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San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the you-are-forgiven-for-tldr'ing-this-one dept.

Technology 359

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

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The bay area used to have affordable housing (1, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 months ago | (#46762513)

Back in the Ford administration. Or maybe Nixon.

Re:The bay area used to have affordable housing (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762623)

"Gentrification" = property values skyrocket once you drive the blacks out. Crime goes away when they go away. FACT. The govt's own stats back this up.

Turns out successful intelligent people don't want to live in shitty rundown high crime areas. Shocking. That's gentrification folks.

Re:The bay area used to have affordable housing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762791)

Just the other day i was thinking about san fransisco...
hah, no i wasn't.
who thinks about san fransisco?, ever since i found out they really don't make rice-a-roni there i lost interest.

Re:The bay area used to have affordable housing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762919)

The fuck? Next you'll be telling me the San Francisco 49ers aren't actually in San Francisco.

OH WAIT!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levi's_Stadium

Re:The bay area used to have affordable housing (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762939)

I'm into the leather scene. San Francisco used to be our Mecca. You know how Las Vegas is Disneyland for adults (tm) or something like that? Well, San Francisco is Disney Land for gay men. Or was. Quite frankly, it's gotten too fucking creepy for me -- And I have no problem getting fisted by a midget while a tranny shits on my chest! I have friends that put the goatse man to shame. San Fransisco is just fucked up.

Re:The bay area used to have affordable housing (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46763059)

"I'm into the leather scene."

Leather makes a fine recliner, but in the hot months your napping face still sticks to it.

"San Francisco used to be our Mecca. You know how Las Vegas is Disneyland for adults (tm) or something like that? Well, San Francisco is Disney Land for gay men. Or was."

Best quote ever was Like Disneyland on acid.

"Quite frankly, it's gotten too fucking creepy for me -- And I have no problem getting fisted by a midget while a tranny shits on my chest! I have friends that put the goatse man to shame. San Fransisco is just fucked up."

Fucking creepy is in the eye of the beholder, but no brainer, I too would choose a midget fist if fisting were eminent... but maybe, and I mean just barely maybe, you should stop experimenting with the recommended dosage of those vitamins they've prescribed.

BS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762549)

There were regulations in place forbidding people to move into Mountain View, when Google moved to Mountain View. The entire article assumes that Google and its employees should be able to live in or near San Francisco. Clearly the solution is that they need to get the fuck out of San Francisco because they are social poison. Why can't Google be located in Boise or Kansas City or wherever the fuck, anyway?

Re:BS (0)

Z34107 (925136) | about 6 months ago | (#46762579)

There's that rational, open-minded tolerance San Francisco's known for.

Re:BS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762605)

Why should anyone be tolerant of rich assholes who directly participate in mass evictions, whose lives are spent increasing the effectiveness of online advertising?

Re:BS (4, Informative)

Z34107 (925136) | about 6 months ago | (#46762677)

Because, as TFA points out, the problems San Francisco has are entirely self-inflicted. It's amusing to see karma on such a large scale.

Re:BS (1)

melchoir55 (218842) | about 6 months ago | (#46763185)

Almost all problems experienced by groups of humans are self-inflicted.

Re:BS (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 6 months ago | (#46763225)

It's an interesting thought... Usually new people move-in, change the demographics, and out-vote the old Luddites. But if the Luddites start-off by demanding building restrictions before others can move-in, then those who would vote against them simply aren't ever allowed to move-in, so they don't ever get a vote.

Re:BS (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 6 months ago | (#46763353)

But so were San-Francisco _advantages_. Yes, I read TFA. And simply turning everything over to an invisible middle finger of market will only make it all worse.

Re:BS (1)

Morpf (2683099) | about 6 months ago | (#46762699)

Of course. It's those tech workers who are driving the housing prices up, and not the greedy house owners... Sure.

Re:BS (1)

vancedecker (1336829) | about 6 months ago | (#46762709)

Here, drink this tea: http://murderpedia.org/male.J/... [murderpedia.org] It will help you understand why we must show unconditional love to the wealthy, for only they can create jobs.

Banned From Mountain View? (2)

vancedecker (1336829) | about 6 months ago | (#46762667)

They really would be much happier in a Mountain View setting. They can take the old Netscape building. It's more of a suburban area where they will be free to accumulate and show off their employee badges to the other companies. There is even a light rail system right there, already built.

Re:BS (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46762581)

They Bay Area is one of the few economically active places in the USA, that's why housing is expensive there.

If you want cheap housing, go to an economically dying area, like Detroit; or a place with no regulations such that chemicals leak into your house or explode in your face, like Texas.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762671)

Do you mean oil just flows into people's home in Texas? Man, they must be rich!

Re:BS (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#46762865)

... or toxic waste from the oil industry?

Houston, Dallas, Austin (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762979)

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

Re:Houston, Dallas, Austin (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763171)

Yeah, but...you know...it's TEXAS.

The same state who gave the world Presidents Bush, and Creationism in textbooks, and who harbors the biggest patent troll court in the world, and Rand Paul and more gun-toting Republican numbskulls that anyone can count.

Texans will always be Texas' worst enemy.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762737)

They Bay Area is one of the few economically active places in the USA, that's why housing is expensive there.

If you want cheap housing, go to an economically dying area, like Detroit; or a place with no regulations such that chemicals leak into your house or explode in your face, like Texas.

Surely San Bruno would be more to one's liking...

Re:BS (0, Troll)

thesupraman (179040) | about 6 months ago | (#46762585)

Jealous much?

Seems to me that the people who have been pissing away their time spending everything they can day to day and not buying any actual property are now pissed that the property values for others who didnt do that are going up, and that they will then have to pay more rent.

Hint - its called investing for the future, and its a damn good idea, no matter how fashionable your triple chocolate mochas and anti establishment tees are.

To you actually know that the capitalism in, well, capitalism actually means? Or would you rather live in some state allocated location, with a state allocated job, eathing your state allocated rations? hmmm?

Re:BS (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 6 months ago | (#46762639)

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

Re:BS (2)

dasunt (249686) | about 6 months ago | (#46762659)

A couple decades back, house prices and lot sizes were a lot smaller.

Re:BS (4, Insightful)

zieroh (307208) | about 6 months ago | (#46762693)

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

Re:BS (2)

grmoc (57943) | about 6 months ago | (#46763025)

A couple decades back the impact of Prop 13 wasn't yet horribly visible.
Worse, thanks to Prop 13, corporations pay far far less, and thus are less likely to give up property for sale.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763061)

what corporation is going to put property up for sale ?

Re:BS (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 6 months ago | (#46763193)

Prop 13 is a reaction to government interference in the local markets(see Serrano vs Priest and the fallout from it). All property owners pay based on their date of purchase, which is entirely fair. That said, Prop 13 isn't that big of a problem. Prices are just as bad in New York and they pay exorbitant property taxes.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763117)

My take is that tax law has fostered an environment where the investment classes are rewarded with tax benefits for tying up property with the intent of maximizing rents. Its a terribly unproductive use of financial resources, but it does allow for a "gentleman" class who is not expected to labor or produce anything for his income.

We even have the gall to assess "payroll tax" for any business creating jobs. Wasn't it enough that the business not only organized a way of not only paying a wage to someone else, then ratting out to the government that they hired Joe Blow, here's his SSN, and how much we paid him so the IRS can go extort their tithes?

The chickens are coming home to roost. We are amassing a tremendous population of "gentlemen" who do not work, others get welfare, we look everywhere outside our own country to get others to build our stuff under the aspect of "world trade" and "globalization", paying for these services with debt instruments.

This is one of those times I am not so dismayed at getting older and knowing my days are numbered. I have a lot of people who appoint themselves over me and are running up a helluva debt in my name, and there is nothing I can do about it. They will even pay armed security forces with money they do not have to enforce their agenda, while the populace ( me included ) do not know how to organize and defend ourselves in a like manner.

As far as I am concerned, the whole world is lusting after the whore of the Synagogue of Satan, worshipping the construct of supposed "wealth", where a small elite "owns" everything ( 'cuz they say so ) are playing and manipulating the rest of us like marionettes on a string for their amusement. They use dollars, not strings, but the effects are similar. The dollars can be created by them and them alone out of nothing, and they can change the rules of the game whenever they feel like it. I am compelled to follow, not make, the rules. .

I am very pessimistic on this. I feel we as a nation have already sold ourselves into debt slavery, but we do not know it yet. The eviction notice has not arrived yet. I feel we are in the last days of the party that was America, and there is going to be one hell of a hangover.

Re:BS (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#46762877)

I could buy the house I currently own in less than two years. What's your point again?

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763077)

what is your house ? The closet next to the McDonalds by Frys ?

Unless you make crazy wages or your house is SHItty ... not a chance ...
give us a rough address ...

Re:BS (5, Insightful)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 6 months ago | (#46762931)

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

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

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

Re:BS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763305)

But my wife and daughter seem to think we must have it.

So you're not really the man of the house. You are pussywhipped in the case of your wife and a people-pleaser in the case of your daughter. Gotcha.

Why save? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763333)

Seriously, a couple decades ago you could go to a bank an open an account where the rates were at least competitive with inflation. These days, the typical interest rate is well under 1% with the Fed purposefully keeping inflation above 2% on the belief that inflation is good. Well, inflation isn't good, having inflationary expectations discourages people from saving money. Granted, you don't want long stretches of deflation either, but we're getting exactly what should have been predicted.

What's more, companies don't pay people based upon their value to the company these days, they pay the bare minimum they can get away with in most cases. Sure there are exceptions, but those exceptions have a harder time staying in business.

And no, blue collar workers around here would have a really hard time saving for a house when rent alone is typically aroudn $12k per year.

Re:BS (1)

Ost99 (101831) | about 6 months ago | (#46763073)

Irrelevant.
What was interest rates back then?
The relevant number is the % of income spent on paying interest on your mortgage.

Re:BS (1)

dbc (135354) | about 6 months ago | (#46762665)

Well, except that it is very, very hard to start buying real estate in the Bay Area on a junior engineer's salary. In my area, I would not want to live in most of the neighborhoods where you can get something for $800K. Your well-founded admonitions don't align with most peoples' reality.

Re:BS (2)

Q-Hack! (37846) | about 6 months ago | (#46763041)

If you can't afford to live in the Bay Area, then don't. You can always find a good place much cheaper if you just expand your scope a bit. So you may have to add 45 minutes to your commute everyday. The idea is to build your wealth over time and not demand instant gratification.

Re:BS (1)

JDAustin (468180) | about 6 months ago | (#46763133)

Then move to the east bay. You can find decent family housing with good schools in Castro Valley for under 600k.

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762819)

To you actually know that the capitalism in, well, capitalism actually means?

Yeah, its where landowners fight for laws to stop an investor from buying a house, tearing it down and building an apartment complex to make 10 times the profit of selling or renting one house, because it would make their property value go down.

Who is really to blame... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762597)

It's Johnny Wurster kid and his damned dad.
And the soil is all screwed up too.

Ok, who got the reference?

Re:Who is really to blame... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762705)

Goddamned burrow owls.

When will they gentrify the Tenderloin? (4, Interesting)

vancedecker (1336829) | about 6 months ago | (#46762629)

Why would they even bother with the Mission, when the Tenderloin has been a complete hole, even worse than Mission for years? It's a mystery how that area even exists. Clearly those tenants aren't paying any high rents.

Without reading TFA, but living in the area... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762633)

I'm going to go with 1. Limited resources. There just isn't enough space and more importantly WATER in the area. The water problem isn't just in a drought year like now. It's an on-going concern. 2. Regulations are off the chart. I heard it's $500k just for the paperwork to build in some of these areas. 3. Huge demand, duh. Tech and finance have high salaries, everybody wants to live near work, everybody knows these guys have money so they charge accordingly. Compare and contrast with Oakland and the East Bay in general. You're taking a "million dollar ride" across the bridge or through the tube. Yep, you spend a lot of time commuting but you've got to do what you've got to do. 4. Prop 13. Since there are some limits on taxes, the market accounts for that and charges higher prices accordingly. That explains the whole state being expensive. Since most people must finance their purchase, what was once paid out in taxes is now paid out to bankers in the form of interest. The bankers don't use it to build schools. Some people blame illegal immigrants for poor schools; but the decline began with prop 13, and it's not like there were no illegals before it.

Re:Without reading TFA, but living in the area... (0)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 6 months ago | (#46763277)

There just isn't enough space and more importantly WATER in the area.

We're never going to actually run out of water. Water may very well become very EXPENSIVE, but if we really need to, we obviously can desalinate the oceans.

BTW, the vast vast majority of water is used for crops, and CA farmers have been switching to more thirsty crops over the decades. In an article I read over the weekend that was in the SJ Mercury (but it was from I think a week or two ago, yes I read old papers), an almond takes a gallon of water to grow, a walnut takes 5 gallons.

everybody wants to live near work

Actually, not true, and that's exactly what this article is about. It's about people living in SF, and commuting to Silicon Valley. Jeez, I'm only a couple of miles from work, and I wish I were closer.

Simple problem, simple solution (5, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about 6 months ago | (#46762635)

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

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

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

We are still building like crazy! (1)

vancedecker (1336829) | about 6 months ago | (#46762725)

Aircraft Carriers, Drones, Tanks, Magnetic Rail Guns, Mile Long NSA Data Centers...

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (-1, Flamebait)

roman_mir (125474) | about 6 months ago | (#46762747)

Up until the 1970s we could build like craz

... ask yourself a question, why is it that everything in USA was done "up until the 1970s" and then all of a sudden there was a gigantic decline (from building, to meaningful manufacturing jobs, to wage disparity, to ability to afford anything, etc.etc.etc.)?

So what is it that happened in the 70s that changed the USA economy so much? 1971 - Nixon defaults on the gold US dollar. The reason? Inflation that was caused by the Fed, all the massive government that could never be paid for with any amount of taxes (never mind the insane tax rates before that time).

It's the government, my dear, USA government has destroyed USA economy.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762885)

Preach it brotha! We NEED to get back on the gold standard...that's fix damn near everything.

Oh, and one more thing: RON PAUL 2012!!!!

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (3, Informative)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 6 months ago | (#46763191)

For public works projects, it was the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970. That is where the requirement of environmental impact statements and permitting came from.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (4, Informative)

Ichijo (607641) | about 6 months ago | (#46762835)

The only way to fix the Bay Area housing crisis is to build more fucking housing.

This map [imgur.com] (which shows the allowed building heights in San Francisco, where yellow is 4 stories. And Mountain View has forbidden Google from building more housing [mv-voice.com] .

So as you can see, developers won't build more housing because they aren't being allowed to.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (0, Flamebait)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 6 months ago | (#46762929)

no, #google# was blocked from building a housing development. They wanted to build 1000 dorm rooms on the edge of campus. Anybody can still build in mountain view or wherever.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46763027)

This map [imgur.com] (which shows the allowed building heights in San Francisco, where yellow is 4 stories.

I can understand that. San Francisco traffic is bad enough already, imagine if it had a million more people, with a lot of them wanting to drive.

Increasing the building height limit without improving the roads would be a gigantic mess. You can't just raise the limit without planning for how the people will get around. And people in San Francisco don't really want to make it easier to move there.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763135)

Google needs to find a way to move large numbers of people around, something to get the most of of the existing infrastructure.

Oh! Google should get some buses! That'd make the people of San Fransisco happy!

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (3, Insightful)

Ichijo (607641) | about 6 months ago | (#46763219)

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

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

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46763249)

That's a good point

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 months ago | (#46763331)

So instead of walking across their own parking lot Google has to bus them in from the surrounding community. This is the solution to the traffic problem?

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (4, Interesting)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 6 months ago | (#46762901)

This doesn't even need to mean high-rises; European cities manage population densities far higher than U.S. cities with buildings that are mostly 5 stories or less.

I live in Europe and you might find our way of managing population density a bit, well, shall we say unamerican?

In Amsterdam, the local municipality decides how much rent you're allowed to charge in flats. It goes by a points system. Say a shower will be one point, while a bathtub will be 5. Add up all the points and you determine whether you are in a luxury (free market) apartment or social housing.

If you're luxury housing, you can charge whatever the market will bear, up to a point based on the luxury apartment formula.

If you're social housing, only social housing tenants may live in the apartment. Social housing rents are subsidized and they are VERY low. Like say $400 for an apartment in city center. The social housing buildings are owned by non-profits whose sole purpose is to provide social housing.

Now you might think this is similar to the US, but here's where it gets a little different than the US (and a bit unamerican).

Social housing income thresholds are very high, something like the equivalent of $100k a year in the US. Yup, that's right, social housing is designed not just for the poor but the middle class. You might miss having a bathtub, but you won't mind when you live in the city center and don't have to pay ridiculous rent. Of course, to get in social housing you'll need to apply and wait a few years for a vacancy to open up. You can apply once you're 18, I suggest doing as the dutch do, applying once you go off to University. Then, by the time you look for a job, you'll already have a slot. Or you might find an emergency. For instance, if you were just divorced and living in your ex's house maybe you have a reason for priority.

Of course maybe you don't want to pick the city you live in when you're in college, or you made a bad choice. You still have options. "Luxury" apartment rents are capped based on a certain formula. You can get a much higher rent from a luxury apartment, but you'll never be able to charge above a certain rate. So even though you might pay a lot of rent, you won't pay as much as in America. (My 2 bedroom "luxury apartment" rent in Amsterdam, walking distance to city center, is less than the rent on my 1 bedroom apartment was when I lived in Boston -- and I could only afford to live in a suburb, Malden, almost at the end of the orange line).

And, if you were smart and applied when you were 18, you may be able to rent out your "social housing" apartment, and rent a new apartment in your new city with the money. It's technically illegal, but as any economist will tell you, when you apply artificial constraints to supply or price a booming black market is sure to follow.

And "Living Fraud" is a big crime here and there's actually police who check to see if you're following the laws.

Additionally, because of the artificial constraints on rent you can forget about property values reflecting what you could get without these controls. After all, who will pay $1 million for an apartment when you can rent an apartment for $400 a month?

Still want to import European housing policies to the good old USA? The good news is you won't need to hire new police officers you can just maybe reassign DEA agents when you get a more sensible drug policy.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (2)

Rinikusu (28164) | about 6 months ago | (#46763033)

Los Angelean here: I make pretty good money as a software engineer and I have a shower and 350 beautiful square feet. I don't pay a huge amount, comparatively speaking, but that's because I'd rather spend my money servicing my student loans and other debts and making sure my retirement is being taken care of. The "luxury" apartments don't appeal to me all that much.. I mean, they're nice, but not worth spending half or greater my income on it (I mean, what's the point of making a lot of money if you're just spending it right back out on a fucking apartment?) and I certainly don't want roomates to bring the cost down. If I could find a place to buy for around the same that I pay in rent, I'd definitely consider it.

I've looked at moving up to SFO for the tech industry. My friends are making extremely nice paychecks up there, but all of them bemoan the fact that even with those generous paychecks, housing eats up a huge amount of it, especially if you've got kids and the like. So, if you have to make $200k to live like you make $150k in Los Angeles, to live like you make $100k in, I dunno, Denver, it's a very hard decision. The benefit of SFO is that if you become unemployed in the tech industry, currently you don't have to wait very long to get another job. Los Angeles tech is a little different, and living in Denver, I'm sure the employment opportunities are even more limited.

Hey Google X: Why don't you work on building the Google House: Affordable housing for middle class people? Update Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Automatic with modern building techniques and modern building codes (steel and concrete are still cheap, add some SIPS and maybe ICFs for modern versions), make the whole house "network aware", put a Tesla Charger in the carport, and subsidize the cost of building or buying and just collect the data. I'm sure people would love it. Build a whole subdivision of those in Mountain View with a Google Apartment Complex done the same way, open it up to more than just Google employees, and maybe you'll find it easier to get approval?

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 6 months ago | (#46763121)

This is a similar reason why I would never live in NYC (and think twice about Boston). Housing just costs too damned much. And worse, if housing costs a lot all the other living expenses cost more. Groceries charge more because they pay higher rent, ditto for any other basic needs..

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 6 months ago | (#46763243)

Hey Google X: Why don't you work on building the Google House: Affordable housing for middle class people? Update Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Automatic with modern building techniques and modern building codes (steel and concrete are still cheap, add some SIPS and maybe ICFs for modern versions), make the whole house "network aware", put a Tesla Charger in the carport, and subsidize the cost of building or buying and just collect the data. I'm sure people would love it. Build a whole subdivision of those in Mountain View with a Google Apartment Complex done the same way, open it up to more than just Google employees, and maybe you'll find it easier to get approval?

It's not the cost of the building that's the problem, it's the cost of land. The same houses that get built and sold in Mountain View are built by the same builder in Tracy and sold for less than half the price.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46763051)

That's cool, but the problem in SF is that there's just not enough housing. We can set price controls, but there will still be the problem of not enough housing.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

grmoc (57943) | about 6 months ago | (#46763213)

Price controls don't do anything to increase the amount of available housing. It just means that people cannot find housing at all, and that the buildings aren't updated.
Eliminating Prop 13, and making the market more liquid and reasonable would help a bit..

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763113)

"Still want to import European housing policies to the good old USA? The good news is you won't need to hire new police officers you can just maybe reassign DEA agents when you get a more sensible drug policy."

Ha, that's how we know you're joking!

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

hackingbear (988354) | about 6 months ago | (#46762991)

NIMBY is an unavoidable phenomena in advanced economy. With enforcement of environment protection laws, you can be sure of hazard over development and pollution, like in China for up to now. Then once it became a significant problem, people would rise up and complaint and started creating/enforcing environment laws -- China is now at this stage. Then once there are sufficient laws, some people will then start abusing the laws to protect their own interest, thus NIMBY -- even China now has had quite many large scale protests against building chemical factories in their neighborhoods.

Can people stay the middle way and be rational? No, and will never. The two extremes will have to fight and the pendulum will swing back and forth. That's why the Yin-Yang symbol is not gray colored but spinning black and white. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about. People will fight their way to balance in the long term.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | about 6 months ago | (#46763063)

High densities in Europe are reached by going quite a bit higher than the 4 stories you are allowed to go in most of San Francisco. Most of Madrid, for instance, goes to 10-15. 5 story areas are extremely expensive old buildings where any condo goes for well over a million dollars.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763071)

I agree, but a small devil's advocate: "urban renewal" programs which replaced houses with hirise apartments often resulted in vertical ghettos. My city saw this coming and put in a 3 story limitation on residential buildings, and very, very few exceptions were granted. The result? The poor live intermingled with the middle class, and even the worst neighborhoods are safe to walk through during the daytime.

That said, it has caused a problem: even luxury apartments can't build tall, and there is demand for people wanting views above the treeline. One creative company got around it by building a 3 "story" apartment building in which the apartments are split-level. While some space is wasted by each apartment having its own stairs, it got the job done. Perhaps there are creative ways SF apartment builders can get around some of their regulations...

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763119)

Oh, for fuck's sake, why should there be more construction IMBY? What need is filled by putting new buildings there? Are you going to compensate me for the externality that results from your bullheaded desire to build there as opposed to somewhere where there is less impact?

If the Bay Area is saturated with people (which it pretty much is), then tech companies should do business somewhere else. That way no gigantic skyscrapers have to be built, no neighborhoods have to be wrecked, and no endangered species have to be wiped out.

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763215)

get a real job, buy proper housing, if you can't afford it move to a place you can afford. Just because you exist does not mean you get the million dollar view. loser

Re:Simple problem, simple solution (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 6 months ago | (#46763321)

How about locate your fucking company somewhere other than San Francisco? Somewhere that has room to build more houses/apartments/condos and doesn't require a 3 hour commute to work. You know, there are other places. Even in California. Some of them even aren't on a major fault line too! Google's supposed to have so many smart people working there. Why can't they figure out a no brainer solution like this?

Set up shop in Morgan Hill or Gilroy (1)

CQDX (2720013) | about 6 months ago | (#46762661)

Many tech workers with kids and who want a house live down there where it's cheaper. Set up office down there (too) and hire the 30+ set. It will take some of the pressure off of their Mountain View facilities. And it was dumb to expand into SF. It was ridiculously expensive already and very hostile to big business, even ones that are liberal and cool.

Gentrification is shorthand for fuck the poor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762675)

Housing prices are just the most visible sign of the open contempt displayed in San Francisco for people not earning a six figure combined income.

San Francisco is just an extreme example... (0, Flamebait)

Nova Express (100383) | about 6 months ago | (#46762691)

...of California's high tax, high cost, high regulation, anti-growth, and radical environmental environment [battleswarmblog.com] . It's a great place to live if you're rich, and virtually impossible to live if you're middle class or poor.

Critics have been noting these problems for at least two decades, and California becoming a single-party Democratic state with outsized input from public employee unions has only accelerated the trend...

Re:San Francisco is just an extreme example... (3, Insightful)

zieroh (307208) | about 6 months ago | (#46762727)

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

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

Re:San Francisco is just an extreme example... (1, Interesting)

JDAustin (468180) | about 6 months ago | (#46763177)

California is only gaining population due to immigration from outside the US. You need to figure that those immigrants are lower educated, lower income people who are a net-drain on the system (for the first generation, not for the second+).

Re:San Francisco is just an extreme example... (3, Insightful)

melchoir55 (218842) | about 6 months ago | (#46763273)

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

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

The real deal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762751)

If those San Francisco residents who are "entrenched" had to pay for their taxes like new residents do, they would be paying 1.25% per year property taxes on the current value rather than the basis of when they bought the property.

Since this is a socialist vs capitalist issue, those avowed socialists would have to pay several times as much tax per year for the same property they have had for many years. That would go directly to schools and Medical (medicare).

If we should "tax the rich" why should we exclude the property rich! Be consistent you socialists and communists and traditionalists all voting Democratic. With all its associated deomogogary.

This is a capitalist vs. socialist issue.

The problem is the socialists are being funded by the state and the capitalists to do their work.

It is the front lines of anarchy.

JJ

Re:The real deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763111)

... those avowed socialists would have to pay several times as much tax per year for the same property they have had for many years. That would go directly to schools and Medical (medicare).

Property taxes DO NOT go to Medicare, you moron.

There is nothing special about San Francisco (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762839)

All of this nonsense is completely unnecessary. Ideas can live anywhere. Why people affix ideas to physical places is beyond me.

Another example. Manhattan. It's like a clown car for idiots.

It's simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762871)

The "problem": The law of supply and demand.
The solution: Moving to cheaper areas and the reduction of regulation restricting building areas and types.

SF can never go back to being a smaller, cheaper city, baring a nuclear accident. It's best to account for reality when making your decisions.

tl;dr; government failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762881)

captcha: pelosi

It's not technology's problem, rather a wealth prb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762893)

There's only so much land, but population is always increasing.

"Investing" in real estate is going to bring a return eventually.

When a few people get more and more money, it shouldn't affect anyone else, but it does when they buy up all the land.

The guy who said "Rent is too damn high!" isn't joking. You can have a minimum wage job in the USA and barely be able to afford rent. Yes you can work 40 hours a week and not even be able to afford to buy property!

This is because the insanely wealthy "invest" in real estate and buy up all the land so what is left goes up in price due to an artificial scarcity.

This is just standard economics of supply/demand this is nothing fancy. It isn't talked about a lot.

When people with incredible amounts of money are allowed to buy up more land than one person can feasibly use, it is wrong, but baring huge fines, there's nothing we can do about it.



People certainly shouldn't be raging against the tech giants. Those guys are earning money creating new things. Don't be jealous because some of us can afford to live a middle class life in this new economy. The people who are the problem are the ultra rich behind the scenes that own hundreds of thousands of acres and they're not doing anything with it

Google's mistake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762903)

Okay I get it, Silicon Valley is so "hip". Serioulsy Google has to ask itself why stay? It makes virtually no sense to continue a battle in which a company has to bend over backwards just to operate. If Google didn't have the billions in the bank, would they really be in SF or even Mt View? No, they would have left like others that made the exodus out of California to save the OPEX. It really doesn't make sense for Google to continue to expand in SF or Mt View. They should just leave the state and move to more friendly locations in which this is not a problem. Hubris will down this company.

Gentrification? (4, Interesting)

jgotts (2785) | about 6 months ago | (#46762915)

This isn't gentrification. This is super rich people pushing out very rich people, as compared to everybody else in the country.

If you're paying more than $1,500/month rent to live in a one bedroom apartment anywhere in the US, you're very rich. If you're paying $2,500/month to live in a one bedroom apartment anywhere in the US, you're super rich. The last time any poor people lived in San Francisco was the 1960's.

The rest of the US population not living in San Francisco doesn't have very much sympathy for you, except maybe the unfortunate souls living in Boston or New York.

I use the terms very rich and super rich, but feel free to substitute "less affluent upper middle class" and "more affluent upper middle class," if it makes you feel any better.

Re:Gentrification? (2)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 6 months ago | (#46763315)

The rental market is a bit distorted is many areas at the moment due to people not being able to get a mortgage (still). Locally I have seen rents in the $1200-1500 range for a one bedroom here in Northern NJ, no wheres near NYC or a commuter rail line (those go in the $2000 range). That is quite high for this area considering there is no shortage of housing. Looking at the pricing of two-three bedrooms, you might as well buy a house as the mortgage payment will be lower or about the same each month.

Re:Gentrification? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763335)

If you pay half your take-home salary for that rent, no, it makes you neither very rich nor super rich. It might make you a moron, but that's a different discussion.

FRNIST PSOT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762933)

escape th@em By [goat.cx]

As long as the Republicans... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762941)

continue to shove gentrification down our throats, we're never going to have cheaper housing. New housing is more expensive which is why the Democrats are fighting the good fight against allowing new development. That is the only way to keep rents cheaper. I'm looking for a new place, and everywhere new I've looked in the past seven years has been more expensive. That in turn drives up my rent. That is why stopping development should be the city's number one priority when fighting to keep rents low.

Re:As long as the Republicans... (3, Insightful)

Q-Hack! (37846) | about 6 months ago | (#46763115)

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

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

I've solved the SF Housing "Crisis" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46762945)

Nuke it from high orbit, it's the only way to be sure.
In other news, SF still doesn't amount to a small zit on the ass of the wold.

Higher population - more demand for housing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763013)

Another cause of housing pressure is the increase in the US population. Here [google.com] is a chart showing the growth of our population.

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] says, "Compared to other Western countries, in 2011, U.S. fertility rate was lower than that of France (2.02) and the United Kingdom (1.97).[9] However, U.S. population growth is among the highest in industrialized countries,[10] because the differences in fertility rates are less than the differences in immigration levels, which are higher in the U.S."

And a lot of immigrants (entire families, not just the workers) move to the Silicon Valley, because they get jobs there.

blue on blue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763125)

one group of fucking idtiot libtards versus another. so what?

Explain to me why the city can't just be full? (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about 6 months ago | (#46763149)

I know absolutely nothing about these things; so I'm actually asking here. Why does the city, I'm not saying every city, but I am saying any city, need to support infinite growth? There's water, there're hills, maybe that's as many people as can fit. Period. You're welcome to live anywhere you like where there's room. I'm sorry, there's no more room here at the inn. Find another.

I've zero interest in my city becoming a huge metropolitan core. I left the one that I was in to find fresh air, less traffic, country driving roads, and farm fresh food. I don't want another 5 million people to move into my city. Quite frankly, if they do, I'll leave, but that's a different issue.

Re:Explain to me why the city can't just be full? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763283)

Because that methodology does not grow the tax base fast enough to pay for the ever expanding fat pet projects.

crisis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763153)

I guess it's a crisis. For some value of crisis.

As a homeowner in SF, it's no crisis for me. As a lazy homeowner in SF, I didn't bother to read TFA. So my unanswered questions, which perhaps were covered in the article are:

We do know that the Googlers are a small proportion of the current tech boom, yes? So the fact that 'Google has been prevented from moving people into MountainView' is just one small data point on the current landscape. It doesn't explain all that much.

Last I checked, Google/Facefuck/Linked-inn/etc are located on average 38 miles South of SF. There are about 12 municipalities in between. So if Googlers are somehow 'prevented' from living in Mountain View, and balk at SF rents, may I suggest San Mateo? Colma? Hint: if it were me struggling away at a low 6 figures at Google, I would live affordably in the hidden gem called Pacifica, and I'd be able to afford a friggin Tesla to screech into the parking lot just as all my coworkers were exiting their sad white bus. Like a boss.

All right, gotta go get back to counting my rent checks and checking my hoodie for when I go out glasshole-bashing on Valencia later.

Bah. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763201)

Why do these people who live there and never upgraded their skills expect to be able to afford the city? If your brain poor and you can't afford it , you must move. That is free enterprise, you have no right to live on a million dollar street just because you exist. That is BS

You are an artist , well are people buying your stuff to afford to live there? No, tough move to a trailer park that over looks a junk yard, that is real life.

Stop crying and shut it.

Time for some new housing ideas! (1)

supremebob (574732) | about 6 months ago | (#46763221)

Instead of building a giant floating barge as a sales tool, perhaps Google should have think about building a giant floating apartment buildings out in the Pacific for their employees.

The cost per square foot would probably be lower for their employees than a San Francisco apartment, and they wouldn't have to put up with San Francisco's ridiculous tax laws and building regulations. Besides, the commute to Mountain View by boat would beat taking a bus on the 101!

If I were to start a tech company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763239)

If I were to start a tech company, it wouldn't be in SF area.

Why there?

I'd put it in Metro Atlanta or even a fly-over state.

And as far as getting talent, well, that's not an issue. See, since I'd be doing something actually new and innovative, no one would have the experience or qualifications - obviously.

First, I'd hire an old fart who's seen quite a bit and who can lead and handle the same old shit you see on every project. Specific technical knowledge is beneath his responsibilities. He's a big picture guy and a mentor.

Then, a bunch of young kids who are "passionate" (read dumb enough to work their asses off).

And if by chance I need someone with a specific skill set, I'd make it worth his while to come out to Buttfuck, USA where I am - and let his/her former employer whine about not being able to get "qualified" people. And nobody would be dealing with this housing horseshit out there.

In WWII there was a guy named Henry Kaiser who solved his problem when there was a shortage of able bodied men. HE solved the problem: the losers whined and complained.

The bitches in San Fransisco should learn from real entrepreneurs.

The bay area is a big area (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46763301)

Just send them to Stockton, that will solve the housing issue.

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