The happiest city -- for some


Not to go all gloomy on a day when it's finally not cold and the sun is out and San Francisco was just named the happiest city in America, (based on things like the number of shopping centers and cultural events), but really: Let's not all jump up and down and celebrate. This is a very happy city for people who have money; it's becoming a very anxiety-filled city for everyone else.

I've gotten quite a few comments and emails from friends on our cover story this week, and most of them go something like this:

"Great story. Really scary. I hope they don't Ellis Act my building or I won't be able to stay here, either."

If you're a renter in San Francisco, and you've been here a while, and you're under rent control, chances are you're nervous about your future. Because if you get evicted, you're almost certainly leaving town. Maybe you can find a place in Oakland that's smaller than what you currently have at twice the price, or maybe you can't. 

This is a city under immense pressure, and while the economically secure can happily go to shopping centers and see the Opera, I would say a majority of the current residents of San Francisco are more stressed about their future than they have been in years. And that doesn't seem to be addressed in the happiness calculus.


always start squabbling. But here I think lilli is right. marcos cannot claim the moral high ground on affordable housing while planning to own more than one home and rent them out at a market rent.

Also his NIMBY'ism directly contradicts his claim to want more, and so more affordable, housing.

Hypocrisy is undermining his credibility here.

Posted by anon on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 9:34 am

So many on 'the left' have learned to love to lose.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

Sorry, but one major progressive error has been presupposing people's politics based on their housing status or income.

How about "That minority of homeowners who are elitist?"

This way you don't alienate potential allies--one would think that a movement descending into hyper minority status would think that important if you were trying to put together a viable political coalition.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

Are you really "better off" than renters?

A pseudo-progressive fat boy bought a TIC near me. He decided to victimize me in many ways because he considered himself my "better" now that he was a homeowner. All the while, he was flipping real estate, gonna be a wealthy man!

Well, the real estate bubble burst and gave him a reality check. And his ugly personality became obvious to his "friends," who started avoiding him.

Now fat boy cannot live in his TIC because he cannot afford it. He has moved out of SF.

So much for being "better off." Life isn't that simple, is it?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:00 am

Feel better now?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:12 am

Evidently you've never visited New York.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

There are hundreds of tight knit communities in NYC. People actually grow up and can stay there.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

New York is filled with people who outsiders view as "nasty and unfeeling." It's part of the legendary NY ethos - yet people still visit.

Don't lecture me on the diversity of New York Marcos. I lived in New York.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

>"When that happens, who will want to come to San Francisco? Kiss your tourism industry goodbye. Because who want to come to a city filled with nasty, unfeeling, uncaring people such as those holding the majority sick attitude on this forum?."

So by your logic nobody wants to visit Paris, Tokyo, Geneva, Zurich or Sydney? Because they are the most expensive cities on the planet. They are all more expensive than San Francisco to live in.

Let me think that our current offering of endless panhandling, people sleeping in every doorway and streets that double as bathrooms is fine as it is. Just the way to welcome tourists.

Maybe you should revisit the issue when you can make even a slight bit of sense.

Posted by Troll on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

Grade: -1 (per International Troll Society guidelines)

I take it you're new at trolling so let me not be too harsh. Your post is not polished under ITS (International Troll Society) guidelines. A brief critique follows:

Your trolling style is old school. Now you may say that you've read your style of trolling from many other trolls and you just copied them. Yes, that's a problem and many people do and they lack originality (as of course you do). This is an example of old school, where you wrote:

"Let me guess...."

That's in violation of ITS guidelines. It's number 21 on the list of "old school" phrases to be avoided. "Let me guess..." is an attempt to be sassy and smug and there are other ways of doing that that are not old school.


You "theme trolled." Not good. Do you know what "theme trolling" is? Theme trolling is where you work in to any post regardless of the topic your "theme" hatred of whatever it is that you hate. So in your case, you hate the homeless so you worked that in to your troll post. Bad idea. Because hating the homeless is in violation of ITS Ethics Code guidelines (p. 42, paragraphs 9-11 specifically addresses that).

So sleep on it, pleb, and because of the cheap and tawdry manner in which you troll, you might reconsider whether you want to even continue to pursue trolling, because as it stands now, it doesn't look for you. Not at all. Like all the other imposter/amateur trolls on this site, you're too unpolished and on top of that you have personal issues (for example, your hatred for the homeless which says quite a bit about you as a person, pleb). But do sleep on it.

International Troll Society Member #12360969212

Posted by International Troll Society Member #12360969212 on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 3:31 am

simply yet another form of the trolling that you claim to hate.

And tells us that you probably cannot refute his points.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:06 am

I know...I point out that his claim make no sense and he didn't have an answer. I don't even bother to read all of his silliness.

The funny thing is that he thinks he is clever with his lengthy diatribes of nonsense.

Posted by Troll on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:17 am


Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 8:07 am

debate - as soon as he goes ad hominem and accusatory.

Posted by anon on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 9:27 am

Trolls engage in trolling conduct, that trolling conduct is fair game and not ad hominem, troll.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 7:51 am

But when someone attacks the left, it is trolling?

Nice double standard there.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 8:33 am

How about the smug arrogant creeps who think they are so "special" that they deserve extraordinary protection from market forces that EVERY OTHER person has to deal with. I wish the price of every thing I had to buy was controlled. You are the greedy ones stealing other peoples valuable property ( if your name is not on the deed IT"S NOT YOUR PROPERTY) with your whining I'm so poor , your should pay my way BS.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 4:59 am

I love wealthy people they are way more fun than mentally ill and poor whiners…..

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 5:02 am

Tax whiners are never fun to be around.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 7:50 am

There's a lot that's wonderful about this city -it's why I came to live here. But right now there's a lot of anxiety. Anyone renting, whether under rent control or not, is in danger of being displaced. So are a lot of homeowners, frankly. We feel it too, and we're pretty well off. And there's anxiety precisely because San Francisco isn't just another place. To many of us who came here, we're not here because we just happened to be transferred here for work. We're not here because we happened to pop out here and never bothered to leave, or because grandpa died and left us property and San Francisco is just where it happened to be located. No, we came here purposefully, because this is the one place in America where we feel at home. So it's not like going somewhere else is such an easy option.

But now people who call this city home are being displaced left and right. When I moved here, this city was vibrant and fun. Now it feels more and more like a pressure cooker.

Don't get me wrong -I'm not against the rich per se. I'm not against "success" or any of that other rhetorical nonsense that's often hurled. I'm successful myself. And I enjoy many of the things that come with a city being full of successful people. But there is value in diversity. You can't have a thriving world class city based on a monoculture of computer geeks. What makes this city so vibrant and fun and great is this diversity of talents -artists, innovators, writers, poets, students... whatever.

And there's really only one way you're going to do that. And no, it's not building more housing at the cost of everything else, including San Francisco's character. You're not going to build your way out of this housing crisis any more than you'll drill your way out of peak oil. We need to acknowledge that the religion of capitalism doesn't hold the answer to every problem. I've talked about this before. The only solution I can see is stronger, stricter rent control, including vacancy control and extending rent control to new housing. And ideally, yes, price controls. I know, that's blasphemy to our market fundamentalists. But I've yet to hear of a better solution. One way or another, though, we do need to find one that allows a diversity of people including middle and working class folks, to continue to live here.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:40 am

At least somebody on here understands. Thank you for taking the time to write that.

International Troll Society Member #12360969212

Posted by International Troll Society Member #12360969212 on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 1:02 am

underlying your words an unspoken premise, and that is the idea of what I might call "San Francisco exceptionalism".

Now, you're probably familiar with that notion, because US foreign policy is often conducted under the concept of "American exceptionalism" - the idea that the US is unique, a force for good on the planet and therefore justified in taking exceptional measures to promote it's values and project it's power.

No doubt those on the left dispute that. But then those same people turn around and justify highly invasive land use and social engineering policies to achieve something very similar - to "preserve SF as if in a pickling jar - for no reason other than the rather self-serving viewpoint that SF is "special" and "exceptional".

But why? In the end, it's just another US city. I've lived in several and, although I am in SF now, I could probably be happy in any of them (as long as they were not small towns, that is).

The fact that you might like SF and think that it is "cool" isn't really a rationally basis for public policy. Nor is the idea that this is the only town where people can move to and never have to grow up, which is the perception of many here as well.

Posted by anonymous on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:58 am

I expected something more trollish... a flurry of snide one-liners.

Not that I agree with your analogy -there's a huge difference. The policies I'm advocating aren't killing anyone. I have no problem with the US promoting its values, but when you promote those values with bombs, drones, depleted uranium, and daisy cutters, then you're not a force for good -by definition.

Nor do I support those policies exclusively for San Francisco. I would support them anywhere where they're needed. The fact is that San Francisco, while not *uniquely* exceptional, is one of the *few* places where demand far outstrips supply, and no market solution will change that. It's not the only place, but it's one of the few.

The difference between me and some of the market fundamentalists out there, is that to them, capitalism is a religion. They are unwilling to consider any solutions that deviate from rigid market ideology, no matter how clear it is that the market is breaking down. That's why I call them market fundamentalists.

I'm coming from a different perspective. You don't need rent control in Phoenix or Fresno. I wouldn't be opposed to it being enacted, but I don't think it would significantly change the landscape there. Because the market works fairly well in those places. But in places like San Francisco, there's scarcity. And where there's scarcity, markets break down. People who have, take advantage of those who do not. Either the government steps in in those situations, or we allow the haves to take advantage of the have-nots, just because they can. The latter is just the law of the jungle.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 8:52 am

It has to do with whether it matters if some poor people cannot afford to live in SF. And I really don't see what that matters. Would SF be worse if all the homeless left? Again, why?

Even in communist nations, there are expensive towns where the poor struggle. It's not about capitalism versus communism. It's about why people feel entitled to live in SF when they cannot afford it. Why can't they live elsewhere? - somewhere they can afford.

Posted by anon on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 9:33 am

Because they've built lives here and state law allows for localities to stabilize communities against the pressures of development. Go back to your crummy TIC and cry yourself to sleep knowing that you'll be stuck in a commune with people you hate for another two decades.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 10:35 am

get things below cost because they have done in the past?

By that argument, we should all continue to persecute gays because that happened in the past.

If your argument is that we should never change anything, then we never would have abolished slavery.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 10:57 am

Troll hijack: rent control is the law, deal with it.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 11:08 am

Or of course you could whine here all day every day about it. As Shakespear put it: "Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 11:14 am

Troll hijack: Ellis evicted units cannot convert to condo. Problem?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 11:32 am

evicted tenant has long gone and move to a less "exceptional" city, i.e. one that they can actually afford.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 11:46 am

Troll Hijack: can't convert Ellis eviction TIC to condo. TICs are terrible business deals, just roll the tape from the Land Use hearing on Wiener's legislation to hear a litany of TIC horror stories.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

have a fair representation of TIC owners since only the whiners will show up. Just like every other city hall metting

There are thousands of happy TIC owners, including nurses, teachers, etc.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

Naturally. Democracy is bad, sunshine is bad. We should just let businessmen and their corporate crony politicians decide matters in quiet solitude.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

to notice that it is the same "usual suspects" who show up again and agin, for their two minutes of mediocrity.

Those who attend such meetings are totally unrepresentative of the average SF'er who is too busy with work and family to agigtate and try and tell others what to do.

That's why election results are often very different from what you hear at city hall meetings.

The supes know this and you can see them yawning and rolling their eyes during the public speaking section (which usually is 95% of the time of the meeting).

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

meetings are perfectly representative.

They are representative of the most informed and engaged San Franciscans.

The degree to which ballot outcomes don't match up with public comment -- and the degree to which supervisors can arrogantly ignore such comments -- is directly related to the fact that the pols have learned to game the system based on campaign funding and smear games.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

Essentially you are arguing that activists and those who "show up" are somehow a more legitimate set of "deciders" than the great uneashed out there.

Of course, that is what the activists themselves want. They seek disproportionate influence over political decisions and events. They are so sure that they are right that they feel democracy is disposable in some situations because of the degree of the injustice.

That, after all, is why people protest, have boycotts, or "Occupy". They seek to use force and aggression to secure what the ballot box will not give them.

Only one problem with that. What if it is the "other side" that succeed in doing that?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

rent above cost. Carry on, troll.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 8:40 am

costs of many landlords in SF?

In any event, the issue for a LL isn't to just cover his costs. nobody takes a risk to not make a profit.

What a LL is thinking is whether investing in a SF rental gives an optimal ROI or whether he should deploy the capital elsewhere.

If he could do better elsewhere, then he needs to Ellis and sell, and redeploy capital elsewhere.

Posted by anon on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

Landlords charge market rent when an apartment is vacant. Over time, rents rise both in occupied units and especially when tenants vacate. Landlord costs are mainly fixed--debt service, property taxes--or well below the cash flow generated by rents--maintenance, management.

If market rents (even with increases regulated by rent control) didn't provide a profit, we would see landlords going out of business historically. But that doesn't happen in SF. You are going to claim the Ellis Act disproves my statement, but landlords use that law, not because their businesses are unprofitable, but in order to vacate profitable properties in search of super profits from selling them vacant.

The search for windfall profits by sellers and speculative profits by buyers distorts the rental housing market.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

then why would any landlord NOT Ellis and reinvest his cash elsewhere?

You understand how investment works, right?

Posted by anon on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

What a grand idea. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, anon!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

Reinvesting elsewhere reduces the stock of rental housing and, in particular, rent controlled housing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

Extend rent control to new housing and see how fast new construction halts FOREVER …...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 5:05 am

extended to cover new build is sufficient to greatly depress the construction of any new unit that isn't a condo, and therefore eternally exempt from RC by State law.

No developer, builder or landlord is interested in being whipsawed and blindsided by retrospective legislation.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 8:24 am

People with money are usually pretty happy wherever they live but, don't you think a lot of them would be would be even happier if they lived in an city where they were catered to and didn't have to pay an huge amount of taxes?

Maybe you Progressives are right, the moderates/conservatives would be happier living somewhere other than SF, lol.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 1:06 am

"Maybe you Progressives are right, the moderates/conservatives would be happier living somewhere other than SF, lol."

I think the conservatives (including the faux-moderates) would be much happier living in Topeka since they seem intent on bringing Topeka here. It would be easier for them to just move there.

International Troll Society Member #12360969212

Posted by International Troll Society Member #12360969212 on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 3:09 am

be happier somewhere more suited to their fiscal prowess?

Wealthy people have the power to choose where to live; the poor do not, and never have. so if the rich choose to be in SF, the poor will struggle to remain here. There aren't any poor people in Aspen either - problem?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:08 am

They can afford San Francisco given that San Francisco has rent stabilization. Now go back to your TIC and cry yourself to sleep.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 8:08 am
Posted by anon on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 9:28 am

It helps those who have stayed in one rental for a long time, even if they are wealthy. While harming anyone who is poor and looking for a home by suppressing vacancies and driving up rents at the margin.

I think I could support a housing policy that really helped the poor, in the way that section 8 does. But a blanket rent control policy usually ends up helping the educated whites who can figure out the rules, but not so much the poor and non-whites who often aren't aware of their rights and/or less inclined to cling to a home just for RC.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 10:30 am