We are allowing the industries that make great wealth to avoid paying for the human costs of their actions. That didn’t work the last time around ….

In the post-War era, the chemical industry made a lot of money — and polluted a lot of places like Love Canal in New York, where people got sick and died. Are we going to let the same thing happen here?

By Tim Redmond

SEPTEMBER 22, 2015 – I don’t think I’m the only one who has noticed a huge increase in the number of tech shuttles clogging the city’s streets. And a new study confirms that the number of shuttles is going up – and areas where there are shuttle stops have more evictions.

That confirms what pretty much everyone in the Mission knows: When you make it easier for high-paid tech workers to get a free ride to their offices, you make the surrounding housing more attractive and thus more valuable. And when you do that, in this crazy market, landlords find ways to get rid of long-term tenants so they can rent or sell to higher-paid workers.

The number of private shuttle-bus stops in the city has increased by 46 percent in the past year, the study by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project shows. And we are getting closer to the city turning this “pilot” program into a permanent part of the city’s transportation infrastructure, the impacts are important.

The way the city is moving, this will be adopted without a full environmental impact report; the Municipal Transportation Agency argues that since the buses get commuters out of their cars, it’s good for the environment.

That, of course, misses a huge point, and it’s worth taking a larger look at.

Let’s put the tech shuttles in the context of a new report outlined in TechCrunch suggesting that one-third of the rent costs in San Francisco are due to venture capital.

These different types of findings have huge implications for the debate over who should pay for impacts to a city’s existing population, transit infrastructure and affordable housing. Should it be captured through property taxes? Land taxes? Income taxes? Impact fees for new construction? Impact fees associated with investment?

The economists have a word for what happens when a transaction or other economic activity has impacts on the larger society. It’s called “externality,” and a classic example is a factory that hires workers, pays them, produces products – and sends pollutants out of a smokestack.

The people who inhale the pollution, and get sick or die, suffer — even if they get no money from the factory. (The owners most likely live far away, where the air is cleaner).

The post-War industrial boom made the United States a wealthy country. Millions of jobs were created; great fortunes were made in the automotive, manufacturing, textile, aviation, chemical, and agricultural industries.

But the effluents from that boom killed or injured tens of thousands of people, maybe more. The current (and scary) changes in the global climate are in part a result of that era of smokestack industries (and the introduction of millions of cars to the roads).

The environmental impacts of the chemical, mining, and agribusiness industries were massive, and we are still dealing with them today.

And for the most part, during that boom era, the people and corporations who made the most money never paid a penny to cover the costs of the externalities of their economic activity.

It’s only now that we are talking about a carbon tax, or cap and trade. And even those would fall as much on consumers as on producers.

The US, like many countries, has had a bad history with environmental and health externalities.  (We still seem to have problems today.) There have been attempts to regulate them (environmental protection and workplace safety laws) and lawsuits over them in the aftermath, but not so much legislative action to figure out how the responsible parties should pay – in advance, during, and after the impact of their actions.

That’s something an environmental impact report ought to cover – not just what the impacts might be, but who ought to pay to mitigate them, and how much it should cost.

So now we are in the middle of another industrial revolution, a different kind, one that’s based on ideas not on smokestacks. San Francisco is the center of it, just as Detroit and Akron and Los Angeles were among the centers of the post-War industrial era.

And this time, the externalities aren’t old-style industrial pollution – all of that happens in other countries, where products designed here are actually built. (The economist Enrico Moretti notes that if you order an Apple iPhone on the web, when it arrives only one American worker will have touched it – and that’s that UPS employee who carries it to your door.)

But there are still externalities – and in this case, they involve not only environmental concerns (more cars and buses on the streets, more people in a small area) but economic impacts. The externalities that come from allowing San Francisco and the Peninsula to become the center of the tech industry involve massive human displacement and suffering. The development that has taken place to accommodate the industry has led to vast, multibillion-dollar pressures on the local transportation and housing infrastructure.

And the industry and the people who are making great wealth from it aren’t being asked to pay.

Yes, we have (modest) fees for affordable housing and transportation. But everyone freely admits that they are inadequate to cover the full impacts.

Some of the tech companies who took advantage of a nice tax break (instead of paying fees) in the Mid-Market area are doing “community benefits agreements” to help out nonprofits in the area. But they aren’t doing anything to pay the costs of nonprofits facing much higher rent. Instead of (or along with) sending a staffer to volunteer for a few hours, they could pay a “rent impact” fee that would allow nonprofits to stay in their offices.

But no, that’s not how it works.

A group of activists has sued the city, demanding a full environmental impact report for the shuttle bus program. That’s a start – you can’t run hundreds of giant buses, with 35,000 boardings  a day, without some environmental impact. (I ride a bicycle, and I see the impacts all over town. The shuttles block Muni buses, forcing people, including seniors and disabled people, to walk out into the street to get on Muni. They’re so big that they make it a bit frightening to ride even in the bike lanes on Valencia when they are passing by.)

And, according to the lawsuit, which will go to trial Nov. 13, “At the same time that the city has exempted the project from CEQA review, it is conducting a full CEQA review of Muni’s Transit Effectiveness Project. … certainly, private shuttle operators should be held to the same standards as the city’s own transit provider.”

So there will be discussion of pollution and Muni blockages and bicycles and state law.

But a real review of the program would look at the much broader issues.

All big transportation projects have economic impacts. A new BART line makes property nearby more valuable. But the shuttle buses aren’t public, so the benefits go only to a small number of people who are allowed on board. And those people are, by and large, high paid workers who want to live near shuttle stops.

The biggest beneficiaries are the landlords who own buildings near the shuttle stops. They’re making far more money off this than they would from a new Muni or BART line, which would serve a much more economically diverse population.

Who should pay for the impacts on low-income tenants who lose their homes as a pretty direct result of the shuttle bus routes and the venture capital income that has flooded the city?

As I have said many times before, it wasn’t the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith that created the tech boom and the housing crisis in San Francisco. Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials intentionally gave tech companies incentives to set up shop here in an effort to create jobs and lower the unemployment rate. (Nobody has ever looked at how many tech jobs went to currently unemployed San Franciscans as opposed to people who moved here to take them, but the evidence on the ground is pretty clear. The city’s population has soared in rough proportion to the number of tech jobs created in the region. People who lived here five years ago already had a place to live and aren’t displacing other existing residents.)

So, in the same way that some cities gave tax incentives to encourage auto plants to open (without addressing the externalities), San Francisco has encouraged the boom that is transforming the city. Peninsula cities are doing the same: You can’t build a new campus for Apple in Cupertino, taking in the property taxes – and not build any housing at all for the workforce – without creating a problem. And much of that problem has been exported to San Francisco.

I go back to my original question: Who should pay for these impacts? Are we going to do what we as a society did in the post-War era, and allow the economic equivalent of industrial pollution and health impacts with no accountability for the companies that caused them?

Or should we say that growth needs to pay for growth, and that (to follow modern environmental thinking) the creators of externalities should pay – fully, 100 percent – to mitigate them?

That would be a dramatic change in policy. It would require us to do real planning, to say that nobody can build a new office building until that developer pays the full cost of Muni service, affordable housing, and other city needs – and if the developer says that’s too expensive, then we’d wave goodbye and say we’re better off without you.

It would mean that the tech companies, instead of getting tax breaks, would have to be accountable – with cash, up front – for the impacts their wealth creation is having on the working-class people who currently live in the town they are trying to make their own.

It would mean Apple should pay the many billions of dollars it will take to build the amount of housing needed for the workers at its new campus (or the affordable housing for the people they displace).

Same goes for Twitter, and Salesforce, and Facebook.

Half a century ago, you might be able to argue that the tax money coming from the industries and the jobs they created provided governments with enough to build the buses and roads and houses that were needed. But that’s clearly not true today, in the post-Reagan, post-Prop. 13 world. The wealth gap created by this industrial boom is a disgrace, just as Love Canal, created by the last one, was a disgrace.

We as a society screwed up the externality question, badly, in the period after World War II, and we are paying the environmental consequences today. (On the other hand, in that era, union power and fair taxes made economic inequality much less of an issue; the wealth created by productivity increases was spread around; the American Middle Class was created, as was the consumer society.)

This time around the United States seems happy to let the environmental and labor problems go overseas (the IPhone is built in factories that get their electricity from fossil fuels, by workers who have no unions and work under what most Americans would consider unacceptable conditions).

But we have refused to address the economic impacts in cities like San Francisco.

Somebody has to pay. Either those of us who ride Muni pay higher fares so developers make higher profits, and those of us who are forced out of town pay more in money and time for our commutes so that tech companies can have their workers live close to shuttles – or the ones who enjoy the economic benefits have to pay for the costs.

Is that too much to ask? Isn’t it crazy not to?

  • Nancy Snyder

    thanks for writing this; the complexity of the situation is clear

  • Bob

    uh, considering that 75% of the housing stock in SF is rental housing, there wouldn’t BE a SF without landlords. Unbelievable.

    • bobfuss

      Yes, it really is stunning how those who provide a critical service to hard-working SF residents are demonized.

      How many people has Tim housed? Talk is cheap. Whining is easy. Blaming others is tempting. But some of us take risks and actions that help provide homes instead of bleating for a subsidy.

      • Nancy Snyder

        what subsidy are you referring to? What are some of the risks and actions that you are referring to? Just a respectful question

        • Bob

          Rent control.

          • MKR

            Rent control is really more about price control than subsidies, and price controls have been debated by lawmakers for centuries – long before old John D Rockefeller protested the breakup of Standard Oil.
            In densely populated urban environments land turns into a commodity product in high demand. Rent prices which spiral out of control can damage an economy the same way that an increase in the price of food or oil will damage people’s standard of living.
            Think about it: the Federal Reserve spends most of their time debating whether or not inflation increases of .1 or .2 percent warrant rate increases. But inflation of 15 to 20% per year could paralyze an economy and cause massive economic hardship and displacement. This is essentially what rent control is about – controlling prices which spiral out of control.
            It is probably not possible for lawmakers to completely control land/rental prices in urban areas in the United States, but most people would agree that some measures need to be taken .

          • tomtip

            It certainly hasn’t been possible for SF lawmakers to control land and rental prices in SF. In fact there is a good argument that they have driven up those prices and rents by creating shortages of supply.

            Whether rent control is seen as a subsidy or not largely depends on your point of view. Certainly any landlord will consider that he is subsidizing the lifestyle of his tenants. It is usually at the point where they decide that they are no longer willing to do that, whe an Ellis happens.

            Price controls typically work best as short-term responses to extreme circumstances. They have never worked in the long-term, because they de-incentivize the provision of rental housing.

          • MKR

            In some countries the government successfully controls land prices and rental prices – Germany, for example, and they have a thriving economy.

          • tomtip

            Germany has a very low level of home ownership – probably the lowest in the developed west. Renting there is considered the norm.

            In the US people aspire to home ownership. Controls on rent are fine if people move on and buy homes. The problem in SF is that rent controlled deals become so good that tenants never move on.

            And that detracts from RE returns, and therefore from the availability of rental housing.

            So paradoxically, rent control drives up rents at the margin.

          • MKR

            I think the problem in SF is not rent control, but many more people who want to live there.

          • MKR

            The same arguments are made for drug price controls – the former fund manager who raised the price of a drug for toxoplasmosis by 5000% in one day is getting vilified in the press – and Im not saying I have all the answers.


          • tomtip

            Developing new drugs is a very expensive and risky business. If the returns aren’t there, the development doesn’t happen. The Us has far and away the best record for developing new effective drugs – far more so than the nations with regulated and socialized controls on drugs and “free” healthcare.

            And the provision of housing is also very expensive and risky. So the returns need to be there.

          • MKR

            The insurance companies are mandated by the government to pay for most of these drugs otherwise many more people would be dead of cancer, Aids, tuberculosis and other life threatening diseases. So you do have indirect price regulations.

          • Nancy Snyder

            when did rent control become the misnomer “subsidy”; is this the classic renaming of realities that inflame the right wing i.e. when benefits became reclassified as “entitlements”

          • tomtip

            If you pay less for something than it is worth, then you are getting an implied subsidy. The only reason people don’t realize it is a subsidy is because it is technically not a government handout. But the effect is the same as Section 8 housing vouchers, which is a direct subsidy, so controls on price should be regarded as a form of subsidy.

            The problem with it is that, instead of all of society funding that welfare, the burden is pushed onto a relatively small number of people. Not surprisingly, they eventually get tired of doing that, which is why every year there are fewer controlled units available for rent

  • Many landlords in SF are good. Some are bad. Almost all real-estate speculators are bad.

    • wcw

      Are tenants and homeowners who pay high rents and house prices also bad?

      • Nancy Snyder

        Tim did not say that – so, I don’t understand the question

        • wcw

          If nobody bought an expensive home or paid a high rent, there would be no speculators because there would be no profit.

          • FLOlmsted


          • wcw

            Salty language aside, what is the logic? Without high prices and rents, no speculator would ever earn a dime. How does a speculator force prospective buyers or tenants to pay?

          • FLOlmsted

            Find one person – one – who says ‘yes, I’d like to give you 150% of asking price, please!’. That’s horseshit. It’s the greedy fuckers selling who set exorbitant prices.

            Your message is *much more* offensive than my language, you pearl-clutching fool.

          • wcw

            How does a speculator force buyers to pay 150% of asking?

          • RealFakeSanFranciscan

            If sellers are the ones who set exorbitant prices, why don’t they set them to be twice whatever they are at any given moment?

            According to your theory, nothing should be stopping them.

          • Mikefulton

            That’s pretty much what they have been doing and there *is* nothing stopping them.

        • Pvt. Hudson

          Tenants and buyers with lots of cash are what drive prices. Landlords and sellers can only charge what someone is willing to pay.

          • FLOlmsted


          • Pvt. Hudson

            Why do many properties in the city go for over asking?

  • Pontifikate

    It’s not only San Francisco.

    The externalities of the “on-demand economy” (not “sharing”) means that like Walmart, people working for these companies are not treated as employees and thus have no benefits and low wages. I think it may be David Plouffe or some other political operative now working for the “on-demand economy” who wrote an op-ed for the Times asking for a better safety net — a safety net that will have to be paid for by ALL OF US, while it’s likely the people who head these corporate entities will pay little tax, if any. (They rarely do).

  • Y.

    When the welfare of so many people rides on issues like this, and when city policy needs convincing studies to rely on, it’s a shame that the studies that keep coming out, like the Zumper study here and like Egan and Khan’s study a week ago, provide thin statistics without any of the backing data for readers to judge them (note that these two studies offer comfort to opposing sides of the political spectrum.) At least the AEMP study puts out its data out for anyone to evaluate.

    • wcw

      There’s an AEMP study?

      The Zumper study is bunk: it does a cross-sectional regression for a single year of funding with no lags and no attempt to look at past data. Egan and Khan looked at lagged results for fifty years of development.

      • Y.

        They were looking at very different things. The Zumper study looked at different cities, to look for correlations with housing prices. Egan and Khan were looking for temporal effects (what happens to building prices following the construction of nearby new buildings). Sure, the Zumper study would benefit from more data, but I wouldn’t call it ‘bunk’ any more than E&K. Neither study shows you how good the fit to the model is, and does not give you enough data to try to reproduce any of its conclusions.

        • wcw

          Nah, it’s bunk. It is about two shades short of a classic paper on money, income and sunpsots: http://schwert.ssb.rochester.edu/jme78.pdf

          Egan and Khan could have given us more output. Zumper could have restrained itself from regressing sunspots to money.

          • Y.

            Well, I agree that using VC money as a variable is unjustified; looking at income would make more sense. What do landlords care where their rent money comes from? As it happens, though, a lot of the extra money floating around is VC money. I’d be curious to know what part of the extra income floating around SF at present is coming from startups.

          • wcw

            Zumper’s dataset has San Francisco and San Jose seeing a bit over $20B total venture funding in 2014. GDP for the two metro areas was over $600B. Now, 3.5% of GDP is a lot, but accounting for one third of local rents is an extraordinary claim.

            Leave aside the joke about sunspots; regression of levels is suspect, but that’s not the problem. The model is bad. Why would VC funding that hadn’t even been drawn down yet affect rents the same year? Why think rent proportional to population? Why, aside from convenience, use medians?

            There is a relationship between capital flows and jobs and, eventually, incomes and population. Incomes and population should affect rents. A good model might try to measure the contribution of venture funding. This model, however, isn’t even an instructive toy. It’s bunk.

    • M. Montrouge

      Does the AEMP have a single economist among their ranks? They’re good at
      showing correlation and insinuating causation without ever trying to
      prove it. Pretty graphics, but that’s about it, they’re essentially propaganda for folks like Tim and politicians to use.

      • Y.

        I don’t know if they have an economist among their ranks, but at least you can see your data and judge for yourself if it fits their conclusions. I wish the other two studies, put out by paid degreed economists, would have anything like the “pretty graphics” put out by the volunteers at AEMP.

        • M. Montrouge

          People do what they’re good at. Erin McElroy’s artist and activist, she walks in with her conclusions already made and then manipulates the images to tell the story she wants to tell.

          This kind of manipulative use of statistics is what leads people into pushing for policies that go after the symptoms rather than the causes.

          Because people see condos being built, they assume the condos must be the blame for higher rents, but completely ignore the reasons people are building condos there in the first place.

        • wcw

          Where’s the AEMP study?

          • Y.

            The link above:

            It’s only a map, and doesn’t give any sort of hard statistics, but it’s still better in what it presents than the digested results in the other two studies.
            (And for the record, I don’t think it shows that nearness to Google bus stops encourages evictions, and I’m no friend of either.)

          • wcw

            Seems a step up from the Zumper doc, at least. Are there download links somewhere to grab the underlying dataset?

          • Y.

            I haven’t looked.

  • M. Montrouge

    What I want to know is how to we address the “externalities” of the poor and homeless? You could make the same argument logic Tim is using to basically say we can’t increase services for the homeless because it increases San Francisco’s demand to homeless people, are the non-profits going to pay for their costs, the homeless themselves? We also shouldn’t of allowed White liberals to move to the Mission or Bernal, because they increase the Mission’s attractiveness for other whites to move there. Do the Broke Ass Stuarts have to pay for the costs of making the Mission hip?

    The error Tim makes is he assumes the tech industries presence here rests mostly on the shoulder of politicians who created the financial incentives setup shop in SF. This ignores the fact that tech companies don’t come to San Francisco for merely financial incentives, otherwise they would of setup shop in Detroit where everything is cheap. Considering the nature of their work, they really only need to be located in a city that has decent internet. No, tech like San Francisco for many of the same reasons a lot of people like San Francisco.

    Mark Zuckerberg can afford to live wherever he wants. What incentives led him to buy a place in the Mission? Why the heck would he want to live in a different city than the one he works in? Once progressives start understanding this, maybe they’ll actually start to actually understand the problem.

    • M. Montrouge

      I’m gonna assume because no progressive here can answer to this, that they don’t have an answer.

      The fundamental problem in the moratorium is easy to expose if you have even a cursory understanding of economics.

      What do you do with demand that is not met? Wish upon a star? Happy thoughts?

    • KOinSF

      Uh, if you think SF has the best internet, I must suggest you do not live in SF. And Zuckerberg owns several houses and lives in each rarely I bet, a habit of the rich, build themselves many homes. yawn

      • M. Montrouge

        My words were literally “decent internet”, nowhere did I even imply that SF has the best internet, far from it, in fact that was my point. Tech could literally set up shop anywhere, and yet, despite San Francisco’s mediocre internet infrastructure, they still decide to locate here.

        I don’t know where Zuckerberg mostly lives, but either way there are plenty of techies who aren’t able to afford multiple home that decide to live in San Francisco. How people address that demand is the issue at hand. The moratorium simply ignores it.

  • sebra leaves

    The conversation should be about whether or not to extend the concept of mitigation and environmental impacts to include social and economic impacts, not over who is good and who is bad. This a subject some of the Supervisors have visited a number of times, but there is not yet the support to pass anything or any clear path to do so.

  • sffoghorn

    Who pays for the damage the nonprofit cooption boom has done to the ability of SF residents to elect candidates opposed to neoliberalism?

    • Nancy Snyder


      • sffoghorn

        These so-called “community groups” are non-democratic private nonprofit corporations that often have contractual relationships with the City. They purport to represent the people and act against corporate dominance but dependence on city funding comes with political strings. The main project of the nonprofit industrial complex is to inhibit popular political expression by sucking all of the oxygen out of the room. Their goals are to direct more funding to their agencies, not to solve the problems or represent the interests that they purport. The rise of the nonprofit sector coincides with the demobilization of San Franciscans. Who is going to pay for the damage due to our inability to fight back because of sabotage by “our nonprofit allies?”

    • There are over 6,000 NGO’s in this City, and the problems of homelessness, hunger, and healthcare are still nowhere close to being addressed.

      • sffoghorn

        More importantly, the political will to contest the neoliberals at the ballot box has been coopted as they are paralyzed by their dependence on city funding.

  • sebra leaves

    Some people are also considering the cultural impact of development on the city that is pushing out the artists and small businesses. Not only are we losing art studios and venues at an alarming rate, but our cultural institutions such as the SF Ballet, cannot hire any new dancers because they cannot afford to pay them enough to live in San Francisco. We already know most employees do not live here any more. We are looking at the death of San Francisco’s rich cultural heritage if we don’t preserve it.

    • Pvt. Hudson

      How do we preserve it, from a legal and regulatory standpoint? Tax all new tenancies? Tax all real estate sales over the median price? Peid-a-terre tax? Increase sf payroll taxes to discourage new businesses from opening? Somehow raise $45B to build 50,000 affordable units?

      What i never see on this board are suggestions beyond increased eviction controls and stricter STR laws. These things, while perhaps good, help relatively few people. What do we do to lower housing costs?

      • tomtip

        Higher taxes on housing can only make housing more expensive. We’ve tried that already, and more regulations, and it hasn’t worked.

        The key is the exact opposite – ease regulations, lower taxes and incentivize those who build or provide homes.

        • Pvt. Hudson

          I agree. I was posing the question to those on this site who seem to think we can stop people from moving here and raising costs. I ask, “how?”

      • KOinSF

        I guess you are unaware of the bond that will be used for more affordable housing? And we do not even know how many units are owed by those who do not live here and sit empty or get rented via AirBnB vs long term citizen of the city.

      • sebra leaves

        That is the purpose of Prop I, to acknowledge we have a problem and we need time to figure out a solution. By stopping development for a while we can work on a solution. Clearly our current methods are failing. We need to bring the renters and landowners together to figure out how. Right now we an unbalanced system, where landowners only have money and tenants only have laws on their side. We need to change that somehow to give landlords more rights and figure out how to keep prices affordable. Passing Prop I will signal that no one is happy and we need A Better Plan. If you agree, sign this petition and tell City Authorities what you think: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/san-francisco-needs-a-1?source=c.em&r_by=14231321

        • Pvt. Hudson

          So no idea at all.

          I understand the sentiment, but disagree with the prop I. It is bad economic policy. The best affordability is abundant housing. Until it becomes cheaper to build lots of both market rate and subsidized housing, people will be displaced by higher wage earners. If there is a significant market correction, prices will fall, but very quickly recover during the next boom. The only effective course of policy within the city’s power is to encourage construction by easing zoning laws and streamlining the planning process while requiring a higher BMR component.

    • tomtip

      “SF Ballet, cannot hire any new dancers because they cannot afford to pay them enough to live in San Francisco.”

      Why does someone who has a job in SF have to live in SF?

      At least 500,000 SF workers prove every day that it is not necessary.

      • sebra leaves

        You must have missed the class on how transit rich stack and pack housing is good for the environment if you are asking why people with jobs in SF should live in SF.
        The major reason given to lift voter approved Prop M height limits in SF is to produce housing near where people work to reduce commute times and traffic.
        The reality has not lived up to the dream. We have increased the in-flow of commuters who work in the city by pricing them out of the housing market. Most new residents work elsewhere so they are commuting out.
        That is why a big fight is brewing over who to blame. Pretty much everyone in authority who drank the transit rich cool-aide is back-pedaling as fast as they can and pointing fingers at each other.
        But, If you follow 48hills you know that.

        • sffoghorn

          Why should we give the kool-ade drinkers another bite at the apple?

    • Y.

      Quite a few people don’t give a damn about the arts. That includes many politicians, though they know they have to pay them lip service.

    • KOinSF

      Same problem with hiring teachers, cops, and firefighters. Not to forget all the low wage service people who cannot afford to live here. Why take minimum wage job in SF when you live elsewhere? Those jobs exist in Richmond too. Wonder what all these rich folks will do when no one is willing to take these jobs when it costs hundreds in BART fees each month to get to work?

      • sebra leaves

        That is what robots are for. And my guess is they can store them in those 200 square foot (and smaller) units they are building as affordable housing. Or, they could stash a servant there if they can afford one.

  • chasmader

    Who pays for the damage NIMBY-Baby Boomers have inflicted upon the City?

  • jhayes362

    There is an essential truth that Redmond stated which is being ignored here.

    “it wasn’t the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith that created the tech boom and the housing crisis in San Francisco. Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials intentionally gave tech companies incentives to set up shop here in an effort to create jobs and lower the unemployment rate.”

    Look at it this way: you have a campfire. You pour gasoline on it and you get a forest fire. The forest fire is the equivalent of SF’s soaring housing costs and attendant gentrification. Meanwhile, Ed Lee has told the firefighters to stay home.

    • Pvt. Hudson

      You can’t really blame the twitter tax break for everything. It’s a break on tax that almost no other city has. Also, the bay area was a tech hub long before it. If anything, Lee did not do enough to encourage enough housing to support the influx of workers. You can fault him for continuing poor housing policy, but he did not create this problem.

      • tomtip

        Yes, if anything the city has done a lot to deter tech from SF, which is a big part of why so much of it is in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, which are both much more pro-business and anti-regulations than SF.

        The almost unique imposition of payroll tax on stock options is a perfect example of that excess, as you note, which is why the city had to back down on it.

        The viewpoint that jhayes is expressing only matters if we think that the most important thing for SF is that it doesn’t change, that nobody has to adapt, and if the present population and demographic is somehow sacrosanct.

        Last election, Ed Lee asked voters for their top priorities and it was jobs, jobs and jobs. He did what we asked him to do.

      • jhayes362

        Measures large (twitter tax break) and small (Google and other tech transport buses, which are expanding their reach in SF) have all played a role. In cities like SF with a strong mayor form of government the mayor can strongly influence employment and development trends. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to say that Ed Lee nurtured the tech invasion.

        • tomtip

          There isn’t much the mayor could do about private shuttles anyway. They are entitled to use our streets, subject to height, length and weight limits.

          And many people like them either because they use them or because they take cars off the road.

          Ed Lee certainly has encouraged investment in new jobs in SF, but he would surely argue that is exactly why the voters elected him – he always said his focus was on jobs.

          The success of the local tech industry has given us bountiful benefits that most others cities would kill for. Without Silicon Valley, SF would be like Oakland, and Oakland would be like Fresno.

          • jhayes362

            The tech buses are using Muni stops and paying a pittance and where they go eviction rates increase. There is a difference between well-planned economic growth and the bonfire that is sucking all the oxygen from the city.

          • tomtip

            Tech is the most dynamic thing about the city. It attracts many even if it repels a few. It is an opportunity for anyone here even if, like me, they aren’t particularly techy.

            The opportunities are to provide products and services to the techies, just like those who sold shovels and jeans to the gold miners did very well out of it.

            You see misery and I see opportunity. I see the glass half full and you see it half empty

          • jhayes362

            I’ve lived here since 1987 and never has it been like this. I see many people displaced with no where to go. I see rampant development with no regard to infrastructure. Sure there are opportunities if you can afford the price, but there are plenty of longtime residents who cannot.

            I said earlier that I am not against well-planned growth. But I am against growth that wipes out neighborhoods and communities. I am also against economies that rely on a single sector. It’s not half-full or half-empty, but a better balance that I prefer.

          • tomtip

            Change is hard for many. I get that. But is the scale of the dislocation really as large as you suggest? For instance, the percentage of Mission District residents who are Latino has declined from about 60% to 50%. That’s significant but hardly terminal. And many of those no longer there may simply now be in the outer Mission or Excelsior.

          • Bob

            That fact is one that is completely overlooked in this discussion. What if the % latino in other SF neighborhoods has risen? What if they just left the mission and moved to other neighborhoods. Are we at the point the we enforce a % quota for a particular neighborhood?

          • wcw

            The ’90s bubble saw significantly more displacement.

            The information sector makes up less than 10% of metro GDP.

          • M. Montrouge


            Half of the no fault evictions from 1997 to 2014 occurred by March of 2002. In other words, 50% of no fault evictions occurred in 29% of a period covering nearly 2 decades.

          • jhayes362

            Don’t see where the 29% figure comes from. It’s not in the link. Also note, no-fault evictions are not a true measure of displacement. From the link:

            It does not encapsulate the true level of displacement because buyouts, eviction threats, and rent increases that drive tenants with no rent protection out cumulatively do not show up on official city records. The number of renters evicted per unit is also unknown. Some people also self-evict either because they don’t understand their rights or do not want to fight even against an illegal eviction. These also do not appear here.

          • M. Montrouge

            I had to figure out that number by moving the bar to 6000 or so evictions and checking the date. 6000 happens in 2002. Obviously the number there doesn’t encapsulate everything, but you would think that the non-measurables you mentioned follow pretty closely to the overall eviction trend, and clearly there were a lot more evictions in a 5 year period between 1997 and 2002 vs, 2009-2014.

            Also, it was Tim who was the one who used the 12,000 number to blame the Mayor. I’m just pointing out that his usage is pretty dishonest, especially when you consider that Mayor Lee couldn’t have been responsible for evictions that happened before he was even elected.

          • Pvt. Hudson

            I don’t disagree. The shuttles should pay more. So should developers.

            On the other side of the coin, however, the city has got to encourage more housing production. More high wage jobs in the city is a good thing, but we’ve got to add housing and infrastructure for them. The city currently has many policies and regulations that make housing expensive and difficult to build. These policies hurt affordability just as much as the influx of tech.

          • sebra leaves

            The non-Muni buses are breaking state law by using the Muni bus stops and the only way they are getting away with it is by saying they are claiming it is a pilot project. That is how they get away with breaking state law. Now, they have to get Sacramento to pass a law to allow them to permanently permit non-Muni buses to park in Muni bus stops. If you object to tech buses using the stops, you should complain to your state reps. See links here. https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/state-legislators/

          • KOinSF

            Wait, without the tech boom SF would be like Oakland? That has to be one of the dumbest comments I have heard in a while.

  • whateversville

    When you say “areas where there are shuttle stops have more evictions” you are pointing to an analysis that says evictions are 69% higher near shuttle stops. If you look at what they consider to be ‘near a shuttle stop’, it’s pretty meaningless. It covers about half of the city,

  • amelia

    Could we ever ask the tech companies to pay back taxes after the tax breaks expire?

  • Mikefulton

    Problem will never get solved until you stop blaming the tech industry and start blaming landlords and developers