Could this city lead the way with a carbon tax? And do we need a new jail?

Sup. John Avalos wants to pay for tree maintenance with a carbon tax
Sup. John Avalos wants to pay for tree maintenance with a carbon tax

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 30, 2015 – I was on the road over the holiday, and doing what I always do on the road, which is listen to NPR, and I heard a great interview with James Hansen, the NASA climate scientists who first raised the alarm about global climate change.

He talked a bit about what it was like to say that humans were frying the planet back in the 1980s, when the whole idea seemed heretical, but mostly he talked about the Paris summit, and the utter failure of anyone leading any major country to talk about the only viable solutions that could prevent catastrophic sea-level rise.

The (conservative) economists who worry about the impacts of rapid reductions in the use of fossil fuels ought to be worried about something else, he noted: Many of the world’s biggest and most important cities are going to be underwater in 30 years if things don’t change quickly. That will have a much greater impact on the global GDP (and the profits of big corporations) than a modest reduction in emissions.

Hansen’s predictions have been largely accurate in the past, and now he’s talking about things like 10-20 meter rises in sea level, which would pretty much inundate New York, London, Washington DC, Miami, Beijing … the list goes on. I am going to need a boat to get from Bernal Hill to Twin Peaks.

This is real.

And, he said, there’s a simple way to turn it around: A direct tax on carbon, levied at the wellhead or the mine or the docks where it’s imported. Let the money go directly to the people, in the form of dividends – that way, the working-class folks who see gas prices go up will have the cash to offset those prices. In fact, he said, the studies he’s seen show that most people in the US (and presumable other industrialized countries) will be better off after the tax-and-dividend plan, the only exception being the very rich. So it would have a progressive economic impact.

The serious environmental and economic analysts looking at the Paris talks say that the world needs to adopt a “carbon budget” – that is, we should all agree that there’s a finite amount of additional carbon that can be absorbed in the atmosphere, and then discuss how to divide up that allocation.

As the NY Times puts it,

The group [of UN scientists] calculated a budget that can be thought of as something like — to use another food metaphor — a carbon pie, with the central question being: How can it be carved up fairly?

The problem is that about two-thirds of the pie has already been eaten by a handful of rich countries, plus China. At current rates, the remainder of it will be gone in 30 years or less. Many poor countries are crowding around the table, pleading for a sliver, but the big emitting countries insist on laying claim to most of the rest of the pie.

You see the political problem.

But Hansen’s solution would use the market to address the allocation: People who want to fly around in private jets pay a high, and gradually increasing, tax for their carbon use, and that goes to subsidize everyone else who is trying to figure out how to pay for the shift to renewables.

There is absolutely zero chance this will pass today’s Republican Congress. But there’s a pretty decent chance that a small-scale, experimental version could be adopted in San Francisco.

Sup. John Avalos has proposed a local version of a carbon tax – to pay to resolve one of those issues that makes everyone who owns a home in San Francisco mad at City Hall.

See, the city has been slowly moving to make property owners take responsibility for street trees. If you own a building in SF, you already have to maintain the sidewalk in front of it (the city owns the sidewalk, but you own the cracks.) Now, block by block, the city is transferring responsibility for the trees, too.

That means homeowners are taking on additional costs – they will have to trim the trees to keep the branches from falling in the street, and repair the damage that the roots do to the sidewalk, curbs, and potentially streets.

I am generally not one to sympathize with the plight of the poor SF property owner. I am one of them, and frankly, we have it pretty good: The value of our investment rises almost by the hour, and our property taxes are way too low and never go up. If you own rental property, you’re doing even better.

So I can live with the tree transfer. But there’s no way to avoid the fact that it’s pissing people off in the neighborhoods.

Sup. Scott Wiener wants to pass a parcel tax of $30 a year to pay for the city to take over all of the city’s trees. Okay, sure: Parcel taxes aren’t perfect (the Bank of America Building gets assessed the same $30 per parcel as I do) but whatever – as long as landlords can’t pass it on to tenants, I can deal.

But Avalos has a much better idea: Pay to maintain and expand the local tree canopy (which is way smaller than what many other cities have) with a tax on carbon.

I’m not sure exactly how it would work, and he’s still figuring out the details, but it could fall into the general realm of what Hansen suggested: Tax the oil companies on every gallon of gas they bring into San Francisco. Tax utility use based on the percentage of PG&E’s mix that’s produced by fossil fuels (and by the way, that would encourage people to sign up for CleanPowerSF, which can offer 100 percent renewables and so would be untaxed, and thus cheaper).

Use the money that’s generated to pay for the city to maintain and plant lots and lots of trees. Trees absorb carbon, and are good for the city. Making it easier and less expensive to have more trees is a good thing.

But so is a tax on carbon – and this could be a major breakthrough for San Francisco. Look for PG&E and the oil companies to start working against it.

BTW: Chuck Nevius at the Chron was a bit critical of the Avalos plan, which he called “vague.” I present, without comment, the back and forth between the supe and the columnist, which I pulled of the Avalos page on Facebook:

AVALOS: Fact Check 101: my morning texting CW Nevius upon reading his lies in the paper.

He said I never talked with Scott Wiener about the legislation I have asked to be drafted. The charter Amendment will make the city take back responsibility for street trees and take the burden off of property owners. It will also make growing the urban forest a high priority for SF’s climate action effort.

cal·um·ny (kăl′əm-nē)

  1. pl. cal·um·nies
  2. A false statement maliciously made to injure another’s reputation.
  3. The utterance of maliciously false statements; slander.

Hi Chuck. My ears are burning. FYI. I was talking with Scott about trees years ago and I haven’t drafted anything yet and I’m still talking with him. I’ve never expected anything but half truths and innuendo from you so thank you for living up to my expectations. The carbon tax is for the November 2016 ballot. Er um, I intend to work on these measures in the full light of day that is called the legislative process. You’ll find that my measures will be the more popular ones. The city should not pass on the responsibility of trees to property owners and that’s what my charter amendment will ensure. The carbon tax will be a general tax and will add to the 100s of millions I have already added to the city budget with the transfer tax on commercial property and the gross receipts tax. The charter amendment will “capture” the carbon tax revenue to help pay for expanding the city’s gutted street tree program and meet our climate goals.

Good environmental stuff.

I don’t expect you to listen to a word I say nor I have you not let me down in my expectations but I always believe it responsible of me to set the record straight. Happy calumnizing!

I also told Scott about the carbon tax and its source of revenue for trees months ago.

Nevius: Ok. That’s good info. Was still operating under previous edict that you weren’t going to talk to me any more. If that’s changed will check in next time.

Me: It’s kind of a catch 22

Nevius: Well not for me. It is standard to contact people regardless. I always try to but in this case it seemed pointless. If that’s not true will make the effort.

Me: I know u didn’t talk with Scott so it looks like you just made things up. My experience is you just make things up anyways and it hasn’t made a shred of difference in the accuracy of your reporting whether I talk to you or not.

Nevius: Ok. So you are not talking. Correct?

Me:I’m talking to you now to set the record straight but I shouldn’t have to school you about how to do your job ethically.

Nevius: So in future are you responding or is this just to fill out your Facebook page?

Me: No. I get to share with you what I think about your writing and post it for the public to see on my fb page.

Nevius: So are you talking next time or not?

Me: Sorry. Busy working. Unless you can agree not to make stuff up and be an ethical reporter I am happy to do once hell freezes over.

 

 

The Board of Supes Government Audit and Oversight Committee holds a hearing Thursday/3 on an issue that’s gotten far too little attention in the past year, as the race for sheriff devolved into discussions about the personal life of Ross Mirkarimi:

How do we reduce the number of people incarcerated in San Francisco? How do we address the mental-health needs of the jail population? Do we really need a new jail?

Sheriff Mirkarimi, who had been a reluctant supporter of a new jail (and I understand that the current facility at the Hall of Justice is a horror show and needs to be closed) started arguing that if the city devoted adequate resources to mental health, we wouldn’t need a new lockup.

In fact, the county jail has become the default housing provider for severely mentally ill people in San Francisco. A huge percentage of the people behind bars are either (a) awaiting trial and can’t afford bail, which means they haven’t been convicted of anything, or (b) have mental-health or substance-abuse issues. If we had (a) bail reform, and (b) a program to deal with mental illness as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue, there’s no way we would need a new jail.

These were among Mirkarimi’s priorities. He’s going to be gone in January, and I have no idea what the new sheriff will be doing. I don’t see her on the list of people who will be testifying at the hearing, but she ought to be answering some serious questions.

The hearing’s at 10:30am in City Hall Room 263.

  • hiker_sf

    “Many of the world’s biggest and most important cities are going to be underwater in 30 years if things don’t change quickly. ”

    That is much more aggressive than any previous estimate that I’ve heard.

    Regarding trees and sidewalks, but even as a renter, I see it as bad policy to push these to property owners. Instead of consistent tree pruning and sidewalk repair, we will have a jumbled approach.

    • MikeS

      Yes, it almost feels like the city is encouraging property owners to chop down any tree in front of their property, because of the potential liability.

      • Bill Hsu

        The city is not encouraging property owners to chop down trees. Property owners who damage trees get fined.

        • wcw

          Current policy does, however, discourage owners from planting a tree in the first place. If an owner plants a tree, he will have to pay for its upkeep, pay a fine if the city considers his pruning subpar, and pay to repair any sidewalk damage it causes. If later he wants to remove it, he will need to post notices, obtain a permit and as condition of permit issuance need to replace it.

          If the city wants more trees, it should plant them.

          • MikeS

            Yes, and in fact many property owners pay to plant a tree themselves, e.g. by using the “Friends of the Urban Forest” scheme. That will clearly decline if the liability increases.

            And about half the trees that have been “disappeared” in my neighborhood get hit by vehicles. If you really don’t want a tree out front, there are always ways . .

        • MikeS

          No, I said “it ALMOST FEELS LIKE the city is encouraging property owners to chop down any tree in front of their property . . ”

          So, no, it is not official city policy. But it is the law of unintended consequences. If the city wants to encourage a tree canopy, why punish owners who provide that and reward those who find a way to not provide that?

    • RealFakeSanFranciscan

      At least some of SF’s trees will almost certainly be more poorly maintained as a result of putting all the burden on the owner. This will particularly be a problem if street trees start becoming diseased and producing problems for adjacent property owners as well.

    • sffoghorn

      Isn’t the US state department located in a river bottom that would most certainly flood with sea level rise? Perhaps we should hold off on climate change until DC is thoroughly flooded.

  • Foginacan

    It should depend on who originally planted the tree, and as it is now, it depends on the property line.

    Keep in mind, the city recently allowed for a shake down forcing property owners to pay for repairing the most petty 4″ sidewalk cracks to the tune of thousands of dollars. I know people that got hit with 5k in bills to comply.

    • MikeS

      The city loves to do this. If someone dumps a lot of trash outside your house, it’s your fault. If someone tags your building, it’s your fault. Problems with the side-walk or street out front? Your fault.

      They do this not because it is just, but because it is easy. The owner’s name is on record (even if he/she doesn’t live there) and the city can slap a lien on the property if the owner doesn’t pay.

      It is a blatant abuse of power. I solved the problem a different way. I got rid of the trees out front of my properties. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Screw you, Avalos.

      • Foginacan

        100% right, but getting rid of trees to circumvent the problem is an awful solution. In some cases things get so Kafka’esque, there’s little choice.

        Let’s also remember they’re ripping out trees right and left in this city, either to accommodate utilities, or just to “beautify”. The recent South Park story being an example. Also just seems like another method to privatize parks, on a smaller level.

        • MikeS

          Many trees get taken out because they become diseased and/or dangerous. They block sun, light and views, or dump a sticky residue onto cars, people and the side-walk. Often the wrong type of tree is planted, that is not well suited to the environment.

          They also often need to be removed when we build housing of offices, or just get creamed by trucks. They can make parallel parking more difficult especially in a wider vehicle.

          I totally agree that ripping out trees to save money is an awful solution. So why does the city incentivize exactly owners to do that?

          That said I oppose the parcel tax idea. Indeed I oppose all parcel taxes. Why can’t the Department of Parks budget be re-allocated to maintain the city’s treescape?

      • hiker_sf

        No, we all have to do our part to keep this city livable, and that means that you need clean whatever trash may be in front of your building, and remove graffiti too. Another benefit is that if you don’t do this and the city doesn’t do it, your property value may fall, so even an extreme, selfish libertarian like you should see this as being reasonable.

  • Izsak

    Surprised to hear that Tim listens to NPR. Thought for sure that he was a Limbaugh guy.

    • MikeS

      Confirmation bias. Tim only reads and listens to viewpoints that he knows he is going to agree with. He never challenges his own beliefs by listening to the other side.

      • jhayes362

        The other side being what? The 2% of climate scientists who deny a link between human activity and global warming?

        • MikeS

          The debate isn’t between change and no change. It is between those who want to take drastic action now and those who feel that we can manage the change gradually over time.

          Put another way, will London and New York flood in 30 years or 300 years?

          • jhayes362

            It will be much closer to 30 years than to 300. Note that lower Manhattan and Coney Island flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Sea level rise will just raise the bar, and global warming will make hurricanes much more damaging.

            Don’t forget the other effects of global warming. In California higher temperatures and drought led to a record fire season (which sent more carbon into the atmosphere) this year. Warmer winters have cut down on the snowpack that provides our water for drinking and crops.

            In most respects, we’re already behind the curve in tackling global warming. Gradual adaptation is not a realistic solution.

    • @Izsak – Why would he need to listen to Limbaugh? Disqus supplies an unlimited quantity of right-wing bloviators.

      • Izsak

        Fair point. hehe

  • notadvised

    Devius is a tool for the corruption at City Hall.

  • reaalistx

    “Many of the world’s biggest and most important cities are going to be underwater in 30 years if things don’t change quickly.”

    LOL. Yeah, right. When rich liberals start panic selling of their oceanfront properties in Malibu and on Martha’s Vineyard, which allegedly are soon going to be under water, get back to me. For some reason those properties are getting more valuable, not less, despite their impending inundation.

    Have you ever noticed that the less global warming actually occurs, the more hysterical the proclamations of doom by the warmists get?

    • MikeS

      It has long been known that an effective way to introduce unpopular laws is to fabricate or exaggerate a crisis. The right does it with things like 9/11 and the left does it with things like global warming.

      The sea level is about an inch higher than it was a century ago. What crisis?

      • jhayes362

        From Wikipedia:

        For the period between 1870 and 2004, global average sea levels are
        estimated to have risen a total of 195 mm, and 1.7 mm ± 0.3 mm per year,
        with a significant acceleration of sea-level rise of 0.013 ± 0.006 mm
        per year per year. If this acceleration were to remain constant, the
        1990 to 2100 sea level rise would range from 280 to 340 mm.

        That’s about three feet in 2100. Do you trust the rate of increase to stay constant? If so, I’ve got some land in Florida I’d like to sell you.

        • MikeS

          We’ll see, I guess. But Holland has been dealing with this for centuries. So has Venice. There are technologies that can be employed, and it is premature to start thinking about moving millions of people.

          • jhayes362

            San Francisco has been fighting the sea ever since I moved here in the late 80s, and not too successfully. Have you been down the Great Highway lately, particularly the area south of Sloat?

            These are not technological solutions, they are brute force efforts to hold the sea back. Holland and Venice finessed it a long time ago, but protecting lower lying areas of SF, or lower Manhattan could require a huge public investment.

            Technology solutions come at the energy and political side of the picture and they boil down to a simple answer: quit dumping so much carbon into the atmosphere.

          • MikeS

            I do not disagree. But the reality is that it has proven near impossible to cut carbon use. Fuel economies have been greatly improved but there are far more vehicles on the road. And that is just the US – China and India are adding 100 million new vehicles each year. Air travel is growing exponentially in Asia. The US wouldn’t even sign on to the modest Kyoto accord.

            People want other people to cut down on carbon, as long as they can still have a SUV, watch Nascar and have a couple of long-haul vacations each year.

            I’m afraid the floods have to come first, and then we will act

          • jhayes362

            It will be way too late by then. If our political system isn’t up to the task of acting now (and so far it has not been) then all we can do is erect a monument to our own stupidity. It should be very large so we can engrave the names of the many political leaders who failed us.

    • jhayes362

      This is Hansen’s view and it is more agressive than other estimates that I’ve seen. OTH, Hanson was among the first to raise the alarm about global warming and there is a lot we just don’t know.

      The thing to worry about regarding the melting of the polar ice caps and Greenland, is that it could be an accelerating process; the more they melt the faster they melt.

      According to an article in Sunday’s New York Times (“Tales of a Warmer Planet”) geologic history tells us that temperatures 2-5 degrees warmer than we have today produced a 20-foot sea level rise.

      Climate change deniers are an odd group and include many wealthy people — Exxon executives for example. They assume the world has always taken care of them and will do so again, even when the high tide is lapping at their doorstep.

      • reaalistx

        “This is Hansen’s view and it is more aggressive than other estimates that I’ve seen.”

        I.e. “aggressive = nuts” – other estimates talk about sea level rise occurring over centuries.

        Thirty years? No wonder Tim glommed on to this.

        “Climate change deniers are an odd group and include many wealthy people — Exxon executives for example. They assume the world has always taken care of them and will do so again, even when the high tide is lapping at their doorstep.”

        LOL. I don’t think many Exxon executives own property either at Malibu or on Martha’s Vineyard.

        The people who do own own property either at Malibu or on Martha’s Vineyard are, by and large, very rich liberals, among the most highly evolved people on the planet, who deeply and sincerely believe in rapid man-made climate change. Just ask them.

        However, their deep and sincere belief in rapid man-made climate change doesn’t stop them from buying enormously expensive real estate that will be inundated by the ocean with even a modest increase in sea levels.

        Curious, that.

        • MikeS

          People that rich have several homes and probably will just take a tax write-off in the unlikely event that Malibu becomes submerged.

          Or they will pay for a big-ass sea wall.

          • jhayes362

            No, they’ll get taxpayers to cover the cost of the sea wall.

        • jhayes362

          I’m not ready to buy in to Hanson’s predictions on sea level rise, but I frankly don’t think we really understand the extent of it at this point. It all depends on how quickly the polar ice caps and Greenland melt.

          Common global estimates for sea level rise (one meter by the end of the century, assuming we start doing something to limit warming) could be conservative or liberal. According to Wikipedia, they include a factor for acceleration in the rate of the rise. I lean to the conservative side because it seems that the more the planet warms the faster it warms and this produces new and unpredictable elements that we haven’t considered before. It is only now, according to the New York Times, that there is a concerted effort to understand the snow melt in Greenland.

          As for your comments about liberals in Martha’s Vineyard and Malibu, people of all incomes and political stripes own property in areas that could be flooded as sea levels rise. Some of them don’t know about it, some of them don’t believe it, some of them do believe it and worry about it, and some of them believe it and don’t care because they’ll be gone before it happens.

          Doesn’t matter. What does matter is what we leave behind for our children: higher seas and a hotter, and more difficult climate.

  • reaalistx

    “I’m not sure exactly how it would work, and he’s still figuring out the details, but it could fall into the general realm of what Hansen suggested: Tax the oil companies on every gallon of gas they bring into San Francisco. Tax utility use based on the percentage of PG&E’s mix that’s produced by fossil fuels (and by the way, that would encourage people to sign up for CleanPowerSF, which can offer 100 percent renewables and so would be untaxed, and thus cheaper).”

    I assume that there would also be a huge tax on plane tickets that have SFO departures or arrivals. Time to start hitting rich liberals who love to travel to Bali and suchlike in carbon-spewing aircraft.

    • MikeS

      There is already a tax on flights using SFO. Several probably along with a bunch of fees and fuel surcharges.

      But of course airports compete with each other and so taxing just one would backfire, especially after we invested hundreds of millions in a new international terminal. I recently flew LAX to Rome via Dublin, because the taxes and fees were so much less than going through SFO and London or Paris.

      I’ve flown nearly a million miles. and I’ve never seen a city under water except for Venice, which is an attraction.

      And if you tax fuel coming into SF then people will go to San Bruno to buy it and bring it home in cans in the back of their truck. How will that improve public safety?

  • rich12

    “Many of the world’s biggest and most important cities are going to be underwater in 30 years if things don’t change quickly.” – Want to take a bet on that?

  • MikeS

    Tim, if you are concerned about carbon use and global warming, why did you take a long road trip over the Holiday?

    Why not stay at home or take the bus? Driving hundreds or thousands of miles while complaining about the use of fossil fuel might strike some as hypocrisy.

    • @Mikes – Obvious concern troll is obvious (and unconcerned).

      • MikeS

        The question is fair. Expressing concern about global warming while taking a long road trip in a private vehicle is hypocritical.

        • @MikeS – The “question” is ad hominem blather, of absolutely no consequence whatsoever to the topic actually under discussion.

  • De Blo

    If the building is renter-occupied, then 100% of any cost related to trees needs to be passed on to the renter. This is pretty obvious and basic fairness. The City should make it clear that any costs incurred by a homeowner can be passed along to tenants (where relevant).

    • MikeS

      Yes, if the owner does not live in the building but the tenant does, then it is the tenant who gets the benefit of the tree. Why should they be immunized from the cost of maintaining that tree?

      With parcel taxes the situation is mixed. Some bond measures specifically allow a pass-through of the tax to the tenants, which makes perfect sense as you note. Sometimes they do not and sometimes a percentage is allowed to be passed through.

      People like Tim will always argue against a pass-through but it is bad democracy. If two thirds of the city are tenants and they know that tax increases won’t cost them a penny, then they might always vote for them on the “free money” principle.

  • RealFakeSanFranciscan

    Tim, do you know what environmentalists regard as one of the most important steps we could take to reduce our national carbon footprint?

    Denser urban development replacing sprawl.

    But you’ll find excuses why we can’t have any more of that here in SF, as you always, always do.

    • sffoghorn

      Densification absent rapid and reliable regional and local transit means more cars. Show me the math that says that housing in SF lowers net carbon footprint over, say, housing in the East Bay along the BART lines.

      • RealFakeSanFranciscan

        Gee, it sure is a damn shame that none of those BART lines stop anywhere in SF.

        • @RealFakeSanFranciscan – Which is why the policy should be zero new parking spaces within walking distance of BART. That would help with the street tree problem, since they are routinely removed to put in new garages.

          • RealFakeSanFranciscan

            I’m about as big a fan of parking lots as Tim is of new housing.

        • sffoghorn

          Agreed, current TOD in SF is really FOD, freeway oriented development with enough parking to make it pencil out.

          Most jobs in the Bay Area are not in SF, they are in the South and inner East Bay which are closer transitwise to other job clusters.

          Housing density patterns should reflect that. But the push to densify SF is not predicated on any rational planning basis, because SF is ill connected to the rest of the region transitwise. CalTrain is a toy train system.

          Nope, housing development in SF is predicated upon the high profitability of building here as compared to the East or South Bay. That is why developers spend mightily on lobbying to force through their vision into public policy.

          • wcw

            Right, housing density patterns should reflect jobs.

            Jobs balance about equally between SF/San Mateo, the South and the East Bay. The South and East Bay authorized around 30,000 units the last five years. SF/SM added around 10,000.

            Profitability just reflects this constricted supply.

            Developers just want to make money. The city has to fight for scraps of funding to build, though. And instead of building places for people to live, developers battle neighbors over alleyway setbacks and cornices – and the neighbors, gleefully, win.

          • sffoghorn

            Housing density should reflect jobs AND infrastructure. SF has rezoned for 30K units and nothing close to that has been build, so zoning is not the limit. Perhaps you’d prefer a command economy to make it so?

          • wcw

            Funny how there is always a reason not to build in San Francisco.

            Look, an immigrant!

          • sffoghorn

            We’re building plenty, look around you.

          • wcw

            The South and East Bay authorized around 30,000 units the last five years. SF/SM added around 10,000.

            San Francisco and San Mateo added over 200,000 jobs since 2010.

            Still, let’s indulge: if we are building plenty, why are prices so high?

          • sffoghorn

            Because supply is inelastic relative to demand. That means that demand is so high due to a variety of sources that it would take an impractical amount of capital investment in housing and supporting infrastructure to have supply match demand. Jobs are ephemeral, brick and mortar is permanent. Capital flows to create jobs faster than it can flow to create housing. And then capital flows back away from jobs and housing. Investors would never finance the construction of housing knowing that the sales price at completion time would be lower than the sales price at construction time. Greed does not work that way.

          • wcw

            Greed worked from 1950 to 2000. From 1950 to 2000, the US each year put around 4.5% of GDP in housing. Since 2010, by contrast, that share of GDP has been 2.5% to 3.5%. Something changed.

            Still, let’s indulge again: if it takes an impractical amount of capital to house people, how have ever housed people? Capital is so available today, Bernanke called it a savings glut.

          • sffoghorn

            We don’t have to house everyone here. It has been expensive to live here since the return to the cities in the 1980s. It used to be more expensive to live in the more desirable suburbs than it was in the City before that.

            Capital is so available now because the Federal Reserve has pumped untold trillions into the economy to cover the gap from the 2008 crash. Before the rise of neoliberalism that made government a source rather than a sink, there was a willingness to make the economic commitment to building infrastructure commensurate to growth. That is how we got a “first world” standard of living, we paid for it, largely with resources stolen from the global south. The rate of extraction of those resources has slowed as colonization has faded, sustained campaign of US economic and military intervention to support cheap outsourcing in the global south notwithstanding. So to make profits, industrial capitalism in the metropole has been increasingly replaced by finance capitalism. What used to lubricate real capitalism has become capitalism.

          • wcw

            Off-topic screeds do not advance the discussion.

            Back on topic:
            – we’re not building our share. Despite roughly equal jobs levels among three Bay Area regions, San Francisco/San Mateo is running at roughly 1/3rd its share of permitted housing.
            – we’re not building plenty. During a period in which the metro division added 200,000 jobs, SF/SM added 10,000 units.
            – the US supplied plenty of housing for 50 years. Much poorer countries supply much more housing. Capital is not the issue.

            Semper Fi locals who got theirs gleefully blocking attempts to house other human beings nearby might have an effect, though. Activists providing pseudo-intellectual cover for politicians to cater to these same locals might be part of the story.

            For some, there is always a reason not to build in San Francisco.

            Look, more immigrants!

          • sffoghorn

            You raised the issues of how availability of capital impacts the rate of construction and I addressed it. Kindly refrain from asking questions the answers to which don’t fit your script and then dismissing them as digressions.

            Condos are sprouting in San Francisco like psilocybin on cow patties in Texas after a spring thunderstorm. Proposals for linking jobs to housing have failed. Linking housing to jobs is economically not going to happen as capital that finances jobs ebbs and flows much more mercurially than the more sluggish capital that piles up glass, steel and concrete.

            Perhaps the reason your rants are so detached from reality is that you are tripping on shrooms yourself?

          • wcw

            Oh, kitten; this is not your field, and it shows.

            If you must analyze capital flows, the analysis must fit the facts:
            1, for a half century there was enough capital to house people
            2, capital is more available now than ever before
            3, housing investment is at multi-decade lows

            The analysis that ‘it would take an impractical amount of capital’ founders on these facts. This is not a script; that is simply false.

            ‘Screed’ was unkind to the rest; none makes any logical sense, but its scope and breathtaking, hallucinatory divorce from reality make it almost visionary poetry, like Blake’s prophetic books. Poetry is not analyzed by mere logic and reasoning.

            Really, this should have been clear all along: the Green Party is more performance art than political party. Apologies that it took me so long to appreciate your, and its, art.

          • sffoghorn

            Capital ebbs and flows in different ways to different sectors at different times? Why does that confuse you so?

            Why don’t you just come out and say that you support an authoritarian command economy?

          • wcw

            This is not political. Economic analysis that violates accounting identities or requires contravention of fact is just wrong.

            On politics, there is lots of room between a North Atlantic economy and a command economy. Social democracy, for example.

            Blake would have liked ‘[c]apital ebbs and flows.’

            http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/images/bb448.1.2-1.ps.100.jpg

            Source: http://www.blakearchive.org/exist/blake/archive/object.xq?objectid=bb448.1.spb.02&java=no

          • sffoghorn

            This is not political. Economic analysis that violates accounting identities or requires contravention of fact is just wrong.

            This is pretty rich from someone who thinks that we should maximize the complex urban planning equations on one single variable and the magic of market will work everything out. The Fed violates accounting identities by fabricating $16t until up until the point where they can no longer sustain the illusion of confidence in growth.

          • wcw

            ‘The Fed violates accounting identities’? Wow. Just, wow.

            Pro tip: identities cannot be violated. They are not hypothetical, they are definitions. To reject accounting identities is to reject accounting and economic analysis itself: exactly the breathtaking, hallucinatory divorce from reality that puts us in the realm of visionary poetry.

            William Blake made art, not policy.

          • sffoghorn

            Yes, basic economic analysis fails to account for the role of the central banks in injecting tens of trillions of dollars into the economy with the stroke of a pen to rescue favored economic actors irrespective of the consequences to the rest of the economy. You simply pretend that those dollars are economically legitimate, as if the product of capitalist profit rather than confetti of convenience by desperate central bankers with no more arrows left in their quivers. The only fantasies at play here are those of the central banks.

          • wcw

            ‘[C]onfetti of convenience’ is another great phrase. Try poetry.

            Can someone who loves Marc call him or text him or something?

  • GooberDan

    Another monumentally dumb idea by Supervisor Avalos. Ever heard of carbon leakage? Its when one jurisdiction adopts more stringent carbon standards than its neighbors and the carbon producing activities and associated jobs just move elsewhere. Like when California passed AB32, the toughest carbon control standards in the world!!! we then proceeded to export our manufacturing sector to Texas. Why is Tesla building car batteries right across the State line in Nevada? a state with no RPS that is almost 100% coal powered? because CA’s environmental laws wouldn’t allow the factory to be built here. If you want to make a few million bucks really quickly, buy a couple of gas stations in Daly City and help Avalos pass this law. Gas in SF will be $8 a gallon and you can sell it for $4. Where do you think people will want to buy it?

  • sffoghorn

    Just laying it out for folks, that Tim or Marke has been closing threads when I post comments that contest their framing of the business ventures.

    In both the matching gift to the SFBG thread and the giving Tuesday thread, 48hills has closed comments on posts.

    Contrast this to their open door policy to people with diametrically opposed political views to 48hills stated political positions.

    Fortunately, the Disqus system allows you to see the posts that offended the editors of the “independent” political forums. All you have to do is use the “view source” feature of your browser. In Google Chrome you can use the View -> Developer -> View Source to see the content that remains at the bottom of the HTML of the web page.

    For shame, Tim and Marke, for shame.

  • Darryl

    I remember being in elementary school in the mid 70’s and we were taught that there was only 50 years of oil left and then the world’s oil supply would be completely depleted. I understand that people who are very concerned are painting dire warnings, but at some point you lose credibility when you say things like “in 30 years many of these major cities will be underwater…”

    • Izsak

      If we all keep saying things, though, at some point somebody has to be right.

    • @Darryl – Obviously, not everyone who “remembers” what they learned in the 1970s was an A student, and even A students didn’t necessarily hear or remember everything taught.

  • Izsak

    Could we put the street trees in the parks budget or something?

  • chasmader

    Most American cities maintain sidewalks and trees. It used to be that way in San Francisco too, until those funds were redirected to homeless services; screwing over the middle class.

  • other phil

    Actually in Scott Wiener’s plan the parcel tax will be levied based on the linear frontage of the property. If its is a typical house there will be one price ~ $30 a condo ~15 and downtown building that owns a whole block ~$1,000. This makes sense because the parcel tax will also cover tree related sidewalk damage that causes the lionshare of the broken cement in the city. This parcel tax will save property owners with trees TONS of money in the long run and encourage those that don’t have them to get one.