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UncategorizedIs a Park Avenue, NY building the future of...

Is a Park Avenue, NY building the future of SF?

48hills432park

By Tim Redmond

JANUARY 9, 2015 — It’s not going up in San Francisco. But the story behind 432 Park Avenue, in Manhattan, has some resonance in this city — as even Fortune Magazine points out.

The 400,000-square-foot tower, rising taller than the Empire State Building, will have room for only 140 residences — and by most account, many will barely be occupied. Consider the marketing plan:

Notably, while Macklowe Properties had kept 432 Park Avenue’s units off of popular broker databases like StreetEasy and the Residential Listing Service (RLS), the firm was going full-throttle in its attempt to court the Russian oligarchy. A kind of traveling sales office was set up at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Moscow’s Tverskaya Street, where dozens of billionaires pass through the lobby each day.

The concept is to create “housing” that’s nothing but trophy investment property for the super-rich.

San Francisco falls into the same category as Manhattan — a nice place to park international money. But as Fortune points out, this is more than just a highrise for billionaires, which might be passed off as a passing fad.

It’s a sign of everything that’s wrong with the economy today, a monument to inequality.

This coming spring, the few dozen occupants of 432 Park Avenue, North America’s third-tallest building, will begin to move in. They will furnish their palatial apartments against a global backdrop of deflationary fears, central banks in perpetual crisis mode, massive unemployment, and stubbornly stagnating wage growth for 99% of the world’s population.

In previous generations, when towers of this scale were erected, they were monuments to working. 432 Park, unlike the Chrysler Building, the World Financial Center, and the Empire State Building, is a monument to owning.

In the Medieval era, towers were erected to separate royalty and feudal overlords from the rest of the population during times of plague and suffering. It was an effective barrier, both physical and symbolic. A 1,400-foot skyscraper, in America’s most populous city, in which fewer than 100 people will reside, is perhaps the perfect present-day parallel to such behavior. The ascendance of 432 Park Avenue to its now-dominant place in the skyline says more about the state of our world than a thousand Thomas Pikettys typing on a thousand keyboards ever could.

And that ought to be part of the discussion about San Francisco housing. How much of what we are building is simply a series of gated communities that represent everything that a diverse city with a stated goal of fairness and equality ought to oppose?

Maybe at a certain point, luxury housing in SF is more than useless — maybe it’s creating a class structure that will tear the city apart.

Are you listening, Mr. Mayor?

 

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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70 COMMENTS

  1. Sam the problem with your logic, or what you’re forgetting, is that the bay needs housing for people who actually work and live here. We are creating jobs much faster than we are building homes and it is a major crisis. Lots of space dedicated to absentee dwellers is the last thing we need.

  2. Why is there almost guaranteed ignorance of science and physics in those who claim native status?
    In 1989 (a moderate earthquake), how many SF highrises were damaged? How many 4 story buildings were damaged?
    All of the large cities on the asia side of the pacific rim have an equal, if not greater, risk of earthquakes than SF – yet they all have supertall buildings. I guess they didnt think to consult the scientific oracle – 4th gen sfer – who says tall buildings are bad in earthquake country.
    I also hear that if you travel at the speed of sound, you instantly vaporize.

  3. Sam..the success of a city is also quite subjective. Do we measure Her accomplishments by net new housing units? While well reasoned people can debate the merits of our very strong Mayor’s drive to 2020, I fear the increasing extent to powerful developers are embedding themselves into our public and non profit institutions, from office of housing, SPUR, Democratic Clubs, elementary schools.
    There is nothing wrong with outreach, of course. Time honored tradition, gospel of wealth…no problem…if it helps a developer’s image….Ok…a little less altruistic…but they want people in the hoods to pen positively to Planning. Nothing sinister….right?

    Right. Now take that very familiar model, and imagine a scenario in which a developer spends millions to embed themselves, thus successfully gaining approval for several large projects in SF, and nobody once bothered to inquire into this developer’s other interests? If influential people, by the hundreds, actively endorsed a developer who, unknown to them, funds hate groups, worldwide…what would happen when they found out?
    The future is unwritten, because this is happening under the nose of this city.
    The city that knows how to do everything except use Google, apparently.

    Working backwards….

    Scott Lively….hate consultant to Uganda, Russia, and, back in the day, Oregon.
    Recent speaking engagement, The Gathering, 2014.

    The Gathering…based in Tyler Texas. .Extremist right-wing multi Billion dollar funding organization for anti gay, anti labor, anti tax, anti regulation, religious bigotry causes. These aren’t SF values, or those of any community of reasonable people.

    Now, enter Trumark Urban, a subsidiary of the Trumark Companies. Projects in every corner of the city. SPUR darling, donations to the Harvey Milk club. Arden Hearing local point person, Harvard Credentials, hip attire, ULI geek.

    Who owns Trumark? Michael Maples. What does he do besides build things? Among the several bigoted organizations he is on boards of directors…

    He is the fucking treasurer of THE GATHERING!

  4. No extradition treaty is one reason?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-06/sands-china-secret-probes-of-macau-officials-may-end-up-in-court.html

    “With side betting, gamblers in a VIP room agree ahead of time that, for example, a $1,000 chip is a $10,000 chip or a $100,000 chip, Vickers said. The off-the-books amount that is bet doesn’t go to the casinos but into the pockets of organized crime, according to Vickers.

    “The scale of it has shocked everybody,” Vickers said. “This is where politics, business and organized crime — the rubber meets the road in Macau.”

  5. Thanks Tim for that wonderful analogy of 432 Park to the Middle Ages. I wish I’d thought of it myself; it’s so perfect and unfortunately, so true.

  6. The end of being anonymous
    NY State Assembly Proposes Bill to Expose Anonymous Posters,
    California is next.

    “A WEB SITE ADMINISTRATOR UPON REQUEST SHALL REMOVE ANY COMMENTS POSTED ON HIS OR HER WEB SITE BY AN ANONYMOUS POSTER UNLESS SUCH ANONYMOUS POSTER AGREES TO ATTACH HIS OR HER NAME TO THE POST AND CONFIRMS THAT HIS OR HER IP ADDRESS, LEGAL NAME, AND HOME ADDRESS ARE ACCURATE. ALL WEB SITE ADMINISTRATORS SHALL HAVE A CONTACT NUMBER OR E-MAIL”

  7. What I can’t understand is why any Russian or Chinese investors in their right minds would park their money in the US. If the government of the US decides that they don’t like the government of your home country, they slap sanctions on whomever they please and freeze assets without any rhyme, reason, or recourse. A foreign investor can lose everything overnight.

  8. We certainly dodged a bullet with that one. I’m breathing a sigh of relief. I do feel sorry for the people of Boston, though. Boston is a great town, but they are dealing with their own displacement issues already. And now it’s going to get worse.

  9. Fair question, guys, and here is my answer.

    The word “successful” can be very subjective, so you are free to define it any way you want. Self reporting as successful particularly so because almost nobody considers themselves a failure, so they define “success” in a way that enables them to see themselves as successful.

    So someone who is broke, homeless, sick and unemployed might have a devoted pet dog and claim he is successful. It’s probably a waste of time to ask someone if they are successful; in the same way as you wouldn’t ask someone to admit to being a loser.

    You might try defining success in terms of being “happy”. But then I can imagine someone being successful but still unhappy. Some rich people certainly seem to be unhappy.

    But if we polled a representative set of typical Americans about what is meant by success, I’d be willing to bet that most people would define it in terms of achieving prosperity and recognition at work, business or risk-taking.

    That said, some people are rich simply by luck e.g. by inheriting a fortune or winning the lottery. “Success” might be a stretch there. But most achieve it through the rewards of employment, self-employment or investment.

    If you prefer the word “prosperous”, that’s fine by me.

    Finally, taking your example of a teacher, they’re generally not paid a whole lot. You could still call them “successful”, of course, but I’d probably use other words like “dedicated”, “noble”, “important”, “worthy” and “committed”.

    But generally I think people think of wealth when they hear the word “success”. That doesn’t mean the rich are better, happier or more deserving than anyone else, but it does mean they can afford the best, whether that be in housing or anything else. That’s why people invest so much time and effort into getting money, surely.

  10. Yeah Sam, what about Spanky’s question? How about teachers, they aren’t rich — can’t they be “successful” in your eyes? Or how about cops and firemen? Or journalists and City Hall workers? None are rich — can’t they be “successful”? Are the only successful people the rich ones? And are all rich people successful?

  11. Some of most active progressive commentators (who used their real names) on SFBG and other local political blogs stopped doing so in the last few years.

    Go back five years and comments often seemed to be dominated by Evans, Brown, Brooks, Solomon and Kamin.

    Evans died, of course. Brown moved out of town. Brooks is still around but has stopped posting. And Solomon and Kamin still post but have stopped posting with their last names.

    I’m not sure that revealing your real identity matters so much either way.

  12. If we built twice as much new housing for the rich as currently exists for the poor, then that would not affect those already here. New build typically does not involve demolishing existing residential buildings in SF and, where it does, those displaced get a very good payoff.

    So yes, building 100 new homes on a vacant site harms nobody who is currently here. In fact, it creates affordable housing funds and additional tax revenues.

    But if your point is simply that you just don’t like successful people and prefer to see fewer of them, then just state that.

  13. Wow, what a great insight. What stunning logic. Why didn’t progressives think of this before. It suggests a whole new approach to public policy. We could turn over two thirds of the city to the developers and let them build this kind of high-rise “rich absentees” housing all over the place – and then the rest of San Francisco can kill each other over the remaining third. For the survivors, they would have found urban Nirvana: a very uncrowded city, very little traffic and a lot of tax revenue for living the good life. It’s brilliant, I don’t know why progressive didn’t think of this before. Thanks to this fellow Sam for once again pointing the way.

  14. I understand the tax reason but I do not understand the reason for marketing only to Russia. I have heard that this is how some residential housings sold in SF, listing only in China.

  15. Instead of an inaccurate reference to an article about a NYC skyscraper, why is there no article here about the SF Olympic bid? I’m surprised there’s no vindication article about Chris Daly because I certainly would love to comment about that!

  16. I’d still feel safer in a tower like that during an earthquake than some mid-century soft story crapshack in the Richmond or the Sunset.

  17. Anonymous comments give a voice on this site to ALL San Fanciscans, not just the same semi-hinged types of zealots who show up at board meetings and otherwise dominate the discourse around this city. So not just the activists, retirees, and professional dependents, but those who might actually worry about what a potential employer or even their mother would think if they stumbled across some silly political tussling posts on some dopey website.

    Kudos for Tim for keeping the discussion anonymous.

  18. He’s an idiot who’s watched too many 80s movies about hackers. He’s probably one of those people who thinks that software engineers stare at an endless stream of randomly generated characters.

  19. I don’t understand what the issue is with what Dave said. He is pointing out an inaccuracy in this post’s thesis, which is entirely predicated on the notion that the Fortune article mentions San Francisco. It doesn’t even imply a connection to San Francisco, much less mention it explicitly.

    Have the pissed-off whiners really run out of outrage to the point where they are quoting magazine stories about OTHER CITIES and fabricating connections to this city? It would be one thing if Tim said that he alone was responsible for making this connection but he outright name-checks Fortune for credibility points, as if to say “See? This is relevant to San Francisco. Even Fortune says so.” Bullshit.

    Maybe he’s counting on the fact that the majority of his fist-shaking lemming readers don’t even click on the articles and will just blindly parrot his sentiments. It would explain a lot.

    David Sloan: Yeah, like you’d even know what to do with an IP address. Or a home address, for that matter. Is the implication that you’d track all dissenting commenters down and harm us? Classy.

  20. You do realize that your IP address varies depending on where you are, right?

    So as you move about between wi-fi zones, your IP address constantly changes, How will knowing the IP address of the Starbucks I am in make me less anonymous? Mobile computing and smart phones have made IP addresses near useless for the purpose of identification and tracking.

    If you’re going to make suggestions, at least make them rational and meaningful. A string of digits tells you nothing.

  21. Enough is enough Tim at times publishes informative articles, most of the comment section is taken up with trash.
    I am going to start a petition that requires all posters to have their IP address visible.
    Why be anonymous, back up your comments with your name.
    This will eliminate all the sick fucks that hide behind animosity.
    Reply

  22. In an earthquake though that building…..yikes. And they’re talking about us having these “super earthquakes” which are seriously frightening. For instance, in 1906 in the north bay some things moved literally 8 feet, today there’s a 20 foot gap. It was also felt and did damage wayyyyy in the north bay and down to Palo Alto and beyond.

    Scientists are now calling these super earthquakes, Super-shear earthquakes and they are “megadeadly”.

    Not sure if we should build up like that here.

  23. Hey @saminsf…we’re not the same people and you have zero basis for assuming so.

    My point was that Tim Redmond fabricated a key point in the opening sentence, something that is easily verifiable by clicking in the link he provides.

    If you want to just believe whatever you want to believe then fine, but there are also people out there who DO want to separate fact from fiction. They are just different than you, that’s all. Everybody has their own standards.

  24. Interesting. I had just seen this same photo in another article about NYC’s affordable housing challenges. NYC’s housing issues make SF’s seem likes child’s play in comparison:

    “The city endured a net loss of more than 150,000 rent-regulated units between 1994 and 2012. For perspective, that’s equivalent to the entire housing stock of Cincinnati.”

    http://nextcity.org/features/view/new-york-city-affordable-rent-affordable-housing-de-blasio-alicia-glen

    It’s a bald lie that building high rises will eventually increase supply to middle income groups. High-rises have the most expensive housing units, which will never trickle down to the middle income groups. In fact, they generally appreciate much faster than lower-rise construction.

    Building denser as a means of increasing affordability is also a lie. Building denser only means that the developers make a millions more in profit since the sales price per square foot will stay the same, but the amount of square footage sold will vastly increase.

    The only way to ensure affordability is to mandate deed restrictions that limit the ownership of the housing units to pre-determined household income levels. This technique works for the next 99 years, with a new 99-year deed restriction term established every time there is ownership turnover. Even the affordable housing industry only provides affordability for 40-60 years before the insurance companies or banks convert the “affordable” property to for-profit housing that is rented or sold off to the highest bidders.

  25. Sam and Dave the same person tag teaming right wing propaganda on a site for progressive discussion.

    I bet you respond to this post in just a few …seems like you’ve got lots of time on your hands.

  26. FWIW, Tim made this part up:

    “the story behind 432 Park Avenue, in Manhattan, has some resonance in this city — as even Fortune Magazine points out.”

    The article never mentions, alludes or refers to San Francisco.

  27. One can reasonably take the view that, since no public money is involved, and since these residents will consume little or nothing in the way of public services, and yet pay truckloads of taxes, that we can build for these plutocrats and simply take their money.

    No harm is caused, and these new homes are either fiscally neutral, or fiscally positive. Whether they get built or not will make zero difference to anyone who is poor, unemployed or under-housed.

    Desirable cities all over the planet compete to sell to these high-value trophy residents. There is a reason for that. And if another city gets them because we are on an envy or Nimby trip, then that is a bunch of affordable housing that isn’t funded, or a bunch of city workers who have to be laid off, or some vital city services that get cut.

    Never let your envy get in the way of securing inbound investment.

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