cheap" isn't a great word to use there, because it means something more negative than the reality I'd want. I want affordable housing for people. Good, quality housing, with sufficient space, but something that people of all income levels can afford. It's possible, but the political decisions that could allow it are hampered by the NIMBYs.

You can own a condo. Or a townhome, or a duplex, or any number of dense housing forms.

I grew up in a highly segregated area, so my elementary school cohort was roughly 80 white kids 5 Asian kids and one Latina kid. There was also a single black kid, but he got kicked out in first grade when it was discovered he was using his grandparent's address to go to a better school.

The junior high, however, drew from a larger geographic area so it was far more diverse. Junior high is always a bit of a culture shock, but I can't help but feel it was more-so for us. A white kid got suspended for bringing in a hunting knife because he was afraid one of the black kids was going to beat him up -- kind of a mini racism-in-action lesson for all of us, though we didn't know it at the time.

Now my daughter just finished seventh grade. Her elementary school cohort had one Spanish-speaking kid, in a district that is 59% Hispanic and 18% English language learners, and had a bit of a similar culture shock. I checked if I could have done better in retrospect, and found that, while I could have done slightly better, the public schools were all either over 75% Hispanic or over 80% non-Hispanic, with the one exception being a school that required a lottery to get into.

The only real diverse schools I found were the parochial schools, which are a strange combination of your traditional Hispanic Catholics, and "white flight" of kids at schools that were nearly entirely Hispanic.

Not a delight if you’re raising a family, in my experience. I loved living in densely populated areas when I was single. You end up having to subject your kids to mountains of homeless folks’ garbage or explaining the irregular behavior of the local crack head to your curious 5 year old.

Then again maybe that was just my neighborhood and no other densely populated area has ever dealt with such things.

If you have homeless people on your "dense" streets, it just means they aren't actually dense, or at least not dense enough.

You had homeless people because you didn't build enough housing; it probably wasn't densely populated enough then.

(Homelessness is caused by most of the old cheap forms of housing like SROs/boarding houses being made illegal, causing locals to fall out of the system when they can't afford the nicer types - this is why you see it in cities and not in, say, West Virginia.)

This is a great lie, since homelessness is - often and especially in San Francisco - not the result of lack of a home, rather the result of mental illness and drug addiction. This is also reinforced by the great amount of non-native homeless people that travel cross-state to cities like San Francisco.

Give your typical SF homeless a home, and they will rip the sink out the next day to raise enough money for more drugs.

It is not always lack of housing. Sometimes it is, very often it is not.

No, it's what I said. The reason I said "not West Virginia" is because I knew you'd reply this way ;)

Homelessness in the US does not correlate with drug use, or else the homeless would be in Appalachia with meth and opioid users. It's in SF because housing is expensive there. And they're locals[1]. Now, they might be getting into drugs, but that's because there's nothing better to do when you're homeless and the police keep taking your stuff.

NYC does better because they build more shelters, but more importantly because New Jersey is next to them and is good at building affordable housing to make up for New York's NIMBYism.

[1] Santa Cruz also has a big homeless problem, and they aren't locals - but they're not druggies either, they're literally university students. The city just hates that it has a UC and refuses to build student housing for it.

> Santa Cruz also has a big homeless problem, and they aren't locals - but they're not druggies either, they're literally university students.

That's quite a generalization and simplication of Santa Cruz situation.

A non-trivial percentage of UCSC students are homeless, yes.

That doesn't mean the homeless are literally all students, far from it. Most of them are well past university age and have no association with UCSC.

> The city just hates that it has a UC and refuses to build student housing for it.

Again it's complex. Santa Cruz is a very small slice of land between the ocean and unbuildable steep mountains (a lot of it protected forest land, state parks and so on). It can't expand to the north nor to the south.

The only direction to build is east (towards Watsonville) but transportation there and back is a huge problem so building to the east without addressing transportation won't solve anything.

UCSC itself isn't helping, since they keep driving aggressive student population growths without any regard to where any of them are going to be able to live.

The great lie is that there's greater mental illness or addiction in San Francisco than other places. There's not.

What SF does have is very expensive housing, which directly causes homelessness. And homelessness also leads to addiction and mental illness, due to the extreme situation of not having a home.

And if the first-principles logical argument doesn't convince, go look at the data. Every $100 increase in average rent is associated with an increase in homelessness.

'What SF does have is very expensive housing, which directly causes homelessness'.

This is completely illogical. The upper east side side and Beverley Hills have very expensive housing which hasn't 'directly caused homelessness'. SF is a tiny densely populated 49 sq mile peninsula with people like politician Nancy Pelosi owning vast hill top homes they rarely visit and an ultra permissive approach to drug use in some districts which has resulted in a catastrophic influx of addicts who have often also developed serious mental illnesses.

You can be sure there are no tent/RV encampments outside the Pelosi's or other wealthy estates yet those same people are selling completely unrealistic YIYBY utopianism, which is cruel and wildly impractical.

You don't think that high housing prices cause homelessness?

People don't become homeless because they can't afford the most expensive homes, they become homeless because the least expensive homes are still priced too high. This is not a hard concept to understand.

When I say "SF has expensive housing" I'm not talking about mansions, I'm talking about the crappiest, worst possible studio or bedroom under a staircase being rented for exorbitant amounts of money.

'You don't think that high housing prices cause homelessness?'

It's a factor but not a fundamental as I previously said. SF has always had a large transient population - great climate, dumpster diving, permissive culture - which has now exploded due to the Fentanyl & meth disaster. There are lots of generational blue collar renter families really struggling to survive in the bay area and an acute shortage of housing primarily due to tech and over capacity of residents until recently.

What we now have is a mass exodus of tax paying residents and a huge influx of non contributing drug and smi casualties which is really tarting to hurt the tourism that pays the blue collar families rent via their jobs.

I don't know any YIMBYs who live in Pac Heights. They'd love to put apartments there of course, but transit-oriented development means we have to start where the BART stations are. Housing is something, but it's easier to get back into society if you can commute to your job.

I know plenty of YIYBY advocates who live in wealthy parts of SF that have clean streets, no homeless and own large properties. a good example would be 'democratic socialist' district 5 supervisor Dean Preston https://twitter.com/DeanPreston

Dean Preston is one of the most virulently anti-YIMBY politicians out there. He is constantly lying about YIMBY positions and starting fights over nonsense on Twitter.

You and he agree 100% on building new apartments, Preston hates them, and as a rich man living in a very expensive single family home in one of the most expensive cities in the world, he fits right into the NIMBY mould.

However, Preston also believes that homeless people should still be treated like people, a position he shares with YIMBYs. Due to that commonality, but also having irrational hate for YIMBYs, he is sometimes called anti-YIMBY rather than NIMBY.

Dean Preston is the head NIMBY of the city next to Aaron Peskin. Dean spends approximately all his time denying housing project applications.

He doesn’t even only block them in his backyard; they’ve ignored member deference to block one in Matt Haney’s district before.

Preston talks all about progressive housing on Twitter all the time, so does heroin Haney. Neither of them can get it together to practice what they preach so it's all useless YIYBY performative posturing anyway. In the past SF has wound up building disasters like Geneva Towers based on somewhat similar utopian ideals


No, he's your comrade, he’s very effective at stopping things.


The language he uses makes him a left-NIMBY, but that’s just what they look like in cities. Found in NYC too. In suburbs the same people switch to talking about property values and 50s rural neighborhood character.

I absolutely think affordable housing should be getting zoned and built, but the execution is so often a disaster.


If you were to remove the YouTube link from your comment, it could have come directly from Dean Preston.

how so?

To be more exact: homeless are people priced out of their home.

I've been a month in WV. Huntington and Charleston are plagued by visible users, but not by homelessness. Even daily users there haven't been priced out yet.

I suggest you read 'San Fransickp by Shellenberger, a book progressives and their media loathe


It's not just progressives that loathe the book, it's everybody in the reality based community. The book is just political pandering.

'Pandering' to who?! local residents who are sick of the city getting wrecked? Like so many people these days Shellenberger thinks the two dominant political organizations who control everything are morally and ideologically bankrupt. It's only fantasists who believe the slow motion SF disaster is a good thing, and they also appear to think they have some sway with the DNC.

> homelessness is - often and especially in San Francisco - not the result of lack of a home, rather the result of mental illness and drug addiction

You have the causality reversed; mental illness and drug addiction is caused by the stress and hopelessness of homelessness.

> You had homeless people because you didn't build enough housing

Ehh I think it has just a _little_ bit more to do with it than just “lack of housing.” If you think the only thing keeping the homeless guy who shits on the sidewalk and shoots up heroin in broad daylight from being a functioning member of society is a house, you are being quite naive.

San Francisco’s housing costs don’t help, but people waaaay underestimate just how much having a permissive attitude towards “the homeless lifestyle” (for lack of a better term) plays a part in attracting people who are incapable of living within the margins of society.

You don't know his life story or how representative he is, so that's not very useful for anything. A lot of homeless people live in cars rather than shooting up in the street and are respectable looking people who just can't afford rent.

When we don't have enough housing it means people end up on the street. But people on the street is an argument against more housing?

The crackheads on the street phenomena is an American thing, not a dense housing thing.

That was indeed an idiosyncrasy of your neighborhood.

Mixed-income neighborhoods are great, but fragile. We are definitely not low income, and living in mixed part of town is so much nicer tgatn thise, supposedly, high income parts. The thing is so, by livng where we live we are actually gentrifying the neighborhood. Whether we want or not (we don't), it is just a matter of fact. Which is said, because despite being by no means hip or artsy of so, the neighborhood is really doverse and colorfull. Despite being mainly housing, there still are small shops and bars. And it is great for kids to be exposed to different social circumstances, our older one went for day care reaons to a school in a more affluent neighborhood, our smaller one to a school just across the street. And the differences are stunning and subtile at the same time.

I'm not sure you can really avoid any sort of gentrification, even if the same people would stay and no one moved away. Guess it's more about the speed and the actual breadth of the income band, or it's the vanishing middle class, when before your kids would maybe move up one notch or two if they got a good job, now it's either "the amount of money feels rich, but still can't buy a house" or continued descent into low income...

Possibly, but I dunno if mixed income is the only ingredient required for that recipe.

It's not going to be mixed income. It's going to be segregated incomes living near by each other, both resenting the other. In Las Vegas suburbs you can sometimes see the various neighborhoods with Drastic obvious cost/value differences right next to each other. The lower cost one is hellish, and the nicer one is basically brought down by the worse one. If you could afford it, you'd never choose a neighborhood next to a bad neighborhood. So why build more of these bad ones near nice areas? Can't we just build more in bad areas? It's supposed to be cheap so why not build in cheaper areas?

The problem here in your comment is associating dense neighbourhoods with bad neighbourhoods. The other problem is thinking all cheap neighbourhoods should be bad neighbourhoods.

I was trying to figure out why I equated cheap with bad which you pointed out to me. I think it's because I figured if someone built cheap housing, and it was actually nice and somewhere you wanted to be, it wouldn't stay cheap for very long at all. If someone built and sold condos for 250k in a town that usually sells for 1 million.... Wouldn't the buyer soon sell it for 750k? If it's cheap, it basically has to be much worse than other options or it'll soon become the price of the expensive options.

I'm not dimissing your experience which comes from the current situation. But the current situation came about because of intense gentrification and the housing prices rising faster than society could cope over the past few decades.

I don't really get it. Stockton CA is a bad place because housing prices rose too fast? The average house there is now probably 300k. If they were 100k still, Stockton would have less murder and car theft?

> bad neighbourhoods

I'm a brit, that spent a year living in USA. That term, "bad neighbourhood", is a term that I learned refers to a predominantly black neighbourhood. I was told things like "Don't go past this road junction on foot, that's a bad neighbourhood". The neighbourhood in question looked exactly the neighbourhood I was standing in, but with black people.

That it is black is not racism, there are real factors that make them bad areas. You are far more likely to be accidentally show in those areas (even though the good neighborhoods may contain as many guns, they are not used in those areas). You are far more likely to be assaulted.

Those are also the cheap areas, and black families tend to move there just because they are poor. Of course the gangs in the area thus can recruit young local black kids (not being a member of the local gang can be dangerous). It isn't racism though, it is just reality - one that is very hard to escape for black people.

There is racism in the US as well, a lot of the current problems are rooted in the historic racism.

Did you check any crime stats for the neighborhood, or were you expecting to see burglary, rape and murder as you drove by that second? Someone tells you it's bad, and all you notice is the color of people's skin.

> were you expecting to see burglary, rape and murder as you drove by that second?


Actually, I was standing on the street, not driving. This "bad neighbourhood" was 50 yards from where I was standing. If they wanted to rob people, they'd have found better pickings where I was standing than in the "bad neighbourhood".

I didn't have a car; we were visiting my sister-in-law. I'm accustomed to walking everywhere, unless I have an inter-city journey. The town was Charlottesville, VA, but I was told much the same when I settled (briefly) in Richmond, VA.

> Someone tells you it's bad, and all you notice is the color of people's skin.

What I noticed was what's obvious. In a majority-white city, the so-called bad neighbourhood had exclusively black people on the street. And I noticed, for example, that every time I drove to work, there was a car pulled over on the freeway, with two black guys lying face-down, with cops pointing guns at their heads. I never saw this with white guys. My drive to work was just 15 minutes, but I saw this daily.

Do they actually do block-by-block crime statistics in these places? Because what I find shocking is that the granularity of this "bad neighbourhood" thing appears to be the block.

don't brits use 'council housing' with pretty much the same pejorative connotation? also there are absolutely bad neighborhoods in the us, you can usually spot them because of all the bullet holes.

"Council housing" denotes a sort of basic utility housing. But a typical council house was (a) a house fit for a family; (b) usually had a small garden; (c) was good enough that there was a lively market in them during the Thatcher years.

Also, council housing wasn't all concentrated in one place; typically you'd get a block of council houses embedded in a neighbourhood, which might be poor or prosperous. Basically the load was spread around.

The neighbourhoods that I like least are where a large-scale greenfield estate was built on the outskirts of a town, far from the centre and the shops. These estates were typically under-equipped with pubs and shops (but they had schools).

We don't build council houses any more, since laws were introduced requiring councils to sell such houses to their tenants at a discount. The closest thing now is housing coops, which buy and do-up individual houses. Coops don't build estates.

Ok I guess bad is not nice. But they're clearly not as safe nor as nice as the more expensive neighborhoods of the same community. And I wasn't saying they should be this way. I guess I was just going from basic observation and some memorable stats.

> So why build more of these bad ones near nice areas? Can't we just build more in bad areas? It's supposed to be cheap so why not build in cheaper areas?

Ah yes, let's make sure to put all the new poors who want to move in with all the existing poors. Can't let them live anywhere else, or they might start getting ideas.

Do you really think this plan is equitable?

Everyone has equal opportunity I believe. Equal outcome? That's Bs. I'm a hard worker and decently smart. Do I get to own a single family home with a large yard in Malibu?? No? Why not!! That's not equitable is it!

That’s pretty much how Phoenix is laid out, good neighborhoods next to not so good neighborhoods with straight up ghettos strewn in for good measure. Just the way things worked out as the city grew.

I recently discovered the very very wealthy neighborhood of SF in the north west corner of the city and boy, that sure is a low density use and I would LOVE to see that area turned in to high density affordable housing. But then, those people must control the city so it doesn’t seem like that would ever happen.

And hey, I honestly want all low density parts of the city densified. But it’s striking how big those houses are in that neighborhood and how low density it must be.

EDIT: I think what bothers me about this neighborhood is what it represents. While so many people in the city are struggling to get by, these people have these huge homes with elaborate finishing work, huge gardens, fountains, the works. It feels gratuitous to me. And if you know anything about the history of red lining in this country, this would have been one of those areas with racial covenants in the deeds to their homes. All the power brokers of the city past and present must have lived here, and all manner of political maneuvering and disenfranchisement would have come from this place. I’d rather see it torn down, and used to build affordable housing for those in need. I just can’t find myself sympathizing with people who feel they need this much for themselves while so many people struggle for the basic necessities. I wouldn’t mind if no one had that. It doesn’t seem justified to me.

EDIT2: Someone asked me what neighborhood so I looked on google maps (it's Sea Cliff) and was reminded that they also have THEIR OWN GOLF COURSE adjacent to this neighborhood. Yikes.

I honestly don't necessarily want any particular area to be densified.

What I want is: 1. Anyone be able to build any type of housing anywhere. 2. Really steep land value taxes

I have no issue with a clique of hyper reach folk living in a low density neighborhood, as long as any of them is be able to defect and build a tower if they feel like it _and_ they all pay their LVT.

Exactly… no zoning is the best zoning! You wanna be low density, but out all the land and pay for it. If the market supports low density, so be it.

In terms of property tax, I thought there was some research that the best way to do that was actually irrespective of the development on top of it? I think the idea being that would encourage development because you’re not taxed on the improvements? Or maybe I’ve got it backwards.

Yes, that's the whole point of Land Value Tax, you tax only the value of the "unimproved land". This incentivizes density since the tax can be distributed among all the tenants.

Honestly CA should propose replacing the mess that is property taxes, prop 13, and it's follow ups, with a LVT that is a net neutral revenue for the state. For 90% of people that would be a tax cut, for those who wish to underuse valuable space, they can pay for it.

> Honestly CA should propose replacing the mess that is property taxes, prop 13, and it's follow ups, with a LVT that is a net neutral revenue for the state. For 90% of people that would be a tax cut

I think it's close to “for 90% of people who pay property tax that would be a tax increase”; the people it will be a tax cut for are the people with relatively high improvement value on their land compared to the bare land value, like corporate HQs and landlords of high density apartment complexes.

Prop 13 is very difficult to have an exit strategy for because people feel entitled to their feudal (and inheritable) tax rates. The idea that a $2 million home should be treated as a $100,000 one for taxes is laughably wrong, but the people who have enjoyed that benefit for years will be permanently against any politician who changes it.

I disagree with the 90% number for the LVT switch on multiple fronts: for starters all the people with historical discounts will pay more. Secondly, the typical SFH pays more and there is a lot of SFH in California.

LVT is still worth doing but making it actually happen is politically difficult in the best of states and California is the worst one due to Prop 13.

It is a tax cut for property owners and a tax raise for land owners, yes that is the entire point, to make housing cheaper by taxing it less and taxing the location monopoly more. Of course anyone who speculated on higher land prices gets screwed over, that is the point as well.

You seem to be ignoring that the presence of the corporate HQ raises land values across the entire city. Landlords of high density apartment complexes should be applauded for not wasting precious land in locations where many people want to live in, using land wastefully increases rental payments and causes homelessness.

> It is a tax cut for property owners and a tax raise for land owners, yes that is the entire point, to make housing cheaper by taxing it less and taxing the location monopoly more.

But...California has a tiny overall property tax rate. A revenue neutral change to an LVT (unless it's revenue neutral on the far side of the Laffer Curve) might better meet some abstract concept of fairness better, but isn't going to have a meaningul impact on price of... anything.

I don't know about the percentages, but I think the majority of people who would see a tax cut are those who bought property in the past 10 years at inflated prices. The people hurt the most will be those who've been living in the same home they purchased 40 years ago, and are clinging to their tax assessment that's orders of magnitudes behind what the current assessed value would be.

There are ways to fix that too with gradual phase-ins, not allowing people to pass their tax assessment on to their heirs, etc. But anyone who stands to inherit property will vote against such a move, and most people who will be passing along that property will vote the same way.

Is the idea of taxing land to discourage ownership or is it to fund local services to insure that the rich have the best schools, police, fire and utilities while maintaining an air of equality?

Why is regressive property tax better than the progressive income tax?

The idea is to encourage people to use land more efficiently. Sure, you can buy a 2-acre plot and put a single-family home on it, but you're going to pay handsomely for the privilege. If you put a duplex on that lot and sell the second unit, your tax burden gets cut in half. Or put a 10-unit condo building on it and each owner only has to pay a tenth of the total.

If you also tax the improvements to the land, you discourage people from building denser housing on it, because the tax itself goes up the more you build.

You can make land value taxes more progressive than income taxes by paying out a citizen's dividend.

> And if you know anything about the history of red lining in this country, this would have been one of those areas with racial covenants in the deeds to their homes.

I know people in Berkeley who own homes in neighborhoods where those kinds of covenants are still on the books, even though they're illegal and unenforceable. It's so weird, and disgusting.

"I recently discovered the very very wealthy neighborhood of SF in the north west corner of the city and boy, that sure is a low density use and I would LOVE to see that area turned in to high density affordable housing. But then, those people must control the city so it doesn’t seem like that would ever happen."

Same with parking. In LA there is the popular Runyon Canyon. On weekends it's parking hell because so many people go there. Interestingly one block down there are some side streets with huge houses and (not surprisingly) street parking isn't allowed there.

You are joking, right? Sea Cliff hardly takes up any space at all. Sure the houses look big from Google Map - but how many apartments do you expect to cram in there if they were bulldozed?

Isn't Seacliff where Jack Dorsey bought his $30M properties?

Sea Cliff or Pac Heights?

Was curious myself. Here’s the link: https://goo.gl/maps/cWou8PiXKoGPMNFL9

Did a quick look via street view. There are some very nice houses indeed. I might even say it’s the perfect location: golf course, beach and huge park adjacent to the neighborhood. These people will probably not actually visit the beach nor the park as these seem to be public areas.

Checking google maps, looks like Sea Cliff. And I remember now... they even have their own golf course! A looot of land dedicated to a small number of families there.

It's absolutely gorgeous. The homes are in the $20-100M range and are nothing less than works of art.

To me they are disgusting. Monuments to extravagance. All I can think of when I see homes like that are the thousands of people across town huddled under awnings begging for housing. And in this one neighborhood enough money was spent to house all the city’s homeless 100 times over. Appalling. Disgusting. Inhuman.

If art has meaning, these “works of art” represent oppression and selfishness.

Sure I get that perspective. But this is a small neighborhood. The problems that plague the city are not because of this neighborhood.

The reason more housing doesn't get built is not because of this neighborhood.

Prop 13 that was passed in 1975 is not because of this neighborhood.

I get that you see the neighborhood as a symbol for something that angers you, but this is a nationwide problem where we do not build enough housing in general.

I lived next to Sea Cliff in the Richmond for a very long time. I’d say that it’s basically less than 3 blocks away from higher density solidly middle class housing at almost all points, and except for a few blocks, much of the neighborhood is more modest than you’d think (by Bay Area standards). The golf course is public too. As far as exclusive rich people places go, it’s incredibly relaxed.

What’s the name of the golf course?

Probably Lincoln Park GC, adjacent to the Palace of the Legion of Honour.

There's also the Presido Golf Course (on the grounds of the former Presidio), and a total of six in The City, AFAIU.



Lincoln Park Golf Course. Obviously it’s accessible to a lot of neighborhoods not just the wealthy one I mentioned. But when I see golf courses I think of all the affordable housing that could be built on that land.

Ah. Not that I think golf courses are a good use of public land, but it’s worth noting that that’s a public golf course run by the city.

Oh of course it's public. Why would these people want to pay for their golf course when they can get the city to do it? Obviously it is accessible to a lot of other folks, but it's bordering this high end neighborhood ostensibly so they all have a nice place to play golf. Actually there is ANOTHER golf course on the other side of this neighborhood, in the Presidio.

Yeah when I see basketball and tennis courts, city parks, or zoos I think of all the affordable housing that could be built there instead.

Hell, bulldoze Golden Gate Park in SF and build a ton of cheap housing there! Same with Central Park in NYC.

No more fun until more housing gets built.


I get what you're saying, but golf courses usually take up a lot of space that is used by a proportionally smaller group of people. Those other things you mention can be enjoyed by many many more people in a much denser fashion.

I definitely agree that golf courses are inefficient uses of land, but even if we built mid-density housing on all of them here, it wouldn't solve the problem. There are plenty of other low-density areas that need to be upzoned if we're going to solve anything.

"calls for more housing from the wealthy and business class are disingenuous; more often really a call for more apartments to be built exclusively in neighbourhoods dominated by the poor and working class and a continued ban of apartments in the low density single family home areas that the wealthy business owning class live in."

That's the case with a lot of the initiatives coming from wealthy people. Le'ts reduce carbon footprint but we still need private jets and multiple huge houses for ourselves. We need privacy but obviously we still need to mine our users' data for profit as much as possible. We need to do something about homelessness but certainly not close to where we are living. The free market is better than government as long as the government protects our IP so we can make profits.

There's different kinds of NIMBYs and they all have different motivations.

There's ones like Marc that are pretty classical.

There's also ones that will push back on the kinds of property people can own, but fully support saturating an area with rentals.

I don't think there's a challenge for voters here either. As the author points out, the real problem is listening to community feedback at all. It's undemocratic. Someone else needs to be in charge of how to fulfill the demands of the community at a higher level.

There's also the kind that bought into an area when it was already quite expensive, stretching their finances to do so, and are terrified of the idea of their home dropping in value due to density increases.

In reality, the kind of density increases that would actually meaningfully lower their home's value is well beyond what is required or feasible. But most people aren't economists or real estate experts, and don't know or believe this.

> There's also ones that will push back on the kinds of property people can own, but fully support saturating an area with rentals.

? Never seen this before, elaborate

Which is ironic because no matter how much money I have I would want to live in a location with dense population of people from all strata - it just means shops and food of all levels are just a walk away the moment you leave your house. One of the benefits of living in many places in india, and in some locations in New York City.

Don't worry policy makers and neighboring homeowners know better what you want than you do.

> more apartments to be built exclusively in neighbourhoods dominated by the poor

Specifically, apartments to be built in poor neighbourhoods exclusively next to busy highways, where the residents can enjoy chronic exposure to toxic gases, tire dust, and car honking sounds.

Looking for a modern apartment in SF recently it was annoying that 95% of them are only allowed to be built on busy noisy dirty streets. Market, Gough, Franklin, Octavia, etc... If they're not on a busy street then they're within ear distance of a freeway like all the complexes near the design district and any of them near the 280 in the Dogpatch. The only big exception is some of the complexes in Mission Bay, but even there, many of them are on 3rd.

There are very few allowed to be built on quieter streets

Is there data for how small of an area (i.e. they are arguing for)? I think Seattle has a good approach with urban villages (that are also easier to connect via transit), they just need to be somewhat taller and bigger until they eventually merge. The rich typically live in tiny areas and small cities; not wanting those tiny areas upzoned (to be clear, I personally oppose any zoning - let the market decide; but I can see where they are coming from) is not the same as wanting to squeeze the apartments into tiny areas.

> new housing can be allowed, but only if it is constrained to a tiny area (which becomes increasingly dense)

You seem to say that in a negative tone? Isn't increasingly dense exactly what most housing advocates wish for?

I think housing advocates are simply advocating for cheaper rents and more affordable, better housing, and environmentalists are advocating for walkable communities. It's not necessary to build a 20+ story tower to achieve these things. You could have a compact walkable community that houses a lot of people with 4-6 story buildings too (I mean Paris is..).

I'm not really expressing a preference here, but in my comment noting that with the Grand Bargain it's not likely to result in the outcome of a broad amount of low density apartments, but rather the situation of extremes where you have ultra low density single family houses and then in slivers of downtown where apts are allowed, ultra tall 20+ story residential towers. This is commonly seen in Toronto and Vancouver.

I think the criticism is it leads to not enough housing being built.

If the city needs 10,000 new homes a year to keep up with population growth, and I support building 10 new blocks of 100 apartments downtown but oppose everything else, am I a hero or a villain?

The community that lives and pay taxes will not have a voice about what gets built in their community? Then HOA s should not exist either and neither should business and first class in airplanes. City planners need to thoughtfully rezone as needed and strike a balance to preserve the interest of the tax payers of a neighborhood as well as allow new population housing needs. But to simply demonize a set of residents who live in a particular place for voicing their opinions is middle age witch burning mentality.

Why is this downvoted?

Presumably because it ignores a zillion comments on the thread answering the objection.

Regardless: the guidelines ask you not to comment on voting.

If we posit that there are people who would like to live in high-density neighborhoods and others who would like to live in lower-density areas (which seems like a reasonable assumption and matches my lifetime observations), encouraging high-density buildings to be near each other seems to serve both groups better than to have the outcome appear to be the result of randomness.

"Would like to" is doing a whole lot of heavy lifting here. I'd argue that a large fraction of people live not where they "would like to," but where they can afford.

There are people on this very page who could well afford to live in a high or low density area and are arguing the benefits they experience and their preference for high-density.

Building more housing units would lower the price of housing units. The question is, within that, how should we approach it. I don’t think plopping randomly placed high-density buildings into low-density neighborhoods is optimal compared to planned development.

It's really not about housing preferences.

When cities ban apartments from entire neighbourhoods, they're banning people from living there. It ensures only the very wealthy can. This means people have to go somewhere else. This could mean longer commutes for the poor and worse living conditions.

There's nothing stopping someone who wants to have a SFH from buying a lot and building a SFH. The problem is when cities impose housing bans that limit people's ability to live in these communities.

The real problem is that we have run out of infrastructure. The wealthy don't even have enough money to build it. So we fight over housing policy that involves areas with existing infrastructure.

Why doesn't Marc and his lovely wife just build a house far away from the plebs? They can't!

You seem to be confusing two distinct objectives: 1) more housing, 2) everyone should live in the same place. How wanting 1) is disingenuous because we don't necessarily want 2)?

Pauli exclusion principle rules out option 2 so no need to worry.

> ... calls for more housing from the wealthy and business class are disingenuous; more often really a call for more apartments to be built exclusively in neighbourhoods dominated by the poor and working class and a continued ban of apartments in the low density single family home areas that the wealthy business owning class live in. ...

If you densify the wealthiest areas instead, people will complain that you're "just building more luxury housing for the rich" and not fixing the pricing problem. You just can't win!

(The simple truth, of course, is that both are good things to do. Every little bit helps.)

Better more denser housing in previously poor areas than no density at all.

You make it sound like putting up with density is a chore.

Yimbys are the extreme minority to the point they hardly exist

I honestly can't understand what's wrong with this. Obviously, wealthy people want to live somewhere the there are no poor people. Class divides, including very physical divides, are a necessity in any society where there are well, classes. Only way to make it unnecessary is to destroy the concept of classes as it is by making it almost impossible to get rich. In any society where there are no losers, no poverty or homelessness, there are also no winners, you can't have the cake and eat it too. Yes here in Europe we are much less likely to face a stinking meth addict in a bus, but we are also almost unable to start a startup and win it big, and these are two sides of the same issue, you can't possibly separate them. To "fix" the problem of class divide and poverty, not just you need to introduce a cradle to grave social support system and overwhelming taxes to fund it, you need to also make the very idea of becoming rich morally unacceptable in the society.

> Class divides, including very physical divides, are a necessity in any society where there are well, classes.


Britain is a country noted for its class divides; and yet there are very few class enclaves in major British cities. Most people live in a mixed neighbourhood, with renters and owners all jumbled up, and with social housing mixed in. Sure, there are some pretty nasty social housing "estates" (groups of apartment blocks); but those estates are liberally sprinkled around - they occur in more prosperous neighbourhoods as well as cheaper places.

The USA used to claim it was a "classless society".

Look at Vienna's Gemeindebau for a counterexample.

It's high quality public housing where classes mingle.

Two thirds of Vienna lives in public housing and the City of Vienna is the largest landlord in Europe. [0]

It is, probably on a related note, also the city with the highest quality of live in the world for as long as I can remember. [1]

[0] https://www.politico.eu/article/vienna-social-housing-archit...

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/23/vienna-name...

That one is super easy! That "renting" is actually, a form of ownership where you "own" the rental contract. It's impossible to get in for a new person without decades of waiting, if ever - because there is no free lunch, if rent is many times lower than market rate, there will be a queue (or gatekeepers from who you simply buy your place in the queue). It's not a solution, just a way to keep outsiders out not too dissimilar to redlining: probably if you grandfather wasn't born in the same city, it's all but impossible to get in.

I'm not sure what you're talking about with your ownership point. Renting is renting, and of course you're a party to the rental contract.

Vienna is constantly building new Social housing and new people get in all the time.

To your grandfather point: A third of people living there weren't even born in Austria, so it's not really a generational thing like you misrepresent it to be https://www.diepresse.com/69243/migration-gemeindebau-ein-dr... (in German, use Google translate)

Good things can happen if we let them.

Actually all you need to do is let people help themselves by taxing liquidity and giving everyone a fair share of the land on this planet. The moment money and land ownership doesn't tie people to specific economic hubs the idea of a class based society becomes ridiculous.

What am i missing here? There's plenty of free or almost free land everywhere including in rich countries. Just not where someone wants to live. Drive one hour from where the jobs are in any direction and you get almost free land. But people are leaving those places, not going there, for some mysterious reasons.

What do you mean by "taxing liquidity", i don't even understand. Negative interest on bank deposits? It's already effectively there for about a generation.

> There's plenty of free or almost free land everywhere including in rich countries

There is absolutely not.

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