You want to live in Manhattan? Move there.

Can you see Valencia Street?

I feel like I've been having this discussion for 30 years, and it still keeps coming back. The latest installment (thanks to sfist for the link) is a Slate article by Matthew Yglesias arguing that San Francisco could solve its housing crisis by becoming as dense as Manhattan. Lots of highrise condos and apartments in places like the Mission. A total of 3.2 million residents.

Obviously, a totally different city:

Obviously that would have a transformative effect on Oakland as well in various regards. It's obviously not "politically realistic" to imagine San Francisco rezoning to allow that kind of density. But uniquely among American cities, I completely believe that 3.2 million people would want to live in a hypothetical much-more-crowded version of the city if they were allowed to. You'd need to build another heavy rail line or three and do some better dedicated bus lanes, but it'd be affordable with a much larger tax base.

Here's the problem. Two problems, really.

1. That level of density hasn't exactly made Manhattan affordable. (Although if you want to move there, it's probably cheaper than SF at this point). There's been a huge surge in housing construction in NYC, and housing prices are still way too high. The housing market in San Francisco is so unusual that demand is essentially infinite; you can't build your way out of this.

2. There are already 800,000 people living here, and most of us don't want to live in Manhattan.

One of the reasons San Francisco is so attractive is that it's still a human-scale city. I've spent a lot of time in Manhattan, and the rush is pretty cool, and some urbanists say that's how we're all going to have to live in the future -- packed into tall buildings in dense cities -- but that's not how I want to live. I know I sound old and I'm becoming a curmudgeon and one of those "you should have seen us in the old days" people, but I like the fact that there are no highrises in the Mission. 

Yeah, San Francisco is going to have to grow in population. There are ways to do that -- to make dense neighborhoods that are still very livable. See: North Beach. But San Franciscans have generally taken the position that we don't want to be Manhattan. We want to be San Francisco.

Now: My vision is not in synch with how housing is allocated in a hyper-capitalist system. Me, I think housing should be treated as a human right and regulated like a public utility. Landlords should be allowed a "reasonable return on investment" but not the greatest profit the market will bear. Homeowners should see their property appreciate at a reasonable level, but not at a speculative level. Housing shouldn't be bought and sold as a commodity. And it should be allocated by seniority -- that is, the people who have been a part of a community for the longest get the better housing.

That's how you avoid the demand-exceeds-supply issue (and again, in this city, there will always be more demand than supply.) I know that's commie shit, but that's the way it is.

Still, whatever the economic or policy arguments, you can't force that level of density onto this city. Because before you make those kinds of plans, you have to check with the people who live here.

I wrote this mostly to give the trolls some red meat, since they don't seem to be agitated enough lately. Go to it, Adam Smith.


I'd say that 100 socialists marching down the street in the afternoon is certainly more effective than some rich douche who just posts stuff online from the luxury of some condo's living room. And with a larger percentage of people under the age of 30 preferring socialism over capitalism now, I'd say that socialists are the ones on the up-and-up. As young people, we realize that capitalism doesn't work. Capitalism causes homelessness, unsustainable amounts of student loan debt, environmental destruction, and a global race to the bottom. Capitalism is nothing more than an economy that runs on crisis. And so yes, I think that socialists are absolutely relevant - moreso than most of the right-wing commentators on this site.

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

Expropriate their property? Sounds more like the National Socialists.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

where the owner happens to spend time elsewhere?

Even North Korea, Iran, Libya or Cuba doesn't do that. WTF?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 3:16 am

of the Constitution and then she can go around seizing whatever properties she wants.

Maybe she should repeal the entire Constitution of the United states while she is at it?

Posted by anon on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 5:15 am

and larding it with a bunch of right-wing sock-puppet bullshit.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 6:45 am

credibility and self-respect. And you have mostly achieved that all by yourself.

Posted by anon on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 7:03 am

Fuckface, if someone paid you more money to say the opposite, you'd do so with a shit eating grin.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 7:58 am
Posted by anon on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 9:33 am

Fuckface is you, fuckface.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:18 am

Don't feed the trolls.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:44 pm

But has anyone else noticed no one responds to his - other than "the trolls?" It's like each article is a lonely cry out in the wilderness, returned by no one but the echo of his own voice.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

I may not always agree with him, but he's thoughtful and his arguments are almost always sensible. I think that's precisely why you trolls go for the juglar when it comes to Tim. You know this, and you also realize that a good number of progressives turn to this paper to read what Tim has to say, whether they agree with him or not. Of course, you want to make it look like that's not the case. But this is disproved by the way viciously you attack him when he's making any kind of sense. It's pretty obvious that you feel threatened. Tim must be doing something right.

Posted by Lyra on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 11:20 am

then clearly Tim's doing something right.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

mindless, kneejerk sixties oh-so-dated world view.

He asks for it and, I suspect, enjoys it. Anyway, he is just passing time until he gets his payoff.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

"The housing market in San Francisco is so unusual that demand is essentially infinite; you can't build your way out of this."

"Homeowners should see their property appreciate at a reasonable level, but not at a speculative level."

You know these are contradictory statements, right Tim? The first is actually bunk, no demand is infinite. And the first contradicts the second.

"And it should be allocated by seniority -- that is, the people who have been a part of a community for the longest get the better housing."

That's not commie shit, that is just the usual self-interested Boomer rant that thinks that it should have the best of everything and the rest of us can go to hell.

Gen-X, Gen-Y and the Millenials are getting pretty tired of you Boomers. I know you think that you are the center of the universe and your parents never disciplined you properly so you don't really know how to play well with others, but you are headed to the old folks home pretty soon. If you want someone to wipe your ass when you push that little button, you best start behaving a little better.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

balance through the mechanism of price. It is only when the price is distorted, thru types of price control, that inbalances occur.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 3:18 am

"free market" by government or Federal Reserve actions. Critical thinking is more difficult than regurgitation of propaganda.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 7:40 am

Yeah, that magic marketplace really priced in risk during these last asset bubbles, didn't it?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 7:54 am

the facts and the situation changed.

Remember that the markets price in not the events themselves but the sum total of the perceptions of those events. As those perceptions changed, prices changed, just as they should.

Markets go up and down. It's what they do. In SF the price of homes fell, then went back up again. Always has and always will. But at any given time, it tells you the balance of supply and demand. I'd trust that over a bureaucrat any day.

Posted by anon on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 9:29 am

Fuckface, the market did not price in any sort of risk. Risk was ignored until it could no longer be and the downsides were externalized away from the risk takers and socialized onto the economy at large. In any libertarian economy, the Wall Street banks would have been sued to kingdom come.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 9:49 am

The banks are, in fact, presently being sued into kingdom come.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

The banks have a wire into negative interest loans from the Fed, I'm sure that the lawsuits scare them.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

The guys who committed the biggest crimes all walked away with hundreds of millions.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

guilty of greed and a lack of due diligence. We all like to blame the bankers, but millions were too greedy to think these loans through

Most mortgages are still being repaid and most homeowners are still in their homes. Meanwhile SF RE is off to the races again.

Markets go in cycles. They always did.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:39 am

Of all the bullshit Gen-fukstrs like you shoot off. We Want! We Want! We have Rights! We don't want to pay for it, we don't want to work for it! When the government gives you housing, food, medical - it isn't for free. There is a cost. And that cost is individual freedom.

Posted by Richmondman on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:38 am

The boomers are the ones who coasted their entire adult lives sucking down what their parents' and grandparents' generations amassed through cooperative effort, sacrifice and an activist public sector, leaving the country worse off than when they found it.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

and expect future generations to bear the true costs of their underfunded pensions, prop 13, rent control, etc etc.

sorry, boomers it's not going to be that easy...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

Or close to it. My word, you're over 50 years old! If it were me, I'd take some credit for at least a few of the boomers' achievements that left this country and the planet better off. Here's a list of some successes since the first Earth Day:

1970 - creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a mission to protect the environment and public health.

1972 - The EPA banned DDT, a carcinogenic pesticide, featured in Rachel Carson's 1962 book “Silent Spring.”

1972 - The Clean Water Act was passed at a time when only 40% of major rivers in the U.S. were safe enough for swimming. Today, about 70% are safe enough.

1973 - EPA began phasing out leaded gasoline, a source of air pollution, banning it fully by 1986.

1974- Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, allowing EPA to regulate the quality of public drinking water.

1975 - The first use of the catalytic converter in automobile tailpipes helped to reduce noxious emissions required under the Clean Air Act. Since the first Earth Day, emissions from the most common air pollutants have decreased by about half, even while gross domestic product went up 195% and people increased their travel in cars by 178%.

1978 - The federal government banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) as propellants in aerosol cans because CFCs destroy the ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

1979 - EPA banned cancer-causing PCB production and use.

1980 - Congress created the Superfund to clean up hazardous waste sites, and require payment from polluting companies to finance clean up of the most hazardous sites.

1987 - The MontrealProtocol was signed by the US to protect the ozone layer by phasing out CFC's. It became the most successful international agreement, having been signed by every member of the United Nations.

1988 - Congress passed the Sewage Ocean-dumping Ban against sewage sludge and industrial waste.

1990 - A new Clean Air Act Amendment required states to demonstrate progress in improving air quality and imposed the first acid rain controls.

1991 - the US government started recycling on the federal level.

1992 - The ENERGYSTAR program was first created by the U.S. Department of Energy to help us all save money -- and conserve energy -- through the use of energy efficient products. The program has since been adopted around the world.

1993 - President Clinton directed the federal government to use its $200 billion in annual purchasing power to buy recycled or greener products.

1994 - EPA launches its BrownfieldsProgram to clean up abandoned, contaminated sites to return them to productive community use. One example: The city of Dallas, instead of looking for land in the suburbs to house a new stadium for its basketball team, decided to assist developers in cleaning up a 72-acre toxic mess at the city’s core. Where there once was arsenic and lead leftovers from a 100-year old city dump, the American Airlines center opened in 2001 serving sushi and sea bass to sports fans.

1999 - Smog in big cities had decreased at a tremendous rate: During the 1990's Southern California's number of days of high pollution decreased 100 percent. Los Angeles had nearly two hundred hazardous smog days per year in the 1970s but now experiences less than 25 each year.

1999 - President Bill Clinton announced new emissions standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans and trucks, requiring them to be 77 to 95 percent cleaner in future years.

1999 - The largest unprotected grove of ancient redwoods in the world came under protection after Pacific Lumber agreed to accept federal and state funds totaling nearly a quarter billion dollars in exchange for preservation of the 10,000 acre Headwaters Forest.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

We are the ones who are going to be paying all the taxes to pay for your underfunded medicare benefits. You never taxed yourself enough to pay for all things you want: you want gold plated Social Security, you want $1M heart transplants so that you can live forever and you never want to pay any property tax (who passed Prop 13?). You never raised your taxes enough to properly fund Medicare. You elected the dumbest President ever in American history from your generation who slashed taxes and started a bunch of idiotic wars funded by borrowing from China.

You got your free UC education, while we had to work our asses off and take out student loans. You shoved the amazing inhumane and unaffordable "Three Strikes" police state policy and then passed the problems created by it on to the next generation. You keep cutting education for our children so you can enjoy your time on the golf course.

You boomers are the ones with your hands out all the time, take a look in the mirror.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

But we don't need higher taxes.

We need less spending. Start with those public sector pensions and entitlement spending on welfare.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

Would be a very similar headline to Tim's.

Posted by anon on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 5:15 am

What Redmond is warning about is already official city policy. It's called Smart Growth, dense development along "transit corridors." The idea that Treasure Island can/should hold 19,000 residents, that we can allow Parkmerced to add more than 5,000 new housing units to that part of town---already near gridlock on 19th Avenue--that the Market and Octavia Better Neighborhoods Plan (!) can have 40-story highrises (4000+ housing units, 10,000 more people) and that we can/should allow UC to rip off the old extension property (450 housing units, 1,000 more people): this is all happening right now under current Planning Dept. policies, which are supported by all right-thinking city progressives.

None of these projects provides serious money to make Muni good enough to handle all these people. Let them ride bikes!

The Guardian, by the way, has offered only the most timid criticism of these policies over the years, fostering the illusion that the M/O Plan is about affordable housing---it's not---or that the UC housing development is also about affordable housing with a PC figleaf of housing for gay seniors.

San Francisco is already the second most densely populated city in the US, behind---wait for it---New York City.

Posted by Rob Anderson on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 9:02 am

The only thing "smart" about "smart growth" is how the developers, their attorneys, consultants, architects and lobbyists have managed to out-smart environmentalists into supporting highly profitable new luxury developments that will end up causing more damage to the environment than they would save if the fallacy that city condos compete with sprawl SFH and the destruction wrought by the latter by commutes and greenbelt conversion to residential were indeed true.

But condos in the city do not compete with SFH tract homes in the sub/exurbs with yards.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 9:18 am

There's the transit lobby, the affordable housing lobby, the green lobby, the anti-growth lobby and so on. Their aims are frequently at odds with each other and they cancel each other out, leaving a vacuum.

Even the bike lobby fight with the transit lobby. The anti-growth crowd are natural opponents of those who want to build more housing. And so on.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 9:33 am

It wouldn't be all luxury development if nutso NIMBYs didn't drive up the cost of construction with endless frivolous lawsuits.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

and Progressives, who think everything is a free lunch paid by somebody else.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:44 am

It would be nice if both the supporters and the opponents of more housing in San Francisco stopped talking in terms of the Manhattan straw man. No, San Francisco is not going to quadruple in population. Not in our lifetime. No point in debating whether it should happen, it won't.

Here's a real question: Plan Bay Area--the region's draft plan for smart growth--calls for San Francisco to add 92,000 units in 30 years. It concentrates new development in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and other places that are well served by transit, to fight sprawl. That's about 3,000 additional units per year in San Francisco. It's a 25% increase overall, or about 1% per year. It's an ambitious target, but it's a sensible one, and it's an achievable one if political forces actually get behind it. It's one additional person for every four now in San Francisco. I think you'll recognize the city, Tim.

So OK, supposed lefties, where are you going to allow these apartments and condos to be built? And OK, free market fundamentalists, how are you going to assure that everybody who doesn't have a tech sized income isn't driven out of town? How are you all going to work to create a necessarily, appropriately bigger San Francisco that's still moderate scale?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

Where will the 200,000 additional daily shits go?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

There is this amazing 19th century invention: it is called a toilet. I hope you use the one in your house and not take a dump on the street.

The increased tax base from more people can fund more sewers and sewer plants and if it doesn't then the California tax code provides for something called Mello-Roos to broaden the tax base.

But you already knew all this didn't you marcos?

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

No, after the toilet, when the waste sluices through 100+ year old brick sewers through a system that can barely handle existing "loads," where is that shit going to go? Have you ever smelled the air wafting from the system in SOMA on a warm day?

We're talking a sewage system that requires tens of billions of dollars to be fixed up to handle existing "loads" and then would need even more to handle proposed "loads."

And where would this additional sewage be treated? Where would the effluent go from there?

You can't just wait until those people are here and have paid taxes to build this stuff out.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 7:50 am

you have the same type of bozo running them as runs Muni and fixes the streets.

There's rarely a problem hooking up gas and electric to new homes as that is private.

But there is a huge bond issue paying to redo all those pipes and sewers, so I really do not hear any more excuses from city bureaucrats about how they cannot handle feces.

Oh, and actually you can build first and tax later - they are called bonds.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 9:32 am

You could fir them on the east-side in a number of slender high-rise towers along existing, under-utilized transit and freeway corridors.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:42 am

The Bay Area has some of the tightest control of land use, building up supply has never been easy, we are like the capital of NIMBY. We want out hills, bay, views, space, less noise. Yet we want our jobs, our shopping, our services, our stuff and our lifestyle.

Yet we want to help everyone that we can and it seems that way. The homeless, refugees, the poor, the sick and the seniors. But the supply keeps getting less and less, demand is growing. I have read in the past about certain projects that would be good for the above. NIMBY crunched those projects, building high income units seem to be better.

Even projects like TI, Hunter Point and SOMA face some sort of NIMBY onslaught, but the jobs keep coming and coming.

I hope we don't become like NYC, we have one of the most insane regions.

Posted by Garrett on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

That's a universal correlation. At some point there will be a backlash, and the controls will be rolled back, and then we can start building a serious number of units to ensure that home prices are moderated.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:43 am

The United States is going from ~300 million people in 2000 to ~430 million people in 2050. Thats nearly a 50% increase, which will have to reflect on San Francisco as well. So if SF was around ~750,000 in 2000, it will have to be able to contain 1,125,000 people by 2050. The SF Planning Dept predicts 964,000 by 2035. These numbers don't lie, and nobody wants to go back to living in the suburbs. Density is not something that has to be scary, look at dense but very walkable and pleasant neighborhoods like the Upper West Side. As long as the city plans smartly, to accomodate mass transit, bicycles, parks, schools, and enough apartments for all who want to live in SF, the city can grow in a positive direction that does not sacrifice the spirit or old neighborhoods of the city.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

Predictions are only predictions and are discredited upon arrival when put forth by boosters and government that has been bought and paid for by developers as fair acompli.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

Want to live in the suburbs? Go live there.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

Anything closer in than that is an urban and part of greater San Francisco.

Remember, the real city is the Bay Area.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:40 am

The suburbs are as close by transit time to downtown SF as the Richmond, Sunset and SF State are to downtown SF if not closer.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 7:54 am

afford SF move to somewhere else with good transit connections to SF, such as Oakland, Daly City, Richmond or the suburbs beyond that.

Or way out in the Avenues if they can afford it.

Just don't think you're entitled to prime SF real estate - you're not.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 9:30 am

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