Families leaving SF: It's housing costs, stupid


City officials continue to wring their hands over why families are leaving the city, and I'm sure there are a number of factors, but I can tell you that from the people I know -- families who live in the city or want to live in the city -- it's all about the cost of housing.C

Critics of the SFUSD like to say that families are leaving for better schools, but those families haven't been paying attention to the tremendous strides the district has made in recent years. Yes, middle schools are still a challenge in some areas, and yes, not all the public schools are great, but overall, most families that make the effort to find a quality school for their kids can do it.

The folks I know who work in the city hate the idea of living in the burbs. Nobody wants to commute across that bridge or through the BART tunnels every day; more important, nobody wants to be on the other side of the Bay from their house and their kids when the Big Earthquake hits. The problem is the money.

You want to keep families in San Francisco? Building housing for multimillionaires isn't going to do it. If it were up to me, I'd float about a $5 billion revenue bond, buy up all the housing on the private market, put it all in a land trust and resell it -- with the provision that the buyers had every right of ownership except the right to sell for a profit. That's not likely to happen -- but the city has to get serious about both building new affordable housing and (even more important) preserving what's already there.

Yes, a lot of families want to buy a house, but a lot of families would be happy with a decent, affordable place to rent. Particularly if they knew that they wouldn't be evicted so a richer person can buy or rent the place. What most families want is stability -- they want to know where they're going to live not just this year but when their kids are older. So many renters in this town live in such fear of eviction that it's a huge incentive to move somewhere else.

You can talk about parks and playgrounds and youth programs, but San Francisco's never going to be as family-friendly as we'd all like unless we can do something about housing costs and rental stability.



solution is staring you in the fact, except of course that you don't want to see it. We need to relax the zoning rules so we can build more and build higher, especially in the under-utilised south-east part of the city.

As for "doing something" about rental stability, then it's hard to know what can be done beyond already having the strictest eviction laws in the country. If you made them any stricter, landlords would simply see renting out as a life sentence and go out of business via Ellis etc. There are already thousands of rental units that landlords choose to keep vacant rather than rent out, because of the laws.

So there's your solution Tim - a massive building program and easing the rental laws. But of course you would oppose both. So, hey, float a 5 billion dollar bond in an election that already has a raft of tax and bond propositions on it and see how that flies.

There aren't many families in lower Manhattan, the West End of London and downtown Hong Kong either. Not everywhere is equally suited to families with kids who need the one thing that isn't there - space. And when a place is desirable and supply is limited - guess what - it's expensive. You can't repeal the laws of nature, Tim.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

>"If it were up to me, I'd float about a $5 billion revenue bond, buy up all the housing on the private market, put it all in a land trust and resell it -- with the provision that the buyers had every right of ownership except the right to sell for a profit."

Posted by Troll on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

Wouldn't the SF Tenants Union send out hit squads to make sure that anyone who seriously pursued this would be "neutralized?"

Posted by marcos on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

Else what would all those "activists" do all day long?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

Say what you would about the SFTU, but they've successfully kept billions of dollars from being shifted out of the pockets of hundreds of thousands of people's pockets.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

enabled landlords to earn windfall profits be Ellis'ing and TIC'ing and Condo'ing rental units. Or simply be exploiting the decreased supply of housing to charge higher rents.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

Only in whack-job San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 8:38 am

If Tim stood for Mayor, I predict he'd get exactly two votes. Bruce and Steven.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

It's the most sustainable future for housing everywhere since the federal and state government have completely rigged the housing market in favor of speculators and landlords. Those two powerful groups get far more tax subsidies than homeowners so of course the subsized group will win every time. Even in today's WAPO is another article about how the Feds are now going to bail out even the speculators who helped cause the housing travesty in the first place.


The only way SF stands a chance of not becoming a completely elite city - a home for millionares only unless you bought a house before 1995 or you inherited your housing - is too raise as much money as possible and purchase, but mostly build, affordable housing. Bring in Habitat for Humanity and use other land trust type arrangements to manage housing for future resident affordability by limiting prices to the standard 30% of income, and targeting the homes to the full range of housing price ranges: < 50% AMI; 50-80% AMI; 80-100% AMI;100-120% AMI; 120-150% AMI; and >150% AMI. One-half of the housing is for people earning below 100% AMI and one-half of the housing is for AMI above 100%, exactly the current income distribution of the city's residents.

The US was an unstoppable economic power before 1980 when housing costs were 20-25% of income and combined federal, state, and local taxes were far lower than the 35-45% of income they are today. Now much of the US population is much more enslaved, paying bankers and the government vast sums of money for housing and taxes, with little left over for other necessities. At the same time (maybe related), technology has eliminated millions of jobs that will never be performed by labor again since machines and computers have provided us the golden age of leisure! Enjoy your freedom since most of jobs are covered already, and machines (computers) are eliminating millions more jobs every month all over the globe!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

It's hard to imagine how it could be made stricter. State law pretty much prevents it from becoming any more restrictive so perhaps loosening it may be part of the solution?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

years that we have had it, except where it has been reined in by State laws. And yet rents have risen relentlessly. the real impact of RC is a lack of new rental new build, landlords unwilling to rent out vacant units, and a slew of conversions to TIC's and condo's.

Boston got rid of rent control without any problems. So did London. It's a depression/WW2 era solution that is way out of place in a modern city.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

Just a few yards away from 8 Washington, near the Vaillancourt Fountain, I regularly watch families with young kids on the way to the Farmer's Market navigating through a convention of fully nude men, with their things hanging out in all their glory. This just isn't an issue if you live in Dublin Pleasanton.

You cannot take your kids for a walk in the city without having being approached and asked for money about twice a block. You constantly have to decide if the person screaming and yelling requires evasive action or should you try to walk past him/her and hope for the best.

And you know what families with young kids want? They want a back yard where the kids can play. How many back yards are there in San Francisco?

The areas around San Francisco are much better places to be a kid than San Francisco could ever possibly be. Parents in all metropolitan areas have to balance the personal hell of a daily commute against a better childhood for their kids.

Of course Tim is going to have a knee jerk reaction that every problem is caused by the rich. It sadly reminds me of other fanatical hatreds that have caused some of the greatest disasters in world history.

BTW, 8 Washington is scheduled to have a playground but Tim would rather have a surface parking lot.

Posted by Troll on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

why families would want to leave the city - the homeless, the crime, the pollution, the congestion, the bad smells, the array of smut and debauchery on display.

And of course the schools - tim totally omits the #1 issue with public schools in SF. Bussing. you can buy a home in Noe Valley and have your kid been placed in a school in Bayview.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

Many families have bought buildings together through TICs.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

TIC's can be an "owner's" worst nightmare. Unlike a house or condo that is easily transferable when life circumstances change, a TIC is a fractional ownership share in an entire building. It has a lot more liability exposure that's shared with the other "owners." Worse, there's potential 100% liability for the mortgage if one or more of the other TIC owners walks away from the loan for whatever reason.

If there's a 10-20% "discount" for a TIC compared to similar sized condos in the neighborhood, there's a good reason for the discount. The smart money would avoid a TIC at all costs unless there's a minimum $2-3 milllion umbrella liability policy covering the entire building, AND if there is collective equity in the building greater than 50%, AND if the owners are extremely, extremely compatible. Otherwise, why invest in a potential landmine that is wainting to blow up, taking someone's downpayment (life savings?) with it?

Life is too short to get involved with situations that put savings at great risk and that could involve years of court battles with "such reasonable neighbors," who turn out to be not so reasonable after all when money and shared liability exposure are at stake.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

seeks to control housing with such adverse effects. A landlord faced with rent control has a huge incentive to Ellis and then TIC. While the units are cheaper enabling the dream of home ownership to be more readily available.

Many of the kinks and problems have been worked around now. But if the city is reallly worried about TIC's then it should simply allow all TIC's to become condo's in return for a fee. Everyone wins.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 7:23 am

If I was mayor I would plant money trees that had one billion dollar leaves! Then I'd buy up all the housing and make it only available to the leftist whitest people I knew !
This statement is not at all an indictment of my overall intelligence or maturity level.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

I would say that we go to Twitter and start a #what-tim-redmond-would-do hashtag for fun. But nobody would use it.

Posted by troll on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 9:04 am

I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow-white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company

I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
Ah, peace throughout the land

(That's the song I hear)
I'd like to teach the world to sing
(That the world sings today)
In perfect harmony

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony

I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow-white turtle doves

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 9:23 am

If the SFUSD has made strides, they haven't done a good job of disseminating that information to the public. The author says that the people he knows have left because of housing costs. The people I know who have left have done so because of a perception that the schools are bad and the lottery system -- even in its current form -- is unworkable.

Posted by The Commish on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 9:26 am

Amazing that some cities still do that in 2012.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 10:50 am

Your single-minded Tim.
Just like the single-minded bike riders, dog walkers, nudists, venture capitolists (going for the 24to32 year old singles), etc.

There greed in wanting what will be best for (only) them is selfish and arrogant. On top of that this core group of people are transients feeding off what they need,moving on, and not worrying about the city and the mess thats left behind.

It's a, Me First attitude

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 10:03 am

Hey Tim:
I know quite a few families leaving the city as well and they are leaving because of aggressive panhandling, garbage, traffic and poor quality of schools.
But of course in your simple minded view, it all about wealth transfer
Real solutions are not something you want to address but instead you talk about ideas that do not work.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

There are some families who feel that children need an acre of land to grow normally, and these are families who wont ever choose san francisco. There are other families who want to live in a city and accept its challenges.
From a real estate perspective, SF wont help them out until we get rid of the ridiculous roadblocks and bureaucracy that involve even the smallest scale building that gets proposed here.

The fact that this paper continues to deny that supply factors into ANY of these conversations is ludicrous. This town is run almost exclusively by a bunch of cranky old male baby boomers whose one genuine desire is to make sure nothing changes anywhere ever. Does that make it easier for families with kids? Who cares! My view is more important.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

Wasn't that just a Coca-Cola ad?

Actually, my favorite song has lyrics that start like this:

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

Threw the bums a dime in your prime

Didn't you ....

I'm raising my family in San Francisco. My kids and I see naked people (horrors!) and homeless people and people asking for money, and you know what? We deal. It's worth it to live in such a cool city, where they get to experience and learn so much. We have no backyard but we can walk a couple of blocks to a park much bigger than any back yard, and there's a library right next to it, and my son takes Muni home from his public school that we love (which is not in my neighborhood, but he's a city kid and he can take the bus.

There are always families that want more land, and there always have been. There have also always been families in SF. The fact that we're losing families has more to do with housing cost than anything else. That's all I'm saying.

The problem with rent control in SF is that it doesn't apply to vacant apartments, which gives owners an incentive to get rid of longterm tenants, and that owners are allowed to evict all the tenants under the Ellis Act. I'm one of those crazy commie types who belives that if you pay the rent that the landlord sets at the time you move in, and you pay such increases as are needed to keep up with inflation and capital improvements, you ought to be able to live in the same place all your life. The landord's "rent" -- the mortgage -- is already set when you move in. He or she sets the rent at a level that covers the mortgage and a reasonable return (or else he or she is a terrible business person). The mortgage doesn't go up just because the value of the property rises over the years; the property taxes don't go up much at all under Prop. 13. So the rent shouldn't either -- and when you move out, the next person should get the same rent.

I know that's not popular among my trolls, but it makes perfect sense if you believe housing is a human right, not a speculative commodity.



Posted by tim on Mar. 10, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

a specific State Law that forbids that. (Although SF never did that even when it wasn't illegal). Likewise the Ellis Act is a State Law that protects a landlord from a lifetime sentence of bad, low-paying tenants.

You can't change that except in Sacramento and there is little chance. So it sounds like you're really arguing to change the CA Constitution to allow SF to trump CA law. Good luck with that.

Oh, BTW, LL's do not get to increase rents with inflation. It's actually just 60% of inflation, which guarantees LL's make less profit each year.

PS: The cited lyrics were a song by The New Seekers - an Australian band - from about 40 years. I'm sure Coke used it, just like all your favorite sixties and seventies rock and folk anthems are now used to sell product. No doubt you hate that too.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 9:06 am

Yes, in Cuba housing is a human right, not a speculative commodity. The "human rights" there are crumbling into the streets. There is zero new construction and zero maintenance. So your "humans rights" are only viable through capitalism you fool.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 10:34 am

is happy to chirp here all day about how wonderful they are.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 11:40 am

He might have some answers.

It's so odd that the cities #1 screaming progressives was above sending his kids to school in SF.

Posted by So depressing on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 4:08 am

Perhaps we should not try and social engineer up some new scheme that will back fire like they almost always do.

Leave people alone and they will do what they feel is best for them. If they get up and leave because the city doesn't offer them what they want, then let them go. All this hand wringing and whining about the big bad developers is so amazing.

People can make choices based on their self interest, we don't need some crazy new scheme that will cost millions, create thousands of useless city jobs and out the other end will come two families that stay in the city.

Posted by So depressing on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 4:18 am

SF is not kid friendly, I am not the first to mention it on this post; but it bears repeating. I see the poor kids in the TL getting approached to buy drugs a couple years later it's them with the drug problem and the ones doing the selling. SF has it's beautiful environs. Again as mentioned it's only the rich that can afford it. As a person that owns a home here I can tell you RC is a bane of any landlord that want's to rent a place. If tenants want living security move to Sacramento.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2012 @ 10:43 am

Families seek different things when buy a home, space, good schools or small crime rate. Poor people just want to leave in a affordable home, with clean play space and a good school. On housing, we keep adding jobs, more jobs either in nice new shining buildings, old building rehab, nice new shopping centers. If you only have so many housing units that are for rent or sale with way too many people seeking housing. The reason why I support 8 Washington it will be upper income housing, then can buy a nice new unit here taking the pressure off some other part of the city. If you have a house and 10 people are bidding on it and someone in that pile is uber weathly, guess what the price will go up and who will win. The poor family, the working stuff young couple, the family with kids that are middle class, the professional couple or the uber wealthy person.

Posted by garrett on Mar. 14, 2012 @ 10:50 am

In this article, along the one about 8 Washington by the same author, a central unspoken point in Tim's argument is that it is inherently undesirable that our city should have an increasing rich white population, and a dwindling number of families. I don't see why that is true. Clearly, the author prefers one demographic over the other, but in the end it's just that, a preference. I, on the other hand, would probably prefer having Joe Montana as my neighbor than some soccer mom. Again, just a preference.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

Tim's kind of policies never to win again at the ballot box. He envisages a rollback of all the "progress" he believes the city hs made.

It's a crock of course. SF may become more right-wing but other places will take out emigrees and they will become more left-wing.

America always changes but NIMBY's can't stand that idea.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 16, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

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