That’s what’s in store for the South Bay. Why doesn’t SF seem to care?

How many more shuttles will we need to bring the next 16,000 Apple employees to work?
How many more shuttles will we need to bring the next 16,000 Apple employees to work?

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 5, 2015 – A long, long time ago, when Berkeley was run by a very progressive City Council and mayor, the city planners from that town used to submit testimony to the San Francisco Planning Commission.

It was the early 1980s, and the SF agency was in the process of approving tens of millions of square feet of new office space, which was driving up housing demand as white-collar workers moved here to take jobs in finance, insurance, corporate management, and real-estate.

Sound familiar? It was the first phase of SF’s ongoing battles over housing, and lead to the first rent-control laws.

But Berkeley saw it as a problem on both sides of the Bay. See, the private sector had no interest in building housing in the region, since the money was all in office development. So when the housing crunch started to hit SF, and the rent started to go up, people fled to the East Bay. And that was causing a housing shortage for our neighbors across the bridge.

It was also causing traffic problems on the bridge, as more and more commuters tried to drive into SF each morning.

(That situation created one of my all-time favorite moments in local planning history. An environmental impact report on one of the new highrises acknowledged that a significant number of the 2,000 or so new workers the project would attract might live in the East Bay and drive to work, but it still stated that “rush hour traffic on the Bay Bridge will not be impacted.”

(How is that possible? Simple: The report defined “rush hour” as 6:30am-9am – and during those 2.5 hours, the bridge was already at full, maximum capacity. No more cars would fit – thus, no impact!)

At any rate, the leaders of Berkeley were not thrilled that SF was acting like an island, not a peninsula, and was making decisions that had a direct impact on nearby cities. So the Berkeley planners would regularly demand that the EIRs and commission decisions took into account impacts beyond the city borders.

Now the situation is reversed. Communities to our south are making planning decisions that lead to frightening rates of displacement in San Francisco. Peninsula cities approve huge new tech office complexes and build no housing, so a lot of the workers wind up in San Francisco, where, by the way, there are private shuttles to take them to work.

And here we go again.

Apple is going to build a huge new campus just north of San Jose, right along 101.  We’re talking 4.15 million square feet of space, bigger than the “spaceship” campus in Cupertino.

You think San Jose is going to build enough housing for about 15,000 new workers?

You think there will be shuttle buses to bring people there from San Francisco?

You think that’s too long a commute?

Maybe. But it’s going to have some impact on the local housing market, and nobody in SF City Hall seems to want to do anything about it.

Shouldn’t Mayor Lee at the very least communicate with San Jose officials and express concern? Shouldn’t the city attorney look at whether Peninsula cities have the legal right to create housing problems for the rest of us?

Shouldn’t the people of San Jose be asking: How much will my rent go up?

Just asking.


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