Re: Guest Post - Google bus protests

1

To wit:
"""
Preparing for the action, we watched Levandowski step
out of his front door. He had Google Glasses over his eyes, carried his baby in his arm, and held a tablet with his free hand. As he descended the stairs with the baby, his eyes were on the tablet through the prism of his Google Glasses, not on the life against his chest. He appeared in this moment like the robot he admits that he is [...] He can casually stare at his screens as if there was not human blood making this technology possible, as if there was not a life in his hands.
"""


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:26 AM
horizontal rule
2

It's easy to overthink this stuff--and there have been other cases of class issues bubbling up (think of the dude in his SUV and the motorcycle gang) where one's sympathy is with the threatened (rich) individual--but things are bad for a lot of people in this country, and some of those people are going to act out. Telling them to cut it out might be right in a given instance, but also misses the point.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:30 AM
horizontal rule
3

Somebody give me a cookie for not making an analogy in that comment. Man, that was hard.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:31 AM
horizontal rule
4

If he's going to wear Google glasses, I'm thinking of leaning toward the protestors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:31 AM
horizontal rule
5

What is the conservative side of this issue? Increase the amount of housing available to non-rich people?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:32 AM
horizontal rule
6

What is the conservative side of this issue? Increase the amount of housing available to non-rich people?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:32 AM
horizontal rule
7

It is interesting seeing my well-off tech friends in SF chew this over on Facebook. They are unused to, and uncomfortable with, being in the role of the class oppressor. They mostly tend to argue that SF needs to build more housing which is certainly true but not much of a proximal solution.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:34 AM
horizontal rule
8

6: by building high rise (probably luxury-ish) housing in SF, yes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
9

I'm a little torn. Obviously there's a lot wrong with this protest movement, but on the other hand it really is important for rich people to realize that if things don't get better for everyone else then things are going to get ugly for rich people too. The rent situation in the bay area really is out of control and something needs to be done about it.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:41 AM
horizontal rule
10

"his eyes were on the tablet through the prism of his Google Glasses"
I call bullshit, that's not how they're positioned or used. But if it was just "someone was looking at their smartphone while holding a baby" you'd be indicting like 85% of parents.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 11:57 AM
horizontal rule
11

Don't you know the rule that says any kind of interaction with technology while in the presence of a small child makes you a bad parent?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:02 PM
horizontal rule
12

If you want to be saddened about the lack of high-rises, or even mid-rises, look at this map of height limits (page 2) stemming from the recent, years-long planning process for the eastern neighborhoods. In particular, note how the vast majority of the BART corridor along and near to Mission St.--which is to say, the only fast, high-capacity, dedicated-right-of-way public transit option--is zoned at 65' or less, with just a few tiny parcels of 85'. Note also that the far east waterfront stuff, which is currently completely undeveloped (as far as I can tell, we're talking U-Store-Its and abandoned warehouses), is at 40 goddamn feet (along with the vast majority of the Mission). Oh, and one final sadness: see if you can tell where the east-side Caltrain (ie, the fast, comfortable, high-capacity commuter rail that goes through the peninsula/Silicon Valley) station is, based on height limits. I doubt you could guess that it's at 22nd and Pennsylvania--while there's some 65' blocks to the east, everything within walking distance west, north, and south is zoned at 40'. Such bullshit!


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:02 PM
horizontal rule
13

10: also, who the hell stares at the baby they're carrying? That's, like, the time they're least optimally placed for staring-at.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:03 PM
horizontal rule
14

And the map probably seriously overestimates effective limits, because of the ability of local boards to say no to things that are fully in conformity with it. Ugh.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:04 PM
horizontal rule
15

I think there's a real point about the google buses being bad, which is that if there were no google buses then there would be a lot more pressure on San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to build adequate public transportation. It's certainly not as big a problem as the housing situation, but it is a problem. More generally the problems caused by silicon valley need to be somehow pushed back onto the people who live in silicon valley (and who are blocking adequate growth in silicon valley).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:05 PM
horizontal rule
16

by building high rise (probably luxury-ish) housing in SF, yes.

It doesn't have to be high rise! Getting rid of the fucking height restrictions and parking requirements on buildings in the Sunset and Richmond would go a long way toward easing the pressure. There are large swathes of the city devoted to detached(-ish) single-family homes; that sort of development might have made sense in the '40s and '50s when those houses were built, but we're long past that time.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:08 PM
horizontal rule
17

6/7: The "conservative" side of the issue is: let a thousand high-rises bloom. The current popular "liberal" take seems to be tighter rent-control, more mandated "affordable housing" and reforming the Ellis Act. The first and last seem likely to _worsen_ the situation and the second... I don't know what to say about it.

I saw an article recently (I'm forgetting where) arguing that what we really need is more and better public housing. Little regulatory carve-outs aren't going to do it, the government should just actually build real (non-shitty) subsidized housing and rent it out below market rates. I was somewhat convinced, though it hardly seems likely.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:11 PM
horizontal rule
18

16: but those beautiful ugly houses must be preserved! They don't build them shittily like that any more.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:11 PM
horizontal rule
19

15: The transit problem is real, and also seemingly hopeless. But better transit will not address the housing problem at all, if it's not accompanied by higher density approximately everywhere.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:12 PM
horizontal rule
20

Google Detroit outpost: when?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:16 PM
horizontal rule
21

17.2: I definitely buy the argument that affordable (like, for poor people, not middle class people) housing in dense, desirable cities is a market failure that can really not be addressed without subsidized units. But at this point SF also lacks housing for people who make good but not two-google-even-with-the-artificial-wage-depression-incomes-and-no-kids money.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:17 PM
horizontal rule
22

Google Detroit outpost: when?

Oh god, that reminds me that I just read this article in the New Yorker about the county executive of Oakland County (just north of Detroit). After reading it the only cogent thought I could come up with was "Fuck white people".


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:20 PM
horizontal rule
23

There's a decent-sized Google office in Detroit. Google's main business is selling advertising and guess who the biggest buyers still are.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:22 PM
horizontal rule
24

Completely agree with x trapnel re local zoning issues in SF and down through the peninsula and including the South Bay. Except that caltrain is ridiculously slow because of crappy track generally. Two things to add:

- the non-common carrier / luxury aspect of the buses is obnoxious and consistent with the general lack of solidarity that seems rampant among the rank and file riders, see also uber, lyft, etc. It isn't just the titans of this industry who seem generally uninterested in the plight of their fellow citizens.


- local governments clearly failed to effectively anticipate many ramifications of generally piss poor land use and transportation policies. But the titans of the industry were not exactly stepping up to work with local governments to build a functional region, see absurd isolated island campus model of corporate "campus" development.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:22 PM
horizontal rule
25

My main take on this kind of thing is that there will never be change unless rich people suffer, even if those causing the suffering don't have exactly the same 20 point manifesto you would like. You want to see better zoning restrictions in SF? Then block the buses and create insanity until the overlord class freaks out and demands that something must be done and more housing gets built. Ain't gonna happen otherwise.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:24 PM
horizontal rule
26

And to the OP: this is definitely old hat. We went through a round of this sort of thing back in the dotcom boom. The bust definitely eased some of the tension, but here we are again.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:25 PM
horizontal rule
27

Josh completely right re Sunset and Richmond. If we could achieve Paris level density out there it would be awesome.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:26 PM
horizontal rule
28

25: The most likely outcome from the bus protests is to make the situation worse. For example, note that the "No Wall on the Waterfront" people are harnessing popular discontent to try to make it nearly impossible to build anything near the Bay: http://sfist.com/2013/12/31/the_war_on_the_waterfront_developme.php


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:27 PM
horizontal rule
29

I'm all for re-zoning, but I'm not sure it's possible to build enough units to make SF affordable, given how many well-off-if-not-rich people would like to move there. The real solution is to fuck up the weather and scenery. Don't worry, I've got a billion of my best Chinese on it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
30

Given all the veto points, would it make more strategic sense to identify one area of a few square miles and fill it up with high-rises, Vancouver-style? (With a lot of safeguards toward affordability, but also with an eye toward jacking up supply.) Maybe some empty area in the Peninsula, or maybe Sunset or Richmond.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:29 PM
horizontal rule
31

Not in the long term though. Doing nothing and muddling quietly through will most likely produced a situation in which rich people are comfortable and no one else is. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've lived in Berkeley, hippies are stupid and annoying. But their stupid and annoying asses freaking out the bosses with real threats and inconveniences is the only hope for change ever.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:30 PM
horizontal rule
32

29: or make it so unpleasant for high-ish income wage slaves to live there (by picketing all their houses) that they leave, and things definitely revert to a glorious past of, I don't know, junkies running coffeehouses.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:31 PM
horizontal rule
33

Felix Salmon pretty much convinced me that the economic actors that Uber is taking on (that is, cab companies that hold and lease out medallions) are not actually worth my sympathy, given the relationship they have to their non-union, at will independent contractor "employees", and further that Uber has a chance of actually increasing wages for professional drivers of passenger cars. I could be reconvinced the other way, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:35 PM
horizontal rule
34

33 to 24.1-ish.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:36 PM
horizontal rule
35

Talking about highrises confuses me, given that lots of the densest zip codes in the country are in low-rise Queens. Don't get me wrong, I love highrises, and I get kind of creeped out when I have to sleep at ground level -- it just doesn't feel safe. But isn't the bigger density problem lot size? I thought you could pack a perfectly unreasonable number of people into a square mile by putting lowrise one or maybe-two-family houses on tiny plots with postage-stamp lawns/gardens.

But no one talks about it as a plausible solution much -- are the property rights involved in laying out smaller lots too complicated to be worth it?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:36 PM
horizontal rule
36

22: When I was in Detroit last weekend, I saw an editorial by L. Brooks Patterson basically saying he didn't give a fuck what happened to the art in the DIA as long as taxpayers didn't get screwed. I had to ask the boyfriend who Patterson was, and his face just said it all. So, yeah. Fuck the powerful racist suburbanites and him especially. The boyfriend spent the whole weekend fuming that he'd never been to the DIA or anything downtown (despite having family at 8 Mile or so) until he was in college and independent. Unfortunately, it's incredibly goddamn cold, not very pleasant compared to the Bay Area.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:38 PM
horizontal rule
37

It really does surprise me a bit (it shouldn't, given the libertarian leanings of tech folks) how little sense of civic responsibility there is among the affluent out there. Let's build our own bus service! Did no one think twice? Honestly, this is just what happens when people/corporations have too much money. I wonder if it would be slightly more politically workable if marginal rates were set very, very high, with the caveat that the revenue would be earmarked for infrastructure, rather than directly helping other human beings.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
38

35 - SF has in general narrow lot sizes, certainly by the standards of East Coast suburbs, but lots of single family housing that's inappropriately big and non-stacked. This kind of thing is a classic SF house, which I actually like aesthetically, but probably thousands of them need to be destroyed unless SF just wants to accept its destiny as rich person's playground, which it basically already is.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:40 PM
horizontal rule
39

This was what I meant to link.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:41 PM
horizontal rule
40

Can I blame federalism again? Not literally, this time -- it's all intrastate. But I bet there's an element of companies feeling maybe responsible to their own political jurisdiction -- the local town or county or whatever -- and not having an overarching sense of responsibility to the region, despite having huge effects on it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:42 PM
horizontal rule
41

Yes, Richmond and the Sunset are a huge part of the problem, but it's hard to be as mad at them, because the transit situation isn't great from there. (Though I've never taken the Geary Express). Daly City, though, has no excuse, with the BART station right there.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
42

41: you want to make the song a lie?! You monster.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:47 PM
horizontal rule
43

38: Like the Tanner's house.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:47 PM
horizontal rule
44

38: If I were going to critique that for density, I'd complain about the width of the streets in the picture before I'd worry about the house sizes. But that's probably really, really hard to change now, and I don't know if SF streets are actually wider than NYC streets, or if that's just what it looks like in those pictures.

SF proper is pretty small, though, isn't it? (My Bay Area geographical knowledge is nonexistent.) Are there the same small lot sizes in the nearest suburbs, or does it get less dense the second you leave literal SF?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:47 PM
horizontal rule
45

On phone so difficult to tap out anything of moderate complexity, but will say that would be more inclined to not oppose uber et al when they stop fighting common carrier status.

Sunset and Richmond are already small lot small single family home areas. Don't need acres of high rises (although I'm not opposed to more of those), need vast areas of 6-7 story residential with mix of apt types and little or no parking, with tons more buses using dedicated lanes in major corridors. Extend this across western SF, within Berkeley and Oakland and down Peninsula.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:48 PM
horizontal rule
46

44: one problem is that most of the ways you can leave literal SF you hit water. Daly City, mentioned above by trapnel, is one of the few actually adjacent suburbs, and one of even fewer that isn't full of dead people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
47

40: that's exactly the problem. (I remember realizing it when I moved to the Bay Area almost 20 years ago.) It makes no fucking sense to consider the area other than as one integrated whole, but for historical reasons we're stuck with this patchwork of municipalities and counties. Which have been fucking up regional planning at least since the early '60s when San Mateo County opted out of BART.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:52 PM
horizontal rule
48

Well, Berkeley and Oakland (which I sort of think of as the Brooklyn and Queens, or the Cambridge and Somerville) of SF. Couldn't they be a lot denser without even getting into multifamily dwellings?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:52 PM
horizontal rule
49

In Queens, you don't have to have a garage taking up your first floor. That helps.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:53 PM
horizontal rule
50

48: Berkeley, while desirable, is really quite far from the valley and its jobs. Oakland is in fact gentrifying and densifying fast (and already has a lot more tall residential buildings that most municipalities out there), which has the side effect of eliminating one of the last refuges in the whole SFBA for actual poor people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:55 PM
horizontal rule
51

That's true - garages are foreign strangeness to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:55 PM
horizontal rule
52

Question for the locals, since I left almost 5 (!) years ago now: what's up with the Bayview/Hunter's Point area? Some people I knew were moving there and trying to beautify it a bit, but it just seemed like a vast swatch of unused land in the city proper. It it gentrifying, or what? You could put like, 30(thousand) goddamn high-rises there. Even so, probably displacing anyone living there now.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:56 PM
horizontal rule
53

48: Oakland yes, Berkeley no. But Oakland is so much bigger it doesn't really even make sense to include Berkeley in the conversation.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:57 PM
horizontal rule
54

Express buses from western neighborhoods are scarily fast, even not using dedicated lanes. Like hold on for your life when the light turns green fast. And everyone can ride for the same goddamn fare. It is worse than let's build our own bus system, it's more let's build our own luxury bus system and then use the bus stops if the public system so that we prevent the public buses from using them during the commute.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:57 PM
horizontal rule
55

The north Berkeley Bart station neighborhood is absurdly low density.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 12:58 PM
horizontal rule
56

52: Dogpatch is fully gentrifying right now. The entire stretch of 3rd south of the ballpark is unrecognizable, between the Mission Bat development and the new Muni line. Bayview/ Hunter's Point aren't quite there yet, but it's only a matter of time.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:00 PM
horizontal rule
57

Personal note of no consequence: we had put a security deposit down on an apartment in Palo Alto when we decided, hey, let's move to the rez! That very nearby alternate universe sure does look different from this one. It was probably the right call, but damn, I did like living out there.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:00 PM
horizontal rule
58

There's a whole lot of Berkeley that's still 1-story houses. So yes, there's a lot of room for increased density there.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:02 PM
horizontal rule
59

I am impressed with my friend who lives in the Dogpatch for managing to hold on to his not-crazily-priced super nice rental unit through a couple of ownership changes. Of course, he managed to keep an incredibly cheap three bedroom apartment in the hayes valley until like 2006, so it is fair to assume he is an actual magician of renting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:02 PM
horizontal rule
60

Also, yeah, 3rd street is totally unrecognizable from when I lived there (which was a lot longer than five years ago, admittedly). The idea that we managed to find cheap warehouse space there for our hacker clubhouse is sort of mind-blowing at this point.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:04 PM
horizontal rule
61

Things like this make me (and many people in the office here) glad that (a) we take the same public transportation to the office as everyone else in the city , so that flashpoint doesn't exist, and (b) the local density/suburbanization boundary doesn't seem quite so fraught, though I'm not exactly sure what makes the difference. It's not like we have a shortage of assholes in city offices or town zoning boards.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:05 PM
horizontal rule
62

Although Berkeley deserves some credit for approving multistory mixed use along the Shattuck corridor. Have taken delicious satisfaction over the years in making clear to homeowners nearby exactly why I refuse to sign their NIMBY petitions.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
63

You know what would really help alleviate the crowding in San Francisco? A grid of huge towers marching down from the hills -- each about four blocks at the base, with weird flared tops. Perhaps with some nanotech component to them. It wouldn't be popular with everyone, but I'll bet Harwood/Levine could sell people on it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:07 PM
horizontal rule
64

56: The super-low-density greenfield development going on in Mission Bay right now makes my nose bleed with rage.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:11 PM
horizontal rule
65

57: you should totally move back and we can start a company together! You handle the apps, I'll handle the servers.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:12 PM
horizontal rule
66

Am I being dim, or is "I'm a neoliberal... and I'm not accustomed to finding myself on the 'conservative' side of an issue" a surprising statement at best?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
67

There's a decent-sized Google office in Detroit. Google's main business is selling advertising and guess who the biggest buyers still are.

Mesothelioma lawyers?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
68

This remains the best, most exciting, and most canonical way to get a sense of San Francisco's streetscape. Though you should imagine every home shown at the time occupied by a gritty lower middle class Irish drunk, and now occupied by a tech engineer OR trust fund kid with net wealth north of $1 million.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
69

Heh. I'll get someone started on the divorce papers. Seems worth it!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
70

Kudos to LB for pointing out that highrises are a red herring. It's the number one reason I lost patience with Yggles and his monomania with height restrictions in DC.

It's certainly true that (relatively) tall buildings in certain limited areas (transit nodes, actual CBDs) are only sensible, but the idea that you need Hong Kong-style skyscraper cities in order to vastly increase density in most American cities is so disconnected from reality that I tend to dismiss advocates of such an approach as basically ignorant, and probably driven by aesthetic or ideological concerns rather than, you know, what works.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:14 PM
horizontal rule
71

It's certainly true that (relatively) tall buildings in certain limited areas (transit nodes, actual CBDs) are only sensible

Which former case -- when talking about the mission -- is what people are usually talking about when they talk about high-rises in SF.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:17 PM
horizontal rule
72

And "high rises" really means, per trapnel, "higher than 40 feet or something absurd".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:18 PM
horizontal rule
73

66: "from back East". We're less whacko out there, and one tends to encounter a lot of socially-liberal-but-I-hate-taxes pseudo-Rs.


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:18 PM
horizontal rule
74

I think that's a misreading of Yglesias. He talks a lot about how density can mean Paris or Somerville, not Manhattan. Furthermore, he lives in DC and in DC the lack of skyscrapers really is a problem because they need more office space near the capitol, and you can't blame someone who lives in DC for talking about DC specific problems.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
75

70.1: you didn't even read my first comment, did you.


Posted by: Kosh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
76

"What works": 3-6 story apartment blocks are fairly cheap to build, and unoppressive to the street*. So I agree that super-low restrictions are ridiculous, but talking about highrises paints a false dichotomy, that it's 3 stories and sunshine or concrete canyons.

Actual high-rise construction is very expensive when built to American standards with American workers, and therefore can only produce housing for the 1%. As London* has shown, it's entirely possible to build thousands of million dollar apartments without appreciably increasing the number of affordable units because, guess what, really rich people own multiple homes.

I can only imagine that, in SF, going much above 6 stories is even more extravagantly expensive, given seismic concerns.

And that's before you get to the point that adding, say, 10,000 luxury units to SF adds, say, 15,000 more votes for plutocracy, counterbalanced by, well, ineffectual DFHs and service workers who don't get a vote because they can't afford to live there.

*didn't I see that like 60% of housing units in the City (a small area, I know) are owned by non-residents?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:21 PM
horizontal rule
77

I generally am strongly of the view set forth in 70 but San Francisco really is one of the few places in the US that could use a lot more high-rise development, of course mostly near transit hubs (or not! it could just accept its status as rich person land and get used to it) as opposed to just streetcar-suburb like low-rise densification. Or what 71 says.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:22 PM
horizontal rule
78

And who can deny that the outer sunset would be MORE livable at the density of Paris??? It would then support all kinds of artisinal what not shops, restaurants, cultural "offerings" etc. Would still feature unimaginably grim weather June through August.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:22 PM
horizontal rule
79

65: You handle the apps, I'll handle the servers.

So if ogged is the entremetier, and you're the maître d', who's the chef de cuisine?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
80

Much of the argument is precisely that people think buildings above 3 stories are oppressive to the street. See here for development on a corner in the most transit friendly part of SF being scaled down from 5 stories to 4 stories, because 5 stories is too tall.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
81

75: I hope 76 shows that I did.

If I had the job of advocating for increased density, I'd do it armed with photos of Paris and Queens, and maps showing little 12-20 story clusters at transit nodes surrounded by 6 story boulevards and small sideyard single family detached or semidetached. Evoking Manhattan or Hong Kong is completely counterproductive.

That said, what it really comes down to, as Atrios always points out, is parking, and nobody can accept that suburban-style expectations around the automobile are simply incompatible with anything else we value in a city.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:26 PM
horizontal rule
82

Would still feature unimaginably grim weather June through August.

Hello, the Great Lakes region is on the phone with some imaginably grim weather it would like to share with you!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:27 PM
horizontal rule
83

76.1: Something I've often wondered: For new construction multi-unit dwellings, is there a standard number of stories/number of apartments/whatever to determine when you need to put in an elevator? Having lived in a bunch of 3rd floor walk-ups, it does kind of get old after awhile. Even in split-levels.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:27 PM
horizontal rule
84

DQ is probably right in 45.2 that just making a serious commitment to bus right-of-ways and timed traffic lights would probably do enough to allow for tripling density in Richmond/Sunset without making transit too much worse.

I'm also annoyed that Mission Bay isn't all 10+ stories. Arrgh.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:29 PM
horizontal rule
85

In NYC once you go over 6 floors you have to put in an elevator. This is why there's a lot of places where almost all the buildings are exactly 6 floors.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:30 PM
horizontal rule
86

I don't think most people make the distinction between 15 and 50 stories that you do. A 15 story building is a highrise and anyone against 50 stories is against 15 too.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:32 PM
horizontal rule
87

74: I'd disagree. I used to read pretty much everything he wrote on the subject, and there was plenty of complaining about height limits well above 40'. He'd cite Somerville in defense, not as a positive vision, because his hobby horses (esp. height) weren't illustrated by it.

Him not knowing the difference between 85' and "high-rise" is hardly a defense of a professional writer on a topic that is a particular interest.

Much of the argument is precisely that people think buildings above 3 stories are oppressive to the street.

Sadly, I know this to be true. But calling 5 stories a high-rise is not helping.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:33 PM
horizontal rule
88

Also, something that perplexes me: Why don't developers ever propose this kind of thing, maybe not quite so fancy, but similarly charming and classic and dense? Seems like it would be a good way to get neighborhood and zoning permissions in otherwise hard-to-develop areas.

http://finance-commerce.com/files/2011/04/blair31.jpg

I mean, how much do you figure that building (and the one across from it, which is just slightly smaller/less fancy) raise all the property values in the immediate area?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:33 PM
horizontal rule
89

And it's worth remembering that the bulk of the mission is two stories tall right now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:33 PM
horizontal rule
90

Living in a sixth floor walkup is great for keeping your butt in shape, experience says. If it was at 48th avenue you'd never see the sun for most of the year so all around beauty win!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:34 PM
horizontal rule
91

88: why do you think they don't propose that? Something that tall, taking up the whole block at the same height, with no included parking? I'm not sure there's anywhere that would fly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:34 PM
horizontal rule
92

Oh, what I meant to say was that while I agree with Halford in 25 that rich-people-being-afraid is a necessary precondition for change, it's not at all sufficient. As Josh said, this is old hat--but the first round didn't actually do anything to produce the needed housing.

Also, re: Bayview--hey, I tried, but it turns out to be hard to gentrify a neighborhood when you're unemployed. More seriously, yes, there's some plans about building up Bayview/Hunter's Point. There's also Candlestick Park, which is now basically empty; my sense is that they are not, however, planning to do serious density there. (Which is extra stupid because that's near another Caltrain station.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:36 PM
horizontal rule
93

Natilo's link reminded me instantly of this building, which it would be fair to say probably didn't increase neighboring property values.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:36 PM
horizontal rule
94

Put in subsurface parking if you like but require that it be purchased separately so it doesn't drive up the cost of each residential unit, and charge a hefty transit fee on purchase and transfer of each parking space.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:40 PM
horizontal rule
95

What does high rise mean to you? I'd have figured you could use it to refer to anything over 6 stories. Certainly 10 stories is a high rise, right?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
96

I'd call ten stories a mid-rise.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:43 PM
horizontal rule
97

Is mid-rise a word? I want there to be a distinction between "tall enough for an elevator" and "skyscraper".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:43 PM
horizontal rule
98

86: In a sense you're right, but I don't think I've clearly distinguished my arguments:

Argument 1: Density, in general, is best increased by lots of mid-rise (3 to 6 story) construction. This isn't the easiest lift, but is much less scary than 15 or 50 story construction. It is also very economical, and how you have to build if you want to house the non-rich.

Argument 2: There's a jump in cost above 6 stories, then another one at (roughly) 12-15 stories. Therefore, advocates of anything above 12-15 stories are advocating very expensive construction which is very unlikely to serve anyone other than the 1%. In terms of CBD office buildings, that makes sense, but beyond that it's a luxury move, not a density one.

In practical terms, hardly anybody builds more than 3 stories without elevators. Among other things, it gets too hard to accommodate accessibility (X% of units need to be fully accessible, only so many can fit on the ground floor (which tends to be parking and/or retail anyway)), but there's also the convenience/marketability issue. Above 12-15 stories or so, you start getting into staggered elevators*, which is crazy expensive.

*one set go to 1-10, the next go to 11-20, that sort of thing


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:43 PM
horizontal rule
99

97: If I say it is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:44 PM
horizontal rule
100

My neighborhood has a few ten story buildings I don't think of it has having any high rise construction.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
101

Is mid-rise a word?

It is in my lexicon.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
102

91: Yeah, the parking is a sticking point. Something like that, though, you could make it L-shaped, with a parking ramp, in the back, where it wouldn't be so obtrusive.

And lots of new development around here takes up a whole block (although the low angle of that shot is somewhat deceptive. As you can see on Google Maps, it's really only about 5 lots wide and 2 deep):

http://goo.gl/maps/IHMVZ

93: Yeah, not sure how many new developments would want to emulate that exact style. Still.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
103

96 and 97 are correct. It is, in fact, a real term.

I'd have to ask a RE pro to confirm (it's not a distinction in the Building Code), but I'm pretty sure:

Low rise=1-3 stories, stud construction
Mid-rise=4-12 stories, masonry or steel construction
High-rise=sky's the limit.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:46 PM
horizontal rule
104

98: For literally SF, where the problem is in large part what to do with a sizable population of the stupidly overpaid, highrises might make sense, right?

(Did I ever mention that there was some talk about moving my office into the new World Trade Center building if they have trouble renting the high floors? I haven't heard anything about it lately, but that would be so, so, so awesome.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:48 PM
horizontal rule
105

They're building some condos near our old place and I go back and forth between being astounded by how ugly and cheap it looks and impressed that they managed to squeeze six million dollar condos plus parking onto a single lot that presumably at one point had a single residence. And it's only three stories! So, so ugly, though. So ugly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:49 PM
horizontal rule
106

103: School is canceled tomorrow.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:52 PM
horizontal rule
107

There are some new high rises (I would say, oh, fifteen to twenty stories) down by the river here catering to the same stupidly overpaid as are at issue in SF. Boston doesn't seem to have gotten its act in gear as far as trying to "preserve the character" of shitty industrial neighborhoods full of mostly cheaply built mid-to-late 20th century warehouses. Probably for the best.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:52 PM
horizontal rule
108

Mmm. I don't think of myself as reflexively anti-modern, but a lot of new mid-sized buildings seem to be objectively hideous -- I see skyscrapers I like fine, and single-family houses, but rarely am I charmed by a new medium-sized urban building. I almost wonder if this is part of the problem, that people are confusing the fact that they hate any actual new construction they've seen with a belief that new construction has to be horrible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:52 PM
horizontal rule
109

(Some) new high rises in SF would make a lot of sense. And not just residential buildings, either -- it is kind of stunning how little dense commercial construction there is. Which has resulted in the weird fact that SF is now largely a bedroom suburb that sends its commuters into low-density original model bedroom suburbs in the Penninsula to work. Which is weird.

But the real action is in building out and densifying in Silicon Valley itself. It is literally insane how non-dense that place is given its economic geography.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:53 PM
horizontal rule
110

208: ugh. Tiny casement windows and sheet metal apparently stapled to some kind of exterior-rated sheetrock. There has to be a better way to go!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:54 PM
horizontal rule
111

You know LB are still some non tech workers living here and we kind of contribute to making this town the cool place everyone wants to live in. There is a reason the techites aren't clamoring to live in Cupertino you know.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:54 PM
horizontal rule
112

You know LB are still some non tech workers living here and we kind of contribute to making this town the cool place everyone wants to live in. There is a reason the techites aren't clamoring to live in Cupertino you know.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:54 PM
horizontal rule
113

104.2: I once worked in a building with 40 stories. I was on 11, which was fine, but whenever I went up to the high floors, there was a slight sway that always made me want to hurry back down.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:56 PM
horizontal rule
114

They pretty much did what Natilo suggests on one of the old mill sites here in town. I can't find the site plan on line, but here's the aerial. The residential is mostly 3 story (although the big surface lot is about to be 4 or 5 stories), the commercial is taller, but Pittsburgh hasn't had a huge need for additional housing, so.... Actually, when this stuff was being planned, there was a lot of doubt that there was really sufficient demand, and then it all sold (or rented) out as fast as the could build it. The crash delayed completion considerably, but things are resuming and should be heading into the homestretch.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:56 PM
horizontal rule
115

some kind of exterior-rated sheetrock

Hardieboard?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:57 PM
horizontal rule
116

some kind of exterior-rated sheetrock

Hardieboard?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:57 PM
horizontal rule
117

Or maybe you're thinking of Hardieboard?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:57 PM
horizontal rule
118

106: I was guessing as much. When they closed the Courthouse, I kind of figured...


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:58 PM
horizontal rule
119

they managed to squeeze six million dollar condos plus parking onto a single lot that presumably at one point had a single residence

It was a garage. The car repair kind, not the car hole kind.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:58 PM
horizontal rule
120

108: My apartment building is 5-6 years old and 4 stories tall and it's *awesome*. (It's not as visually interesting as the building Natilo linked, but that would be seriously out of character for my neighborhood.) And it's well-built; a few weeks after we moved in I realized that I hadn't heard a single noise from any of the units around us. We've also only had to turn on the heat twice this winter.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:59 PM
horizontal rule
121

111: Sure, but building more luxury housing won't make things worse for the non-tech workers, will it? If you've got a couple of downtown blocks that house a few hundred people at luxury prices now, and tear them down in favor of high-rises holding a few thousand people at the same prices, it doesn't hurt the less stupidly overpaid, because they were already priced out of living at that location, but it relieves the pressure on the luxury market.

It's not anything like a complete solution, but a component of what should happen, maybe?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:59 PM
horizontal rule
122

114: That shot is mostly parking garages.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 1:59 PM
horizontal rule
123

If you're in a high rise building in San Francisco, or on top of Nob Hill, and look out over the city it is kind of stunning how non-contemporary it looks -- if you squint and ignore the Transamerica building it looks like a mid-sized commercial city where not much has been built since about 1955. A lot of things would be improved for the better just by allowing new higher commercial construction, although I guess maybe no self-respecting tech company would ever agree to be in a big tall high rise building for image reasons.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:00 PM
horizontal rule
124

Could be, could be, could be.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:01 PM
horizontal rule
125

a lot of new mid-sized buildings seem to be objectively hideous

Yes. Near my old place in Brooklyn, on 4th Ave, they rezoned and people were putting up a bunch of much-needed mid-rise apartment buildings. The worst problem with them was they didn't have anything on the ground floor for the public -- usually just a wall, and behind it a ground-floor parking garage; sometimes a single large commercial space like some kind of clinic. So even though you could go one block up, to 5th Ave, and see a really functional urban neighborhood with different-sized storefronts, the new development on 4th Ave is the opposite of that. The new buildings were also architecturally dull and appeared to be of pretty bad construction quality. Not sure how you fix that -- we live in fallen times.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:02 PM
horizontal rule
126

119: I know that! (In fact I think they cast the project as a "rehab" of the garage, which is why part of one wall of the garage is still standing. But I assume it was a single residential lot before that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:02 PM
horizontal rule
127

One thing I have noticed, and perhaps this just illustrates what a hayseed I am, is that the kind of development we're talking about often looks spiffier in bigger cities. I'm thinking of a few specific buildings in NYC and elsewhere, which I only visit occasionally, so it could be just sample bias. But a lot of the new condos around here are really pretty awful, even the $1M+ ones. And it still boggles my mind that someone would pay upwards of a million dollars to live in downtown Minneapolis. Shit, could could have bought whole blocks for that much 30 years ago.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:04 PM
horizontal rule
128

sometimes a single large commercial space like some kind of clinic

The Methadone Arms.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:04 PM
horizontal rule
129

The worst problem with them was they didn't have anything on the ground floor for the public -- usually just a wall, and behind it a ground-floor parking garage; sometimes a single large commercial space like some kind of clinic.

David Sucher's blog, City Comforts, was great on this stuff back in the day -- that you can't have a pleasant streetscape without small-scale retail or something that pedestrians can interact with. It got dull after I'd been reading it for a while, so I stopped maybe five years ago, but he was really clear on it, although maybe a tad bit monomaniacal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:05 PM
horizontal rule
130

For literally SF, where the problem is in large part what to do with a sizable population of the stupidly overpaid, highrises might make sense, right?

Certainly could be, but I wonder 2 things:

Would that really free up so many units? Like, OK, rich people forced into objectively crappy housing would move out, but I don't think a Hardieboad high-rise is going to entice techies to abandon painted ladies or, for that matter, cool neighborhoods. And the "cool neighborhoods" are unlikely to be where they just tore down a bunch of old housing stock to put up some starchitect skyscrapers.

And wouldn't that just reinforce the rich playground thing Halford keeps referencing? At best, I think you'd get into a situation with more housing for the lower upper class, plus maybe some room for a meager underclass.

There's certainly demand for a few dee-luxe apartments in the sky, but I don't think you can build enough to really shift the housing situation. I mean, if you're building $5M condos, you invest $500M and get 100 more units. Put that into mid-rise construction and you get... like 1,000 units.

Now I understand the economics say that $500M is more likely to be available to the builders for the 1%, but that just circles back around to the Google buses. If "increasing density" means nothing more or less than "increase the number of luxury condos for the 0.01%", then the Revolution will not be averted.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:07 PM
horizontal rule
131

The transbay redev plan includes 3 million sf if office comm space, 2500 residential units plus retail. The luxury tower market us relatively well served. Doesn't help get the necessary 4-6 story housing built.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:08 PM
horizontal rule
132

I honestly don't know where I come out on this one. I'm generally a fighter, not a lover. The Mission is my home. That's where I lived, and it was the best place to be.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:09 PM
horizontal rule
133

122: well pan around a bit.

I should have specified, look at what's facing E. Carson St., and see how it obscures the parking from the arterial street.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:09 PM
horizontal rule
134

I don't think a Hardieboad high-rise is going to entice techies to abandon painted ladies

I don't think even google employees can afford those. I have no idea who lives in the nice, central-ish western addition victorians these days, but either they were insanely rich and that allowed them to move in or they have built up an ungodly amount of home equity and are now insanely rich.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:10 PM
horizontal rule
135

133: I knew what buildings you were pointing to, but the garages were really striking from that angle.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:10 PM
horizontal rule
136

At best, I think you'd get into a situation with more housing for the lower upper class, plus maybe some room for a meager underclass.

I think that's actually pretty much the only realistic future for almost all of the city of SF proper, assuming that the tech industry continues to be located there and as rich as it is, and that SF continues to be largely a bedroom suburb in the way it has been recently. It's a tiny city on a tiny amount of land and is basically kind of an island. The Bay Area as a whole needs to be thought of as the real "city" and of course that needs a lot more affordable housing for all kinds of people, and it would be nice if the Peninsula allowed some building and people making under $40,000 a year weren't forced to drive all the way in from Stockton or whatever.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:13 PM
horizontal rule
137

I don't think even google employees can afford those.

I was kind of wondering. Really I just meant "prewar housing of any character at all."

But I think the last 20 comments or so have been expressing the point that it's hard to build new housing that's as desirable as old without it being crazy expensive. Right now the old housing is crazy expensive as well, so there's a market opportunity, but fundamentally you'd be hard-pressed to profitably build something that a mid-level Googler can afford that's also distinctly more desirable than a miscellaneous apartment in a 100-yr old building.

Although maybe those old apts are shittier than I realize.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:15 PM
horizontal rule
138

136: probably true.

But at least if you focus on mid-rises, you can house more of the engineers, not just the VC types and company founders.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:17 PM
horizontal rule
139

Oh, also, what about the microapartments? Did we talk about those already here? I lived in an old brick 3.5 story building for awhile that was basically built, as part of a large development of similar buildings, as spec housing for single office workers 90 years ago, near downtown MPLS. For my needs, it was fine. I could have done with even a bit less space to make a mess in.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
140

40k would be nice.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:19 PM
horizontal rule
141

136 sounds logical. We can think of San Francisco as the Fox Chapel or Lower Merion of the Bay Area. It's ok for a metropolitan area to have places where only the rich can afford to live. Kind of odd that that is also where the nightlife is, but the geography does strange things.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:20 PM
horizontal rule
142

it's hard to build new housing that's as desirable as old without it being crazy expensive.

This, I don't get. I mean, I'm in a 1939 building, and it's nicer than I'd expect a new building to be, but it's about things like layout and ceiling height, not anything that seems as if it should have gotten prohibitively expensive. My floors are hardwood, but I swear I wouldn't even notice the difference between that and bamboo or whatever. What makes old housing unduplicable?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:20 PM
horizontal rule
143

140: That's what I figure my cob house will cost, before fixtures.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
144

Including the lot I found this morning.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:23 PM
horizontal rule
145

141: In NYC terms, SF would be Manhattan below 125th (plus the expensive bits of B'klyn.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:24 PM
horizontal rule
146

142: built more solidly due to cheapness of materials? More internal and external detail? More, better wood?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:24 PM
horizontal rule
147

I echo 142.

Obviously there's a big difference between rental housing and owned housing. But in my experience there's a pretty direct positive correlation between a rental place being old and a rental place being a dump.

This may be entirely different in places where insulation doesn't matter.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:25 PM
horizontal rule
148

142 -- it never ceases to amaze me that my house, which is super-solid lathe-and=plaster construction and has all kinds of old woodwork-y things that cost a zillion dollars and require master craftsmen to duplicate now, was built from a mail-order kit by a total amateur homeowner, as were most houses in the area. Maybe Moby's cob house will be similarly treasured in 100 years.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:27 PM
horizontal rule
149

It's worth noting that SF already has nearly the same population density as Queens, Somerville, and West Hollywood (~20,000/mi2). It still falls short of Bronx/Brooklyn (35,000) and Manhattan (70,000).


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:27 PM
horizontal rule
150

Oh, I'd expect a newer building to be shittier than an older building at anything other than a level of luxury I couldn't possibly come near, but I don't understand why that is. I get that wood has gotten expensive, but I'm not fussy about wood.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:28 PM
horizontal rule
151

Old rental place: Leaks. Plumbing freezes. Rodents. Heat streaming out through windows. Roof covered with moss.

New rental place: All those things less likely. Also probably has air conditioning. Might fall apart in 30 years, but that doesn't affect the tenants.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:29 PM
horizontal rule
152

150: Yeah, I don't know why it is either, but it sure is. Old places in ill repair have of course their own exciting problems, but newer construction at any level I could afford all seems to be built at about the same level of care, detail, beauty, and solidity as a box spring.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:31 PM
horizontal rule
153

Admittedly, rodents we've got. But we're getting thrilling new energy-efficient windows this year!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:31 PM
horizontal rule
154

150: well, but there's visible wood, and then there's the wood in the walls. Our house was built with studs that go clear from the sills in the foundation to the roof; you can't get studs that long anymore, and the ones you can get, the wood's not as dense. And then I think modern construction just uses less material; drywall is thinner (and much, much cheaper) than plaster, metal framing pieces are much less heavy duty than wood framing, wood framing isn't what it used to be. Back then they didn't have access to things like laminates or sheetrock so they had to use natural materials, and lots of them.

I dunno, I could be bullshitting. But our house (built, like Halford's, from a kit, although possibly by professionals) despite having not been built for rich people, has oak floorboards that go the entire length of the room. That would be so absurdly expensive now! But then it was pretty much the cheapest option that was acceptable to people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:34 PM
horizontal rule
155

The wiring in our apartment is certainly vintage!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:38 PM
horizontal rule
156

Maybe this is a dumb question -- it probably is -- because I don't pay much attention to development of the type you folks are talking about. It seems, though, like it would be a huge pain in the ass for some profit-making entity to buy up blocks of single-lot single family homes, which are essentially intact, even if they are "boring," to knock them down and build a new building. Because it's more or less intact, you'd not have governmental funding/support for buying and knocking down. You're going to have to offer enough to get people to move out. And it has to be all of them. I suppose the neighbors who'd have to approve a zoning variance could be strong-armed, in advance, with zoning changes to allow the big building.

Lot of time and money here, in anticipation of an income stream from mid-rent housing. Does it remotely pencil out where the ground isn't vacant or in need of urban renewal?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:40 PM
horizontal rule
157

Yeah, my house is in pretty crummy condition, despite several years of occasional repair/rehab, and the insurance still insists we insure it for like, 3 times its assessed value as replacement cost. I need to get better insurance though.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:40 PM
horizontal rule
158

156: I think it is a big pain in the ass. On the other hand, we're talking about places where housing is insanely expensive, and about, say, tripling to quintupling (maybe more? I'm sticking with JRoth's suggested 3-6 story construction) the number of housing units on the same footprint. That's enough of an increase in value that it seems like it'd be worth it if the local government were helpful at all.

And you don't need to put a whole lot of lots together to build midrise housing; you can put a multi-unit 5-6 story building on the same lot you'd put a single family house on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:43 PM
horizontal rule
159

local government were helpful at all.

This means, permits midrise development, not subsidizes it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:44 PM
horizontal rule
160

156: I guess I assumed we were talking about 156.last situations. Yes, buying perfectly good single-family homes and knocking them down is never going to be popular, and depending on the wealth and political clout of the homeowners, often virtually impossible.

But even with several post-bust years of booming apartment & condo building here, there's still any number of prime spots to redevelop. Not as much right downtown, although a few even there, but certainly out in the innercity areas -- both poor and not -- you don't have to look *that* hard to find some pretty obvious candidate lots.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:45 PM
horizontal rule
161

At least here, almost all new midrise development is on either formerly commercial sites or done by taking a relatively few large residential lots and using the new small-lot ordinance to build multi-family housing on them. People aren't generally buying up whole blocks of homes and demolishing them to build higher. But there is still a ton of higher density housing you can build just using those techniques.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:48 PM
horizontal rule
162

As an ex-Googler, the thing that I find frustrating about the protests is that the real-world alternative to the Google busses isn't going to be magic-pony supertransit in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, it's going to be a bunch more Googlers driving to Mountain View in their cars. If the decades of pressure from IBM, HP, Intel, AMD, Oracle, and other major Silicon Valley employers haven't produced magic-pony supertransit yet, you think that adding a bit more pressure from Google to the mix is suddenly going to do it? Please.

Don't get me wrong. I like transit. I've tried to work out the best public transit options to just about every job I've had, and used them when it makes sense. But I'm well aware of how long it can take to get significant improvements to the transit infrastructure up and running. They've been talking about how to improve the public transit East Bay to Silicon Valley commute for at least the last 25 years, if not longer. BART to San Jose might actually happen some time after I retire several years hence, but it will just be the first part of that route at first - the connection that would really connect to the rest of the infrastructure will take longer.

It's particularly ironic that these protests are directed at the company that has already done more for public transit and public transit advocacy than all the rest of those companies I mentioned put together. I'm talking about Google Maps Transit view, which pulls together info from several different transit systems to show you how to get from A to B via transit if there is a viable option - and which can show the rest of us why people don't choose transit if there isn't one.

Want to know why the Google Busses are more attractive than the public options? Try this experiment: go to Google Maps directions page, and look at the trip from San Leandro Bart Station, San Leandro, CA, to Google Headquarters, Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA. Now click back and forth between the driving option and the transit option, and compare the travel times. Right now (midday), it's around 40 minutes driving in current traffic, compared with 2 hours 7 minutes for the absolute best transit option, and 2 1/2 hours for most of the transit options. Try it leaving at 8 AM, and the best transit option will be 2 hours, 13 minutes, while the driving time in current traffic will probably be close to an hour. Now consider: there is also a Google bus that makes that trip at commute time, with traffic-heavy driving time better than a solo car (it can use the HOV lanes on the freeway), and which has wireless available so you can sit down and use your laptop for fun or work while commuting. Is there any question why the Google Bus is competitive enough to get some Googlers out of their cars? Is it also clear how hard it would be to make the current public options similarly competitive? Shaving 5-10 minutes off that commute isn't likely to do it, but it would take a pretty major overhaul of the transit system to do better.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:50 PM
horizontal rule
163

Vast stretches of the Geary corridor are nothing but 1-2 story commercial development with surface parking. We can start there, with ground flour retail and a mix of comm residential on floors 2-6. But we shouldn't stop there! The surrounding neighborhoods need to be zoned for 4-6 story residential and the dominant local industry should do their damndest to make this happen in conjunction with a serious regional bus service.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:54 PM
horizontal rule
164

As I was walking to the lab this morning past the public bus that serves as essentially a state supported Google bus for my neighborhood (literally it goes from my neighborhood to the area where Google and MS and so on are located, and nowhere else) I was wondering what would happen if Google opened up the Google busses to the public. That is, allow the charter companies to pick up whoever, at a fare meaningfully higher than the per-passenger cost to Google, and drop them off at any of the stops the bus already goes to (meaning, in practice, they can go to Google headquarters). I have no idea if it would defuse anything, but it would be kind of funny.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:55 PM
horizontal rule
165

I think of the protests as not "directed at Google" or "directed at buses" but "directed at inequality". Of which these buses are an obvious symbol.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:56 PM
horizontal rule
166

I think of the protests as not "directed at Google" or "directed at buses" but "directed at inequality". Of which these buses are an obvious symbol.

Yeah, but those on the receiving end definitely perceive them as "directed at Google and its buses."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:57 PM
horizontal rule
167

Where exactly has this serious pressure from industry re transit been?


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 2:57 PM
horizontal rule
168

Meanwhile, we have some deluxe buses (a "state-of-the art bus-rapid transit (BRT) system [that] offers rail-like convenience with the flexibility of a bus" that go between the cluster of nearby hospitals + my university on one end and downtown on the other. They are so much bigger and prettier and more frequent than the lowly old regular buses that I cannot help but hate them when I see three of them go by while I am waiting in the shitty weather for my one dirty drafty late bus. If I were actually poor and they were more egregiously serving only rich people (right now they are doing that, but only sort of), I can only imagine how hateful I would feel. Pretty hateful!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
169

OH NO UNCLOSED PARENTHESIS


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:05 PM
horizontal rule
170

Yes. Our own transit people are looking to Cleveland with bus boners. I wish them well as my commute is mostly on the proposed BRT line.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:09 PM
horizontal rule
171

The casino buses here at least pick up both employees and punters.

From what I can tell, if you're okay with hanging around the casino for 4-6 hours, you can ride from any number of outstate cities to the central cities, or vice versa. Takes a bit longer than Greyhound would, but it's probably nicer all around, and of course, free.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:09 PM
horizontal rule
172

142 et seq.: Labor, labor, labor.

I mean, Sifu is certainly right about the available lumber (tract housing is built with comically shitty studs), but the real trick is labor savings. You look at pictures of old building sites, and there are comically large numbers of workers present. Now the goal is to minimize labor at every turn, and materials that are fastest (and least skill-needed) to install are very different from those that are most luxurious to experience.

The thing is, until you get to the 1% of housing, this holds. McMansions are bigger, and feature some upgraded materials, but are substantially the same as tract housing: sheetrock, crummy studs, mediocre windows, etc. Hell, half the time the brick is only on the front face, just like on the $140k special. It's one of these industry-wide effects, where the craftsmanship was long ago driven out of the industry, and it's almost literally impossible to find people who know how to build well anymore. And consumers don't know to demand better, so builders just pile on more gables and granite, and people pay for it in lieu of, you know, quality.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:09 PM
horizontal rule
173

165: "To the area where Google and MS and so on are located and nowhere else". Er, and MIT, and a subway station three stops from downtown.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:12 PM
horizontal rule
174

172: Yeah, the McMansions I've seen are very poorly done. Also they look stupid. It's irritating that manufactured housing has so much class bias around it. You could make better houses for cheaper if you could convince middle-class people to go pre-fab.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:12 PM
horizontal rule
175

a) The house I was born in, a 1919 mansion, was demolished for a 6-flat, in just the kind of greater-good civic change being discussed. details here

b) Cumbia cover of Sabbath's Iron Man, apparently underwritten by the UK gov't. Hot or not? I like it.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:12 PM
horizontal rule
176

173 to 164, of course, not 165.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:13 PM
horizontal rule
177

We are planning some renovations to more-recent bits of our house and the phrase that keeps coming out of my mouth is that I want it to "feel as solid as the rest of the house." (This means, roughly, of course, that I want it to "be more expensive than I can imagine.")


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:13 PM
horizontal rule
178

172: This is such a maddening thing to hear about when unemployment is so high.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:14 PM
horizontal rule
179

Near my appt in New York they built a 10 story building on top of the old 10 story building. Apparently it was held up by pillars running down the airshafts in the the middle of the old building. Pretty crazy. But it allowed development without tearing down the old buildings.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:22 PM
horizontal rule
180

Also, San Mateo county is incredibly sparsely inhabited for being so close to SF.

And San Jose massively sucks as a city. It's the 10th largest city in the US and the 6th largest metropolitan area and has the third largest overall population density. It is also less than 15 miles away from Google/Apple. Yet, public transportation from San Jose to either place takes at least an hour and there's no real reason to go to San Jose anyway. Is it because there are no hills and it's not next to the water? Why does San Jose suck?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:23 PM
horizontal rule
181

People being away for so long?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:26 PM
horizontal rule
182

I really don't understand why the peninsula and San Jose are so terrible. Maybe it's just impossible to have a cool city without old housing stock? Palo Alto is especially baffling since usually a high density of graduate students really improves a town.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:29 PM
horizontal rule
183

165, 173- If it's the shuttle service I think you're talking about, don't they already allow the public to ride for marginally more than the cost of public buses ($2 vs. $1.50)? It's free if your employer is a participant and gives you a sticker but as far as I know they are open to the public.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:31 PM
horizontal rule
184

I had no idea San Jose was so big.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:31 PM
horizontal rule
185

Er, 164 & 173, I was propagating NW's numbering error.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:31 PM
horizontal rule
186

I really don't understand why the peninsula and San Jose are so terrible. Maybe it's just impossible to have a cool city without old housing stock?

I know literally nothing about this, but if there's no old housing stock, does that mean that the basic layout of everything is pretty recent? At which point I think there's a good chance you can blame everything on bad zoning -- a lot of zoning norms prohibit building any sort of remotely fun area, and you don't notice how bad the zoning is in places where the desirable bits were already built and have been grandfathered in.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:35 PM
horizontal rule
187

184: The city's pretty big, but it depends on how you count the metro area -- wikipedia disagrees with itself on this front -- if it's really just under 2 million, then it's not so huge.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:39 PM
horizontal rule
188

Yeah, 6th in metro area appears to be an error. It's either subsumed into the Bay Area CSA (5th) or it's the 34th biggest MSA.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:46 PM
horizontal rule
189

173: well, yeah. And the reasonably bustling commercial district between the two. I may have been completely contradicted on the facts, but my larger point still stands!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:49 PM
horizontal rule
190

183: I'm talking about an mbta bus.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:50 PM
horizontal rule
191

I really don't understand why the peninsula and San Jose are so terrible.

It certainly doesn't help that their postwar development philosophy was all about cars, cars, cars:

Most cities containing expressways enacted prohibitory ordinances against non-motorists on the existing roads[16] that became the expressway system, with no exceptions for sidewalks, bus stops, pedestrian paths, shoulders or bike lanes. A standard bike lane is 5 feet (1.5 m) wide so all expressways exceeded bike lane standards because shoulders were between 8 and 10 feet (2.4 and 3.0 m) wide. The fine for walking on a pedestrian facility past Pedestrians prohibited signs, or momentarily dismounting from a bicycle [see photo], is $149 today.[30]
These prohibitions were a major disruption to travel for bicyclists, pedestrians and transit patrons because of the hierarchical street pattern that has been used for new roads and developments since the 1950s. The Valley Transportation Authority, which provides the bus and light rail transit system in the County, states: "This pattern, based on a hierarchy of streets, forces all trips onto the arterial network ... whether by car, foot, or bicycle." [31] Expressways are an integral part of this arterial road[1] network, which spaces arterial roads about every half mile apart. If an expressway is prohibited to these users, a detour must be taken. Often, this forces going to the next arterial road, a half mile away, which would add one mile to the walking or bicycling trip.

But hey, now they've got Santana Row.


Posted by: Otto Von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 3:55 PM
horizontal rule
192

I agree that it's pretty mysterious why the Peninsula sucks so much. There's some older housing stock and it's relatively streetcar-suburb dense -- as F points out San Jose is relatively high density for an American city. Also beautiful nature abounds. Yet it still super sucks

A lot of the explanation for why it sucks right now is indeed lousy zoning but there are lots of cities that are equally or less dense and suck much less.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:02 PM
horizontal rule
193

Places pervaded by a UMC-suburban mentality usually develop terribly -- people want seclusion, driveability, upscale shit that destroys the soul, and the built environment turns out to suck when these people get their way. Cars are a big part of this. Lots of places in California should be nice but aren't, for these reasons. I'm new here, but my impression is that in the East Bay there are a lot of suburbs that (at least until recently) had higher property values per square foot than Oakland but which are terribly sprawled out and don't have anything that is nice and urban. Oakland is a troubled city but a lot of the built environment is really great. Berkeley is great, but part of what makes it great is that the core features of the town developed when it was basically a student town back when Cal students weren't rich -- so the houses are small, there are lots of small places scattered around town because people wouldn't necessarily be driving, etc.

My sense is that all the potentially nice (either nice-nice or just rich-people-nice) places on the Peninsula were ruined from early on by cars and suburbanism.

This is all just my fantasy history of Bay Area development, of course.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:02 PM
horizontal rule
194

And partly pre-falsified by 192.a.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:03 PM
horizontal rule
195

Just by way of example, and while I'm not going to look up numbers, I am fairly sure that San Diego as a city is less dense than San Jose and that the San Diego region generally is roughly equally or less dense than the Peninsula. They certainly both grew up as post-war middle class to affluent areas (not everywhere in either though by any means) car culture areas. Yet, San Diego is on the whole awesome, and the Peninsula is not.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
196

A lot of the explanation for why it sucks right now is indeed lousy zoning but there are lots of cities that are equally or less dense and suck much less.

We've talked about this some before, and while I don't know a thing about the East Bay, remember average density doesn't do much for you in terms of making pleasant places. Pleasantly dense means sidewalks and walkable destinations. If San Jose is fairly dense overall, but there's no part of it (or not enough) that it gets over the line into where it has sidewalks and meaningful storefront retail, being fairly dense as far as suburbs go doesn't help.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
197

Part of the problem with Palo Alto is that Stanford is too far from downtown (while Berkeley is right downtown). I'd be really interested to read some city planning dorkery about college towns. I think this issue (distance from school to downtown) is a big factor, for another example Lafayette vs. Bloomington.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
198

Prior to the tech boom, what was the major industry in SJ? Ag, maybe?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
199

167: Where exactly has this serious pressure from industry re transit been?

I didn't mean to imply that they've been leading people to the barricades over this, just that the level of pressure that has existed from these companies is going to be similar to what you might expect from Google if the Google busses didn't exist (addressing the argument that the problem with private infrastructure is that it reduces pressure to improve the public infrastructure). I'm pretty sure they all have people on their staffs whose jobs include promoting transit to employees, interfacing with the relevant government agencies, etc. That was certainly true of HP and Google when I worked there, and I assume it would be true for other similarly-sized employers in the same jurisdiction. It mostly becomes important for the companies when they want to build or expand their facilities in a significant way and have to deal with air quality or traffic concerns, but there's also a quality of life issue for existing employees.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:14 PM
horizontal rule
200

I think LB nails the immediate explanation. SJ has a high average density but narrow distribution, so nearly everything is kinda but not really dense. Others cool cities may have lower overall densities but wider distributions, such that many more places are over the magical density line where stuff becomes cool. And maybe the explanation for that is cars, cars, cars.

Incidentally, the population density distribution of NY has become significantly less narrow over time. The population density of most areas of Manhattan and the Bronx is actually much less now than it was in 1950, and Brooklyn and Queens are much more dense than in 1950.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:15 PM
horizontal rule
201

Whoops, meant that the population density distribution has become more uniform over time.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:16 PM
horizontal rule
202

Wait a minute. Palo Alto and San Mateo, at least, are pretty great places to live. Don't let Halford's smog-addled mind tell you otherwise.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:19 PM
horizontal rule
203

Cal was originally in the boonies, somewhat. The city grew around it. It had gotten this far by 1908.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:19 PM
horizontal rule
204

Pleasantly dense means sidewalks and walkable destinations.

The thing is, the Peninsula is dotted all up and down by exactly these sorts of places. (Basically all the stops north of Sunnyvale on Caltrain meet those criteria.) But there's relatively little residential development in them, and you can't get between them (or anywhere, really, outside of commute hours) without a car.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
205

Stanford's nickname is the Farm. Pseudo rural isolated idyll is a feature not a bug.

South Bay acreage was dominated by orchards until surprisingly recently, but also tech isn't something new there witness all the superfund sites.

Why the area is such a wasteland is a mystery but it really isn't any more culturally mired in suburban sensibilities than say Concord.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:22 PM
horizontal rule
206

204 and 205 get it right. 202 is right if you happen to be in the one Stanford condo complex with all the hot chix.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
207

Palo Alto and San Mateo, at least, are pretty great places to live.

The problem with Palo Alto and San Mateo is the problem with a vast swathe of the restaurants in SF: anywhere else in the country and they'd be the best places to live/eat by miles. But here they have to compete with places that are *even better*. (I mean, by what criteria is Palo Alto a better place to live/work/hang out than SF? Sheer density of Teslas?)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
208

Obviously Palo Alto and San Jose are going to be less cool than SF, but why are they so much less cool than Oakland and Berkeley?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
209

Obviously Palo Alto and San Jose are going to be less cool than SF, but why are they so much less cool than Oakland and Berkeley?

Racism.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:30 PM
horizontal rule
210

Just overheard: "No one here can have a normal conversation. So I gave up. I gave up. I'm moving back to San Francisco."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:30 PM
horizontal rule
211

No one is wondering why Concord sucks. The weather is a big part of it. Beyond that, most places suck in that same way, because, as a matter of fact, there aren't all that many actually cool human settlements. (That's not to say there are 2 or 3 cool blocks somewhere in Concord. Or that it isn't a big step up from Martinez.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:30 PM
horizontal rule
212

Having just biked from SoMa to Land's End while thinking about this stuff, ugh, DQ is so right about how disastrous Geary is. So many 2 story buildings! Argh the pain.


Posted by: X. Trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
213

by what criteria is Palo Alto a better place to live/work/hang out than SF?

By the same criteria that people everywhere use when deciding to live in the suburbs.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 4:58 PM
horizontal rule
214

Except that Palo Alto and parts of San Mateo are themselves very walkable. I mean, if you want suburban living, Palo Alto is very hard to beat in the US, which is why 3 bed houses start around $2M there.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:02 PM
horizontal rule
215

Catching up and realizing my vast ignorance:

48: Berkeley, while desirable, is really quite far from the valley and its jobs.

So why are all the jobs in the valley? Surely some of the young tech people would actually like to live in SF or Berkeley or Oakland and build businesses there?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:15 PM
horizontal rule
216

215: they aren't all. I never worked in the valley when I was there: SF, then SF, then Sausalito, then San Rafael.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:28 PM
horizontal rule
217

213: Racism?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:31 PM
horizontal rule
218

215: yeah, there are plenty of tech companies in SF. The city's been giving them tax breaks to get them to open offices in previously-depressed parts of town, which sounds like a great idea but has (SFAICT) turned out a lot like any other giveaway to business interests.

(One of the big problems is that there's a strong tradition in the industry of providing employees with lots of onsite perks, which means that all of those people now working in mid-Market are doing a shit job of supporting businesses in the area.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:36 PM
horizontal rule
219

Er that was me.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:37 PM
horizontal rule
220

Historically, stuff (like HP) sprung up around Stanford. And when the behemoths were building their campuses, that's where the action and space was. But these days there's quite a bit in SF proper, and I'd guess some in Oakland now, but don't know for sure.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:37 PM
horizontal rule
221

Leland Stanford has a lot to answer for, putting his university in such a shitty place. I guess not as much as Ezra "I would found an institution" Cornell.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
222

Isn't racism also why San Jose and the East Bay aren't connected by urban rail?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
223

Pandora and Ask are both headquartered in Oakland, but beyond that there actually isn't that much tech there. Part of it's that Oakland's status as a cool place to be us relatively recent. There's also been a fair amount of vacant space in the Financial District in SF, so tech companies have been moving in there instead of crossing the Bay. There's probably more tech in Emeryville (whore for corporate interests that it is) than in Oakland.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:45 PM
horizontal rule
224

Pandora and Ask are both headquartered in Oakland, but beyond that there actually isn't that much tech there. Part of it's that Oakland's status as a cool place to be us relatively recent. There's also been a fair amount of vacant space in the Financial District in SF, so tech companies have been moving in there instead of crossing the Bay. There's probably more tech in Emeryville (whore for corporate interests that it is) than in Oakland.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:45 PM
horizontal rule
225

215: So why are all the jobs in the valley? Surely some of the young tech people would actually like to live in SF or Berkeley or Oakland and build businesses there?

Networking effects are strong in the Valley. If you are located near other businesses you are trying to recruit from, it's a lot easier to get people to come work for you than if you are further away. I've been part of two startups who started out in Alameda, but then moved further south because it was too hard to recruit people from the Valley. (Vice-versa also applies to some extent, of course, but if you are a rapidly growing business, you are probably more concerned about hiring people away from others rather than the reverse.)


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:50 PM
horizontal rule
226

The tax break thing is such bullshit. Sigh. Now that seems ripe for a state-level law.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
227

It's pretty ridiculous around here. One pharma company built a huge headquarters about 10 miles away, which as I understand it is like being across the street in CA terms, and then they shut it down to move back to the big cluster because they were too far away. The first company I worked for was willing to pay much higher rent in the city because the appropriate zip code would attract more investors.
I bet the post office could close their deficit by selling companies not actually in a trendy zip code the right to use that zip code for a large fee.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
228

164 is a nice idea, but a big part of the value of the buses to Google is that employees can work on confidential shit without worrying about who's looking over their shoulders. Which is also why Google doesn't share the buses with LinkedIn/Intuit/Mozilla/etc.


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:01 PM
horizontal rule
229

We seem to have gotten away from the point of the post, which was that Dave W. should be executed.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:02 PM
horizontal rule
230

A NYC techie weighs in; I think he's right in his "even the most basic things haven't been done" message. But I don't really know.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:03 PM
horizontal rule
231

230: No. Wrong. Anil Dash is an asshole.


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:07 PM
horizontal rule
232

If only President Googly had made an inclusive choice of vice-presidential running mate like that nice Senator Positron, instead of playing the bot card with that awful Governor D'Meatbagge.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:08 PM
horizontal rule
233

231: C'mon, it's not like he suggested people should be allowed to text and make phone calls and talk back to the screen in movie theaters.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:10 PM
horizontal rule
234

Oh? I'm dubious about 2 and 4 on his list, and I'm willing to believe he's an asshole, but tech companies do have it in their power to, for example, *not* demand special tax breaks, etc.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:18 PM
horizontal rule
235

Anil Dash may be an asshole, for all I know, but what he says in that blog post sounds pretty unobjectionable -- he admits it's quite limited.

As ogged said in 37, there really seems to be little sense of civic responsibility in the tech industry here. I get the impression of a parasitic, vulture-capitalist attitude toward the community on the part of the people running the companies and also on the part of many of their well-paid workers. To the extent the workers are actually concerned about the communities where they live and work, there aren't a lot of structures for positive engagement, admittedly partly because it's a crazy boom-time and those kinds of structures have to be nurtured over time. But what Anil Dash is asking for in that post is really minimal, and it's not happening.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
236

Fundamentally: land-use is a political issue. Tech companies, if they want to do more than simply raise the demand-size of the housing market, need to openly and forcefully get involved in politics. This will make more enemies in the short-term, absolutely, but they can't pretend that what's happening is just some neutral/inevitable invisible hand effect, and if they want to do something about it, that means throwing their weight around to actually get at solving the problems.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:22 PM
horizontal rule
237

I get the impression of a parasitic, vulture-capitalist attitude toward the community on the part of the people running the companies and also on the part of many of their well-paid workers.

Bear in mind that what you see from outside, even in the local press, is completely unrepresentative, particularly among companies that actually have offices in SF. There are a ton of huge companies that never get mentioned in these conversations (Symantec, VMWare, Oracle -- okay, maybe that last one's not such a great example) that, while they probably aren't as socially responsible as everyone here would like them to be, have far less antagonistic relationships with their communities than the big names.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
238

I think he's right in his "even the most basic things haven't been done" message

Or even, figuring out a way to respond to stories like this one.

Take Manny Cardenas, a security guard at Google who lives in low-income housing in San Jose and commutes regularly to Google's sprawling corporate campus in Mountain View. Cardenas, a stocky, soft-spoken 25-year-old, has been working as a part-time security guard at the search giant for the past year and a half.

Most of the time, he guards a parking lot during special events at the nearby Shoreline Amphitheater.

Cardenas says his job is to "make sure none of the people were parking in Google's parking place." He says he usually stands in the lot for eight hours and gets a lunch break. That gives him a chance to dive into Google's famous free gourmet food buffet; he would like to bring a few snacks home for his 5-year-old daughter, but as a contract worker, he can't.

"I see people taking to-go boxes," he says. "They give you to-go boxes if you ask for them, but we weren't allowed to do that."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:29 PM
horizontal rule
239

238: That was one of the things that bothered me about working at one of the big companies down there that provided all sorts of perks for employees. There are legit reasons for treating employees and contractors differently, but it's still a shitty situation.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:32 PM
horizontal rule
240

I posted some relevant stuff in a new thread.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
241

Josh is entirely correct. But of course political engagement beyond demanding tax breaks would contradict deeply held ideological delusions rampant in the industry as well as undercut the unspeakable self satisfied messianic self image illustrated by the link in the post now sitting above this one. Puke.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
242

There are legit reasons for treating employees and contractors differently

Primarily, giving the contractors fewer rights and benefits.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 6:40 PM
horizontal rule
243

I am mostly just absorbing the thread, but as the daughter of a geotechnical engineer I feel the need to point out that all places in the Bay Area were not created (or, rather, evolved by geology) equally when it comes to the ability to hold up a multi-story building. I am not as well acquainted with the seismic maps of the whole bay area as I should be, but much of the bay by the water, at least, is in the "liquefaction" zone and may not be the ideal place for heavy buildings. ( http://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/sfgeo/liquefaction/susceptibility.html ) Note also the preponderance of red along Market and Yellow in the Sunset, Richmond, and much of flat Berkeley. I would not be surprised if San Francisco is similarly complicated in its soil and water mechanics. Remember also that it's not just about supporting the building above the ground, but accommodating its roots--its foundation, its basement, its piping and conduit infrastructure--below ground, and that this can have a major impact on aquifers and drainage.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:02 PM
horizontal rule
244

Also, in my personal experience, Anil can be a perfectly nice guy, and he certainly does a lot more speaking up for the rights of women and underrepresented minorities than most other similarly well known tech personas.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:06 PM
horizontal rule
245

To Dash's points:
(1) is already happening and has always been. It's incredibly condescending to assume it hasn't.
(2) is asinine and wouldn't make one bit of difference.
(3) is self-evidently unworkable.
(4) is a sweet idea but, really, wouldn't make one bit of difference. "I promise a bus full of people wearing those pins won't get anything thrown at it," is just... quaint. Did he miss the part where they are stalking a guy who works on self-driving cars for enabling the NSA and the military-industrial complex?


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:08 PM
horizontal rule
246

I have to say that P.Googly's fear and contempt makes me more optimistic for the future than anything I've seen in a while. It's like reading something from a GM executive in 1936. Keep hitting where it hurts, probably interpersonally-annoying Bay Area protesters.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:13 PM
horizontal rule
247

They give you to-go boxes if you ask for them, but we weren't allowed to do that

This doesn't ring true at all. It is certainly not the case that anybody is officially allowed to cart home large amounts of free food for their friends and families. My theory is that full-time employees are just more comfortable wielding their brazen entitlement and the contractors just assume it's a "first-class citizen" thing. (Certainly, you can imagine that salaried employees are less afraid of being summarily fired for small acts of dick-headed-ness.)


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:13 PM
horizontal rule
248

246: I started to take offense and then I remembered how I want to completely destroy your livelihood as a matter of principle. Fair enough.


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:15 PM
horizontal rule
249

Because I'm a hater, 246 seems about right to me. If socio-economic stratification and its attendant ills are something that bothers you, you should want rich frightened that angry mobs are going to burn their shit down.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:18 PM
horizontal rule
250

I know, I know, but seriously the fact that these folks are actually managing to inspire genuine fear and outrage is fucking great. I mean the LA equivalent people might be just as justified in attacking me, but honestly the idea that Google executives are actually really genuinely getting afraid of an organized, angry populist revolt against them from the left is incredibly good news for the prospect of good things actually happening.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:20 PM
horizontal rule
251

rich people


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:21 PM
horizontal rule
252

C'mon you two, don't be evil.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:26 PM
horizontal rule
253

210 needs more "hella."


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
254

I have a hard time figuring out how much Google is involved in attacking local issues, and I work there (albeit not in the relevant locality). That said, it's well above zero. Just of things I know about, there are projects like financing 50 affordable-housing units in Mountain View, and then things like proposing huge (1000 unit?), vaguely dorm-like residential complexes mostly for employees that were shot down by the same city. They both seem like pretty positive steps or attempts at them, directly in the problem of housing, so it grates a bit to see all of the "they don't ever do anything" complaints.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:36 PM
horizontal rule
255

Not sure where to get the complete underlying dataset, but here are some selected recent stats on county-to-county commuting in the Bay Area:

265K come into SF, 103K leave.
Top residency counties coming in:
San Mateo: 75K
Alameda: 72K
Contra Costa: 48K

Top destination counties for SF residents:
San Mateo 43K
Alameda: 22K
Santa Clara: 19K

Despite the missing data, we can infer that San Mateo and Santa Clara have higher ratios of destinations to originations than Alameda and Contra Costa, but they do not yet "flip" the ratio.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
256

245:

1) No offense, but you're not the only one with Googly connections. Are there people in the Tech Industry who put pressure on their employers to exert pressure against increasing inequality? Yes, such people exist. Is it most of them? I just do not believe that AT ALL, and the FB threads that most of us have been part of attest to that. My most beloved Googly connection is a dear friend who is also a longtime San Franciscan, the child of working class non-English speaking immigrants, an alumnus of San Francisco's beleaguered public schools, and someone whose extended non-techie clan is very much being impacted by gentrification. He also lives in SOMA and rides the shuttle. He's deeply conflicted and pained by this whole situation, and is putting a lot of thought and research into it. And he also strikes me as subconsciously REALLY worried/stressed out bordering on upset about the majority of his colleagues--who are *not* from San Francisco, who do not have local working class relatives--are reacting to this. He is constantly posting things on FB and then deleting them b/c his colleagues and tech friends say things which are downright cruel or insensitive to anyone in SF with a less than amazing economic situation. He is constantly worrying to me about how he hates the idea of violent protest (as do I) but how he is surrounded by people who are utterly oblivious or uncaring about inequality in general, about the troubles his non-work community are facing. So no, I don't think it's condescending on Anil's part. I think it's a reflection of the many years he spent here in the Bay Area, his strong social ties to companies like Google and Facebook, and a reflection of his lived experience and interaction with the tech industry.

2) I agree with you that the exact wording of that sign is asinine. I disagree that the premise is asinine. Let us cast our memories back to the mid 90s when the Valley, and heinous commutes, were dominated by a totally different set of Valley companies. The titan than was Hewlett-Packard. Back then, pre Fiorina, Hewlett Packard was one of the most admired companies in the country, let alone the Bay Area. Sure, people envied those with HP jobs, but mostly b/c of their benefits and company culture supporting education and collaboration, not for anything extravagant. They were known for helping entry level and working class employees get training and move up in the ranks. They were also known for the immense global and local philanthropy of their founders and for the fact that an HP team could be seen volunteering at pretty much any damn thing you could think of. KQED phoneathon? HP team. Food bank weekend? HP team. I remember I was dancing in a two-bit organized-by-uncles ethnic community fair, and HP had sponsored something significant for a local domestic violence prevention and recovery organization. We're not talking about just clicks and media and free advertising. We're talking about tangible contributions that you see when you and your church or your scout troop or your school go in to serve soup or clean something in. I'm sorry, I love technology and most of the people I love are in it and I kind of hope to get back in it myself one day, but the current Tech Community has not put in any of the kind of local roots and support that HP, Sun, Intel, and the like put in in their heyday.

3) WTF? How is 3 unworkable? You treat your janitors and secretaries and security guards and cooks like real employees? You let them eat with your coders and your business moguls? You help them get training if they want to try and get into a different line of work, and you give them a shot at those jobs once they're qualified How the fuck is that unworkable when you are as profitable and rolling in as much cash and as much top-level compensation as Google and FB are?

4) Okay, 4 is dumb, but it's not assholeish, it's optimistic. It's really a reiteration of 2. When people in the tech community get involved down and dirty in the muck of the rest of the Bay Area's community, and voice their support for those struggles, the ire will die down.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:03 PM
horizontal rule
257

In my opinion the worst thing Google did for its relationship with the local community was institute the cafeterias. This was terrible. They should have instead had shuttles that went to various places in MV and surrounds, and to all the local transit stops. What should have been a huge stimulant to local wannabe restauranteurs and cafe owners just went into a bunch of dead-end, bad benefits, contractor jobs. And so MV lost out on an opportunity to become much cooler and support a lot more middle class families, and local transit lost out on an opportunity to become much better, and other companies followed suit.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
258

I guess for full disclosure I should note that my hatred of the cafes was first stimulated by the fact that every time I spend the night in the South Bay with one of my single Googly friends there is never any damn food in their house. It's an earthquake preparation geek's nightmare.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:12 PM
horizontal rule
259

Aside from being smushed in the first instant of an earthquake and letting all your preparation get taken over by some slacker.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:15 PM
horizontal rule
260

257: But that would have completely defeated the purpose of the cafeterias, which was to keep employees onsite and working as much as possible.

(And it's not really fair to blame Google too much for setting up cafeterias. They were just following in the footsteps of basically every other company of that size in the area.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:23 PM
horizontal rule
261

You could make better houses for cheaper if you could convince middle-class people to go pre-fab.

I would love to build a house using insulated concrete forms and steel framing. I think ICF's can be used up to five stories tall and so could be used for medium rise stuff as well.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:27 PM
horizontal rule
262

Dwell Magazine was (Jesus, a decade ago) trying to make prefab houses more of a middle-/upper-middle-class thing; they even had a challenge to build one for $200K. Unfortunately it looks like it ultimately came to naught.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:32 PM
horizontal rule
263

That residence is so racist.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:32 PM
horizontal rule
264

256: Look, I'm not saying all tech workers are frikkin' saints or something. I'm saying they are normal people who are equally as, if not more, engaged with their communities as any other white-collar workers putting in 50-60 hour weeks. And they're not all clueless 20-something crypto-libertarians (some of them are, to be sure). They "push the leaders of their companies and industry to do the right thing" all the time on all kinds of issues, including this one.

As for (2), he is not suggesting that cafe workers and security guards get free meals (they already do), he's suggesting that companies throw open their doors to feed anybody who qualifies for food stamps. It's a noble idea, but... come on. Are we going to end poverty in this country with subsidized corporate cafeterias?


Posted by: P. Googly | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:37 PM
horizontal rule
265

260: The Original Sin is the suburban campus, not the cafeterias. The closest food you can pay for in Mountain View is a 15 minute walk from Google's campus. If you want actual options, it's more like 30. I can't even imagine the traffic if every Google employee drove off-campus for lunch.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
266

But isn't there a fleet of Google bicycles? 30m walk means, what, 10 minute bike? Well, if it's flat; I've never been to mountain view.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:43 PM
horizontal rule
267

I'm guessing it's flat, unless the view of the mountain is from looking straight down.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:44 PM
horizontal rule
268

The Original Sin is the suburban campus, not the cafeterias.

Sure, I'll buy that. What I find really distressing is the number of companies *in SF* that now provide lunch (and sometimes dinner!) every day of the week. Part of the reason I work in SF is so I don't have to spend all my time in the office! Getting away for a little bit in the middle of the day is a good thing!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:44 PM
horizontal rule
269

268: You work in SF? I thought you didn't work in Berkeley?

I totally agree though. I got free corporate meals in Manhattan, with 10,000 delicious things within a 10 minute walk. And dragging co-workers out of the office was just about impossible.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:47 PM
horizontal rule
270

I don't even get coffee. Just the filters and the pot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:50 PM
horizontal rule
271

This was probably noted upthread, but following up on Ile's 243, Mission Bay is largely built on filled land. That's got to limit what you can build, right? I have no idea if that is why development isn't higher rise, but seismic concerns are a big part of Bay Area Development.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:50 PM
horizontal rule
272

But at least nobody is keeping me from Arby's.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:51 PM
horizontal rule
273

269: Well, when I actually start working again it'll be in SF. (I suppose there's an outside chance it'll be in Berkeley/Emeryville/Oakland, but probably not.)

Although honestly part of the reason I've been dragging my feet a bit about going back to work is precisely the sort of thing this thread has been about. It really does feel like things have gotten worse in SF in the past couple of years, and I'm not sure how to reconcile myself with it.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 8:54 PM
horizontal rule
274

Hey, I know--how about you get me hired in SF, Josh, and I'll be your test pilot for strategies of reconciling oneself to one's role in this whole thing?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
275

Much to my surprise, there's been some movement on me possibly moving back to the Bay Area. But I'm a long way from being hired.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
276

266: One is not supposed to ride the Google bikes off campus, the same way one is not supposed to take dinner home to one's family.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:13 PM
horizontal rule
277

Recent events also might give me a nonzero chance of moving to the Bay Area, about which I have very mixed feelings and angst and whatnot. Probably nothing will come of it.

I'm disappointed I can't seem to figure out how to keep up a steady stream of vaguely-on-topic comments made entirely of David Bowie lyrics on the other thread.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:14 PM
horizontal rule
278

Thanks for 256 -- all of it is interesting but in particular the description of HP was new to me.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:15 PM
horizontal rule
279

Yes, thanks for 256; that was all new to me, too.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:18 PM
horizontal rule
280

I guess I'll just serial comment as I try to catch up with the thread.

162: If the decades of pressure from IBM, HP, Intel, AMD, Oracle, and other major Silicon Valley employers haven't produced magic-pony supertransit yet, you think that adding a bit more pressure from Google to the mix is suddenly going to do it? Please.

Did these decades of pressure actually exist? I guess in the 90s you started to see BART expansion and Caltrain seems to have become more express-friendly, but from the early 60s when the original BART plan* died until the 80s, I don't think there was much pressure at all. Freeways kept getting expanded for a while, though.

*Original plan: BART to Palo Alto, also a line through northern SF, up Geary, and across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County (which seems really weird given how anti-growth Marin county eventually became). BART originally wasn't going to go as far south as Fremont, but that line was lengthened a bit when the west bay pulled out.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:20 PM
horizontal rule
281

My office I'd 20 plus stories up on fill, it can be done. Involves giant rollers.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
282

there's been some movement on me possibly moving back to the Bay Area

That would be awesome. When will you know?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:37 PM
horizontal rule
283

My only exposure to Anil Dash until now was his bizarre rant on behalf of assholes who talk loudly in movie theaters, so this thread has opened my mind.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 9:59 PM
horizontal rule
284

I'm not sure if Silicon Valley is in Silicon Valley because of HP or because that's where William Shockley's sick mother lived. When he got drummed out of Bell Labs for being an asshole, he couldn't get anyone to come out to California with him so he hired a bunch Stanford and Caltech's engineering graduates. When they decided they hated him, they all left Shockley Semiconductor but not the greater Palo Alto area. By all rights, the Traitorous Eight (and thus Intel) should be in Pasadena. (That said, both HP and Varian were already in Palo Alto, so I'm not sure what would have happened.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 10:00 PM
horizontal rule
285

282: I really have no idea. I haven't even done a phone interview yet. But they contacted me so quickly after I applied that I almost wanted to tell them they were coming on too strong. I guess that reveals that they aren't a university or government agency.

Obviously being contacted quickly is a good initial sign, but this is something where I really am applying a bit above my experience level, so I bet a lot will depend on if anyone who actually already does the work they're looking for will apply. There's a significant technical component that would mean a lot of learning for me; I don't mind that, but they might.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 10:00 PM
horizontal rule
286

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-27-14 10:10 PM
horizontal rule
287

Various comments:

The take-out containers at Google are supposed to be used for taking food back to your office or work area (e.g., for a lunch meeting), not to take food home to others. I don't know if the security guard guy misunderstood what others were doing, or if they were abusing the privilege. Employees do get to invite a certain number of guests to meals (roughly one a month, on the honor system, when I was working there), so you could occasionally have your friends or family join you for a meal there. That may not have extended to contractors, and the differential treatment of employees vs. contractors can be an issue.

On the issue of cafeterias in general: just about every employer over a certain size in the Valley has an on-site cafeteria. The San Jose Mercury News has (or at least had) their own cafeteria, which was legendary when I worked at a nearby tech firm years ago. Google is only distinctive in bringing in bigger-name chefs to run them and push the culinary envelope, and making them free (instead of just subsidized) to employees.

Google did have periodic volunteer drives when I was there, where people were encouraged to spend a few hours on a community project of their choice. If I had been there longer, I would have liked to try to organize a bunch of engineers to volunteer as math tutors in the East Palo Alto schools, but that didn't really fit the format of the volunteer drives (which were more about one-day bursts of activity rather than the sustained effort that tutoring really requires), and I didn't have the contacts inside that school system to make that happen quickly. I was volunteering in the Hayward schools at the time, which maxed out the time I was able to commit.

(As an aside, I continue to think that supporting classroom volunteers is an incredibly powerful way for companies to boost education in the community - not just for the direct effects of the tutoring, but because it exposes people with access to resources to learn about where those resources are most needed. One of my early classroom tutoring experiences was seeing a kid who wasn't taking notes in class, because he didn't have a pencil with him, and the classroom supply for the year had run out. I may not have been able to fix lots of the problems the kids were dealing with, but that one I could fix. I went down to Office Depot the next day and bought a couple hundred cheap pencils. From that day forward, every kid in a classroom I was tutoring in had access to a pencil - it didn't matter if they didn't have one because they had forgotten, or were using it as an excuse to goof off, or if they had a serious family economic or social issue that made it tough to get to a store to buy another pencil - if you didn't have a pencil for whatever reason, I would give you one of mine, along with an admonition that now I expected you to do the work. As someone who was used to working in office buildings where you just went to the supply cabinet to get whatever office supplies you needed for the day, that experience was an eye-opener for me.)


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 2:48 AM
horizontal rule
288

287.1: It should be noted there is a lot of abuse of the perks and a fair number of people do take home food to their friends. The term of art is "entitlement." And it's actually quite easy to believe that full-time employees are more abusive and entitled than casual employee and that gets perceived as a "class system."


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:59 AM
horizontal rule
289

Heeey tying the threads together!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 8:01 AM
horizontal rule
290

I should try to earn enough money to become entitled. I tried to figure out a plan to sell out, but failed. Maybe I should try again.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 8:04 AM
horizontal rule
291

Just down the road a bit, at General Atomics in San Diego, there are people who are actually building actual armed drones (not self-driving cars) and so far none of them have been even slightly inconvenienced by protesters on their drive to work. This seems like the worst sort of hippiedom, frankly.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 8:44 AM
horizontal rule
292

Protests over inequality, and protests over the military-industrial complex, are totally different things done by totally different people.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 8:59 AM
horizontal rule
293

261, 262: I designed a handsome little ICF house for a guy, but AFAICT it never happened (he had a permit, I was waiting for final electrical comments from him, and then nothing, some 3 years later). Great technology though (and especially suitable for this site, which was in a wooded area between a state highway and the Turnpike). More expensive than stick-built, of course, but the results are fantastic.

My last firm spent some time trying to figure out how to use prefab in urban infill, but it wasn't any cheaper than stick-built, and the company wasn't quite set up to do anything semi-custom (that is, we didn't want anything radically different from their standard designs, but nor was it off the shelf; much less radical than what Dwell tried). For urban infill, at least, the issue is that so much of the cost is in the ground, plus craning in prefab boxes is so complex, that you lose most of the benefits from prefab. It probably would make sense for a biggish urban [re]development (say tearing down most of a city block and putting up a couple dozen units), but those are rare enough that, although I'm sure they've been done, it's nothing that's standard.

I think the Dwell vision specifically simply runs aground on the fact that, to do anything Dwell-worthy, you're going to cost much more than standard prefab and significantly more than stick-built, and while it may be cheaper than a Dwell-worthy custom, people won't beat a path to that particular door (if they're paying extra, they want actual custom). IOW, if you could sell Dwell-worthy for less than stick-built, then you'd sell thousands of them, but as soon as you go above stick-built costs, you're into a small scale deal that doesn't make economic sense. Probably the best way to do it - aside from an angel/visionary investor willing to lose a little on the front end to gain traction - would be to have name brand architects design them, at which point you'd have a market of people who'd be willing to pay a (small) premium to be in a Gehry house, even if it means no customization. The model I'm thinking of is (kind of) Wright's Usonian houses, which were, in fact, individually designed, but he was always trying to do prefabs and kits.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:00 AM
horizontal rule
294

293: Somebody put up a prefab house in Rankin or somewhere like it. It looked nice and I think it was going for $100,000. But they got the lot for free so I suppose that isn't actually any cheaper than stick-built.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:06 AM
horizontal rule
295

The "worst kind of hippiedom" is apparently the kind that makes people afraid enough of it to take it seriously. Honestly, if you want any progress at all the thing you should hope for most are that rich influential people are afraid of folks burning shit down of inequality continues, and that you don't agree with the entire manifesto of those doing the potential shit-burning-down doesn't really matter.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
296

291: San Diego loves armed drones and rich white people. Also, you can't get there from San Francisco.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
297

Anyway, when I was a kid I used to help build pig barns out of panels. They were 4' by 8' panels framed with studs and filled with insulation. The inside was lined with a fiberglass sheeting so you could spray the shit off the walls. The panels were easy to put up, but so are stick-built walls. And if you had to run wires and plumbing through the panels, I don't see how it would save money to use pre-built.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:14 AM
horizontal rule
298

I had a friend who was an architect making fancy prefab houses. Then the collapse happened and he lost his job and now I have no idea what he's up to and feel guilty. Still the pretty expensive prefab houses seemed cool.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:16 AM
horizontal rule
299

You could call him and ask him to design the sort of monumental structures that Halfordismo will require.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:21 AM
horizontal rule
300

297: I think we're mostly talking manufactured homes - the housing formerly known as trailers. The only prefab wall system that's ever gained any traction are SIPs - structural insulated panels, which are plywood and sheetrock bonded to a 6" or 8" core of rigid insulation. They're most commonly used in timber framing. While there's a lot of labor in drilling out for wiring and such, the upside is staggeringly good insulation.

But tell me about this cob house you're going to build...


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
301

297: don't they have prebuilt prewired/pre-plumbed?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
302

Pigs don't have appliances.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:26 AM
horizontal rule
303

300: That sounds like what we put the pigs in, except not sheetrock.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:27 AM
horizontal rule
304

300.2: It was going to be a country house, but I see a cheapish lot that isn't too far up the hill in Greenfield.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:27 AM
horizontal rule
305

Protests over inequality, and protests over the military-industrial complex, are totally different things done by totally different people.

Well, no, because the people stalking this Google engineer at his home were concerned about things like drones and the military industrial complex. And if you think that you're going to win support from the public for your anti-inequality, pro-housing agenda by stalking software engineers and screaming at them about drones and the military industrial complex, then you're probably wrong.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:30 AM
horizontal rule
306

Seems to me like this is the most effective protest on this particular issue, aside from Occupy, that I've heard about in the US for about 15-20 years. As evidenced by the fact that we're talking about it. I mean of course it will probably ultimately be ineffective, but it seems to have a better chance of achieving something than most.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
307

I never know if this sort of thing actually works, but isn't Halford's idea basically "Martin needed Malcolm"? That you don't get any support for sane people with reasonable plans for reform unless the power structure is afraid that if they don't compromise the scary lunatics with guns and rocks (Note: this is a terrible and unjustified caricature of the actual Malcolm X) will come git them? I don't think the scary people have to make much sense as long as you can tell roughly what side they're on and as long as there are reasonable people to deal with on that side.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
308

it seems to have a better chance of achieving something than most.

What it looks most likely to achieve is a significant increase in car commuting between SF and Mountain View. Yay.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:37 AM
horizontal rule
309

308 -- Yes, it's truly hard to imagine any other result that could come from this. Better to stick with the status quo where Google engineers are not inconvenienced.

307 -- yes, that's the idea. Though I don't like the formulation because it downplays just how radical and fear-inspiring Martin was at the time.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:44 AM
horizontal rule
310

What it seems likely to achieve is a lot of well-intentioned small responses that a actually make the problem slightly worse. If it awakens the moneyed elites to ram through development and planning reform, that would be... surprising. And piss a lot of people off.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
311

I don't like the formulation
*cough*Overton*cough*


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
312

I don't understand this at all. What is the theoretical victory condition of the protest? Housing becomes more affordable? But how can it become cheaper without changing to higher density, which would require zoning changes, which is a function of the elected government (and apparently not what people want)? If Google and/or its employees started pushing hard for higher density, wouldn't the same protesters fight them on that? Or is this just a general protest against income inequality? I must be missing something obvious due to staring too hard into the HUD on my UMC-Glasses.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
313

If Google and/or its employees started pushing hard for higher density, wouldn't the same protesters fight them on that?

I don't think so. That is, if the same protesters would be objecting to higher density -- they're committed to scarce but cheap housing -- they're lunatics and no use to anyone. But why do you think they're opposed to higher density? (I mean, they might be, people are lunatics sometimes, I just haven't heard that.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:51 AM
horizontal rule
314

I was thinking of things like in comments 28 and 80. Doesn't SF have a strong tradition of anti-density NIMBYism that long predates this wave of rich techies? I might be falsely conflating these two sets of protestors, which if so would be an immense relief to me.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:56 AM
horizontal rule
315

312: This. One doesn't want to lean too hard on "these people are incoherent/hypocritical/blah" but there's a lot of continuity between anti-bus/anti-gentrification and anti-development/anti-density/pro-NIMBY-ism. 100:1 any given bus protester voted against the "Wall on the Water" in November.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:57 AM
horizontal rule
316

What is the theoretical victory condition of the protest?

I'm with Halford on the idea that making wealthy people nervous and forcing them to consider the possibility that all is not well and that maybe they're not as universally admired as they'd like to believe is a victory of sorts in itself.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:57 AM
horizontal rule
317

All tech companies should be relocated to Lodi. Anything less is so watered down as to be meaningless.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:00 AM
horizontal rule
318

Well, the first link is about objections to a sports stadium, which isn't all that useful as moderate income housing. But generally you're right that raising density is a hard political sell -- the problem seems to me to generally be that the interests that get considered are nearby property owners and current residents in exactly the affected area, rather than people who might be able to move in if it were denser.

This is a real, huge, political problem for increasing density, but it doesn't mean that the same people complaining about a housing shortage are also opposing denser development.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:01 AM
horizontal rule
319

318 to 314, 315.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:01 AM
horizontal rule
320

316: That sounds worthwhile to me in the abstract, but the way to get there doesn't sound great to me. Rich and powerful people feeling besieged tends to lead to more fuckupidness, not less (but I'd love to hear counterexamples).


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:03 AM
horizontal rule
321

318 -- Would they oppose denser housing development that is too expensive for them? My (uninformed) guess is yes.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:04 AM
horizontal rule
322

321: If it's all too expensive for them, why shouldn't they? Their reasonable goal is to make it practically affordable for moderate or low income people to live in the Bay Area, and high density housing that doesn't serve that purpose isn't any use to them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:06 AM
horizontal rule
323

301: My cousin's husband works for Westchester Modular, which builds modular semi-fancy homes. And yes, I think they bring in the modules with the wiring and such done already.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:09 AM
horizontal rule
324

Rich and powerful people feeling besieged tends to lead to more fuckupidness, not less (but I'd love to hear counterexamples).

Possibly. I guess my sense is that we've gone with "Rich and powerful people feeling complacent, entitled and untouchable" for a while now and it's let to plenty of fuckupness, so a bit of experimenting with the "feeling besieged" option isn't out of order.

I realize that the googlers aren't exactly Master of the Universe level rich. I think I'm just still somewhat appalled at what utter assholes so many SF tech types acted like during the BART strike and so feel like a lot of these folks could do with having their parade rained on. I'm petty that way.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:10 AM
horizontal rule
325

I would have thought that given the success of Occupy (Viking warrior knights are still shitting their pants about it), there wouldn't be so much "but what's their seven point plan?" criticism of protests. If a protest makes an issue salient for the public, and makes those in power a bit nervous, that's success. It may pay off in five years; it probably won't pay off until lots of other things happen, but it's a necessary condition of change.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:15 AM
horizontal rule
326

The protesters have already successfully preveted both car and bus commuting from the Bay Area to San Diego.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:16 AM
horizontal rule
327

Here's the thing: if the people in the streets are demanding, among other things, cheaper housing, then it becomes the case that they have created political pressure for greater density. They street people themselves don't need to be the same people who vote for more density.

That is, you've got (lets say) 5 relevant groups:

1. Techies, feeling besieged
2. Protestors with strong feelings but inconsistent policy preferences
3. Anti-density NIMBYs who don't nec. care about techies; that is, they don't identify that strongly with (2).
4. The powers that be - non-besieged businesspersons, existing politicos, people with socio-political capital
5. Hoi polloi who are roughly apolitical, but presumably value cheaper housing

If the protests lead to actual discussions about solutions to the housing problem, then density will come up. And people in favor of that solution will be (1), who want to be unbesieged and probably don't have overly romantic attachments to low rise construction; (4), who want protestors to go away, techies to fill the coffers of SF, and are generally pro-development by nature; and (5), who will find promises of affordable housing more appealing than they will threats of ZOMG Hong Kong frightening (especially if density proponents don't spend most of their efforts promoting glass towers for the ultra rich).

My calculus is that 1+4+5>2+3, especially since at least some of (2) can be peeled off by sensible density increases. What's needed is for someone to take up the mantle of sensible density increases.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:18 AM
horizontal rule
328

325 is so spot on.

Or, in traditional ergot, gets it exactly right.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:20 AM
horizontal rule
329

321/322: My assumption was that there are a lot of rich people in housing stock that would in other markets be considered affordable, and having them move to new luxury development would make there previous domiciles at least marginally cheaper. I am extremely naive!

I just figured that people would be, I dunno, protesting against UCSF and other landlords for their horrible use of Mission Bay. I was there last month and that would be a great place to put mid-rises of any price. There wasn't really a preexisting neighborhood to destroy there, right?

325: Fair enough. I realize I'm on the wrong side of this (and not feeling very comfortable about it). I thought the massive media coverage of housing issues in San Francisco for the last few years was making it salient, so the protests just feel unfocused to me (especially given 314/315).


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
330

323: Again, that's (what used to be called) trailer homes, not the panelized system MH dealt with.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
331

327: That makes sense to me. Thank you for spelling it out.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:24 AM
horizontal rule
332

Or, in traditional ergot, gets it exactly right.

But we can't really trust the judgment of people on traditional ergot.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:28 AM
horizontal rule
333

Okay, because it got lost when the other thread was semi-abandoned, much of this is discussed in summary with specific information re: the local situation here:

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/10/san-francisco-exodus/7205/

I do not agree with Metcalf about everything, in general he (and SPUR generally) are too privatization-mad for me, but this article is pretty much one-stop shopping background.

And yes the anti-Wall on the Water people represent a particularly virulent form of local NIMBYism, so that basically you can write of any density increased north of the Financial District (the new City College campus was only built on the north side of Washington because CCSF is exempt from local zoning restrictions).


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:32 AM
horizontal rule
334

we can't really trust the judgment of people on traditional ergot.

Cogito ergot sum. (I think I'm high.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
335

I wonder if building a cob house on a 20' wide lot in a middle-income city neighborhood might cause NIMBY problems? Because it's not like you can just put them in overnight before the neighbors can call code enforcement.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
336

That was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
337

It's been a long long time since I lived in the BA, but I think the math in 327 is probably still wrong. Preserving 'the character of the City' counts for a lot, and it's not just NIMBYism.

Obviously, this can change, and over the long haul, increased attention to inequality is the way to get there.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:06 AM
horizontal rule
338

I hate to sound like a mid-level bureaucrat (wait, that's exactly what I am. All right, then), but if the construction is up to code, that wouldn't be a problem, and if it's not, it'll be a problem regardless of the neighbors.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:06 AM
horizontal rule
339

Damn, wrong thread.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:07 AM
horizontal rule
340

No, not wrong thread, Charley just confused me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:07 AM
horizontal rule
341

Preserving 'the character of the City' counts for a lot

I say they give SF a complete make over based on the cityscapes in Blade Runner. Who's with me?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
342

Preserving 'the character of the City' counts for a lot, and it's not just NIMBYism.

There's a lot of ways to destroy the character of a city, and changing the architecture is only one of them. Making it impossible for moderate income people to live and work there is terribly destructive as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
343

341: I was walking through Times Square a while back, and thought that I should really watch Blade Runner again, just to see if it looks futuristic at all anymore.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
344

I saw Blade Runner not long ago, but Dune is the better movie if you want to remember what Sean Young looked like in fetish gear.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:19 AM
horizontal rule
345

The future in the fine film Double Dragon may be the most realistic now. Except for the gangs dressed like mailmen and mimes.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:20 AM
horizontal rule
346

Wait, do flashmobs count as gangs?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:20 AM
horizontal rule
347

345: The future in the fine game Double Dragon is a bit less realistic as neon fabrics aren't as popular as was expected.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:28 AM
horizontal rule
348

Also bullies no longer need gigantic heads to intimidate, cyber-savvy is more salient.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:30 AM
horizontal rule
349

Stepping back from the specific Bay Area focus, I do think that the tremendous financial success of the big techs coupled with the constrained economy has led to more people having a checkered view of the sector in general. For instance there are often general laments about the big piles of cash that corporate America is sitting on (a lot of it overseas), and what do you know (I've lost the link though):

By the middle of last year, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few tech winners had left just six companies - Apple, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Oracle and Qualcomm - with more than a quarter of the $1.5tn held by US non-financial corporations, according to rating agency Moody's. With nearly $150bn in its coffers, Apple alone was sitting on close to 10 per cent of corporate America's cash.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
350

342 -- Oh sure, but it's pretty easy to distinguish passive changes from active ones. When the choice is between keeping the zoning as it is or changing it because you want to change the housing mix in a particular neighborhood, there's a pretty strong current in favor of keeping things as they are.

I could be wrong -- there may be plenty of SF neighborhoods where people are saying 'know what we need around here? way more people.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:55 AM
horizontal rule
351

there's a pretty strong current in favor of keeping things as they are.

Sure, with the systems set up the way they are, it's very hard to get high density development built. That's a separate question from whether it would be a good thing if it were built, and whether most people who would be affected want it to happen and would be better off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:10 PM
horizontal rule
352

I dunno that people are saying "we need way more people." They sure are saying "we need way more affordable housing and for this area to be for someone other than the very rich." "Way more people" is one -- but only one -- step in that direction.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:13 PM
horizontal rule
353

338 is exactly right. Neighbors get no say whatsoever in construction type, which is a straight, legalistic reading of the International Residential Code, and they only get a say in zoning-type issues if you need a variance.

That said, if you require a variance, you are more likely to get neighbor support (which helps) if they aren't afraid of your construction methods. Although you don't necessarily need to tell anyone during the zoning phase what the house will look like.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:22 PM
horizontal rule
354

"What do we want? Sensible density increases! When do we want them? At the appropriate time!"


Posted by: Otto Von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:24 PM
horizontal rule
355

352: In some neighborhoods, I think people are saying "We need way more people [to be able to live here]." The people who are already living there shouldn't have a unilateral veto over whether that can happen.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:26 PM
horizontal rule
356

they only get a say in zoning-type issues if you need a variance

This is funny, because at least where I live, there's pretty much no such thing as a project that doesn't need a variance (Everything's grandfathered and couldn't be built under current zoning any more, so nearly everything requires a variance since it's going from one non-conforming use to another).


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:39 PM
horizontal rule
357

355(a) -- We'll see if there are indeed enough such people to get zoning changes made. Maybe the right developer could enlist the Google Bus protesters in support of particular profit-making ventures.

355(b) -- Should the people who don't live in the city have any say at all?

Also, there's a class of people who benefit from increasing real estate values. One of my issues with the math in 327 is that the disproportionate power these people have in local government doesn't seem to be fully accounted for. I mean really what sort of politician can tell home-owning constituents -- and apartment building owning constituents -- 'if we are successful in our initiative, your property will be worth 20% less 10 years from now than if we do nothing.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:45 PM
horizontal rule
358

Should the people who don't live in the city have any say at all?

Yes. Political subdivisions like city boundaries are arbitrary lines on a map, not a matter of moral right. Someone who's crammed into substandard housing in San Jose should have a say in Oakland's zoning decisions (and through the state government, can).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
359

All tech companies should be relocated to Lodi. Anything less is so watered down as to be meaningless.

Lodi would be vastly grateful to receive them.

Moby, I should have asked this long ago or maybe I should look it up on my own. But asking you now is easiest for me. When you say cob house, do you mean adobe? Or straw bale?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:00 PM
horizontal rule
360

Part of the point of my 327 is that what the protesters are doing, without really understanding it, is opening the window for "we need way more people." Right now, the perception is that increased density will A. ruin SF and B. benefit Developers (and, for some projects, the 1%/techies/outsiders). But if people with progressive credentials start to argue, "Hey, the solution to the Google buses is more housing, and here's why", then you start to get pushback against the people who want to "preserve the character." And a big part of the pushback is that, as the Google buses prove, the character has already changed, but at least more density allows "traditional residents"* to remain.

*or some similar, focus group-tested phrasing


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:00 PM
horizontal rule
361

357.last is very important. Has any city anywhere been able to explicitly declare 'lower property values' as public policy goal? Even NYC, with a vast majority of renters?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:02 PM
horizontal rule
362

358 last -- I don't believe that in California it even remotely works that way.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:03 PM
horizontal rule
363

356: There's definitely a lot of that around here, but in this case we're talking about building a single family detached house in (what I presume to be) a single family detached neighborhood. There might be setback issues, but as long as he's in line with the neighboring ("contextual") setbacks, the variance is pro forma.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:03 PM
horizontal rule
364

Is allowing higher density development lowering property values? I'd think it would raise them. Lower cost per unit of housing, but a whole lot more housing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:04 PM
horizontal rule
365

359: Cob is basically adobe, but built in place wet instead of made from dried bricks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
366

'if we are successful in our initiative, your property will be worth 20% less 10 years from now than if we do nothing.'

Let me introduce you to my little friend Property Taxes. I wish to hell my street hadn't appreciated so much in value, since the equity does me no good (I'm not moving anywhere), but my taxes are going to, I dunno, double?

Sell increased density as the equivalent of a homestead exemption, and you've just bought the elderly vote.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
367

363: I think they'd probably want some assurance you are planning something unlikely to fall over.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:07 PM
horizontal rule
368

365: And how is it different from rammed earth?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:07 PM
horizontal rule
369

Less ramming.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:09 PM
horizontal rule
370

Less ramming, dirt with more clay, and straw mixed in.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:10 PM
horizontal rule
371

367: Well, again, that's Bureau of Building Inspection, not Zoning Dept.

Although, I'm sorry to say, I see nothing in the IRC that even acknowledges cob/rammed earth/adobe.

I'll email my buddy at BBI.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:11 PM
horizontal rule
372

367: Well, again, that's Bureau of Building Inspection, not Zoning Dept.

Although, I'm sorry to say, I see nothing in the IRC that even acknowledges cob/rammed earth/adobe.

I'll email my buddy at BBI.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:11 PM
horizontal rule
373

Thanks, but that may be premature.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:12 PM
horizontal rule
374

You totally shouldn't have started talking about the cob house if you didn't want the project to get out of control. Look what happened when Ogged tried to start a blog about golf.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:14 PM
horizontal rule
375

370: Got it. Pretty sure there's an herb farm up near Brookville that has done this, although it's possible they did straight strawbale.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:14 PM
horizontal rule
376

373: Too late, done. I'll let you know.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:15 PM
horizontal rule
377

Strawbale is better for insulation and I think people often face it with cob, but it isn't going to hold a roof without timbers or an actual cob wall.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:16 PM
horizontal rule
378

Or so the people who write hippie websites say.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:17 PM
horizontal rule
379

Trust me, in SF your neighbors get a chance to appeal even a building permit.

Also, in CA generally CUPs are extremely common, meaning discretion and therefore little-NEPA review. Really, it is kind and amazing anything gets built.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:18 PM
horizontal rule
380

The elderly already did a property tax thing back in 78. I'm not sure how the politics really works on this, anyway: you can sell your SF house for zillions and move out to Concord to live near the grandchildren if taxes in the City get too high.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:22 PM
horizontal rule
381

I don't disagree with anything in 360. I do think that acting as if SF zoning should be revised by (or even for the benefit of) people crammed into substandard housing in San Jose isn't going to make things any easier at all.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:26 PM
horizontal rule
382

Cob seems like a cool material, although it demands a really good roof.

There was a bit of a scandal here some years ago when a woman who had some kind of public/charity funding to build a house let these crazy people build it with straw -- NOT like regular strawbale construction, which of course has a long and well-tested history, but essentially by building a balloon frame and filling it with straw, as insulation. But there were delays, and the straw got all wet, and they basically had to tear it down again when it was 90% built. Messed up.

But cob is good.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:30 PM
horizontal rule
383

isn't going to make things any easier at all.

What things? You need to identify goals before you start worrying about what's going to be easy or hard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
384

This

That is, if the same protesters would be objecting to higher density -- they're committed to scarce but cheap housing -- they're lunatics and no use to anyone.

kind of annoyed me.

They're committed to rising market valuations of property not forcing people out of established communities in the city core. That we live in a world in which that commitment counts as functionally insane and of no use to anyone should be more of an indictment of the world than the people holding it.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 2:53 PM
horizontal rule
385

I'm curious what an alternative world -- where demand for scarce housing in areas with established communities does not result in people getting left out -- would look like.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 2:57 PM
horizontal rule
386

384: Insane and no use to anyone was glib and hostile, and I shouldn't have put it that way, but what Sifu said. If there's very little of something desirable (housing space in SF), it's going to cost a lot. The only way I know of to make it affordable is to make more of it.

You can give the current incumbents some kind of property rights over the housing they now rent, by some kind of rent stabilization program (I don't actually know -- is that one of the things people in SF are lobbying for? New or additional rent stabilization), but I think those are generally a fairly inequitable way of preserving communities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:10 PM
horizontal rule
387

(That is, they lead to my mother sitting on a very cheap two bedroom in an area that would be quite expensive. She's reasonably well off, and could probably afford market rate if she wanted to stay in the neighborhood -- the benefit she's getting from stabilization isn't geared to her need, it's geared to the fact that she's had a stable enough life that she hasn't needed to move for thirty-five years)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:22 PM
horizontal rule
388

I'm kind of tired of hearing about the iniquities of rental stabilization. Yes, there's some vague sense that it's unfair that X person can pay very little for their apartment, until they die, just because they rented at the right time. But I don't see how this is any more unfair than Y person paying very little for their housing, and then passing that right, in addition to a valuable asset, because they happened to *buy* it at the right time. At least rent stabilization policies are explicitly political and social, so we can have open conversations about fairness and what we want our policies to generate, while the unfairness of ownership gets a pass as natural and inevitable in our neoliberal age.

It is indeed unfortunate when this thing leads to serious underutilization; one retiree in a 3-BR flat, etc. But I'd like to get some figures on exactly how common that situation is (as opposed to, say, older folks using their cheap flats to lure their children/relatives to stay with them and help care for them).


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:33 PM
horizontal rule
389

The problem with rent stabilization is not so much the inequities (which, as you say is similar to owning) as the annoyance and inefficiency of having property rights that you can't transfer. Making it so that people can't ever move is bad.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:39 PM
horizontal rule
390

But I don't see how this is any more unfair than Y person paying very little for their housing, and then passing that right, in addition to a valuable asset, because they happened to *buy* it at the right time.

Well, in the latter case, the person who bought cheap is at least responsible for the taxes and maintenance.

But it seems offbase to me to defend rent stabilization by saying that it's no more unfair than the windfall that a lucky purchaser gets. It's still a pretty random windfall, in that the biggest gains go to people who have been able to avoid moving for a long period of time. That's not the poorest of the poor, and it's not a balanced cross section of the people you need to keep a community healthy. It favors the old over the young, and the people with stable enough lives to not need to move ever over everyone else.

Why should public policy be handing out windfalls to the people who happen to be renting in a given neighborhood on a particular date? I want public policy to be addressing need directly, not privileging current residents over every other citizen in the state.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:44 PM
horizontal rule
391

Well, yes, but it's both a bug and a feature. Part of the point of systems like that is to encourage people to stay put (and presumably then be more involved in their communities, as permanent fixtures rather than just-passing-through types).


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:45 PM
horizontal rule
392

while the unfairness of ownership gets a pass as natural and inevitable in our neoliberal age

Do you think so? The argument against the equity of home ownership seems pretty mainstream to me, at least among liberals. Dean Baker returns to it regularly, and I seem to remember Yglesias has mentioned it a lot.

What we don't see is a good way out of it, given how many decisions, including our own, have been based on the status quo.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:46 PM
horizontal rule
393

Well, in the latter case, the person who bought cheap is at least responsible for the taxes and maintenance.

Huh? When you're talking rent stabilization, you're still responsible for, well, rent. I don't think NYC's system of extremely flat rent control makes sense, but something like SF's, where each new (market-rate) tenancy (in eligible buildings) sets a new schedule of permitted increases, doesn't have this problem at all. (There are other issues, sure.)

I want public policy to be addressing need directly

Because it's not just about need, or rather, it's addressing a different sort of human need: the need (which not everybody has, but plenty do) for a secure and stable home. It's a policy that's designed to encourage people to stay put and be part of the community. Which is something that America as a whole has decided is a good thing; that's most of the justification behind encouraging homeownership through the tax deducation, etc.

Again, we may be talking cross-purposes because you're thinking about $400/month rent-controlled places and I'm thinking of, e.g., $1600 rent-stabilized places.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 3:52 PM
horizontal rule
394

There aren't a lot of $400/month apartments left -- in NYC, there was rent control, which led to the crazy deals but is, I think either completely or almost completely gone. What's left is rent stabilization, which gets reset with each new tenant, like what you're talking about in SF.

The details of the particular stabilization regime are going to make a huge difference, of course. But if you're keeping a large proportion of the housing stock in an area significantly below market rate, I think you have real justice problems about handing out windfalls to the incumbent tenants at the expense of anyone else who might need to live in the neighborhood. And if the effects are smaller than that, then is it really making much of a difference?

Stamping out rent stabilization isn't a particular issue of mine; I don't think New York's regime is doing all that much harm, and SF's probably isn't either. I just don't think it's an equitable or workable way of dealing with people getting priced out of scarce housing across the board.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:01 PM
horizontal rule
395

IDP!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:02 PM
horizontal rule
396

At the best, it turns getting priced out of the neighborhood into a process of attrition -- no one who ever has to move (and can't afford market rates) can stay, young people starting out can't stay, landlords have an incentive to maltreat tenants to get them to move... rent stabilization isn't the problem, but I think the solution has to be about providing a sufficient supply of housing near where people want to be.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:04 PM
horizontal rule
397

I know! It really is a reunion around here.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:04 PM
horizontal rule
398

It's a policy that's designed to encourage people to stay put and be part of the community. Which is something that America as a whole has decided is a good thing; that's most of the justification behind encouraging homeownership through the tax deducation, etc.

I doubt it's as coherent a policy as this, and the stay-put part would be news to me. I think of it as a means to build wealth even on a modest but steady income.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
399

I kind of have started to hate the term "windfall." You know who gets a windfall? I think the term reflects the idea that there is a perfect market-based distribution of resources which would occur if only it weren't for all that doggone state intervention by liberal fools. It's basically used to describe anyone who gets a lot of money from something other than the market. Which is crazy, as Trapnel says the very idea of private property in capitalism requires that there are people who will get huge "windfalls" and all we're really talking about is how the particular distribution of resources will work.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:18 PM
horizontal rule
400

I guess I should either have answered that rhetorical question or left it out. The answer to "You know who gets a windfal" is "every owner if any kind of property or capital who receives a return on it."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:20 PM
horizontal rule
401

I guess I think the ideal role of government is to do what it can to smooth out the windfalls created by capitalism through taxes and social services -- like the line about what newspapers were supposed to do, "Afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted." I get unhappy when government benefits are handed out in a manner that's neither universal or rationally need-based.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:32 PM
horizontal rule
402

It really is a reunion around here.

Hi everyone. I think it's been about 6 years. Just this afternoon I feel like I never left; so many people still here! I expected more turnover somehow, although I'm gratified to find the names so familiar.

Last week LB commented over at Samefacts, those of you who were there know about what, and I was delighted to see her name. Got me thinking...


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:36 PM
horizontal rule
403

In broad terms, sure -- and I'm not a big supporter of rent control -- but I think the whole idea of framing things in terms of windfalls vs not is a problem. The bigger problem is whether rent control actually works in terms of making things more equitable, fair, liveable, etc.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:37 PM
horizontal rule
404

Yeah, if you wanted to put it in terms of "Not rationally needbased, and not reliably promoting healthy communities", that'd work better than "windfall". The problem with my mother isn't that it's unjust for her to pay the rent she does -- justice or injustice isn't really all that coherent a concept in terms of what the rent its -- it's that a policy scheme setting her rent where it is doesn't serve its goals particularly well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
405

S/b "what the rent is"

Also, IDP!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:41 PM
horizontal rule
406

399:

How'd you edit the spelling on this? I just had to do the same and have forgotten how if I ever knew.


Posted by: Idp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:44 PM
horizontal rule
407

JW Mason has a few solid pieces on rent control here.

It doesn't actually constrain supply. In neither SF nor NYC does it apply to new buildings. If anything, by limiting the profit an owner can make on an old building, it encourages tearing it down and replacing it with a bigger one, if that's at all possible. Whether it is possible--and the supply more generally--is determined by entirely other factors, particularly the zoning and height limits and neighborhood veto powers discussed earlier.

But if you're keeping a large proportion of the housing stock in an area significantly below market rate, I think you have real justice problems about handing out windfalls to the incumbent tenants at the expense of anyone else who might need to live in the neighborhood.

Halford kind of got here first, but what on earth are you talking about? What is the justice problem here? Assuming constant supply--which is an almost completely separate issue, as I said above--X people get to live here, (rest of world-X) do not. It's going to get rationed somehow. Any allocation is "at the expense" of those who don't get in. The difference is (a) who gets in and (b) where the money goes, whether to owners or renters. Why is it more just for those X to be the X willing to pay the most at any given 12-month interval (maximizing owner revenue), as opposed to the X who win lottery tickets, or the X who were born there, or (what we're really talking about) the X who, at the time of any given vacancy, were willing to pay the most, independent of their current ranking in willingness-to-pay?

This is what I mean by the way that ideologies of property make it hard to talk about this thing sensibly. There's nothing natural or just about getting kicked out of your home because someone else offers more money than you're paying. Housing isn't a commodity just like anything else, and oughtn't be.

young people starting out can't stay

Again, I don't understand this at all. If what you're saying is the lack of turnover means fewer options of where to live, sure, but that same lower turnover means you're competing with fewer incoming renters, too. I don't see why a 5% turnover housing market is worse than a 10% one, ceteris paribus. Otherwise, this just makes no sense--rent stabilization means that a young person, so long as they could afford the first lease, can probably stay as long as they want.

If what you're saying ('no one who ever has to move (and can't afford market rates) can stay') is actually about how this tends to disadvantage the hypermobile elite professionals who have to constantly move at least through their 20s, you might be right (in which case, I really don't care, because those people typically can afford market rates), but again I'm not sure I see it--the first-order impact is on turnover, not supply.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:45 PM
horizontal rule
408

385 - 387: Unsurprisingly, I have no non-utopian alternatives. I hesitated to even write the comment because the annoyance driving it was more felt than thought.

My point, such as it was, was that: it's perfectly natural and human, rather than "insane", when people organize to push back against being told that the only foreseeable future(s) for a neighborhood they like just fine is them leaving it and/or it being creatively destroyed to allow for more housing units (so that maybe-possibly more people not-that-relevantly closer to them in income can live on the same parcels of land).

If the only response that even left-liberals can offer people being dislocated by markets is, 'supply and demand, what you gonna do?', then we really have no way of addressing a basic human need to have a home you can hold onto (or give up on terms that you have some bargaining power in dictating).


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:47 PM
horizontal rule
409

I guess I think the ideal role of government is to do what it can to smooth out the windfalls created by capitalism through taxes and social services

How's that been working out lately, smoothing out the windfalls?

I think it's not very helpful to think of rent stabilization as being a government benefit being handed out. A better framework is to start with the recognition that markets are always embedded within societies, and to see this instead as being a first-order political question about what housing should be like in a city. If we start from the presumption that houses are just assets, and it's right and proper to maximize the revenue stream deriving from them (which the government might then perhaps tax), we've gone wrong from the start.

Having secure and stable housing--not being able to get kicked out at the whim of somebody--is a hugely valuable thing. Just like job security, which is why unions fight so hard for the latter. Imposing such stabilization (as well as limiting the causes for which a tenant can be evicted) makes a building less valuable as an asset for the owner, true, but when it only applies to old housing it has no direct effect on supply.

it's that a policy scheme setting her rent where it is doesn't serve its goals particularly well.

I'm sure it's not perfect, but what exactly is the problem with your mother continuing to live in the community she's lived in for 35 years? Why is this bad?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 4:55 PM
horizontal rule
410

Or, catching up, what has been better said by x.trapnel.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 5:00 PM
horizontal rule
411

Speaking of San Francisco, the 2nd greatest living writer in Davis, California weighs in during an interview (recommended):

And San Francisco is the great city of the world. I love San Francisco. I think of myself as living in its provinces--and provincials, of course, are often the ones who are proudest of the capital. And many of my San Francisco friends exhibit a civic pride that is intense, and I think justified.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 5:36 PM
horizontal rule
412

408.last: well, okay, so maybe there's a mismatch between the veldtian desire for a cozy cave that one can really lay a claim to and an endlessly affordable home in an intensely desirable world city but... no shit, whaddya gonna do? The intrinsic sense of unfairness or hard-done-by-ness here might just be misguided.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
413

why a 5% turnover housing market is worse than a 10% one,

Something to do with a zipper merge.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
414

This article is annoying in that it minimizes the degrees to which our society isn't a meritocracy, but I agree with its point about education.

http://blog.samaltman.com/technology-and-wealth-inequality


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 6:24 PM
horizontal rule
415

Again, I don't understand this at all. If what you're saying is the lack of turnover means fewer options of where to live, sure, but that same lower turnover means you're competing with fewer incoming renters, too. I don't see why a 5% turnover housing market is worse than a 10% one, ceteris paribus. Otherwise, this just makes no sense--rent stabilization means that a young person, so long as they could afford the first lease, can probably stay as long as they want.

Okay, this seems obvious to me. You've got some portion of the housing stock that's stabilized, and some that's market rate. The stabilized stock is very low turnover. So the initial set of tenants who get stabilized apartments can stay indefinitely. Their adult kids, family members, anyone who gets divorced, generally people who need to move out of that initial stabilized apartment, can't afford anything in the same neighborhood where they could get a lease. You freeze one generation in place and their families move away.

If what you're saying ('no one who ever has to move (and can't afford market rates) can stay') is actually about how this tends to disadvantage the hypermobile elite professionals who have to constantly move at least through their 20s,

My god, you've caught me, this is all about catering to the wealthy. No, you nimrod, people in their 20s move, not just techies. Single people need small apartments, they get married, they have children, they get divorced -- needing to move doesn't make you a member of the plutocratic elite, it makes you human.

Having secure and stable housing--not being able to get kicked out at the whim of somebody--is a hugely valuable thing

I agree with this completely. There should be decent publicly subsidized housing, with rents linked to income.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:23 PM
horizontal rule
416

What if the government just expropriated 50% of the rental housing in San Francisco, ignored the takings clause because Halfordismo means your property right is a shot to the face, declared it public housing with rents set at a portion of income henceforth (without forcing anyone to move) and put a hefty wealth tax to pay for apartment upkeep and maintenance. Who's with me?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:34 PM
horizontal rule
417

Yes, gracious leader!

(No, seriously. As close as I could get to that? I'm on it.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:37 PM
horizontal rule
418

Let me just say I'm happy to see x. trapnel making a much more coherent version of the argument that I was struggling towards here.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:45 PM
horizontal rule
419

A hedge tax.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:46 PM
horizontal rule
420

Wow. That's a hedge who needs a fund.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
421

Who's with me?

As long as the MPAA and RIAA are getting that shot in the face too, I'm down.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
422

Yeah, 415 is right on. Poor people have to move from apartment to apartment way more than the cosmopolitan elites. Just not from city to city.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:49 PM
horizontal rule
423

A better framework is to start with the recognition that markets are always embedded within societies, and to see this instead as being a first-order political question about what housing should be like in a city.

I like approaching it as a first-order political question. I just can't see doing that and coming up with the answer that what we want out of housing is a small percentage of the population, selected because they happened into a stabilized apartment and had the good fortune to not need to move for a long time, to have low, stable rents, while everyone else fends for themselves. It's a system, but not one I can see coming up with from first principles.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
424

If what you're saying is the lack of turnover means fewer options of where to live, sure, but that same lower turnover means you're competing with fewer incoming renters, too. I don't see why a 5% turnover housing market is worse than a 10% one, ceteris paribus.

Also, because I missed this the first time through. The text in bold? Makes no sense at all. The reason why you have a housing problem is that people who don't already live in the city want to move in to the city. Lots of them. That's who you're competing with. If there was a fixed population the same size as the number of housing units, and people were just swapping apartments like a game of musical chairs, that wouldn't be a housing problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 8:14 PM
horizontal rule
425

so maybe there's a mismatch between the veldtian desire for a cozy cave that one can really lay a claim to and an endlessly affordable home in an intensely desirable world city but... no shit, whaddya gonna do? The intrinsic sense of unfairness or hard-done-by-ness here might just be misguided.

I basically agree with this, but I think CB is right that the sense of unfairness is very real and understandable, and a major issue in these sorts of situations. It's basically a subset of the very common human desire to live in a place you like that never changes in any way. The problem is that the world just doesn't work like that; places always change over time in one way or another, and the system of land use and property rights we have in the modern US is particularly prone to certain types of changes. Absent a really huge change to that system like the one in Halford's 416, there probably just isn't anything that can be done to give people what they really want in this sort of situation.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 8:20 PM
horizontal rule
426

425: well... sure! Right! I don't think it even really has to do with the modern US or whatever. Any society with population growth is going to face the same problems. It might just be an unfairness inherent in humanness. And Halford's 416, good idea though it is, wouldn't eliminate felt unfairness. It would probably shift it around, maybe change the threshold, maybe load it onto people that are by some other metric more deserving, but somebody would get left out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 8:24 PM
horizontal rule
427

No place ever stays the same. Not even Lodi.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
428

You can never step in the same Lodi twice.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:10 PM
horizontal rule
429

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/0a/eb/71/0aeb710c426fd1d38209eeb4a88a5603.jpg

The thread has reminded me of this a number of times.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:13 PM
horizontal rule
430

426: Right, I agree with all that 100%. My point is that while these feelings aren't realistic, they are nevertheless real, and powerful, and likely to get in the way of any effort to solve the problems that actually can be solved through better public policy. In practical terms I think this mostly just means that people advocating those policies should at least acknowledge that they aren't going to fix all of the perceived problems that people are concerned about, and that there are necessary trade-offs to any attempt to fix problems. Too often I think advocates of good policies portray them as "win-win" solutions, which makes people skeptical up-front and (in the rare cases when that isn't enough to keep them from being enacted at all) angry when it turns out the policy didn't fix everything the advocates implied it would.

(I'm not necessarily pointing this at anything specific anyone in this thread has said, but it's a common problem in these sorts of discussions and I think it's worth pointing out.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:29 PM
horizontal rule
431

(I don't know, I feel like some explanation might be useful for Easterners and youngsters. A ways out the Geary corridor (mentioned above) there was an auditorium that was a fine concert venue in the 70s. Well, fine for the audience. It was sold, and demolished so they could build an apartment building. During the demolition, Grace Slick (the singer for the first rock band that had performed there 15 years earlier) posed on the wrecking ball, and cut an album called Welcome to the Wrecking Ball -- I don't know whether the pictures inspired the album or album the photo shoot (guessing the former). I know a lot of you think that We Built This City is some kind of nadir for her and the SF sound, but no, it's Wrecking Ball.

Oh Lord stuck in the 70s again.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 9:49 PM
horizontal rule
432

...clowns to the left of me, jokers to the the right


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:11 PM
horizontal rule
433

407 et seq: Actually, what I've consistently heard is that rental housing experts suggest that a 4-5% vacancy rate is necessary just so everyone can find a place to live, given the various situations in which an apartment has to sit empty for a month or more. When you get down to 2-3%, people start freaking out and hoarding apartments or whatever. 10% vacancy means the landlords are offering 1st month's rent free and free cable though.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:18 PM
horizontal rule
434

Sorry, 433 was me. Also, "hoarding apartments" was a joke, just in case anyone was confused.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:19 PM
horizontal rule
435

Now you tell me. What am I supposed to do with all these apartments?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:21 PM
horizontal rule
436

Fill them with Grace Slick memorabilia?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:24 PM
horizontal rule
437

Ah, of course.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 10:29 PM
horizontal rule
438

I just can't see doing that and coming up with the answer that what we want out of housing is a small percentage of the population, selected because they happened into a stabilized apartment and had the good fortune to not need to move for a long time, to have low, stable rents, while everyone else fends for themselves. It's a system, but not one I can see coming up with from first principles.

The first principles involved here are the twin values of neighborhood stability and not being able to be kicked out by gentrification. Note that if all or most rental housing is stabilized, you don't have nearly the same issue of arbitrariness, of some small group of insiders vs everyone else. And if your policy was something like: "every housing unit becomes stabilized 50 years after construction" it would have almost no impact whatsoever on the incentive to build, because the stabilized years would basically not factor into the net-present-value calculation.

I mean, what are the first principles involved in letting people buy housing, anyway? The same ones: enabling folks to be secure in their housing, to plan for the future, and to settle in stable communities. But trying to generate this security through mass ownership means forcing people to have a huge component of their wealth tied up in a single asset, which is problematic in a bunch of ways, and has the extra problem of creating a large class of voters with a vested interest in making housing expensive. And it just doesn't work in global cities of today, where exploding inequality, free capital movement, and network effects mean that the majority of inhabitants have no hope of buying. Rent stabilization is an attempt to give renters much of the same benefits of owning, when this would otherwise be impossible.

And you're right in that the negative effects on available openings are similar to mass ownership, and even a bit worse since you can't cash out; I was thinking mostly of the changing wealth dynamics of gentrification (which can create a housing problem entirely in the absence of static population) and not the more important inflow issue.

But I still feel like you're letting the tail wag the dog here. Whether or not each tenancy gets stabilized, in the absence of an effective public option, the rate at the time of signing is going to be driven by supply (build more!) and demand (expropriate the rich!). Getting that price lower is hugely important, but the stabilization effect has only very marginal effects--people like your grandmother, who you seem to think should be kicked out in order to be replaced by the highest-bidding young couple. Do you think cases like hers are super common, worth making public policy decisions around? Because I'd rather focus on, say, 2nd or 3rd houses for the rich, or properties being turned into pure AirBnB rentals, if we're looking at things that drive up rental prices by limiting available supply.

Anyway. I'm just going to sign on to Halford's 416, I suppose. Other possible inspirations: the Netherlands, where 75% of rental properties are owned by non-profit social housing associations (although apparently that's starting to unravel, too).


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:27 PM
horizontal rule
439

Because I'd rather focus on, say, 2nd or 3rd houses for the rich, or properties being turned into pure AirBnB rentals, if we're looking at things that drive up rental prices by limiting available supply.

But these sorts of things are only problems in, like, 5 or 6 cities in the world, right? I guess all the cities we're talking about here are included in that group. Maybe this explains why I can't really follow what you and LB are arguing over.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-28-14 11:32 PM
horizontal rule
440

I missed this whole thread because I was on wifi-less public transit between Silicon Valley and the remoter East Bay for hours. My commute is okay!

I like living near Richmond, despite my suspicion of the refinery. I don't know how fast it's changing. I wish I could spend more time there.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:06 AM
horizontal rule
441

Your smart commenting service stripped out my exceedingly boring detailed description of the commute, hooray.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 12:07 AM
horizontal rule
442

438: Like I've said, I'm not committed to stamping out rent stabilization -- I don't think it does all that much harm. So I'm not focusing on stamping it out as if stamping it out is going to fix everything. But I'm pretty sure that it's not an effective way to solve the problem that there's not enough affordable housing in the Bay Area; that's only going to get fixed by working on supply.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 5:10 AM
horizontal rule
443

Shorter this thread: You can't have your city and keep it too.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-29-14 5:56 AM
horizontal rule
444

What blows my mind is that this is a problem eminently solveable by money, and yet they haven't just thrown money at it.

For example: Just make the Google bus free or open it up to fare-paying passengers of all kinds.

Do it as part of a consortium of bay-area businesses. Call it the Bay-Area Commuter Network (BACN).

Done.


Posted by: Aaron | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 10:11 AM
horizontal rule
445

Incidentally, Brad DeLong linked to this post today.

I'm not sure what to make of his comment, "From my perspective, this bunch of protesters is important to have because they make it impossible to sustain with good faith the argument that neoconservatives have no point at all. They do have a point."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02- 4-14 10:19 AM
horizontal rule