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Saturday, June 19, 2021

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UncategorizedOh great. Now the housing crisis can't be solved....

Oh great. Now the housing crisis can’t be solved. And the tech folks are afraid to talk in public

Until the evictions stop, protests on the streets will continue
Until the evictions stop, protests on the streets will continue

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 – You know the housing crisis in San Francisco has gone from insane to absurd when the City Planning Department gets in trouble for posting a video saying we need more housing – and the Atlantic suggests that maybe there’s no solution at all.

Then a reporter from TechChrunch holds a meeting to try to get tech people and housing activists to talk – but decides it has to be private so that it won’t blow up.

And sometimes I just want to pound my head against the wall and say: What is the matter with everyone? Are so many people so blinded by free-market ideology and a lack of historical understanding that they think this is (a) the result of Nimbys and rent control and (b) can’t be solved?

Does anyone really think the activists will give up shouting and protesting and meet for a polite chat while thousands are being thrown out on the streets — and the tech world is doing nothing to help?

I will take a deep breath and try to sort this out.

You want historical perspective on why we are in this mess, please take just 20 minutes to watch this video and this video.

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Put simply: It wasn’t the SF left, or the anti-growth activists, who created this crisis. It was developers, and city officials listening to them, who pretty much ignored the concept of real city planning – who decided that the market should decide what was built.

When the market – or, that is, the international investors who put money into big-city real estate — wanted office buildings, not housing, office buildings got approved. When the rest of us said: You have to build housing, too, we were told that the money wasn’t there. It was going into offices, where the return on investment was higher.

Could the city have said: No, if you build offices and attract new workers, you have to build housing for them? Of course; that’s what city planning and zoning is about.

But no: A generation of mayors and planning commissions refused to do that.

Now, the market says the money is in very-high-end housing. So those who think the market should define city planning say: Okay, maybe if we build enough of that prices will come down.

Never worked before, won’t work now.

In a small city under immense pressure, the market can’t be the defining factor. Actual planning – which means setting policies determining what the city needs, then zoning for those and only those needs – is the only thing that works.

In other words, a city like this needs to have a very public discussion around what we want to become. Nobody ever voted to create a tech headquarters city in Soma; that happened because venture capital people in Silicon Valley wanted the companies they financed nearby, and the tech workers wanted to live here.

In some ways, they had no choice: If you work at Apple, you pretty much can’t live in Cupertino because they build no housing at all. Same for Mountain View and these other Peninsula cities.

And now the tech world needs housing in San Francisco – because the workers want to be near their offices and the companies want to be able to expand very rapidly. But instead of saying that we just need to build all the new housing that the tech world needs right now, we might want to stop and say: Why are we doing this? Who’s going to pay for it? Is there a limit to how many tech companies the city can handle? Is it wrong to even ask that question?

What cities can do

We have every right as a city to say that no new tech office space can be built unless and until the developers (and by pricing, their tenants) agree that first they will pay to build the housing and transit capacity needed for the workforce. We can say that all new housing has to meet the needs of the existing workforce.  We can say that some land can only be used for light industry and can never be turned into office space – which means that the property values of those sites will remain low enough that blue-collar businesses can afford the rent.

Is that a transfer of wealth from land and building owners who could get rich by selling out to office developers to local businesses that employ people at decent jobs without advanced degrees? Yes. Is that legitimate, legal city planning policy? Yes.

I had a long conversation with Kim-Mai Cutler, the TechCrunch reporter, this morning. She’s spent a lot of time reading and thinking about urban planning and housing, and it was fun to chat with her. She told me that the story in Re/Code wasn’t quite right – the event she held wasn’t a TechCrunch event, it was just her, as a reporter, trying to get people to come together and talk.

And, she said, because of all the anger and vitriol in the city, she was afraid that if it was public and reporters came, tech folks would be afraid to ask questions or make statements that might be reported out of context.

She and I have a different view of how housing policy should operate; she really believes that we need to build a huge amount of new housing, more than the mayor’s 30,000 units, to make room for the exploding workforce of the tech hub, and she thinks that eventually prices will come down. I think the demand is so insatiable, and the out-of-town investment money so big, that we’ll end up building 50,000 pied a terres and second homes that will do very little to bring prices down to the level where a middle-class worker in one of the city’s biggest industries (government, health care, or hospitality) will be able to afford the rent.

I’ve been arguing that this is a case where the market has failed, and will fail – the market build too much office space in the 1980s, until we slowed it down with Prop. M, and the market is destroying PDR space in the city, and isn’t solving the housing problem. The only workable solutions involve full-scale government regulation and intervention.

It’s tough in a city where it costs as much as $500,000 to build a single unit; it’s worse when investors demand the kind of return that will only happen if that unit sells for $1 million or more.

Of course, if the city used public land, or demanded land as part of any deal to build offices, and then used only nonprofits to build housing, the price would drop below $500K. With even modest subsidies, you could build middle-class housing. And there would be no need to satisfy greedy investors who want those high returns.

(By the way, Cutler did agree with me that the young tech workers aren’t going to move into highrise condos downtown. That’s boring; they want to live in the Mission or the Haight or Noe Valley. The big Google bus stops aren’t in front of the Millenium Towers.  And that will be the case no matter how many highrise condos we build. Problem is, there are already people living in the Mission.)

But here’s the larger question about Cutler’s meeting, and an earlier effort by David Campos to get people talking.

It’s never going to happen as long as the epidemic of evictions continues.

What tech can do to help

There are plenty of good people who work for tech companies. Many of them want to be good neighbors, make San Francisco their home and make it a better city. Many of them don’t want to be evil. Many of them worry that the hip cultural community they moving into is being destroyed.

But so far, the folks with the money aren’t helping any local efforts to stop the evictions, which are tearing communities apart. I didn’t see a single tech company or wealthy tech worker put a penny into supporting Prop. G, the anti-speculation tax. With a fraction of the money Mark Zuckerberg is spending on all his Noe Valley property, Prop. G would have won.

I didn’t  see any tech leaders testifying for, or supporting, the Campos legislation increasing buyouts for Ellis evictions. The tech-darling mayor wouldn’t even sign the bill; it became law without his signature.

The anger against tech companies comes from the palpable fear that every tenant and every low-income person on the East Side of town feels every day. Mark Benioff seems to realize that; he actually spoke out against the evictions. But he hasn’t done anything to help.

If we can stabilize the existing vulnerable populations and make sure that people who already live here aren’t forced out for new higher-paid workers, then everyone will calm down and we can talk about long-term housing policy. Until then, the war on the streets is going to continue. It just is.


So let’s talk about rent control.

Like zoning policy – and so much else of what cities can do today – rent control as it exists in San Francisco is something of a blunt instrument. It’s far from perfect: People who have lived in an apartment for a long time get a break, but people who just moved here don’t. If the state would allow us to impose real rent control – that is, to maintain the set price even after a tenant moves out – then some of the unfairness would go away. Alas, the state won’t allow that.

Yes: There are tenants who are relatively wealthy who don’t need rent control but still get it. Yes: There are landlords who are less-wealthy who have to accept that burden.

But public policy at the city level is often imperfect – again, the state and federal government won’t allow us to do the things (like a local income tax, a local tax on corporate profits, commercial rent control, and the seizure of vacant property for housing) that would make some of these blunt instruments less necessary.

So we do what we can. Overall, landlords in San Francisco are more wealthy than tenants. Not every single one; there are always exceptions. But overall, that’s a fair rule.

Overall, rent control does something else: It favors people who have been here a long time over people who just got here. And I would like to suggests that that’s just fine.

I know it’s a crazy, radical idea, but at a certain point, in a crisis like this one, you have to give some value to seniority. Unions do it all the time; in fact, seniority is one of the most fundamental tenants of most labor contracts. You’ve been on the job for 20 years, you have more rights than someone who started last week.

And I would say: If you’ve been in San Francisco for 20 years, and helped create and build this community, you have a right to stay here that trumps the right of someone with more money to move in.

The fundamental issue for tech workers – and the politicians who have promoted tech jobs without thinking about housing needs – is this:

You are moving into an existing community. You don’t have the right to force anyone who lives there already to move out.

That means, if you are a decent human being, you will accept that you might not be able to get a sweet flat in the Mission right now. You might have to live in Oakland or Richmond or somewhere else until a place in the city opens up – not by forced eviction but by someone deciding on his or her own to leave, or because the city has built new housing that you can live in. Maybe not in the Mission or Noe Valley, but that’s life. It’s what everyone else in the city has to deal with.

I know the companies want happy workers who want to live in SF near work or a Google bus line, but it’s not fair that a hotel worker – who also has a right to be happy and live near work — has to move to Stockton because someone new with more money came along. And there’s no free luxury bus to take her to work.

Again: This is not about demonizing tech workers. It’s about saying to that industry, which has come to dominate city politics: You have to help this community survive, which means helping control displacement. Right here, right now.

Even if building 30,000 housing units (or however many) would bring prices down, it’s not going to happen overnight. Even if we eliminated CEQA and fast-tracked everything, it would take years to build that much.

Meanwhile, every day another family, another senior, another community member is being forced out. And everyone who cares about this city has to join in that fight.

Here’s an idea for nice meeting: How about Ron Conway and Mark Benioff and all the folks who want to be good tech citizens sit down with the housing activists for a meeting that has one agenda item: How to raise $5 million for a comprehensive housing ballot measure for November that has as its start the use of every possible local policy tool to slow down or halt speculation and evictions. I can think of a lot of activists who would happy to be there.

Because in this dispalcement crisis, doing nothing IS evil.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. perhaps you took my home; I lived in the Mission for 32 years and greed forced me out of the City; it’s completely evident that Sam just thinks this is great!

  2. What about the poor people being displaced by people from SF moving to Oakland? You would need to protest yourselves!

  3. Amen to that. Here’s at least one homeowner who thinks that’s wrong and will always support building more housing.

  4. Nope, prices aren’t high because of rent control. Units are scarce because of rent control. Very, very different but related concepts.

    Just think about it if you had a lemonade stand.

    If it costs you 10 cents to make a cup and the retail price of lemonade is 15 cents, you might get out of bed to make lemonade.

    But if the city all of a sudden says you can only charge 12 cents for lemonade (it still costs 10 cents), you might not get out of bed (less lemonade on the market, but it’s only 12 cents a cup for the consumer).

    And if the city says you can only charge 8 cents for lemonade, then no one makes lemonade and everyone goes thirsty.

  5. ” Of the 72% rental units covered by rent control, I haven’t found a data source that would reveal how many have been rented at market rate in the last 2-3 years. In my mostly rent-controlled neighborhood, I see many new neighbors.”

    One source might be the ACS. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?fpt=table
    Its table # S2502 DEMOGRAPHIC CHARACTERISTICS FOR OCCUPIED HOUSING UNITS says that renters moved in 2010-13 = 48%, which I believe is much higher than 10 yrs ago, when 10% turnover per yr was more likely.

    However, there is no quick way to determine whether RC units are less of more prone to that turnover. By its nature, it would suggest that RC units experience less turnover, for obvious reasons.

    I have seen many new neighbors, and quite a few vacancies, with 3 construction projects on my block in the past yr.

    To suggest that RC has NO effect on rent prices does not seem logical. RC tightens supply, which can only push prices up. However, I’ve also failed to find significant, explainable differences btw, say Excelsior & northern Daly City rental asks; which are geographically similar with similar accommodations. Rents can only be set at what the market will bear. However, thats not to say that adjacent jurisdictions prices DON’T benefit from restrictive policies across the line. From my examination, prices further south in DC (for rentals, of which there aren’t many) do appear lower. However, there could be other factors affecting that lower price (distance, ambience, amenities, services).

    As for vacancies, SF has an 8% vacancy rate (despite a rental “vacancy” rate of … 1.5%?). Boston, similarly sized to SF – and where RC was banned – has a similar rate. As did another non-RC (but smaller) city I looked at. However, Manhattan has a 14% vacancy rate. Striking, since rents are even higher than SF – AND small props are NOT rent controlled-stabilized! But, I’d also want to know more about those markets. Shallow stats don’t tell a real story.

    Suffice to say, if small props here weren’t ‘regulated’, I know of two more units that’d be on the market. So there’s that.

  6. That doesn’t fit nicely with the SF progressive narrative, though. Complaining about foreigners makes them feel too much like teabaggers.

  7. People think tech workers are to blame for much of the real estate price increases, but as a real estate professional I can tell you that foreign cash is MUCH larger influence in all of the less trendy neighborhoods.

  8. 72% and falling. Here is the breakdown:

    237,000 total rental units

    171,609 covered by rent control (occupied or vacant) – 72%
    30,006 otherwise subsidized (but not rent controlled) – 13%
    35,385 free market – 15%

    I do not know where the 50,000+ housing units (Curbed SF) that are being/may be built will affect this as many are condos.

    Of the 72% rental units covered by rent control, I haven’t found a data source that would reveal how many have been rented at market rate in the last 2-3 years. In my mostly rent-controlled neighborhood, I see many new neighbors.



  9. True. But the first sentence in his post “Developers don’t want to build housing in SF because of SF’s radical rent control and the underlying root cause which is class envy. ” is bunk.

    If we are to believe that rents are high because of rent control (and I don’t believe it), developers would have an incentive to build here to get top dollar on their rental units.

  10. Pete, there is a provision in the state’s Costa-Hawkins Act that says that a unit that was formerly not under rent control can never be brought under rent control.

    That means that it is a one-way street. A unit can lose rent control (if, say, it becomes a condo, become run by a non-profit, or is substantially re-habbed).but a unit can never gain rent control.

    However that doesn’t exactly apply to newly-built units. So if SF removed the post-1979 construction exemption, then everything built since 1979 would still not be under rent control but new homes built after the change to the law could be rent-controlled.

    At least that is how I understand it.

    Plus the special provisions made for projects like Trinity Plaza and Park Merced, as you note.

    Of course, if Costa-Hawkins was repealed, then all bets would be off.

  11. They say that. But notice they never spell out that if rent control were to somehow be applied at a later date, that that promise would still be kept?

    And anyway, not true. Trinity Plaza has 360 new rent controlled units – part of a deal that allowed the owner to build 400 extra, yes, but they are new units and they are rent controlled.

    CA is a blue state. Do they have rent control in any Red states? I would continue to be cautious in CA for … forever, actually.

  12. “Developers don’t want to build housing in SF because of SF’s radical rent control and the underlying root cause which is class envy.”

    No building built after June 13, 1979 is covered by rent-control. None.

  13. Developers don’t want to build housing in SF because of SF’s radical rent control and the underlying root cause which is class envy. The 2 most radical rent control municipalities in SoCal (Santa Monica and W. Hollywood) have the same problem. The guy paying $400 for a 2 br because he won’t move who essentially is removing supply from the equilibrium market price is making the newbies pay $3,000. The anger in the street results when the owner of the building full of $400 tenants sells it to a developer who wants to knock it siren for obvious economic reasons. The anger in the streets will result in more radical rent control to come, hence the developer who is looking to make a profit is not in his right mind going to build housing for the local government to expropriate.
    I don’t think it solves the problem to label all real estate developers greedy in attempting to frame the solution, that just sounds like class warfare, and the radical rent control folks who enacted their failed policies used the exact same argument about apartment owners, i.e. they are greedy so the government should take from them and give it to the perceived poor. The commonality between SF and the Santa Monica / W. Hollywood SoCal housing markets are: 1) radical rent control for 30-35 years, 2) high desirability to live there due to high quality of life; 3) a left leaning local government with strong unions, and 4) a serious housing shortage (for 35 years and counting!).

    In the late 70’s/early 80’s San Francisco, Santa Monica, and W. Hollywood all passed radical rent control (1979, 1979, and 1984 respectively) to try and “solve” the urgent/critical issue of high rents/low supply; unfortunately it was a naive attempt to legislate around supply & demand economics but did nothing but 1) RAISE rents over the long term for newbies; 2) restricted new supply, after all why would developers build, who would buy? 3) Removed existing supply by rewarding long term residents to hoard units (e.g. the guy down the hall who uses his spare bedroom to keep all his junk instead of downsizing to a 1 br). 4) Removed existing supply by incenting mom & pop landlords who don’t make any profit to sell out to developers who would build something with a greater economic return.
    If you go back and read all 3 cities’ Rent Control Charter/Stabilization Ordinances, you will see that the URGENT need they cited in their justification of instituting radical price controls (expropriation in my opinion) did NOTHING to solve the issue, which curiously is unchanged 35 years later:

    SF in 1979: There is a shortage of decent, safe and sanitary housing …resulting in a CRITICALLY low vacancy factor. Tenants displaced as a result of their inability to pay … must relocate but as a result of such housing shortage are unable to find decent, safe and sanitary housing at affordable rent levels… Some tenants attempt to pay requested…increases, but…must expend less on other necessities of life. This situation has had a detrimental effect on SUBSTANTIAL numbers of renters in the City, especially creating hardships on senior citizens, persons on fixed incomes and low and moderate income households.

    Santa Monica in 1979: “A growing shortage of housing units resulting in a low vacancy rate and RAPIDLY RISING rents EXPLOITING this shortage constitute a SERIOUS housing problem affecting the lives of a substantial portion of those Santa Monica residents… speculation …results in further rent increases. These conditions ENDANGER the public health and welfare of Santa Monica tenants…. The purpose of this Article, …is to alleviate the HARDSHIP caused by this SERIOUS housing shortage…”
    W. Hollywood in 1984:
    “The City Council hereby finds that there presently exists a CRITICAL shortage of rental housing within the city…it is very difficult to find adequate, safe and decent rental housing in the city at REASONABLE RATES and many tenants may be forced to move and relocate”.

    The only way to get more supply into the system and limit the long term escalation in rents are: 1) for local governments to build lower income housing themselves; 2) allow the private sector to do so but to tax EVERYONE equally for it, not pick out mom & pop apartment owners with little political clout to subsidize it alone; 3) improve transportation infrastructure; 4) get rid of the populist rent control policies that are incenting owners to get out of the business and sell their properties to developers who will build something where they can get a return on their investment

  14. Hey Bob – here’s an idea:

    Since RC tends to ossiify people in place due to keeping their costs below inflation, what we need is incentive for less productive people to move, while giving them some orderly process to enable change.

    So, lets bring back the Annual 4% rent increase!

    However, since we want to ‘hammery’ landlords, we only let them keep their 60%-CPI increase, and pass on the rest to the City, which can then spend it on an “affordable” housing fund, or whatever our leaders think appropriate! That way, maybe folks who can’t afford to live here (but ‘know someone’ ) can get a new place. Or there’s be new places for those who want to move here.

    What could go wrong?

  15. Tim, such an insightful piece.

    “Overall, rent control does something else: It favors people who have been here a long time over people who just got here. And I would like to suggests that that’s just fine.”

    That’s what we need to tell these black and Mexican people as well that keep trying to live in our cities. People just need to realize that some of us are entitled to more than them. We can put this to a vote of the city and then make sure that the police / military enforce this whenever necessary.

    “We have every right as a city to say that no new tech office space can be built”

    Agreed, in New York, politicians actively favor the Wall Street financial industry over all others. We need to make sure we replicate that effectively to ensure we favor our xyz legacy industry over these new technology people that clearly should not be allowed to create these awful smartphones and Internet applications.

  16. maybe we’ll put a bounty on YOUR head, you stupid, childish fuck. Just you try and target us. We’ll fucking tear you apart, you useless piece of shit.

  17. So you think it’s fine to have a law that favours those that haven’t moved for a while (because let’s face it, rent control due squat for someone who moved a year ago, even if they live in SF their whole life).

    Do you realise it’s the incumbent home owners that vote down measures for new housing, because they want their property values to go up ridiculously? They’re the reason for the crazy office/residential ratio all over the bay area.

    If anyone is a greedy piece is shit, it’s home owners in SF, South Bay and Peninsula who are against further construction.

  18. Thank you Rick for the link. Curiously, I read a Rockefeller foundation item 35 or so years ago (The Nation? Mother Jones?) describing gentrification; as a consequence I made my best effort to stay connected to the City, when if seemed like everyone was bailing. It has paid off in a number of ways.

    But this article scares me because it points to the class-based nature of the event. I suppose that I – like todays Grey Pony Tails – was a middle class gentrifier pushing out the lower class; today the middle class itself finds the Notice on the door. (Also, that while Gentrificaiton was previously cyclic-free, going forward it will be more prone to cycles; expect one soon). While I am prepared to condo my units, I fear that those who purchase will only be the avatars of this New Economic model – and economically disadvantaging me. It has me frozen. And while I would prefer to try helping those (Middle & Working) who increasingly find themselves expelled from the City, rules in place (The Atlantic article derided rent control, but wasn’t specific) preclude me from doing so (unless I become suicidally inclined).

    But then again, there is suffering to be assuaged even in the upper classes. Greg – stick around, we may need you after all!

  19. Money isn’t a right. It simply gives one more options in life.

    It can surely not come as a shock to you that people like having money? And mostly because it gets you better stuff.

  20. Nonsense. Solipsistic nonsense. SF has a housing crisis because our laws are designed to keep developers out, increase the expense of housing (permitting, reviews, neighborhood input, etc.), and keep folks clinging on to below market rental rates. Everyone in this magical thinking town wants to pay $1000/mo for a one bedroom next to a Muni stop…but it ain’t going to happen unless you allow 50 story apartment buildings (like they have in Chicago) to cluster around major transportation hubs.

  21. Thanks Brian. Oakland sounds cool. But I can’t move from SF as my $675/mo apartment would be $2300 in Oaktown, and I need that spread to pay for my weekend place in Guerneville.

  22. The city may have changed but Tim Redmond never does. The SFBG is gone but he’s still here, still mouthing the same failed rhetoric that the progressive movement has mouthed for 50 years, while ignoring its disastrous consequences for the poor and middle class.

  23. The idea that everyone in the world wants to come and live in this small city with a loud an vocal contingent of urban hillbillies is probably one of the more provincial aspects of the obsessive navel gazing some SFers do.
    New Flash: it is not remotely true that everyone wants to live in SF.
    Lots of people want to live here. We build almost no housing to accommodate those who do come here – basically enforcing continued displacement and gentrification of moderate neighborhoods. Anti housing activists devote time and energy into making sure that little to no housing gets built – thus ensuring that the cycle continues.
    New Flash #2, you dont get to decide as a single citizen, or even a group of citizens that the entire city should be frozen in amber as a monument to whatever particularly special San Francisco moment speaks to you most.

  24. Tim believes that problems caused by 35 years of restrictive polices and control can be solved by policies being more restrictive and controlling.

    The government cannot fix this problem because it is the government which caused this problem.

  25. Terrible analysis. Solution is simple. Demand > than Supply due to govt restrictions on new housing. Remove restrictions on building new housing and the market will fix itself, new housing will be built 24/7. Current problem is govt distorted the supply of housing.

  26. Yes, Pete, Progressives often allow envy to take over their fight for “justice”. So they spend too much time hating on developers, landlords, techies, bankers etc. because socialism requires that you demonize certain classes of people.

    I sometimes think they would settle for all the successful people leaving just so they could wallow in a dirt poor slum-ridden west coast version of Detroit.

  27. Everyone supports justice, We just disagree on what that means. You think it means subsidies for everyone regardless. I do not.

    I have no desire to control who lives here. That’s a free choice and not something I can control anyway.

  28. -inserting my own family history here: Swedish immigrants who worked on the docks and English coming over for a better life at the turn of the last century should also be included in the ‘Irish, Italian…’ mix.

    And, of course, thank you for your very informative post!

  29. Salaverry is exactly right about Plan Bay Area (which is behind the Housing Element requirement that the Planning Commission video is selling). We can yell and scream about San Francisco, but affordability here is lost along with our culture and middle class. No amount of building can lower housing costs here because of the voracious demand of local rich and international investment.

    It’s not just SF being “forced” into high density by the unelected regional government of ABAG and State legislation. And it feels rather like a totalitarian centrally planned economy.. I don’t remember voting on a major social engineering project to redistribute people and wealth. I don’t remember being given other options for how to reduce greenhouse gases. That’s because other options might not provide such a perfect vehicle (Transit Oriented Development) to benefit the rich while appearing socialist.

    If you care about centrally planned gentrification, read this and think twice when some politician says “let’s host the Olympics”:

  30. “That means, if you are a decent human being, you will accept that you might not be able to get a sweet flat in the Mission right now. You might have to live in Oakland or Richmond or somewhere else until a place in the city opens up – not by forced eviction but by someone deciding on his or her own to leave, or because the city has built new housing that you can live in.”

    Yeah, I have big problems with this seniority bullshit. Above paragraph could easily be rewritten where a low rent tenant, removed from their sweet mission flat might have to live in oakland or Richmond until they could afford SF, and not force to stay in an apartment that they are keeping at an artificially low rent.

    Tim’s attitude toward seniority belies this post-hippie-leftist-boomer-anachronism that brought us the disasterous distortions of rent control, and the deevolution of the landlord-tenant relationship.

    Give up on the 60’s mantra Neil Young homestead nostalgia and instead tune into…

    Q: are we not men?
    A: we are Devo

  31. I’ve been to Cambodia four times (first in 1997- scary), and I saw some pretty fucked up shit.

    Comparing Tim to Pol Pot? C’mon, that’s low bro.

  32. This might sound a little detached … I think the solution here is to go home and work on our selves and work on our families. After that is done to a certain degree, then we will see positive change in our communities.

  33. Oh, and the claim by Tim that Prop M quashed the office building. Prop M passed in ’86. I’m not sure that even 28 yrs later that proposals for office building have even approached the limits set in Prop M.

    Changing conditions on the ground.

  34. “Seniority” is a simple – but unjust – way to distribute perks & privileges. I’ve found it one dimensional and deadening, elevating mediocrity and displacing & precluding the creative and talented.

    But then, there is a lot to be said for just breathing & smiling.

    Not so sure though I need a claim on limited resources to do that.

  35. Sam – from what little I’ve followed, it does seem that you’ve bested Marcos. However, it takes two to fight. So, exercise the patience pen and … let the next few go.

    Marcos – you’ve got some interesting points. Its just that … you know … it takes one to know one?!

  36. Adding to sam’so comments on TIC conversions….since new condo conversions went into deep freeze last year (lottery frozen 10+ years), the demand for TICs will grow. Outside of new construction condos, there is little existing inventory, especially SFH (no now converted condo deep freeze.) Hence TIC is the new condo.

  37. Are you explicitly saying that people with ‘seniority’ should have their inconvenience capped?

    Higher-density housing needs to come after the transportation network that can support it, and it’s going to cost way more than a few million dollars to create a next-gen transportation system.

  38. “Adding high rent apartments to a relatively lower income neighborhood (16th and Mission) makes rents in the the entire neighborhood go up.”

    But these are going to be BMR apts – not glitzy glass condos.

    Positing any change as “gentrification” is crying ‘wolf’.

  39. I disagree.

    1- If you think 1.21 prevents pied-a-terres, trying reading the Rent Board Mtg minutes some time. “.. getting away with murder”. It almost takes a confession to get a conviction.

    2- Actually there was a pretty massive displacement … of the Western Addition and 3rd St (Skid Row). But you are right about one thing – at the time Rent Control became law, SF had the lowest population count since WW2. Fewer people and higher rents!?!

    3- IF-ONLY rent control were like Prop 13. Under Prop 13 they are allowed to increase taxes 2% each year. Under rent control the Allowable Increase has only been <2% for the last 5 out of 21 yrs. So, I'd say – if we're gonna keep rent control, then some changes oughta be made.

    4- but I agree with you on NonProfs as landlords. One change you might think of making there is to require Non Profits (THC, TNDC, Todco, Mercy, Bridge et al) to be brought under rent control (… cue up the sound of squeezing pigs …)

  40. Yes, it does seem that Greg is more interested in “hammery” on LLs than on actually finding ways to house people in the City.

    That “hammery” (trademark of the Tenants Union, for those quizzical few) is a metaphor for trying to destroy, instead of trying to incentivize.

    Tell you what, why doesn’t SF use its Employee Pension Fund to buy up as many small props as it can. So, take their $17B and instead of investing in Hedge Funds just buy SF 2-4U bldgs. There are about 80k of those. @ $500k per unit, that would only cost $40B. So, scale things back a bit – buy only a third. But then retirees would complain cuz rental income on those units would not even be worth a third their $17B! (and those would be the $2500/ 1BR apts. – NOT the 3BRs for $1300/.) So, slight problemo.

    And its all based on the premise that the way things are going to be will be worse than the ways things were.

    Congratulations, Progs. (nostalgia junkies)

  41. Who wouldn’t want to vote for a never was whose biggest achievements so far have been obsessing about a flag and getting arrested for trying to sneak a pic of a supervisors coc$.

  42. He should mention from his condo worth north of three quarters of a million dollars. A condo he has repeatedly refinanced to line his own pockets. Yep, just the regular old working man, this Marcos fella. Struggling to get by.

  43. My agenda is justice. Your agenda is destroying rent control… and manipulating SF voting demographics, btw.

    Means testing is just a means to that end.

  44. Let us note that while the rate of residential building in San Francisco is low, it is close to zero in the South Bay. Towns there have been permitting only business development. Big rich tech companies expand their campuses and bring in employees who need housing. What would you expect?

    Those 30,000 units should be built close to where the jobs are, in Silicon Valley. The office parks should be integrated, walkable communities.

    It’s a real estate developer myth (puffed by the SF press every single day) that everyone in the universe wants to live in San Francisco.

    Given the choice, plenty of people would rather not commute 2 hours a day, even on a luxury bus. Regional city planning has been horrible. Somebody needs to wake ABAG up, it’s not 1970 anymore.

  45. Thank you, Tim.
    And to these two, feel free to not have the last word. I usually read all the comments, but the Marcos-Sam bac and forths lose me after the first couple of back and forths anyway.

  46. If we ever do get to 10 billion people in this world (as predicted), let’s say 10% of them have heard of San Francisco. And then let’s say 10% of *them* might like to move here… so the top 1% of people in the world would like to move to SF if they could… Heck, let’s say just 10% of that top 100,000,000 want to move to SF. Could we even build *un*affordable housing for ten million people here, if, let’s say, we turned this earthquake zone into something that looks like downtown Tokyo? How about if we add just ONE million more people? Because we don’t even have one million people here in total, now, and we have huge problems. The entire 49 square miles would have to be mostly high rise urban construction to even come close to ‘solving’ the housing problem as outlined by the powers that be.

  47. I don’t think Tim is against new housing – just against new housing that isn’t subsidized so that his kind of voter can afford them.

  48. I have already demonstrated that the imbalance is in SF’s favor. We have a neet commute into the city of 400,000 every day. The burbs are bailing us out with their homes.

  49. It’s a good thing we have a pro-growth mayor and a great local economy, so that the tax-base is there for your ambitious public spending plans

  50. I’d love to know more. Can you point me to a successful progressive candidate giving you the credit for his victory?

  51. People, people, people: There is much much intelligent discussion here, and I appreciate it and appreciate people who disagree with me. But when it devolves into two people bickering, it takes away from all of the substance. Stick to the point. Marcos and Sam, you are welcome in this forum but if you want to have a big personal pissing match that dominates the board, you need to find your own forum, cuz it ain’t this one.

    PLEASE: Stick to the issues.

  52. I love the part of that quote where Tim writes ” because the city has built new housing that you can live in,” when he is against new housing being built.

  53. Louie, I’m just going by the couple of ex-SF’ers who have posted to this thread telling those of us who made the commitment to stay here how to run our city.

  54. I really don’t think the rest of the country cares about what goes on in San Francisco as much as you think it does.

  55. But there was a cultural eviction never-the-less as the freaks (I was one of them) – What exactly constitutes your “freakdom” ? All I see is an sexually promiscuous malcontent that likely has Aspergers. This is what is considered a freak?

  56. Bravo for your very detailed deconstruction of the Redmond BS! His days, as those of his ilk–the whiny pseudo “progressives” who were little more than obstructionists who had nothing useful to propose but could only pose in defiance, etc.–are coming to an end. They couldn’t even keep their platform the Bay Guardian (RIP) going.

  57. I’m glad your hypocrisy was outed below–you evil white property owner you! And calling people trolls just because they point out essential facts about you is not an effective debating tool.

  58. I once read somewhere that Hemingway said “Fascism is lies told by bullies.” And it doesn’t matter if the lies are told by “progressives” or “reactionaries.” A lot of lies are told in SF by the way-past-their-shelf-date lefties and the extremely cynical big money types.

  59. No, Tim is more like East Germany in 1958 or Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime or even national socialism, perhaps? A socialist is a socialist is a socialist, am I right!

  60. UMB on anything but bedrock and soft stories on landfill are not the same thing as well constructed redwood structures on unconsolidated sediments.

  61. It meant that the people who provided the margin of victory no longer participate because of reasons I’ve outlined. The correlation is clear, when we did participate, we won. Now that we do not participate, those who do in our stead lose.

  62. “That means, if you are a decent human being, you will accept that you might not be able to get a sweet flat in the Mission right now. You might have to live in Oakland or Richmond or somewhere else until a place in the city opens up – not by forced eviction but by someone deciding on his or her own to leave, or because the city has built new housing that you can live in.”

    We all know it won’t turn out that way for anyone who can’t afford the inflated rents in SF. Once you move to Oakland, that’s it, most know it’s futile to even think about looking back. As for Richmond, Oaklanders don’t even speak about that nightmare, much less contemplate living there.

  63. “Tim… please speak with a lift-leaning economist…” AMEN!

    Calvin Welch’s two videos that Redmond promotes at every opportunity have no intellectual rigor and are pure fantasy.

    I would have much more respect for the argument that SF is immune from the macro-economic fundamentals if say, Joseph Stiglitz or David Harvey were to weigh in. But to convince me, they would have to show exactly how– WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE LARGER CAPITALIST WORLD POLITICAL ECONOMY– they’d solve the SF crisis.

    I would not be the least bit convinced by appeals to a socialist utopia which will take 100-200 years to build, if it were ever achievable.

    On the other hand, I am not a huge fan of the world capitalist political economy. Piketty in Capital in the 21st Century argues coherently that it is intrinsically unfair. But it’s the system we currently have, and it will take decades to transform.

    So enough of Redmond and Friends magical thinking about housing. Give us some intellectual rigor for gods sake.

  64. That would be great but SCOTUS refused to hear a constitutional challenge to NYC’s rent control a couple of years ago. While here in CA, the Pacific Law Foundation have been trying to get rent control before SCOTUS without too much luck.

    My best guess is that SCOTUS doesn’t like making overly-broad rulings. You see the same thing with gay marriage where they choose to rule narrowly, deciding on just one state rather than doing a “Roe versus Wade” and dediciding things federally.

    So my prediction is that SF rent control will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. As the old rent control royalty squatting in their units die off or go into care, the owners of those units wil not repeat their multi-decade mistake of trusting people to progress with their lives, but rather convery to TIC.

    And as no new RC units are created, rent control will simply fade away. Might take another decade or two though.

  65. This is a very important point. I have not read Judge Breyer’s decision striking down the Campos legislation, but if this does end up with the Supremes, and they do strike down RC nationally, it would be a titanic shock to the SF system. Given the makeup of the court, this could well happen.

    The net result? That David Campos’ attempt to garner votes in the AD-17 race with a cheap, low cost, feel good consensus BOS ordinance sweeps away the main economic foundation of progressivism in San Francisco, New York City, etc. That would be a very sharp irony indeed.

    The poor, lower, lower middle and middle class renters in SF would be swept away. The techies would flood in.

    But the kinds of market distortions that Sam was recently noting whereby savvy LLs who know how to game the RC system make a killing by being lucky or crafty about moving low rent lifers out and new people in would also be swept away. The low energy LLs who do not bother to game the system would then be on a level playing field as a real market begins to take shape.

    If the Supremes take up RC and decide against it, the progressivism of the 1960s is swept away. Yes, there will be howls of rage against the conservatives, against Republicans, etc. But within the context of a market capitalist world political economy, RC can survive only in political backwaters, in outlier cities like SF and New York through unique political histories.

    I applaud Greg and others who call for outright socialism of housing for their honesty. But it is highly unlikely that the massive political changes that would be required are in the offing.

    So, perhaps RC was a titanic error for the progressives. Had they instead tried in 1979 to transform SF from a 65% to 35% renter/owner city into a 35% to 65% renter/owner through socialized down payment assistance and a myriad of other programs, then Redmond et al might have a huge base of progressive HOMEOWNERS to rally.

    Instead, the progs tried to screw the LLs. Who may screw them back with the assistance of the Supremes. And who are continuing to screw them back by 1000 cuts.

    Of course in my alternative history, the homeowner progs might well have discovered the natural conservatism of property ownership and converted to… Republicanism.

    Oy vey!

  66. The irony is that Greg has lived in a country with a communist system and he instead chooses to be in the global epicenter of capitalism.

    Perhaps he feels guilt about doing well in the west, and feels bad for his “comrades” whom he left behind. And so railing at the system is the way he assuages his guilt at having the American dream but having left behind those with whom he once shared a more collective culture.

    Rugged individualism and self reliance is not for everyone.

  67. If you really want those socialist policies enacted, maybe you’re living in the wrong place. I don’t want to come off as being flippant, but seriously, it ain’t going to happen here.

  68. Yes, tech is just a convenient scapegoat for the fact that some folks in SF who haven’t bothered to make the effort to acquite marketable skills now find themselves a day late and a dollar short. Cry me a drool.

    In fact, mosy of the people who have bought a home in my neighborhood, where nothing sells for less than a million, are not tech workers. There are doctors, architects, management consultants, lawyers, fund managers and small business owners.

    But Tim’s brand of socialism requires a convenient class of bad actors, just like in Russia in 1917.

  69. marcos, your strategy is always to change the subject when losing a debate. You are claiming support for “taxes” without any basis, evidence or justification.

  70. But wait, marcos, yesterday you told us that you were the “brains trust” behind progressive strategy.

    So does that mean their current failure is your fault?

  71. The take away is that the co-option of the progressive coalition has made it so that noncombatants do not participate in campaigns and this is why candidates who identify as progressive lose.

  72. I am simply suggesting that when a mayoral candidate runs on a pro-development platform, and easily wins, then you cannot complain if he keeps his pre-election promises.

    Maybe you need to re-convene the “brainy four” so that you can once again pull the strings in this town.

  73. You are wrong again, the deaths in San Francisco from Loma Prieta were largely confined to bay fill in the Marina and to UMB in the SOMA. I was here, I remember.

  74. Of course, private interests have no conflicts, while voters must check any tangential interest to governmental action in order to be considered pure by your twisted trolling standards.

  75. The political process derives from the people. We the people elected Ed Lee because he promised is jobs, growth and development.

    It’s working.

  76. You asserted a conflict of interest to dismiss my concerns. The true conflict of interest lies with developers purchasing the political process for their own direct, massive profit. The poltiical process should not be driven by those commercial interests with a direct, particular economic interest in outcomes.

  77. Tech: Tech industry people are not real estate developers or builders or financiers of housing. The primary function of the tech industry has nothing at all to do with creating or maintaining affordable housing. SF should be thankful that it is dealing with a socially conscious industry that is willing to at least try to deal with some of the unintended consequences of its success. Do you think finance types (who actually have a much more direct impact on housing and development) would even bother to listen at all?

    Rent Control: Maintaining a hip community requires a constant influx of young people. Rent control has the exact opposite effect in that it makes people hang onto their apartments in SF way longer than they would otherwise. Is keeping aging artists who were doing cool stuff 15 years ago in their rent-controlled SF apartments for another 20 years really the way to do that?

    SF is basically done. All the cool kids have moved to the East Bay.

  78. A majority may support rent control, for now anyway.

    But you said “taxes” and I do not believe that a majority support paying more taxes so that someone else can live in a better nabe than he can afford.

    A voter initiative to convert rent control with a local Section 8 program funded by all taxpayers would crash and burn

  79. I’ve seen no evidence that we can’t store and distribute water more efficiently

    And anyway, the people are coming here anyway, and consuming water regardless. It’s just that under your plan, they’d be homeless.

  80. Yes, the fact that Tim is blind to the role that policies that he supported have helped cause the current situation rather invalidates the rest of the article. You have to start by acknowledging all the factors that affect housing and that includes strict land use rules, NIMBYism and rent control.

    Tim also doesn’t really understand the nature of compromise, a trait he shares with Campos. They don’t want compromise – they want total victory. And that is never achievable.

    A meeting I would support would be Tim and a pro-market guy like me sitting down and seeing what we could agree on. You might think nothing, but if he is willing to concede in some areas, then I might be willing to concede in others.

    A willingness to do something like that shows flexibility. But more “tenant conferences” advocating for illegal laws that the courts throw out isn’t going to cut it. The housing activists need to stop the circle jerk and talk to those they disagree with.

  81. Where will the water they drink come from, where will their shit flow and how will they get around the city and region? That equation is nowhere near balanced by boosters and will be balanced forcibly on the backs of existing residents.

  82. No, most San Franciscans want to compel those who can afford to to subsidize housing for those whose proximate residence is required by the economy but for whom the market does not provide.

  83. The problem there, as always, is one of moral hazard. If you build enough BMR housing for everyone who currently needs ti, then many many more will show up expecting more.

    SF spends 160 million a year on the homeless and the main effect of that largesse is that more of them arrive every day.

    Make healthcare free like in Europe and people wait years for surgery.

    Making anything artificially cheap drives demand to infinity, and is self-defeating. While rent control drives owner to find other uses for their properties.

    At some point you come to realize that the government cannot fix the housing problems because it is the government that caused them.

    Anyway, you plan would be extremely expensive and I cannot imagine the voters would support it.

  84. “We can certainly all live by this predator ‘law of the jungle’ many on this thread espouse.”

    Like who?

    “Any discussion of habitation that ignores the basic citizenship of all the inhabitants of a place, is not a conversation worth having.”

    Except that Tim is expressing the desire that we ignore basic citizenship based upon “seniority”, instead of financial resources.

    You’re all just choosing another arbitrary definition of what makes something the “wrong” person.

  85. But the inhabitants of a place are not a constant. Fully one third of the people currently in SF were not even born in the US. We are changing all the time and Tim’s idea that we freeze the city in time like some hippie/misfit theme park, pull up the draw-bridge and ban anyone else from moving here is ridiculous.

  86. SciLaw, marcos thinks that he can win by intimidation, even though that rendered him ineffective back in the day when he was still trying to achieve change in this city.

    No matter what the debate, you know he will try and turn it personal because he always loses the debate.

  87. Maybe so, but not many people advocate against their own financial interests. You gain financially frm a construction freeze. So do I, but the difference is that I still think they should build more homes because the people and voters want them.

  88. The problem isn’t the build but the fact that your foundations are sitting on an in-filled lake-bed. Your house will stay together just not in the exact same location.

    Most of the buildings that collapsed in 1989 were built of old-growth redwood as well.

  89. They can’t handle the truth. But it is odd how people who dumped SF years ago still want to influence events here, even while they are trashing our town.

  90. You and I know that, but Greg’s agenda here isn’t to help the needy so much as to impose a strict ideological regime and manipulate SF voting demographics.

  91. Tim – You seem like a smart and thoughtful guy. Please, please speak with a left-leaning economist about the SF housing issue and keep an open mind. I, like many of your readers, have many of the same goals that you do, including increasing opportunity for the disadvantaged & progressive taxation to remedy inequality. But the last 30+ years of evidence suggests that your proposals will only make the housing shortage, far, far worse and hurt the people you are trying to help.

  92. Marcos,
    I don’t even know how you look at yourself in the mirror if you don’t suffer fools gladly. You’re a bullying troll who provides less rational substance than Sam.

  93. I think we should put up ballot measures each election to tax ourselves what it would take to build below market housing commensurate with projected population growth. I know that the tax and build and densify argument would be a tough sell at first, but people are paying attention, and we can become a much better educated electorate on such a long term, pressing problem. It is our civic duty to provide that building/rentsubsidy, instead of expecting private landlords and employers to shoulder all of it. Shouldn’t we be building about 4,000 BMR housing units/year for those who work in the city, make near the median income, but need a subsidy to keep housing costs about 30% of their income? Yes, people can move farther out, but at a certain point the distance, time and expense of transit from home to work overwhelm the cost saved by moving out of the city while still working a job here.

  94. Citizen [noun]
    1. a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection (distinguished from alien ).
    2. an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises.
    3. an inhabitant, or denizen: “The deer is a citizen of our woods.”

    There seems to be a basic schism on this thread between those who see the world, and their responsibility in it/to it, as primarily a set of economic interactions, and those who see this same world as an interlocking set of relationships and obligations.

    If we look at the inhabitants of a “place: as citizens, each of which have collaborated to make the place as it is, how can we then relegate these participants to the role of “non citizen” or “other”, based solely on their ability to function at the same level of economic activity as some other group.

    The european came, built railroads, killed the buffalo, fenced off the commons, and relegated the previous inhabitants to distant “reservations’. They did not deem the indigenous population to be citizens of equal standing. Get it?

    We can certainly all live by this predator ‘law of the jungle’ many on this thread espouse. But, while we are animals with tribal affiliations, I would hope we are all smart enough, and emotionally open enough to see that by denying the right of citizenship based purely on these economic constructs, that there is no “place” in the world. No “home” possible. And thus the construct of “society” which we all cleave to, is shown to be mere fiction.

    So… what sort of world do you want to make. One with the wolf always culling the weak from your tribe. Perhaps the shaman or the artist. Perhaps a good soul who helps the elderly neighbor carry her groceries up the steps. Or can we only accommodate those who work 60 hours a week, rushing to and fro, who haven’t the time to even notice life going on around them.

    Any discussion of habitation that ignores the basic citizenship of all the inhabitants of a place, is not a conversation worth having.

  95. Our home is made with old growth redwood timbers that were engineered by nature to ride out all but the strongest quakes at which they were at the epicenter.

    You hate rent control, yet you lie that our home was under rent control when it has always been owner occupied.

  96. +2

    I don’t think there is much doubt about that. 16th and Mission, the tennis courts at 8 Washington, a virtually abandoned building next to the Pyramid, a vacant lot on Telegraph Hill.

    Don’t even think about building housing there for people who might otherwise displace long term residents in the Mission or Noe Valley.

    We just don’t want “their kind” living near us at all.

  97. I left San Francisco long ago with more than a little remorse. However it now seems that it’s cheaper to revisit and spend beaucoup dollars than it is to be a resident. The plan seems always to have been another Manhattan for business, and an urban version of Carmel-by-the-Sea for the stinking rich.

  98. The building code is far stronger now than back then.

    If we had a 1906 quake now, I’d rather be in a high-rise than in the old former rent-controlled unit that you bought.

    The downtown skyscrapers barely flickered in 1989, and they were built on landfill. But lots of crappy ill-maintained rent-controlled shacks fell over.

  99. It always important to consider the personal circumstances of someone recommending a policy.

    Greg, as a healthcare workers, is going to support more pay for healthcare workers regardless.

    You, as a white male tech worker who bought a condo in the Mission, is going to support policies that increase the value of your condo.

    That is why politicians have to disclose their interests and assets.

  100. These hideous structures will end up as decrepit hovels in 50 years time unless, like 100 Van Ness, they are completely rehabbed. They are total fly-by-night, get-rich-quick schemes. You can tell by the shoddy craftsmanship, they are all built out to 1/4″ tolerances.

  101. Attacking individuals repeatedly from behind the cloak of anonymity instead of addressing the substance of the issues at hand demonstrates for all to see that you have no substance behind you assertions.

  102. “But there was a cultural eviction never-the-less as the freaks (I was one of them) created an atmosphere of anything goes sexuality and the drug scene that was a strong PUSH to Catholic working classes. And lets not forget how politically wild “revolutionary” SF became, with Rev Jim Jones, the Zodiac Killer, high crime rates, etc.”

    Why do you always change the subject? Off your meds again or just a sophistic manipulating troll?

  103. Yes, taxation should subsidize housing for the workers needed to sustain the economy. I want the value of my home to rise or at least remain stable and I want to pay taxes to subsidize those whose labor is needed by the economy but who the economy is abandoning.

  104. San Francisco’s infrastructure cannot support the level of housing required to provide palpable downward pressure on price nor is there sufficient infrastructure to do so on the horizon.

  105. Which is why the grey pony tail crowd called for a job housing balance in the 1980s and 1990s. They were told that the market wanted offices and to shut up because the market was always right. You really need to read the article and respond to it instead of flailing like a retarded monkey.

  106. So I probably fall into the “conservative” camp here as my sense of SF is that the “progressives” are actually the conservatives, as they are trying to hold on to a past vision of the City that is unsustainable. I’ve been in our around SF all my life. I remember hanging in the vats in high school, now cool office space. Back as late as the mid 90s, there were great places to live, but no good jobs. Now we have a lot of jobs, but nowhere to live. It would be nice to find a balance, right?

    The author makes one point that no one seems to have focused on: the importance of zoning. That’s the place where you could help promote more reasonable housing. But that would require promoting density and that density may not create that oh so desirable housing that everyone wants. But why not zone for twenty story buildings all the way down Geary Blvd? Put in a bus rapid transit system and turn it into a denser corridor to downtown? Then (oh don’t get mad at me!) let the market go to work and see if some kind of housing product emerges. Without more density, there is no solution – that’s just basic physics.

    And yes, I am a homeowner in SF. I lucked out and bought a house 16 years ago, right as the insanity began. I’m holding out, but may need to sell to finance three kids college tuition. A good problem to have…

  107. You miss the point that booster “economist” Sims predicted continuing economic success for San Francisco. I guess it took almost a decade for that stopped clock to be correct.

  108. Your free country means an expensive city. Put massive controls over capital flows and we’ll see housing prices soften in San Francisco.

  109. There is no evidence whatsoever that building high density luxury housing competes directly with suburban sprawl. There is further no evidence whatsoever that there is any sort of trickle down effect, where the production of high density luxury housing in the metropole in any way causes the cascade effect where people all move up one slot on the housing ladder away from sprawl.

    I commute from the Mission to the FD every day and it is becoming more and more contentious out there. Muni crawls, traffic snarls, roadsters rage and the brunt of all of that is borne by cyclists and peds. There is no free lunch, the equations must balance and the disinvested, slow transit system is at the crux.

    And it will only get worse and more dangerous to peds and cyclists when auto lanes are removed for bike lanes and auto delay cascades into transit delay. That much we know.

  110. Greg, you keep assuming that all economic growth is a “bubble” and that it will collapse.

    Of course markets move in cycles. But always with higher lows and higher highs. Plot that growth on a graph (or the stock market or home prices) and you can see the cycles but you can also see the secular up-trend.

    If your only policy idea is to wait until the bubble collapses, you will end up very disappointed. We’ve had two “collapses” in the last 15 years and yet SF is still riding high

  111. Greg, you are putting the cart before the horse. The question is how to best help people who cannot afford housing, and not “what must we do to ensure that we will always have rent control forever”.

    That reveals you to be more interested in preserving the problem than solving it. If homes are going to be subsidized, it is better to reduce that help to those who really need it.

  112. Greg, it’s more complex and nuanced than that. What rent control entails is that there is a huge chasm between how profitable being a landlord is.

    Outside of RC, it’s probably safe to say that most LL’s get a similar rate of return, determined by the local market.

    Throw in controls and the returns become variable and disparate. One LL will be stuck with lifers and get a low return. Another will win the turnover lottery and make out like a bandit.

    Put another way, a LL who successfully uses fair means or foul to get vacancies will do much much better than someone who doesn’t make the effort to get turnover.

    SFrentier sounds to me like a guy who knows how to operate here, and so profits from the artificial shortage of supply. Maybe a “nicer” landlord down the block from him doesnt know how to play the system, and struggles.

  113. The question remains un-answered. Everyone whines that they want a cheaper home and yet none of you have any kind of coherent plan to achieve that, except that you want someone else to pay for it.

  114. Sure, it is not politically possible, and none of the elected officials in all our cities and counties would agree to it.

    But until and unless we stop trying to push our problems onto our neighbors, this bickering will continue and the housing problem will get worse.

  115. More homes do not lower price in SF because we do not build enough of them to be statistically significant. The small number of homes we do build is drowned out by the noise.

  116. SF is easily the worst culprit as it is 400,000 homes short of housing the workers it needs on a daily basis. We are in no position to criticize the burbs. They bail us out.

  117. If new rentals were controlled then nobody would build new rentals. That is exactly why there is a post-1979 exemption – rent control was passed in 1979.

    While condos and SFH’s are exempt by state law, and I do not believe they are controlled anywhere in the US.

  118. Greg, there is plenty of surplus space and over-engineered infrastructure in the south-east of the city, and we can upzone there more easily than most.

    And the western neighborhoods, while not allowing such grand projects, can certainly see more density, and Tang has already indicated that.

    200,000 more people are coming to SF regardless. We can either build for them or see far higher prices and much more displacement

  119. Markets go up and markets go down, but in the long-term, we grow or die, and SF has chosen the growth route overwhelmingly.

    A city like Detroit has been contracting while SF has been growing. I notice that you don’t live there even though it is clearly more compatible with your anti-growth preference.

  120. So you want to bully and intimidate people if you cannot convince them by facts and logic?

    I can see now why so few people voted for you.

  121. What management? This place is just Tim and Tim values free speech. Why don’t you?

    I’m sure there are many blogs that censor any comment they disagree with. Wouldn’t you be happier with one of those?

  122. Population growth is going to happen anyway. SF will have 200,000 more people by the year 2040. We are only debating where they will live.

    If you want a free country, then people are going to move here.

  123. Greg, rent stabilization in NYC is means-tested.

    Moreover the rules for actually benefiting from vacancy control are byzantine. I know – I went through it. But many who try give up because of the bureaucratic burden. It makes doing a SFRB pass-through look easy

  124. Historically those who tell the truth and advance convincing arguments have been hated on by the ideologues and self-servers. You are demonstrating that right here.

    Play the ball, not the man. That is Tim’s civility imperative.

  125. It is not “cultural xenophobia” to want to move from a city or neighborhood that has has crime, blight and bad schools.

    White working-class families leaving cities was a trend across the nation. It has little to do with SF, except that we have started to reverse that.

  126. I’m not attacking you. I am informing readers of the context of your commentary. If you criticize white male tech workers buying condos in the Mission, and you do, it’s useful for readers to understand that you are one of them. But, having got yours, you now don’t want them to have theirs.

  127. Bicycling and walking become *less* dangerous when there are more bicyclists and pedestrians and trains and buses move more slowly. I am surprised I have to explain this to you.

    Commuting and housing are more efficient where population is dense.

    But we need more sprawl!

  128. Wrong. The new condo buildings may look flimsy but they are not. they are much more earth-quake proof, using steel piers and frameworks, and far more extensive foundations.

    Look at the 1989 quake. It was the old buildings on the flatlands that got hit the worse. In fact the type of ground you are on makes much more difference than the construction of the building – in 1906 folks in Nob Hill didn’t even feel the quake, but they got screwed in the fire anyway.

    The one thing that would affect the newer build is the fashion for wall-towall, floor-to-ceiling windows. Cances are many of those would shatted.

  129. As an added plus, bicycling and walking become much more dangerous and the trains and buses creep through the city even slower. But we need more housing!

  130. Funny, I don’t remember studying housing policy when I was getting my math degree at Cal.

    I have lived in Vienna, though.

  131. The hilarious part of the Sims report, the one that has us all as SIMS in SPUR’s Sim City, is that he actually wrote this in the spring of 2000 right as the dot.com bubble had popped and was beginning to deflate:

    “This report concludes that San Francisco is well positioned for continuing economic success, and that the benefits of projected economic growth can be shared among workers at all income levels. ”

    Of course, the area went on to see a grinding economic contraction that was only arrested once Wall Street had been freed to spread economic crack in the form of unregulated wild west real estate finance across the land.

  132. The linkage between adding supply to lower housing price is less substantiated in San Francisco than the linkage between entitling high end luxury housing and increased evictions.

  133. Yo……..hot off the press…. Building costs go through the roof: The Bay Area’s new affordability crisis.

    Cory Weinberg
    Reporter- San Francisco Business Times
    Email | Twitter | LinkedIn

    Two parking lots sit down the street from the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp.’s headquarters in one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods. TNDC, one of the city’s most prominent nonprofit housing developers, has owned the lots for years and would like to build hundreds of family housing units there to help fill San Francisco’s stark housing gap.

    But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Construction costs are galloping ahead at 7 percent per year, TNDC estimates, outstripping its ability to keep up — and making development of those sites infeasible for the foreseeable future.

    It’s an increasingly frequent … http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/print-edition/2014/11/21/constuction-costs-rise-sf-real-estate-development.html?ana=e_ph_prem&u=pQeD+YDzf4Soj+sKDyd5bFJkC/g&t=1416580264

    Add this to your list of denials……..

  134. Tim, you should be ashamed of yourself. And I quote….. “Put simply: It wasn’t the SF left, or the anti-growth activists, who created this crisis. It was developers, and city officials listening to them, who pretty much ignored the concept of real city planning – who decided that the market should decide what was built.”

    This is the biggest piece of Bull_hit you have written to date. You know better than anyone how NIMBY’S …including your buddy Calvin blocked housing projects in SF. Ohoooo not enough affordable units……Ohooooo it’s tooooooo tall…Ohooooo it’s not dense enough……Oh….it will block my view……Oh….how we love to blame others.

    And don’t forget your favored planning tool……discretionary review! And if that fails….on the the BOS for an APPEAL.

    You progs and NIMBY’s have exacted a huge toll on the cost of building in SF. The housing shortage is your fault…….face it..own it….now fix it.

    Start protesting to increase heights along Geary street to 85 feet. Push for more in-law units our in the Sunset and Richmond. Get off your duff and push the planning department to increase density in the Haight and Pacific Heights.

    Move the argument to where it belongs…..West of Van Ness…..now what are you waiting for?

  135. I think that the consensus is clear, wherever you decide to plop your dominating commenting ass, that you are a suffering fool who insists upon sharing his suffering with everyone else whether they want it or not.

    You are raping this comment section.

  136. You can never stick to the subject, you’ve always got to attack the person. You are not interested in political discourse, you’re merely an abusive troll.

  137. Most rent controlled buildings are well constructed, study, unlike today’s fly-by-night craptacular condos and would ride out a quake unscathed.

  138. Maybe for now.

    But if you took the time to read Judge Breyer’s reasoning for striking down Campos’ legislation to increase rent controlled tenant money for displacement, you’ll see where he’s setting the stage for this to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and given its current make up, they will probably strike down rent control as an illegal taking.

    Before you jump all over me saying it can’t happen, I have two words for you: Citizens United.

  139. A. Dave; there is a massive controversy in Menlo Park right now over building hi density housing along the train tracks.

    Mountain View and Palo Alto each are each cramming in as much housing as possible, via infill.
    E. Palo Alto bulldozed Whiskey Gulch and replaced it with mixed use.

    My point is you go off stating unresearched opinions as fact.

  140. I’m making less than $100k and I’m paying $2k/month for a studio and that’s not half my income. I’m also self employed and I worked my way through college. I’m a Democrat and support food stamps, welfare, the ACA and the section 8 program–I’m no T-bagger.

    I used to own, but lost my home in 2010, during the recession.

    You don’t see me whining and crying that I have an unalienable right to a taxpayer subsidized apartment even though my family brought me here as a child in 1973, giving me more “seniority” then our carpet bagger Pols and non-profit workers.

  141. Thanks for your comments, Tim. I’d like to interject another kind of comment about SF – it’s getting too crowded as a result of the influx of new people here – traffic is much greater, as in gridlock often; Muni lightrail is so crowded that we have to go to the beginning of the run to get a seat. With all this discussion about bringing more jobs and more housing to SF, it feels like too many people already for this small space, which will only get more congested with more jobs and more housing. Are there no brakes to be put on population densities in cities? Ever? So we just get more and more crowded, more stressed, with loss of ease of living?

  142. Sure SFRentier, all the landlord lobby groups oppose rent control because it raises rents, and landlord lobby groups of course want rents to be lower, so that they can make less money. Riiiight…

    C’mon. You don’t believe this dreck, I don’t believe it, so why do you keep repeating the same line when we both know that it’s rubbish? I mean, who are you trying to kid?

  143. A major earthquake will make many rent controlled buildings uninhabitable. And won’t those requiring complete reconstruction be exempt from rent control?

  144. Well the laws need to be changed. It’s legal in New York, and it can be legal here again. As for robbery… robbery is when the landlord shakes you down for $60,000/yr in rent. That’s robbery.

  145. I second this.

    “I find it truly repulsive that Tim says theat people who have been here longer have “senority.” Really? And using the example of union senority is laughable. That is arguably the worst thing about unions in my experience. I’m in a union now and have been for 15 years and let me tell ya, senority fosters laziness and unaccounabilty. In some instances it leads to downright dangerous situations. Well, now that I think about it, it does seem close to the effects of rent control…”

  146. Perhaps a bit harsh, but tells it like it is. Frankly I’m tired of poor-elitist-has-beens like this slamming young whites and foreigners. Ok, they are ‘sterile’ and you’re cool and authentic. Get a grip dude!

  147. “It’s just plain wrong for a landlord to gouge his tenants, even if they can afford it.”

    The main reason us landlords can “gouge” tenants is because of rent control! I’ve said it a million times: RC keeps many units off the market by hoarders, and hence the marginal rent rate is sky high. Blame liberal politics for that one. But thanks, it works out well for me (even if I think it discriminates against new people moving in- something Redmond has no issues with, but I do.)

  148. What are you smoking?

    1- Vacancy control- it’s totally f-ing illegal. Like robbery, it’s illegal. Get it?

    2- it’s ok for some rich schmuck to milk their rent control apartment? At least Tim understands: A- that is unfair and immoral. B- that person is taking a unit that an otherwise less wealthy could benefit from.

    Common sense, please.

  149. Yes, the Bay Area is petty, Balkanized fiefdoms with beggar thy neighbor squabbling. The problem is how to unite them into a more rational whole. And would the regional system be worse?

    Plan Bay Area is a regional vision, but it’s a progressive wet dream with draconian regulation of autos, an attack on private property rights, stack-and-pack housing at transit hubs and a huge wealth transfer program buried in the details of the wants. Its also a crony capitalists wet dream, with fortunes to be made by politically connected corporations in infrastructure and housing.

    I’d be more inclined toward regionalism if we had real political diversity. If the Green party were in control of say Richmond, Berkeley and Oakland, the Republicans ruling the 580 and 680 corridors, the Democrats in power in SF and the Penninsula and a cluster-fuck of real competition everywhere, then perhaps regionalism would be about coalition building, sane ideas, compromise, balance, etc.

    Not so sure about regionalism with low information, tuned out voters and corrupt, reactionary one-party rule.

  150. “In the 1960’s there was no massive displacement of the then-current residents.”

    The displacement of the 1960s and 1970s was complex. Yes, the interstate highway system was a PULL that induced SF families to move to the brand spanking new all white ‘burbs. And yes, the counter-culture thrived in a low rent city with a decreasing population.

    But there was a cultural eviction never-the-less as the freaks (I was one of them) created an atmosphere of anything goes sexuality and the drug scene that was a strong PUSH to Catholic working classes. And lets not forget how politically wild “revolutionary” SF became, with Rev Jim Jones, the Zodiac Killer, high crime rates, etc.

    The murder of Harvey Milk by Dan White was a tragic, violent reaction to the displacement of the conservative white working classes by the counterculture. White’s murderous rage was the rage of those being evicted, gentrifed and laughed out of the city they once owned by gays in the Castro, hippies in the Haight and progressives all over.

    I am not so enamored of SF as an “amazing city” as you seem to be. Much of what the left finds amazing, and endlessly amusing about modern SF I find squalid and ugly. But I live in the TL where they’re firing up their crack pipes at 6am as I head to work, avoiding the piles of shit.

    Neither am I in love with the latest tech invasion. On one point I totally agree with Another Dave… that millenials (past the age of 35) want to OWN their own home and nonprofits inevitably become feudal landlords.

    We need to consider radically increasing home ownership in SF to turn the historic anomaly of a 35% owner 65% renter city to the national average of 35% renter to 65% owner. Otherwise, private capital feudalism will return with a vengeance as RC dies the death of 1000 cuts.

    Perhaps SF can develop a mixed, pragmatic, non-ideological system with a strong socialized housing sector but with more private condo conversions, more development at higher density, more co-ops, and land trusts, etc.

    I’m for anything except feudalism. Fuck feudalism.

  151. Oh, things will change all right, if you build 100,000 units. Traffic will become a nightmare, the environment will suffer, neighborhoods will be shredded to pieces. But prices coming down as a result of 100,000 units being built? Not a chance. Not in a city where demand is essentially infinite for all practical purposes. You cannot build your way out of the housing crisis, any more than you can drill your way out of peak oil.

  152. Your explanation of how gentrifcation would be relevant if we were talking about a marginalized part of the mission many many years ago. Now we need to handle the influx of people that are already here and soon to come. Again, this project causes no evictions. But, you know what will? Not building anything.

  153. You can afford market rate housing on 100K per year? That’s news to me. Well, maybe if you are willing to pay half your income for housing. But that’s just wrong.

    Again though, I think this is the wrong way to think about rent control. Rent control is a regulation that ensures basic fairness. It’s just plain wrong for a landlord to gouge his tenants, even if they can afford it.

    The other issue is that means testing erodes support for rent control. It’s a divide and conquer strategy that pits those who have it, against those who don’t. Enact means testing, and the next step becomes poisoning the discourse against those who have it. Just like with pensions, you breed envy and hatred among those who don’t have it -why should your neighbor have rent control when you don’t? Of course what you’d be offering is a shit sandwich. Those who don’t have access to rent control wouldn’t get anything good out of voting for a policy to take away rent control from more and more people, but hey, they’d feel better because now their neighbors don’t have it either. All the while, landlords would get richer and screw them all. Salami tactics -worked great for pensions.

    No, Charlie. Means testing is a means to an end -the end of rent control. But hey, you already know that, don’t you?

  154. The high income employees will eventually be reduced – when the bubble bursts. Of course tenants who’ve already been forced out won’t be able to return, so the havoc that they wreak now will stick around.

    But as long as we’re talking about solutions that won’t happen anytime soon because there’s no political will right now, I have another idea which would stop the housing crisis cold. I’ve been saying for years that if you care about both affordable housing AND neighborhood preservation, there’s only one way to do it. Price controls -strict rent control with vacancy control, and price controls on property. Yes. Gasp! Socialism! But that would work. Trying to build your way out of the crisis -Tim’s right, won’t work. Never did, never will. But it will ruin the quality of life, and we’re already on track for that. But what I propose would work. Yes, it might mean waiting lists and/or lotteries. But that’s ok -everyone’s got an equal shot. And you don’t have to reduce high income earners, which is probably unworkable even if the political will were there.

    The other quibble I have with Tim is that we need to start thinking differently about rent control. Tim says rent control is fair overall because landlords are generally wealthier than tenants. I think Tim is missing the fundamental point of rent control. Rent control is not a charity program to help poor tenants. Rent control should be thought of as a regulation that ensures *fairness*. As such, EVERYONE is entitled to fairness. Just as Medicare and public education are there for everyone regardless of whether you’re a pauper or a millionaire, so it should be with rent control. A landlord shouldn’t have the right to gouge a tenant just because the tenant can afford it.

    The argument Tim is making is starting to go down the slippery slope of means testing, which is essentially a divide and conquer strategy to erode support for rent control. That’s the last place we need to go.

  155. The sooner “Sam” is told by management to blow it out his ass, the better. Start the crocodile tears about “civility” in 5… 4… 3…

  156. Tim writes: But here’s the larger question about Cutler’s meeting, and an earlier effort by David Campos to get people talking. It’s never going to happen as long as the epidemic of evictions continues.

    And here’s part of the progressives’ problem in a nutshell. One meeting was held in a bar (!?) co-owned by Campos friend and supporter Tom Temprano, and a number of attendees told me it was more like an effort to introduce Campos to potential tech voters than have an actual dialogue.

    Whether it was too Campos-centric aside, the face that a single meeting and not a series of them were organized showed very limited thinking and commitment to sustaining communication.

    I’m assuming this is what Tim is referring to: https://www.facebook.com/events/203908736472357/

    By the way, Tim omits info about what the protest in his photo was about and when it happens, but for argument’s sake I’ll assume it was the massive march on a hot Saturday in October against the Maximus Partners’ monster condo near the BART 16th Street Station.

    Great turnout and people who attended sure felt empowered, but I must question what direct impact it had on the Maximus folks or the Planning Commission. What pressure was applied from that march on the developers or the City Hall folks? None that I’m aware of.

    It seems to be an organizing effort that succeeds in mobilizing the Mission neighborhood folks, and there is tremendous value in that, but all the energy and people power, as far as I know, had little to no impact on stopping the monster condo.

    I hazard to say that if half that many folks showed up at the homes of the Maximus folks or Planning Commissioners, pressure would really be felt just like when the Anti Eviction Mapping Project went to Mayor Lee’s home last month.

    What I’m saying is progressive should be more effective at targeting decision-makers and developers – literally where they live!

  157. Everything, and I mean everything that is happening in San Francisco has been engineered by developers, who’s wet dream has been to turn San Francisco into Manhattan. They laid out their plans years ago. Transportation, land use, and housing density are being controlled by developers and not the residents who live here now.

    SPUR has been involved with virtually every major planning decision in the city. Their goal has been to channel economic development and high density housing back into San Francisco from the Silicon Valley. You dont have to take my word for it. They laid out their plans years ago here

    http://web.archive.org/web/20010201072200/http://spur.org/sims.pdf and

    here http://web.archive.org/web/20010201072200/http://spur.org/

    The gentrification and displacement of long time residents is collateral damage.

  158. Tim –

    Rotes Wien should be the model. Sadly, best I can tell the SFHA couldn’t handle it.

    If I could wishlist one thing, though, it would be that you try to learn from the folks you oppose. Want to help people live here? Build housing. Everything else is details, and gossip. If you add 50,000 units to a city with ~300,000 existing units, things will change.

    If you want things really to change you’d build 100,000, though. I remember the early 1990s, living in West Oakland, convinced I could never afford San Francisco. You have a commenter above who goes back to the 1976 Castro. Sherman in the 19th century infamously said, he could handle a hundred thousand men in battle but was afraid to manage a lot in the swamp of San Francisco.

    Talking about ‘tech’ is misdirection, at best.

    Gently, then, I’ll note that my standard critique of San Francisco’s left is of its cowardice.

    Full disclosure: my parents are immigrants, so I guess I am a bad person. But I was born at Kaiser on Geary, so I am a good person. Oh — how can I decide?



  159. People are getting “displaced” from SF because of affordability. No fault evictions cause a very small percentage of the total “displacement” numbers. Beating the empty drum of evictions caused by tech workers is tired and unproven. The rent board has the data: it’s on their website. Please revisit it.

    Want to unlock thousands and thousands of rent controlled units (therefore taking pressure off of the alleged no fault evictions and those being forced out): try means testing and give the rent board power to compel a landlord and a tenant.

    I am not going to even comment on the seniority item as it’s so absurd is ridiculous.

  160. I agree, but as soon as you say so it’s “you’re a dirty NIMBY” and “you’re a stupid no-growther” time. Very good article summarizing the issues. (I’m in Seattle, since 1972.)

  161. “The techies sound to me like opportunistic interlopers who want to take over someone else’s homes and neighborhoods and make them their own, except they’re doing it with evictions and lawyers rather than guns and ammo.”

    Except … you’re posting this in response to a project that BUILDS MORE HOUSING on 16th and Mission in a way that involves no evictions at all.

    Nice try.

  162. “A telling example is the proposed development at 16th and Mission. This is exactly the kind of development that should be in this location and was part of the Mission development plan years back. It will displace no one, create jobs and provide BMR units. Why are progressives already sharpening their pitchforks? The only reason I can see is because of their rigid ideology.”


    It’s things like this that lets us know it all stopped being about affordability long ago. They’re looking to keep the new kids out of their treehouse.

  163. Adding high rent apartments to a relatively lower income neighborhood (16th and Mission) makes rents in the the entire neighborhood go up. That’s what gentrification is all about. Find a marginal income neighborhood. Add a few “edgy” art galleries. Then add a few hip cafes and restaurants that are drawn to the lower rents and neighborhood edginess. The young white kids (often living on mommy and daddy’s money) will soon flock to nearby apartments to be near the edgy action. Soon enough higher income folks will displace them. Then the “real money” will finally displace the middle income families. It’s the same formula that has happened in the Lower Haight and Mission, and in Alphabet City and Washington Heights in NYC and Venice and Echo Park in LA. The list of gentrified neighborhoods in the US is very long. And the real estate profits made are immense, often with very little capital invested since you’re basically just exchanging lower income people with much higher income people. Displacing poor folks (often blacks and latinas/os) and substituting them with wealthier people (often whites and Asians) is a time honored tradition in our still-feudalistic world.

    I thought the techies were smart? If they’re so smart why aren’t they convincing Hayward, Menlo Park, Cupertino, Palo Alto, Burlingame and the other 99 cities in the region to build hundreds of thousands of housing units for their nearby high-tech companies? The techies sound to me like opportunistic interlopers who want to take over someone else’s homes and neighborhoods and make them their own, except they’re doing it with evictions and lawyers rather than guns and ammo. The effect is the same – they’re terrorizing neighborhoods and destroying families in the process.

  164. OK, Dave, and what is your big idea for ensuring that broke-ass losers like you can live beyond your means in a city that you cannot afford?

    This should be good.

  165. Wrong:

    1) If a tenant of a SF rent controlled unit declares his Sf home to be his primary residence then even if he owns a 20-room home in Nevada, he gets to keep rent control.

    2) So your point is that people like you are more interesting and desirable than people who aren’t like you? Is that what SF has taught you?

    3) Property owners don’t buy a property to just cover their costs. They buy them to get a better return than alternative equivalent investments. If SF RE doesn’t flow, then why would they ever keep their building as a rental?

    Also an owner has to worry that post-79 construction will later be rent controlled, just like 2-4 unit buildings were.

    4) Sounds like a re-hash of a much simpler fact – that you are living beyond your means in a place you cannot afford and should be in.

  166. Don’t forget the names he used on SFBG, Anon/Guest. He’s a shill for landlords and million-dollar condo developers. He makes the same points every day and dominates the posts to discourage readers and commenters. He thinks we’re all too stupid to understand that he represents the same viewpoint as thousands of investors who want to make millions by building luxury condos in SF, or make millions by evicting tenants from their apartments so they can be sold off as TICs. Duh.

  167. Yeah, your little town in the MidWest is so much better and yet here you are, still posting on a SF blog. Think anyone in SF is thinking about your adopted home? I got your answer. Nope.

    You miss us but we don’t miss you.

  168. marcos, as a white male tech worker who bought a home in the Mission thereby depriving a family of color of a home in their community, you are the very last person to lecture anyone about diversity.

  169. I wanted to respond to this part “In other words, a city like this needs to have a very public discussion around what we want to become. Nobody ever voted to create a tech headquarters city in Soma; that happened because venture capital people in Silicon Valley wanted the companies they financed nearby, and the tech workers wanted to live here.” AND Tech companies moved into SOMA because there was a tremendous vacancy of commercial space at low prices. Example: The Twitter building sat vacant for more than a decade. I manage a nonprofit in SOMA where we have paid $1-1.50 p/sqft for the past 6 years. We locked in right before the turnaround. This is definitely a bigger conversation about housing and I am not minimizing that need, I am also an SF resident and housing is critical. However tech companies recognized a good deal in moving into and revitalizing an area of the city that needed tenants, demonizing them for that is the wrong fight.

  170. Well, Tim is right on one thing: that tech workers want to move to the Mission. On everything else, not so much. In fact, his true colors, and that of the progressive movement in general, came out with this statement: ” Problem is, there are already people living in the Mission.” I translate this as “get out, we don’t want you here.” A telling example is the proposed development at 16th and Mission. This is exactly the kind of development that should be in this location and was part of the Mission development plan years back. It will displace no one, create jobs and provide BMR units. Why are progressives already sharpening their pitchforks? The only reason I can see is because of their rigid ideology. The tea party is a joke because of their fact free ideology and the progressive left in SF is headed down the same path. People want and need pratical solutions for problems. Solutions which will inevitably require compromise, which is where the progressive left fails miserably.
    One more thing….I find it truly repulsive that Tim says theat people who have been here longer have “senority.” Really? And using the example of union senority is laughable. That is arguably the worst thing about unions in my experience. I’m in a union now and have been for 15 years and let me tell ya, senority fosters laziness and unaccounabilty. In some instances it leads to downright dangerous situations. Well, now that I think about it, it does seem close to the effects of rent control…

  171. Most of your rant is blatant opinion, without any facts to back it up. (But welcome to the 48 Hills mal-informed readers club. You’ll find many posters like yourself here.) I usually ignore these posts, but a couple of quick points to your largely ignorant rant:

    1) No SF tenant who owns a primary residence somewhere else gets the benefit of a rent-controlled apartment in SF. The rent-control laws DO NOT protect these RC tenants. Review section 1.21 of the RC ordinance. Many tenants have lost their RC apartments because of this rule. So quit spreading lies.

    2) In the 1960’s there was no massive displacement of the then-current residents. The interstate highway system built in the ’50’s and ’60’s induced tens of thousands of SF families to move to the peninsula, east bay and Marin. In the 1960’s SF had thousands of vacancies and the rents were dirt cheap compared to the “nicer” suburbs. People from all over the world came to SF (many of them of the counter-culture variety) precisely because the rents were cheap. They helped create an amazing city over the decades and now people like you, and people in the tech sector, real-estate sector and lawyers, doctors and highly-paid financial types, want these current residents to move away so you and they can live in their homes. F. U. Many of these families and households aren’t going anywhere without a huge fight. Maybe it’s you who should consider moving.

    3) Rent control does NOTHING to either enhance or diminish housing construction since RC DOESN’T APPLY to post-1978 construction. Rent control is just like Prop 13 or a mortgage on your house. A bank or the government doesn’t get to ask you for a lot more money next year just because your house value has increased 200% or 500%. The government and bank are limited to receiving from you the amount agreed upon when you moved into the place. It’s the same thing as when a tenant rents a unit. The landlord sets a price and the tenant agrees to pay the price, plus inflation, for as long as they rent the unit.

    4) Non-profits are not going to solve ANY of the housing problems facing the vast majority of SF tenants or solve the problems of high-income techies and others who want to live in SF. Non-profits build units for very niche demographics (old age, low-income, veterans, people with physical and mental disabilities, etc.). These buildings also have tons of rules and restrictions that would make most sane people bristle. Make too much money next year, you’re evicted. Have someone move into your unit, you can be evicted. Smoke some pot or do a couple lines of coke in your unit, you can be evicted. Paint your bathroom the wrong color, and you might be evicted. Etc. Etc. No one with an ounce of human dignity wants this kind of housing controlled by a feudal landlord construct. Over 90% of millennials want to OWN their own home (just like Tim and Calvin), not to be feudal tenants subservient to some feudal landlord, even if the non-profit landlords have a really compassionate sounding names like, The Fathers of Perpetual Patriarchy or The Mothers of Merciless Mercy.

  172. Throughout the late 20th century, caucasian out-migration from San Francisco was voluntary as part of the auto subsidized white flight to the suburbs. They jumped they were not pushed as poor folks are being pushed today.

    There was some grumbling from the natives as my generation of queers arrived in the 1980s but not the outrage at displacement because the population was 100K fewer than today and housing price pressures were not as sharp as they are today.

  173. Basically, it’s supply and demand. I think it’s fine if people don’t want new housing to be built, and then that would mean that every poor person in SF will get evicted. They’re going to win anyway. Tim must remember when we all voted YES on Prop M many moons ago.

  174. Russo, you know what is worse? People who only come here to piss on other contributors while providing no relevant content themselves.

    If you cannot tolerate the odd different opinion, you have no place in political debate and discourse in this city. You need to seriously ask yourself why you are so intolerant.

  175. I stopped reading the comment sections of 48 Hills and Mission Local for two weeks, mainly because Sam-John, in his desperate clamor for attention, repeats himself ad nauseum. I’m just not interested in his hollow world view. Now, checking back, I see he’s still droning on: SF workers should leave the city, blah blah.

    I’ll keep skipping the comment sections and enjoy the blogs for what they are.

  176. Salaverry makes some good points and I do not wish to repeat nor labor them, let alone amplify them. But I think there is one more issue that pertains here, and which Redmond ignores.

    Tim complains that Cupertino and Mountain View don’t build much housing. And maybe that is true. But which city in the Bay Area has the biggest mismatch between jobs and homes? San Francisco. Every day 100,000 people commute out of SF (which is all Tim mentions) but 500,000 commute into SF.

    Translation? The city has built 400,000 less homes than it needs to house its workers and so relies on those very suburbs that Tim disdains to make up the difference. So the inconvenient truth is that SF is short homes and the burbs are long homes.

    The real problem is that the Bay Area is one city divided into nine counties and dozens of cities, each one of which plays beggar-thy-neighbor with each other. These petty balkanized fiefdoms endlessly compete and squabble, to no useful purpose. The entire Twitter spat was between two cities in the same ten mile area. Insanity.

    What we need ideally is to merge all these cities into one mega-city that then conducts real city-wide planning. Failing that we should at least do land use planning across the Bay Area. When we have done that with transit (BART and CalTrain), it has worked.

    And please let’s lose the San Francisco exceptionalism. It’s not the end of the world if some of SF’s lower-paid workers move to Oakland. Heck, as Sarah Palin might say, I can see Oakland from my house.

    Or to put it another way, not everyone can reasonably expect to live in the world’s favorite (and possibly, most expensive) city.

    PS: If you want to set up a meet between housing activists and mover-shakers, don’t send Erin McElvoy. She is a screeching mess that cannot possibly play well with others. I’d happily sit down with some on the left, like Tim for instance, and try and forge a compromise. But never with someone like her. Or Campos, for that matter.

  177. Thanks for this. There are those of us in tech who actually do believe in move investment in affordable housing, and want the city be welcoming to all … and recognize the degree to which Redmond and his friends actually don’t.

    This article is just an expression of the age-old SF desire to shove out everyone who showed up after you, which burns strong in most of his circle.

  178. There is so much wrong with Redmond’s latest piece on the housing crisis it’s hard to know where to begin.

    1) “Are so many people so blinded by free-market ideology and a lack of historical understanding that they think this is (a) the result of Nimbys and rent control and (b) can’t be solved?”

    Redmond wants to immediately take off the table any discussion of NIMBYism and rent control as contributing factors to the housing crisis. He claims others are blinded by “free-market ideology” as if his progressive “blame the developers” talking points are NOT ideology, rather, plain incontrovertible facts.

    2) He points us to Calvin Welch’s videos which explain nothing, rather, they create organized talking points around barely logical magical thinking, San Francisco as as an exception to a universal macro-economic rule that price controls create scarcity in a market system. That economists of all stripes universally disagree is not mentioned.

    3) Redmond then goes into a left-revisionist history, again blaming developers, city officials, international investors, etc. for the crisis. And he makes the preposterous claim of the powerlessness of the progressive left in the face of this juggernaut, as if the progressives did NOT pass rent control in 1979, did not add small property owners in 1996, and as if NIMBYism isn’t a factor at all.

    But Redmond is correct, “In a small city under immense pressure, the market can’t be the defining factor. “ He is right that San Francisco, “needs to have a very public discussion around what we want to become. Nobody ever voted to create a tech headquarters city in Soma; that happened because venture capital people in Silicon Valley wanted the companies they financed nearby, and the tech workers wanted to live here.”

    Redmond’s opinion that tech office developers should pay to build the housing for their workers is a point for discussion. I agree that the developers should pay for infrastructure like transit capacity, but we’d have to get into a discussion about the performance of SFMTA, MUNI etc. and also discuss how much developers should pay.

    I agree that blue-collar businesses and light industry should be preserved, to the extent possible. Others might not agree. More discussion.

    Redmond lurches into fantasy when he says, “Of course, if the city used public land, or demanded land as part of any deal to build offices, and then used only nonprofits to build housing, the price would drop below $500K.” The $500K per unit cost is driven by land prices, union labor, planning bureaucracy, interest costs, etc.

    None of these important fundamentals change when non-profits do the construction. And the claim, “With even modest subsidies, you could build middle-class housing.” That is a blue sky claim that Redmond does not back up with any numbers. It’s pure leftist fantasy.

    In reality, it would take a massive change to the political economy of San Francisco, California and probably the USA to build middle class housing on the scale Redmond dreams of. It would take massive taxation, on the wealthy, the upper income professionals, the upper middle class, etc., given the sky high costs of land, labor, and regulation in SF. In short, it would take a transition to something close to real socialism. Is that in the cards?

    Redmond and the progressives stoke the fear of eviction, and while many of us are in a real housing crisis (I’m an SF native reduced to a Tenderloin SRO), in reality there isn’t an eviction crisis… yet. But it’s gathering steam.

    Should the tech millionaires have supported Prop G? Did anyone ask them? Did someone make the case?

    “So let’s talk about rent control,” Redmond says, pivoting.

    Only he doesn’t talk about rent control! He merely excuses it’s “imperfections” as a blunt instrument and again shifts blame, to the state that doesn’t allow vacancy controlled RC.

    That rich people in Marin have pied-a-tierres in RC apartments doesn’t concern Redmond whose moral outrage is selective. That hardworking Chinese small landlords get screwed doesn’t concern him either. Redmond has dissed Josephine Zhou, an activist small landlord in other articles.

    I don’t have a huge problem with Redmond’s feet of clay, we all have selective moral blindness. But when he goes to his final seniority argument? That I do find offensive. Because now he’s arguing SELF INTEREST, SELF INTEREST, SELF INTEREST.

    Redmond, like so many of his generation of progressives is himself a non-native, gentrifying invader of San Francisco. I grew up in this city and saw them pour into what had been an Irish, Italian, Polish, German and Black working class town, driving out those who were here before them.

    The 1960s invaders—exactly like the tech invaders now—upended the life of the city I knew and turned San Francisco into something absolutely new and different. I liked what they brought, for the most part. I stood wall eyed on Haight Street and soon enough joined the fun.

    But having once invaded, gentrified and driven out those who used to live here, Redmond wants seniority rights. So… now that he is an old man… he wants to keep the young out. Although when he was a young man, he had no problem pushing out those he displaced.

    I find this offensive. I find Redmond’s claim that the progressive left has had absolutely no part in creating the crisis to be mind-bogglingly obtuse.

    Bottom line: Redmond’s call for a dialogue is dishonest so far. When he begins to entertain existential doubt in his own hardened, calcified, reactionary progressive ideology… then the conversation can begin.

  179. San Francisco is a fascist regime that is reaping what it sowed. Poor people can get out – that is what BART is for. The developer class and the activist class runs the town – either tons of money or exceptional skill at playing the game can get you a seat at the table in SF, but nothing else. Blaming the techies is safer but disingenuous – they are merely the latest tulip buyers in before the crash.

  180. Thank you Tim. I have shared this article within my network. Loved the video and all the great historical information it contained. I feel like I have lost my old San Francisco again. Maybe a major earthquake will scare the hell out of some of the obnoxious people that are taking control of the housing arena.

  181. Left San Francisco 20 years ago. Worked there and did wonderful things with my life and raised my children there. The rent and real estate issues were the same and different. I moved into the Castro in 1976- the building flipping began almost immediately. Gentrification was happening in many neighborhoods, but stores were still pretty protected and neighborhoods kept their character. Landlords were pushing people out back then- no real tenants rights. Rents even then were astronomical with no real protection from being pushed out or having a huge increase. Was in NYC this summer- where I grew up and the same suburbanization and utter greed and blandness were everywhere there also. White hipsters and rich internationals can afford the nonsense of what is going on… It is so awful to see such great cities totally turning into such sterile places- because of what is mentioned above that has gone on uncontrolled and rampant.
    I now pay less for a mortgage in 2014 for a very nice small home in a good neighborhood in the upper Midwest than I did for a shoe box of an apt in the inner Mission in 1994….

  182. If we must have rent control during peacetime (remember it was originally supposed to be temporary during ww2, when first enacted NYC), then it should be means tested.

    If you make more than $100k per year
    Own property elsewhere in the 9 Bay Area Counties
    have more than $500k in assets, including 401k/IRA

    Then you can afford market rate

  183. Wow. Well said Tim. Thank you for writing this article. You point fingers, perhaps between the lines, at precisely the people who are primarily responsible for our mess: Developers given everything they want by a corrupt, blind, idiot Mayor and Board of Stupes and Planning Department who have rubber stamped this horror show we’ve been witnessing for 2 years now and offered nothing balanced, nothing with thought, and nothing sensible as an alternative to save as much of “old San Francisco” as possible.

    “When the market – or, that is, the international investors who put money into big-city real estate — wanted office buildings, not housing, office buildings got approved. When the rest of us said: You have to build housing, too, we were told that the money wasn’t there. It was going into offices, where the return on investment was higher. Could the city have said: No, if you build offices and attract new workers, you have to build housing for them? Of course; that’s what city planning and zoning is about. But no: A generation of mayors and planning commissions refused to do that.”

    This article should be circulated far and wide because it is THE SINGULAR BEST response and article on our housing crisis I’ve seen so far during this second, horrid, Tech-Bubble.

  184. Tim, I agree with what you say, but I am afraid this won’t go far enough. So many cities around the world—Seattle, New York, London—are getting wildly expensive and pushing long time tenants out. Income inequality is the common factor to all of them, tied together by a widespread culture of making the rich richer at the expense of others, and of never saying no to money.

    In the Bay Area, this is expressed by the tech companies, which bring in hundreds of thousands of employees earning multiples of the prevailing wages of everyone else. There’s no way of solving the housing crisis without reducing this increased demand by the very rich. The solutions you and others (including me) discuss, like rent control, low-income housing, or expanded housing in the peninsula help stop the leaks, but the only stable solution is to stop this at the source. That means actively working to reduce the number of high-income employees in the area, by large percentages.

    I’ve no idea how to go about that. It’s politically unthinkable, but as far as I can tell it’s the only way.

  185. I just wonder if there is some way to figure the length of time a renter has occupied a place as value that could benefit the city? Or if rent control could be encouraged through tax reductions? Or if Sacramento could be encouraged to let us experiment with unusual taxes? Or a business tax that increases in proportion to the distance travel by the average employee? –Like I said, just wondering?

  186. “Again: This is not about demonizing tech workers. It’s about saying to that industry, which has come to dominate city politics: You have to help this community survive, which means helping control displacement. Right here, right now.”

    … and meanwhile, Tim and Calvin Welch and his crew will do everything they can to prevent all new housing development in said community, ensuring that you never have an opportunity to join said community under any circumstances whatsoever. As was the plan all along.

    Sorry, we’re on to you.

  187. Excellent writing, Tim, absolutely on point and possibly the most clear and comprehensive piece yet written about the crisis. This is what I feel and I don’t mind if I get savaged for my comment. I fully support the entirety of your perspective here.

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