You want to live in Manhattan? Move there.

Can you see Valencia Street?

I feel like I've been having this discussion for 30 years, and it still keeps coming back. The latest installment (thanks to sfist for the link) is a Slate article by Matthew Yglesias arguing that San Francisco could solve its housing crisis by becoming as dense as Manhattan. Lots of highrise condos and apartments in places like the Mission. A total of 3.2 million residents.

Obviously, a totally different city:

Obviously that would have a transformative effect on Oakland as well in various regards. It's obviously not "politically realistic" to imagine San Francisco rezoning to allow that kind of density. But uniquely among American cities, I completely believe that 3.2 million people would want to live in a hypothetical much-more-crowded version of the city if they were allowed to. You'd need to build another heavy rail line or three and do some better dedicated bus lanes, but it'd be affordable with a much larger tax base.

Here's the problem. Two problems, really.

1. That level of density hasn't exactly made Manhattan affordable. (Although if you want to move there, it's probably cheaper than SF at this point). There's been a huge surge in housing construction in NYC, and housing prices are still way too high. The housing market in San Francisco is so unusual that demand is essentially infinite; you can't build your way out of this.

2. There are already 800,000 people living here, and most of us don't want to live in Manhattan.

One of the reasons San Francisco is so attractive is that it's still a human-scale city. I've spent a lot of time in Manhattan, and the rush is pretty cool, and some urbanists say that's how we're all going to have to live in the future -- packed into tall buildings in dense cities -- but that's not how I want to live. I know I sound old and I'm becoming a curmudgeon and one of those "you should have seen us in the old days" people, but I like the fact that there are no highrises in the Mission. 

Yeah, San Francisco is going to have to grow in population. There are ways to do that -- to make dense neighborhoods that are still very livable. See: North Beach. But San Franciscans have generally taken the position that we don't want to be Manhattan. We want to be San Francisco.

Now: My vision is not in synch with how housing is allocated in a hyper-capitalist system. Me, I think housing should be treated as a human right and regulated like a public utility. Landlords should be allowed a "reasonable return on investment" but not the greatest profit the market will bear. Homeowners should see their property appreciate at a reasonable level, but not at a speculative level. Housing shouldn't be bought and sold as a commodity. And it should be allocated by seniority -- that is, the people who have been a part of a community for the longest get the better housing.

That's how you avoid the demand-exceeds-supply issue (and again, in this city, there will always be more demand than supply.) I know that's commie shit, but that's the way it is.

Still, whatever the economic or policy arguments, you can't force that level of density onto this city. Because before you make those kinds of plans, you have to check with the people who live here.

I wrote this mostly to give the trolls some red meat, since they don't seem to be agitated enough lately. Go to it, Adam Smith.


Parts of San Francisco are not that dense -- the Sunset, Outer Richmond, Bayview and Excelsior, for example. The Sunset seems crowded, but that's because there is only one main artery, 19th Ave., and it's always clogged. It seems like when people talk about how unaffordable and dense San Francisco is, they are only thinking of the so-called "hip" areas like the Mission, NOPA, Duboce, Russian Hill, etc. There is still some affordable housing here, it's just not in the cool areas people want to live in.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

Perhaps you missed the fact that 1/4" separates virtually all housing in the Outer Richmond, Bayview and Sunset....and we're glad most hipsters like yourself prefer the Mission.

Posted by Richmondman on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

As a recent NY transplant to SF I agree that the city is more pleasant (for some) due to its relative lack of density.

SF is definitely cheaper than most of Manhattan though. Apartments are ~10% (or an NY broker fee) cheaper on an absolute basis and 20 - 30% cheaper on a quality adjusted basis. Manhattanites pay extra for quality that is standard in SF (though SFers pay extra for quality that is standard in Chicago).

You're completely right about that plan too - it is some ridiculous commie bs that would never work :-) . There are actually plans that favor seniority (see Florida's homestead act) in housing - they tend to have the effect of pricing young people out and making things suck.

Posted by John_J on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

compared to Manhattan where there are almost none. Tim is comparing apples and oranges and jousting with lions of his own imagination to try and gin up hits from "the trolls." Which is what he calls anyone who disagrees with him.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

The term was coined back in the day to describe people whose primary intent is to stir up trouble by provoking readers into an emotional response. Your meanspirited potshots at Tim basis are a good example of that troll behavior. You trolls think you're clever, without realizing how predictable and boring you are. Why Tim would care to "gin up" more of this asinine behavior is beyond me.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 11:15 am


Posted by marcos on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 11:40 am

endlessly trotting out left-wing propaganda to a city and society which clearly has no real interest in socialism.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

There are a great many people who are drawn to SF for its progressive politics. This has been true for years. Moreover, you are invading *our* space by infesting a progressive site that you "have no real interest in." Can you say hypocrite?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

When running for office, on this very page John Avalos (who is from LA) said that he didn't like people coming here trying to tell us all how to live.

SF needs to be a haven for progressives from all over the world to come and tell the people already here what to do and how to live, anyone else is not welcome The people already here not smart enough to agree with progressives need to shut up or go.

We welcome those who are high on agreeing with the person standing in the front of a classroom they just departed.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

San Francisco as a "progressive" city means any criticism of those policies is out of bounds and "troll-like?" Does that fencing off of criticism extend to beleaguered progressive minorities in places like northern Alabama too? "People are drawn to the South for its conservative and Christian politics. This has been true for years."

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

Nobody moves to the south for christian and conservative politics. People who live in the south are steeped in it and in general are unable to get it together economically to leave if they'd even have an intellectual curiosity to do so.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

which is ridiculous as the statement that people move to San Francisco for "progressive politics." No - they do not.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

Progressive politics is what made San Francisco a sanctuary city for LGBT and those on the business end of US foreign policy in Latin America, hundreds of thousands came here for that.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

very last thing we want here is for this place to be a refuge for anyone and everyone who can't grow up or fit in anywhere, and think therefore they have a "right" to live here.

SF is just another American city - the sense of exceptionalism is a delusion which does us no favors.

If you want to live in SF then work hard and pay your own way. We do not need more passengers and losers here. We already have too many.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

San Francisco exceptionalism is - exceptional!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

exceptionalism is wrong.

Except of course when it conveniently isn't.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 12:56 am

There are precious few places other than San Francisco where a significant part of the population wants the city to balance basic humanity against pure financial profit. This means providing food, shelter and adequate medical care for people who need it.

If the wealthy are aghast seeing people who live below 80% of medium income, there are literally dozens of cities and towns in Marin, San Mateo and CoCo counties where they can retreat into their castles away from the riff-raff. Not surprisingly, rarely do these other wealthy towns offer many services for those less fortunate, making it even more important for SF to carry most of the load.

Economic diversity is as important as all of the other diversity rainbows. If some of the wealthy don't like living among equal numbers of poorer and middle-income residents, let them move to Lafayette, Fairfax, Hillsborough or a dozen other towns in the area that require a $1.5 million entry fee to live there. The city is much better off without them.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

services to the underclass, then SF will attract the underclass, and that comes with huge costs. At a time when deficits at all levels of government are reaching a critical point, entailing significant service cuts, it is inevitable that such a policy of "unlimited largesse to everyone, regardless" cannot be sustained.

And who do you want to pay for all this? The voters are reaching compassion fatigue when they see ever-increasing taxes to subsidize people whose presence here contributes nothing and who are only here because they are outsiders who cannot fit in. Taxpayers will revolt.

Churches, non-profits, charities and volunteers can help these people, but we can not and should not institutionalize a welfare state for all comers, because then all will come!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 12:50 am

Reality check: SF has notoriously inefficient delivery system for helping people get off the street.

If you talked to any homeless ever you'd hear some really incredible tales.

Bevan Dufty seems to be an improvement on tha last homeless tsar, but things still move at a glacial pace.

Ironically I've been hearing good things about 'Homeless Connect' lately 25 Van Ness. Which said to be getting a chunk of money from none other then....Ron Conway.

Posted by pete moss on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

Most professional progressives could give a shit about economic diversity. They are not paid to give a shit about the middle class from whence they sprang and against which they rebel. So long as the rich are made to pay taxes to fund the trophy poor, they're calling it a day.

This is a deal cut between the 1% uber rich and the 30% uber poor to screw the 69% in the middle and goes to great lengths to explain the diminishing amount of progressive electoral appeal in San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 8:48 am

not rich enough, not vulnerable enough...but oh so "put upon". Someone should take up his cause. Put his face on a banner or something.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

And The Band Played On.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:42 am

San Francisco's political climate has been receptive as a sanctuary to LGBT and Latinos fleeing oppression. No need to vote on it, that's the way its been for decades now. You want to change that. Fuck you.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 8:45 am

more reasonable, we are well past that point now. There are gays everywhere and that alone is not an excuse to roll out the red carpet here.

Anyone is free to move to SF, but you need to be able to pay your way. We cannot save everyone from themselves.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 10:49 am

Right because fagbashing is a thing of the past. There is absolutely no gay prejudice anywhere in the world. Right?

You really need to get out of the little bubble called San Francisco and travel around a bit. They are still stoning gays to death in half the world. And in half of the United States you get run out of town if you are a faggot.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

There's probably a billion people in the third world who are suffering. Should we give them all rent-controlled houses in SF?

While I might have had some sympathy for minorities 50 years ago when we still had segregation and lynching and whatever, that is all a long time ago, and we no longer have the affluence or growth to endlessly throw money at anyone with a sob story.

Anyone can still come to SF, oppressed or not. But we're not going to build a viable local economy with only misfits from elsewhere. We need economically active folks too.

All are welcome here, but you have to pay your own bills.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 4:15 am

I think that it is a false dichotomy. We absolutely need economically productive activity to support a tax base for things like schools, retirement homes and infrastructure. But not every one can pay their own bills.

I know you libertarian ubermensch never stumble and never fall, but even you were a toddler at one point in your life and unable to support yourself. Ane even you will grow old and need assistance someday. Though you might have savings to support yourself in your old age, you might not as well. Few things in life are as certain as you might think.

We can and should continue to support things like half-way houses for runaway gay teens from rural America. We still have runaways living on the streets of The Castro and The Haight who got the boot from their God-fearing parents as soon as they came out. If you don't believe me, go talk to some of them.

Most of them turn out just fine and end up paying their own way, but going from high school student with no job skills at 16 and on the streets to paying all your own bills is a pretty hard step with no one offering a hand.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:24 am

would carry a more compassionate resonance if you didn't cite as a poster child the pot-smoking, unwashed kids with bad-tempered dogs who litter up my neighborhood day and night.

I'm all for some safety-net baseline of services for the most needy. Even so, I'd prefer to see that done on a State and national level, and bringing in churches, charities and volunteers, rather than make one city a "sanctuary" and stick SF taxpayers with the entire bill.

SF attracts the homeless because we are more generous to them. That's a self-defeating policy since it just sucks more and more of them in.

Again, we cannot save everyone.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:39 am

about ten years ago, I picked up the weekly paper to see if there was anything going on, anything at all.

The paper had the Guardians triumphalism and out of touch claims of speaking for the "people," while being in Phoenix.

Where ever true believers go they have an excuse as to why they should get their way and everyone else is too stupid to get it. If they are in the minority they want tolerance, int he majority they give the minority the middle finger.

If the progressives ever took over the USA they would be as tolerant as Born Again Christians would be.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

and yet, if you disagree with them, then you are a "troll" or a "moron" or a "hater" or some other stereotype.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

Again Christians."

Sure. Like, everybody knows that progressives gave the anti-choice/clinic bomber groups "the middle finger" by insisting on providing health services codified by law. That's intolerant. That's intolerant, right?

Matlock is like a broken record: criticizes even the mildest of leftists by posing a false and unworkable analogy to the evils of rightist extremists. Matlock thinks this is a clever way to: make his assessment verisimilitudinously seem "balanced"; not actually criticize the right; and actually be attacking from the far right.

It's actually funny how formulaic these posts are. I could well imagine that there *are* two matlocks, but that they follow this same easy formula.

This is what I call "matlocky."

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

Puzzled by your posts again.

Progressives try and codify their opinions as how people should behave into law, for the people's own good of course just like the right does.

The progressives hate the way the government worked before they came on the scene. Instead of doing away with all the preference found in government for various races, classes and religions, they wanted government patterned on their preferences around these groups.

Added to the feel goodism of government, progressives attempting take over indoctrination of the youths is always a hoot. Intellectual faddism of our progressives is also an interesting turn of events.

Overthrowing the previous way of doing business USA was a good idea, replacing it with a newer and more narrow set of rules is just as bad, in some places worse.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

San Francisco is a hotbed of liberalism.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

This is more small-minded bunk designed to give more excuses why SF should remain small. You want a better comparison, look at Chicago, which has great density because they build, and also has far cheaper housing, and far superior infrastructure than SF. The weather bites there, so we move to SF where we pay huge amounts to live in a hovel, with streets covered in human refuse. That is not an excuse to leave SF small. And no one gets helped by our anti-building mentality except for the tiny handful of landlords who own all the real estate, and thus make money off of all of us, because we are too dumb to realize that the only way to build our own wealth over time is to own our own property.

Posted by BillW on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

no one lives in hovels who pays huge amounts, and I've lived here 20 years and have yet to see a street covered in human refuse --  it's my job to be out on the street every day. Have you ever even been here?  

PS-- we're building things all over the place, walk up Market or around SoMa. There's no "anti-building mentality," only a "sane building" one. 

Posted by marke on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

I'm not sure one can call the current building policy in San Francisco a "sane building" policy when the only buildings I see being built are for the wealthy. The ones being built now are pretentious condos (they call them "Luxury Designer Homes"). And some of them are being built very cheaply with single-pane windows at a noisy intersection. The wealthy, pretentious sheeple ought to love that especially when the bar across the street cranks up.

I see no "sane building" of affordable housing being built anywhere. With all the closed store fronts and more on the way in the Upper Market area, I don't know what the attraction is to that area.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

What about Cubix? Is that for "the wealthy"? If so, you have a very strange definition of what wealthy is.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 6:55 am

is one example (albeit still pretty weak) of a plan that allows for mega-building in a neighborhood that can absorb it, while setting aside BMR and affordable units. Granted tenants still may have to be subsidized or, alternately, earn at least  80k household income to live in those units, but it's a step toward more integration. Could use a lot more steps toward, of course, and it's a developer's nightmare at this point, but it's more sane than just luxury condos. 

Posted by marke on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 10:53 am

(significantly more) luxury housing. And "luxury" is a misnomer anyway - the high cost is mostly for the land, and the extortions that the city demands. A million gets you nothing in this town.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

"I see no "sane building" of affordable housing being built anywhere. "

Look at the new triangular-shaped building at 1600 Market Street (at Page and Franklin). It's all affordable housing, paid for by the developers of the market rate building at Buchanan and Market.

Posted by Dan on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

The ratio of luxury to affordable is like 10 or 12 to 1.

That's insane, batshit cray cray.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

Here's the thing. Affordable housing is really subsidized housing. IOW, you have to find someone willing to pay extra for somebody else's benefit. Not many people will do that.

The city tries by extorting those who build, but there is a limit to how far you can go with that. As a developer, I might be willing to build an extra 10% and subsidize them. But I am not going much higher than that because then my ROI is compromised and I am better off building in San Mateo or Marin.

You get what you get because that is all there is to get. Don't be greedy.

Posted by anon on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:31 am

Listen, fuckface, public owns the public entitlements that allow for development and the public should leverage those valuable entitlements so that it provides for its constituents before it provides for developers, just as the developers provide for themselves before they provide for San Franciscans but in reverse.

That is what equity and justice looks like. Otherwise, corrupt government officials are selling out their constituents in favor of developers. I seem to recall Ed Lee running for office in support of affordable housing, yet under his regime, the affordable housing requirements have been loosened in favor of developers. Ed Lee Lies.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:45 am

Marke- try visiting the east side of C(r)app Street just north of 16th and get back to me on the pee and poo. Used to be a street tree there where the sidewalk pavement is newer. It got poisoned by human waste and fell down, destroying two cars. I've traveled through Mexico, Central America, South Africa and India and I've seen poverty and destitution that makes SF SRO residences look like luxury palaces and never seen street shit tolerated in residential neighborhoods.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

Some people can't tell the difference between human waste and dog waste, particularly the right-wing. Especially when they want to hate on the homeless. To hear them talk about it you'd think we had piles and piles of human shit on every street corner in SF and rivers of piss rapidly flowing into the storm drains.

And while I'm at it: Marcos, you're sounding more like the right-wing trolls on here every day. I know you pretend to be "independent" but you're quickly losing that cover.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 3:06 am

Perhaps the reason why you can't tell if it is human shit is that you've got your head up your ass trying to cobble together a political coalition centered around celebrating the right to shit in public and can't smell the difference?

This does not happen everywhere. It is not the greatest problem facing the City. But it does happen in certain places, is a public health threat, and the public realm should be engineered such that there is no cover given to public shitters.

it is not like there is not a JC Decaux public shitter and the homeless center 1/2 block away...Perhaps the reason why people are flocking away from the poverty centered progressives is that the smell of death is now accompanied by the smell of shit?

I get it, I get it, unless one genuflects to the primacy of the trinity of the poverty, housing and labor empires, then one is hopelessly right wing. Good luck with that.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

um, it's been that way for about 150 years -- and if it was really bad as all that, why is it in the center of the "hottest" neighborhood in the city. also lol @ tree poisoned by human waste. 

Posted by marke on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 10:56 am

"have yet to see a street covered in human refuse"

So you've not seen the east side of Capp north of 16th?

Do you think that it is okay for kids who walk to the Marshall School, one of the top kids-walk-to-schools in the City, to have to wade through human waste? Did you have to dodge piles of poo when you went to school?

There's another tree that has yet to expire which is being poisoned by human waste on that block. The City club holds its bathrooms close to the vest and the drinkers there often relieve themselves across the street.

But who cares, its the "hottest" neighborhood in the City.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 11:26 am

000 block of 6th

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

Chicago is a great town. But it gets really, really cold.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

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