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San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained 359

An anonymous reader writes "We've heard a few brief accounts recently of the housing situation in San Francisco, and how it's leading to protests, gentrification, and bad blood between long-time residents and the newer tech crowd. It's a complicated issue, and none of the reports so far have really done it justice. Now, TechCrunch has posted a ludicrously long article explaining exactly what's going on, from regulations forbidding Google to move people into Mountain View instead, to the political battle to get more housing built, to the compromises that have already been made. It's a long read, but well-researched and interesting. It concludes: 'The crisis we're seeing is the result of decades of choices, and while the tech industry is a sexy, attention-grabbing target, it cannot shoulder blame for this alone. Unless a new direction emerges, this will keep getting worse until the next economic crash, and then it will re-surface again eight years later. Or it will keep spilling over into Oakland, which is a whole other Pandora's box of gentrification issues. The high housing costs aren't healthy for the city, nor are they healthy for the industry. Both thrive on a constant flow of ideas and people.'"
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San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained

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  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:23PM (#46762635)

    The only way to fix the Bay Area housing crisis is to build more fucking housing. Anything else is just shifting the pain around. This doesn't even need to mean high-rises; European cities manage population densities far higher than U.S. cities with buildings that are mostly 5 stories or less. But if people want to build skyscrapers, let them build skyscrapers unless there's a sound engineering reason not to.

    Fixing the problem requires that the NIMBYs be crushed and that all non-essential regulations be eliminated. Obviously the buildings need to meet safety standards, but in a crisis situation like this, everything other than that should go. No "historical preservation" crap, no ability of "neighborhood activists" to block development, no convoluted environmental impact statements. Let's face it, the Endangered Species Act was passed because people cared about charismatic megafauna, not snail darters or burrowing owls. As things currently stand it's primarily a tool of NIMBYs.

    This problem goes back decades. Up until the 1970s we could build like crazy. Empire State Building? Barely more than 1 year from groundbreaking to completion. Hoover Dam? 5 years. In contrast, the Big Dig took 15 fucking years to finish (1991-2006). And these examples are not atypical of the time periods in question. During the 1970s, we gave troublemakers of all stripes the ability to throw sand in the gears of development in a dozen different ways, and they all started to use it. Enough of this crap.

  • Re:BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zieroh ( 307208 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:31PM (#46762693)

    A couple decades back, people were living in the exact same houses we're living in today.

  • by zieroh ( 307208 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @08:38PM (#46762727)

    It's a great place to live if you're rich, and virtually impossible to live if you're middle class or poor.

    Considering that California is the most populous state in the nation, I think you might be exaggerating things just a bit. Clearly, lots of people live here, and not all of them are rich. Me, for instance.

  • Re:BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @09:07PM (#46762931)

    A couple decades back a blue collar worker could buy a house on 3 years salary. Can you do that today?

    A couple of decades back people actually saved their money. I remember a time when almost no home had more than one TV (some not even that), Cable was considered a luxury (if available), not a necessity. You made a down payment on a car and kept it for years after it was paid off. Now it's more popular to lease a new car every three years or so. Even though most cars will last for well over 100K miles, if not 200K miles. If you wanted a house, you didn't buy new cloths every season with some designers name plastered on your ass and everything else you owned. You can actually survive without the latest iPhone. But most households have one for each person. That shit adds up fast. You also didn't buy things on credit. If you didn't have the cash, you saved for it. People who rent are probably two years salary in debt these days.

    So yes, you can afford a home as a blue collar worker. But it has to be important to you. At least more important than much of the frivolous shit that most of us seem to think is a necessity today. I remember, years ago, refusing to get cable because I thought $5/ month was insane. I'm paying more than 20 times that for satellite now. And cable is even more expensive. I've been wanting to cut it off for years because there's very little worth watching, and I almost never turn on the TV. But my wife and daughter seem to think we must have it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @09:15PM (#46762979)

    All with very healthy economy and housing prices are still affordable. Everywhere you look there are new construction popping up all over the place. And this boom in Texas should very least last a decade more with newly discovered oil in West Texas. I get the sense living in one of the top 3 cities in Texas is comparable to hustle and bustle of New York city during the early parts of last century.

  • by Q-Hack! ( 37846 ) * on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @09:33PM (#46763115)

    blink... blink... wow. there really are people in the world who think like this?

    Supply and Demand my friend. If you want rent prices to go down, you need to flood the market with more housing, not less. Only an idiot would think that limiting the increase of available houses while the population is growing would reduce the cost of said houses. But then I notice that you post as AC and I am probably poking a troll.

  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @09:49PM (#46763219) Journal

    Increasing the building height limit without improving the roads would be a gigantic mess.

    Tall buildings don't cause congestion, parking garages do. [] Solution: allow developers to build as little parking as they feel the market desires.

  • by melchoir55 ( 218842 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @09:56PM (#46763273)

    There is a huge amount of land in California the middle class can afford: the Central Valley. The air is so bad you are almost guaranteed to experience asthma or allergies, but you can swing it on as low as 30k per year in my opinion. Those kids living in LA, SF, SD who make 30k per year? They basically live in squalor(for America). They value the coolness of those cities so much they are willing to live 4 to a 2-bedroom, or get their own place and live paycheck to paycheck, or live with their folks.

    Middle class can't afford San Francisco. A cheap house there is 800k. It isn't a question of sacrificing on a cell phone plan. The values are stratospherically out of reach for middle class earners.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @10:25PM (#46763457)

    You're right, I am happier in Mountain View. I am "free to accumulate", meaning that instead of going broke paying for an overpriced, rundown condo in SF, I can live in a slightly less overpriced, rundown condo in MV and put away at least a little money for retirement. If I forget to take off my employee badge when leaving work, I won't get attacked by angry mobs. And both the weather and the people are actually nicer than in SF.

    As a long time SF resident, I haven't regretted my move down to MV.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @10:45PM (#46763573)
    No. Bullshit.

    Poor white people are not nearly as violent as poor black people. Check the stats yourself. Blacks are about 13-14% of the population but they commit 50% of the murders alone (usually they murder other blacks). Other violent crimes like robbery follow the same pattern. It is popular among blacks to celebrate a culture of violence, drugs and gangs. Until that changes the crimes will continue to be associated with their skin color. But that is a choice BLACKS THEMSELVES are making.

    Do you ever question your own beliefs? Even your most sacred cherished ones? DId you ever stop for a moment and think that maybe, just maybe, the endless excuses people like you keep making for the blacks and their culture of violence, the limitless passes you give them, just might be perpetuating the problem and actually causing MORE people to suffer including those very same blacks? Ever wonder why things never change? Lack of necessary change can only indicate one thing - that what you are doing is not working. Time to take a different view.

    At one time it was not politically correct to advocate heliocentrism either. But it was still a fact.

    Black men can start by seriously trying to parent their children instead of leaving them to be raised by single mothers in broken homes in bad neighborhoods. All blacks can start by dropping this victim idea that nothing is ever their fault. None of the successful blacks I met ever thought like that. None of them thought being a thug was cool. None of them thought studying hard in school was "acting white". None of them thought working hard made somebody "uncle tom" either.

    If you think that's coincidence then you simply are not intellectually mature enough to be reasoned with in an adult manner.
  • by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @10:50PM (#46763613)

    Where's the mod option for "harsh truth"?

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @10:57PM (#46763651)

    Poor white people are not nearly as violent as poor black people. Check the stats yourself. Blacks are about 13-14% of the population but they commit 50% of the murders alone (usually they murder other blacks).

    As much as your racist mindset would like that to support your conclusion. It simply doesn't. Being 13-14% of the population does not imply being an even distribution within the demographics of the population. If all 75% of that 13-14% is poor (not unreasonable), but only 10% of the white people are poor (also not unreasonable), then that would give you pretty much the exact same number of poor people of either race. The result - an unsurprising 50/50 split in crime rates too.

    Ever wonder why things never change?

    No, because it's clear.
    1) They do change. We've gone from blacks, women and gays (amongst many others) being ostracised, to many of them being productive members of society, and people like you being frowned upon. That's great!
    2) The change is slow, exactly because of people like you, trying very very hard to make sure that these people get held back as much as you can. Thankfully idiots like you are getting rarer and rarer.

    At one time it was not politically correct to advocate heliocentrism either. But it was still a fact.

    That's an interesting comparison. You seem to be suggesting that we generally go from poor understanding of the situation, to more enlightened understanding of the situation. That our knowledge of the situation improves. One way that this has improved is that we've realised that the earth is not the centre of the universe, and then even realised that neither is the sun. Another way is that in the past, we thought that blacks, women and gays were somehow inferior, and not just normal human beings who happened to have a different pigmentation, sexual organ, or preference. Thankfully we've advanced past that point now.

    Black men can start by seriously trying to parent their children instead of leaving them to be raised by single mothers in broken homes in bad neighbourhoods.

    This is almost as laughable as "The poor just need to stop being poor, then they could afford health care."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 15, 2014 @11:45PM (#46763893)

    Numbers much?
      There are 17 Million poor whites, compared to 10 million blacks in poverty. If poverty was the only indicator, the white demographic would be leading the charge, rather than the fact that just 6% of the American population ( Black Males) responsible for 50% of the murders. Can you stop being so reflexively hurt by facts that you can't approach things to find a real solution? Facts > Your feelings. Deal with it. Once you come to terms with the idea that were not all the same, we can start to find real answers to the problems we all face.

  • by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:08AM (#46765863)
    He may be wrong on some points, but he did not say at any time that blacks can not change. And I do not need statistics to conclude that he is right in what he said, I just need to go outside. Here is obvious the culture of violence, young blacks boast about of being gang members, their language is 80% violence and profanity. Poor young whites do the same thing, but is most common to I see blacks doing it. Racism? No, unfortunately this is what I see happening on the streets here, I like it or not.

    (And as he said, people can change to better. But they have to want to do this and it is not what is happening with the majority.)
  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:33AM (#46766031) Homepage Journal

    You must have missed the bit about much of the cheap, social housing where the rent controls actually kick in being owned by non-profits who exist only to provide social housing. In the UK local government used to fill that role, building a lot of low cost but good quality housing.

    Everyone needs housing. You can't really chose to live in a cardboard box under a bridge as an alternative to renting or buying a property. It needs to be a social thing, with a free market on top for people who can afford it.

Disks travel in packs.