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Guest Opinion: To solve housing crisis, decrease demand

 
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Housing is in short supply in Silicon Valley, especially affordable housing.

Unfortunately, no amount of the current sort of government efforts in this area will change the situation. As an article in the Weekly recently noted, there are builders who have permits ready to go for residential multi-unit developments — and they're not building them because the numbers "don't pencil out."

The market forces at work were first understood when McKinsey studied the paint industry decades ago. They found that when there's a couple percent too little supply to meet demand, market prices jump up to where the highest-cost producer makes good money, and all the lower-cost producers go to the bank. Conversely, when there's a couple percent too much supply, the market price drops to where the lowest-cost producer barely scrapes by and everyone else loses lots of money. This reality about markets has now been shown to be true for many, many industries, commodities and situations and — it's just a fact.

Here's how that is working here in Silicon Valley where there's more than a few percentage points difference between housing supply and demand: market prices escalate to the maximum that the market will bear. And this maximum is determined by how much of a mortgage loan can be secured by a potential buyer, in the context of their income and other debts.

With that being the case, a developer would need to have rocks in their heads (or be related to Mother Teresa) to build affordable residential. Oh, and they can also develop office space that's much more lucrative. So, again, ain't gonna be affordable housing.

This is clear from the empirical results we see in how little affordable housing has been built despite governmental requirements to include such units. Developers avoid building these units any way they can, via so-called community benefit negotiations and such.

Many years ago, I wrote a guest opinion about how it was quixotic to continue to harp on the jobs-housing imbalance in Palo Alto — because when you study the numbers, as my article did, you find that several dozens of 50-story buildings would need to be built to get the balance right. And that obviously isn't going to happen.

This time I'm writing to note that even if it did, if in 2021 a tweaked SB50 shows back up and passes and 4-5 story buildings are allowed helter-skelter in heretofore low-density residential neighborhoods, the outcome still wouldn't solve the problem. Developers still won't develop units on which they can't make money, given the land and construction costs (which of course would escalate further if there were to be more building projects) in the area. And if developers could/did build, it would absolutely destroy any quality of life that any of us has. Traffic and pollution would be awful, schools and parks would be overwhelmed. The next step you're seeing in this is the fact that soon we'll have to pay tolls just to use what's currently still the commuter lane — and all day long, not just at commute hours.

Unlike in many geographies, we don't have any land into which to expand our footprint. So if we just densify maximally, we can all look forward to multi-hour traffic jams at least twice a day. I suppose our governments could eat up open-space districts for housing, if they can figure out a way to do it legally. This, too, would overwhelm schools and parks and services, as well as taking a hammer to quality of life. And even then, as noted, what would get built wouldn't be affordable housing.

Do any of us want this other than governments seeking to continue growth in tax revenues and builders seeking to build?

As a human being and citizen, I don't want any of this and suspect many readers don't either. For years, I fully supported all the growth — but now that quality of life is being reduced more and more, we need a solution. And there is a solution. The people who brought us this situation, the burgeoning tech industry who hired all these employees to the area, for which many are for sure grateful, is at the heart of the solution. They now need to embrace hiring elsewhere, expanding their campuses into more and more of the country's cities of 500,000 to 1 million or more people. And they'll be able to offer many existing employees the option of moving to those places, affording much bigger homes and enjoying much lower costs of living. And the tech giants will be able to hire people more economically in those locations — so it benefits them, too. Eventually, this will take pricing pressure out of the system, or at least stop it from growing and possibly substantially reduce it. It's simple: It's demand reduction rather than supply expansion.

You may have seen announcements this month that Google is planning to triple its Canadian headcount and that Amazon is planning a huge expansion in the northwest. What about cities in mid-America that have good universities, services, and land a-plenty? It's good to see Microsoft adding heads in Charlotte and San Antonio. Getting these companies to expand elsewhere is, in fact, the only real solution — and one they seem to be starting to see themselves. The proposed headcount-based business tax (I hope it gets set really high!) is but one useful tool that governments can use to accelerate these huge companies' desire to expand elsewhere rather than here.

Over time, that's the solution. The only solution.

It's that, or increasingly lousy quality of life.

Palo Alto resident Andy Robin likes facts. He can be reached at werdna39@aol.com.

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Comments

90 people like this
Posted by Right On
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 8:41 am

This is exactly right. We can't build our way out of our situation. It is simply common sense.

If the goal is to balance jobs and housing, then magically thinking that building the zillions of units it would take is unattainable. The balance is over 5 jobs for 1 housing unit - which started in the 1970's. The population of our town would increase many times over (we have about 2.3 persons per household in Palo Alto. You do the math. The consequences to our schools and everything else would be devastating.

Then there is the long-discredited myth of trickle-down housing that is nonsense. The idea that if one builds enough market-rate housing, somehow it will positively effect affordability down the line is wrong. It only effects the next quintile down and stops there when applied to housing. This whole trickle down notion was exploded decades ago after economist Milton Friedman's economic sham was exposed, yet it has been scraped up again, and applied to housing, yet no more true now than then.

Unfortunately our city council just decided to facilitate the building of market-rate housing on an equal basis as affordable housing. The huge winners of this decision are the most moneyed and privileged while a small percentage of market-rate units will be set aside as affordable, or instead, money paid into the affordable housing fund. The losers are those needing affordable housing and non-profit affordable housing developers as this ensures fewer sites are available for all-affordable housing projects while driving land values up.

So the goal cannot be achieving a jobs housing balance, but by addressing demand by maintaining and increasing strict limits on commercial and office development, and support affordable housing projects and its non-profit developers. Supervisor Simitian has two projects proposed in town on county land, and Wilton Court should be started in September - so all speed ahead on the affordable housing we need.


25 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:06 am

No mention of Stanford's massive growth plans?


29 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:35 am

> Posted by Right On
> This is exactly right. We can't build our way out of our situation. It is simply common sense.

Please. It's plenty common sense. If you have enough housing units to house the number of people who wish to live in the Bay Area, prices will fall.

If you do not have enough housing units to house the number of people who wish to live in the Bay Area, prices will continue to go up.

Palo Alto should absolutely do it's part to build more housing. There's plenty of space to do it. Why isn't Cal Ave more dense? There's plenty of room there to build 2-3 stories up. In addition, every other Bay Area city should be building housing.

> So the goal cannot be achieving a jobs housing balance, but by addressing demand by maintaining and increasing strict limits on commercial and office development ...

What a great idea. Let's stifle job creation in the Bay Area, so the local economy can slow down and take a few hits. I sure hope if you're a homeowner that you're planning on selling before something like this is implemented.


64 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 10:58 am

@George,

Sure, it is easy to build up (that is the problem), but how do you increase the capacity of the transportation infrastructure, parking capacity, utilities, parks, open space, recreational facilities, etc?

Are the developers who profit from building up going to pay for all of the additional infrastructure needed to support the density or will they simply shift that cost onto the taxpayers?

The true cost of the infrastructure needed to support a multi-story building rivals or even exceeds the building's construction costs.


50 people like this
Posted by Eric Filseth
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2020 at 11:04 am

A couple weeks ago the Mercury News reported on a new academic paper from Yale b-school which argues, intriguingly, that the Silicon Valley suffers from a form of “Dutch Disease” -- a 1960’s phenomenon in which the Dutch North Sea oil sector partially de-industrialized the rest of the country. During that period, foreign demand for Netherlands oil drove the guilder exchange rate so high that it damaged other Dutch industries, which found themselves at a price disadvantage with competitors in the rest of Europe. Since many of these other industries supplied large numbers of middle-class jobs, the result was high prosperity for those employed in the “boom sector” (oil), coupled with stagnation and rising inequality affecting everybody else.

While overall Dutch GDP indeed rose, it was distributed so unequally as to create an array of social problems, and ultimately also economic problems once oil prices eventually softened.

The Yale paper, “The Silicon Valley Syndrome,” (Web Link) argues something analogous is happening here, except the fulcrum isn’t our currency but our real estate costs – everybody needs land. If the authors are right, it would suggest that whether or not demand is reduced, the boom sector that produces that demand (primarily tech and commercial real estate) must at least play a very large role in funding the housing and transportation infrastructure necessary to support the boom, presumably via mechanisms such as targeted taxes, impact fees, possibly redevelopment, etc.


53 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 21, 2020 at 11:22 am

The so wrongly named "pro housing" majority in the city council has removed the cap on commercial development, making it more profitable fand more easy or developers to develop offices and removing any incentive to build housing, since building housing would generate minimal or no profits, despite the unprecedented breaks they get on providing parking space.

Decrease demand through companies building extension campuses away from the Bay Area is the only solution, and has always been the only solution to the demand factor, yet no local politician I know of has challenge big tech on that, when every thinking person should realize that a come-to Jesus moment with SV big tech is unavoidable and long overdue.


30 people like this
Posted by No politician?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 21, 2020 at 12:12 pm

Didn't Pat Burt -when he was mayor a few years ago - argue against large companies expanding here?


29 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2020 at 1:55 pm

"market prices escalate to the maximum that the market will bear. And this maximum is determined by how much of a mortgage loan can be secured by a potential buyer, in the context of their income and other debts."

Don't forget the rental market. Landlords will raise rents to the maximum their renters can possibly pay. Boosting rental unit supply translates to increased rewards for landlord greed, not to lower rents. The ironclad Law of Maximum Gouge applies; forget that Supply and Demand fiction which hapless economics students are required to parrot on their exams. We cannot build our way out of the Maximum Gouge.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm

@ Resident from Downtown North
In many respects, Stanford is the real "Super Spreader" in our area.


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Our latest new neighbors, one works in Menlo Park and the other works in San Francisco. People move to Palo Alto even if their jobs are not here.


28 people like this
Posted by Zhao
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Common sense (as well as fiscal IQ) would seem to dictate that that if one cannot afford to live in Palo Alto or any of its surrounding areas, go live elsewhere else.

My employees commute from cities like Tracy & Salinas to Palo Alto. They do not complain like other whiners.

I reside in a modest Palo Alto home. It originally cost me $2.75M which I paid in CASH but I could not afford to do so now.


36 people like this
Posted by Missing number
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:34 pm

George -

What’s your guess about how many people wish to live in Palo Alto?

Mine is about five million.

This number is relevant if you think that building enough housing for them and relying on a naked supply and demand rule is a workable approach to the problem.


22 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland

>> The so wrongly named "pro housing" majority in the city council has removed the cap on commercial development,

Until we put a cap on office space, we will never make progress on housing. We will always fall further behind. It is more profitable to build office space than housing, and, the developers say so. It isn't a secret. They've gone on the record in the media. I'm not sure why "George" above just doesn't grok that.

>> Decrease demand through companies building extension campuses away from the Bay Area is the only solution, and has always been the only solution to the demand factor,

HP was very active in the 70's building up satellite campuses, both in the Bay Area, further from Palo Alto but closer to housing, and, in other areas, usually in/near college towns, further afield, in Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, etc. it worked, too!

>> yet no local politician I know of has challenge big tech on that, when every thinking person should realize that a come-to Jesus moment with SV big tech is unavoidable and long overdue.

I have to disagree on this one. Starting in 1962, the "residentialists" as they came to be known challenged the plans for Oregon Expressway/Page Mill Rd, which were being expanded to support HP in particular and the SRP in general. I could quote parts of it, but, read about it here: Web Link. This struggle was still going on when I moved to Palo Alto permanently. The livability of Palo Alto isn't an accident-- it is through the efforts of many people through the years that this much has been saved. Web Link. Sadly, many have passed on now: Web Link. Anyway, although I'm more favorable than some to higher-density 3-5 story buildings-- properly located, NOT dropped in the middle of an area of single-family homes-- by today's standards, I'm an unapologetic neo-residentialist, Web Link. It has been a long process, and many politicians have been essentially residentialists. It has been such an accepted viewpoint, in fact, that in recent years we've had stealth pro-development people who pay lip service to many of the ideas of residentialists, but then, conveniently find ways to justify approving new office space.

Historically, it is difficult to find a direct cause-and-effect, but it is definitely the case that as the Residentialist movement arose, HP began building satellite campuses. The result was very successful, and was successfully copied by Intel. If there was any problem with that approach, it was that HP had too big an investment in hardware. If they had been able to respond more quickly to the advent of commodity hardware and the growth of importance of software, things would have turned out differently. Today, the satellite campus concept should work even better than it did then, because software development activities can be shuffled around a lot more easily than specialized hardware facilities for medical instrumentation, test and verification equipment, ink-jet printers, semiconductor fabrication, and so on.


44 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 2:44 pm

@Eric,

How could targeted taxes, impact fees, redevelopment, etc, ever mitigate the real costs of development when the government's administrative structure has already been corrupted by the real-estate industry?

The funds are either inefficiently deployed or more commonly redirected back into the real-estate industry in the form of giveaways, "incentives", redevelopment grants, etc.

Classical economics do not work in a corrupted system. That is why corruption is illegal. Unfortunately the real-estate industry has found numerous ways to corrupt our political system that are (technically) legal.

A corrupted system is a dynamic system. No strategy, plan, or policy can correct the system because the corrupted system re-configures itself dynamically to redirect money and power back to the corrupter.


8 people like this
Posted by Alan Stivers
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2020 at 3:35 pm

Will Malthus never die?


26 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 21, 2020 at 4:55 pm

@Andy Robin: Well said.

@Eric Filseth: That's a *really* interesting study. It explains some cause-and-effect connections better than any other discussion I've seen.

Lately I've been trying to get a better understanding of the effects of increasing density. It isn't necessary for affordability (rural areas are affordable) and it isn't sufficient (high-density areas like Manhattan and Hong Kong aren't affordable). So what is it really good for?

The best explanation I've heard so far is that increasing density increases return on capital. It increases the revenue potential of land and buildings that you already own, and of new buildings that you might want to construct.

In some cases this is enough to push an unprofitable project into profitability, and that's why people hope it would result in more housing. But for land it's a one-shot deal. After an increase in density limits, the ability to develop a new property at higher density drives up the purchase price of the property and reduces the overall return. I remember several people commenting on Town Square that eliminating single-family zoning wouldn't reduce property values, and I suppose that's the reason. That would also mean that the YIMBY argument that homeowners reject increasing density because it would reduce their property values is incorrect.

Piketty explained that wealth inequality increases when the rate of return on capital exceeds the growth rate of the overall economy. So I'd expect that increasing density would also increase wealth inequality as it increases return on capital.


73 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2020 at 5:32 pm

Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville

>> @Eric Filseth: That's a *really* interesting study. It explains some cause-and-effect connections better than any other discussion I've seen.

Very interesting. I expected most of it, but, I found the following paragraph surprising-- startling, even:

"Lower-wage businesses – those that employ less-skilled and less-specialized employees – actually pay their employees a little less following infusions of venture capital. But employees in higher-wage businesses experience earnings growth. Income equality therefore rises within the non-traded sector."

That is, the rising inequality around us is obvious. But, I always assumed that less-skilled wages rose a little, just not as fast. That less-skilled wages can actually decline slightly- well, it may be a small statistical error, but, the point is that less-skilled wages can be really flat. We already knew it wasn't equally, but, the rising tide actually isn't raising everyone.

>> Lately I've been trying to get a better understanding of the effects of increasing density. It isn't necessary for affordability (rural areas are affordable) and it isn't sufficient (high-density areas like Manhattan and Hong Kong aren't affordable). So what is it really good for?

I think it is basically a windfall profit for property owners in a position to have a developable property upzoned. With upzoning, the difference in value is pure profit.

But, a certain level of density can actually be desirable from an infrastructure standpoint. You need 30 or so units per acre, 3-4 story buildings, etc., density, to make really functional public transit work. 3-4 story buildings are also most efficient energy-wise, and lowest construction cost per unit area. From an environmental point of view, medium density appears to be best by most measures. We all love our single family homes, and, I don't think people should feel guilty if they live in one, but, as things -evolve-, people should be thinking about an evolution towards mid-level density.

My personal taste runs towards townhouse/row-house configurations where people actually own their land and building walls. I know that architects find this a less-interesting, but, many home buyers prefer this arrangement. You can get up to 30 units/acre this way. So, geometry seems to me to pull things towards 30 units/acre as the most efficient cost and energy-wise.


9 people like this
Posted by Quinn
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 21, 2020 at 6:58 pm

Trump could fix this problem.
Tariffs are the answer. place a tariff on all new home sales so the houses cost too much. That will decrease demand. Once demand falls, prices will fall. And Mexico will pay for the wall.


22 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 21, 2020 at 7:32 pm

@Anon: "a certain level of density can actually be desirable from an infrastructure standpoint"

Very true, and crucial if you're designing from scratch. We aren't, though.
One of the biggest problems with an evolutionary approach is what to do during the decades when we have too much density for the roads to support, and too little density to support effective public transit.


37 people like this
Posted by In Construction
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2020 at 8:34 pm

This is spot on - high prices are because whenever we build a house there are dozens of techies with tons of cash to buy it. The only to make housing cheaper is to stop business expanding. Otherwise we'll have 24 hours traffic jams, 30 kids per class and no parks left.


14 people like this
Posted by Scott
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2020 at 12:30 am

Maybe this is profiling, but all the people I know with @aol.com accounts have grandkids, so I'm going to take the liberty of certain assumptions. Mr. Robin, the reason your grandkids need a plane ticket to visit you and play in that yard you're clutching to white knuckles is because its defense has driven the cost of housing to a point where your kids can't afford to live closer than Gilroy --and Gilroy doesn't have jobs.

And even if those kids could afford to stay? All their friends have moved because your generation didn't build any housing for theirs. So starting over elsewhere without the housing-crisis-tax is pretty attractive.

Drive off the jobs and everyone will be happier. What a generous, community-minded take from a man around retirement age. Yes. Let's turn Silicon Valley into a retirement community. That's much better than just building low-parking density near transit.

You got yours, after all.


14 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 2:49 am

Why does it still make sense for people to subject themselves to what Curmudgeon back there called "maximum gouge"?

How does it make sense for people to come here, find what they think is a high-paying job, and then discover all their money, and even all their lives and their wives and children's lives are going to pay rent, or housing costs?

What are people's lives like these days. Do we care that a majority are living drudge lives of misery so a few to talk up how great the market is and how everyone else should move out if they don't like it, even as they search for business plans and schemes to screw them over wherever else they happen to land.

The costs we all pay to secure this Orwellian fantasy for the elite few is probably motived the book "Why We Can't Afford the Rich" by Andrew Sayer. But our elite owned media is so busy putting messages of normality on the misery and deprivation so many people are facing.

I hear a lot of good comments and ideas from people, but none of these models ever seem to get a chance to be looked at seriously and tried out because our social memes are restricted to the point that nothing happens to change or challenge the monopoly the few have on the the rest of us and everything else in our national basket of resources that in many ways could be argued to to be the birthright of all of us, like clean air, water and an actual life outside of wage slavery.

Fancy talk can go all over the place, but a few successful well-placed experiments will break the back to those who are peddling horror fantasies to justify their own greed, dominance, and abuse over the land and other people.

Money is the easiest way to relate, but it simply cannot be the only thing we have that is workable, because we can see the result right in front of our eyes every day, every year.


12 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2020 at 3:13 am

^ "a majority are living drudge lives of misery..." That's a good image to reduce demand. If everyone knew what a Garden of Eden this place is, the line would wrap around the planet.


32 people like this
Posted by allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2020 at 8:07 am

We don't need more housing, we need fewer jobs. I think Palo Alto has 3 jobs per working resident and more jobs than people. Business buildings that were built for 100 employees now hold 200 with buffet table like desks replacing offices for today's workers and laptops replacing file cabinets and books. High rents do not discourage government contractors paid by cost plus contracts. More costs = more profit. I offer no solutions but some tax on businesses that cram employees into smaller and smaller offices space should be considered. The no brainer is no more new offices that hold more people than the space they are tearing down and incentives for fewer employees per acre.


32 people like this
Posted by tax billionaires
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 22, 2020 at 8:43 am

Keep raising taxes on corporations until some of them move. Use the money on infrastructure (mass transit, repair roads, etc..( and affordable housing.


38 people like this
Posted by Birds
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 9:07 am

Completely agree with the author.

Tech companies benefit when there are other tech companies around. Why dont the big tech companies get together and find another place with lots of space (Redding? Reno?) and put satellite campuses there. Lots of employees would prefer the lower housing costs, easy commute. Build up the tech depts of local universities. Once they announce it all kinds of ancillary businesses (restaurants, gyms, bars) will follow. Win/win for everyone. This just needs some coordination. Everyone cant live in Palo Alto. It doesnt work. Need to develop alternative regions.


15 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2020 at 9:20 am

Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville

>> @Anon: "a certain level of density can actually be desirable from an infrastructure standpoint"

>> Very true, and crucial if you're designing from scratch. We aren't, though.
>> One of the biggest problems with an evolutionary approach is what to do during the decades when we have too much density for the roads to support, and too little density to support effective public transit.

Agree 100%. How to get fossil-fuels back in the jar?

"Pandora is a trick gift, a punishment for the good of Promethean fire, she is, in fact, Zeus's price of fire." Web Link

I think we have to find ways to get big tech to pay for public transportation that won't be fully cost-effective during the transition years. But, that can be a trap, too, because we have to make sure that the end-state is cost-effective. I don't see that with, e.g., recent very expensive BART extensions.


15 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:16 am

A lot of this could be mitigated if we mandated that all Silicon Valley companies to require half-time telecommuting. That was always the promise of technology, but because of the rat race it never materialized.


12 people like this
Posted by GEORGE DRYSDALE
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 22, 2020 at 11:23 am

Economics lecture. Why mess with supply and demand. Housing will be built if the rents justify apartments being built. If you want to work in the high tech capitol you have to pay to play. The great recession was basically a real estate bust primary caused by unqualified people getting "affordable housing", a misnomer. There are no solutions, just trade-offs. Do you want lots of "affordable housing" then you're gong have to cut off funding for the police department, education, etc. There is no free lunch unless you can get rent control. Battleground Mountain View where the press (Mountain View Voice) sides with rent control.

George Drysdale land economist and initiator


51 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2020 at 12:10 pm

@ In Construction,

You are so right. The overly simplistic view of supply and demand fails to take into account the actual conditions of the demand side. If you have ten people in a box, and one house, demand for the house will increase its value/price. It then stands to reason if you build 10 houses, the price will fall. This assumes that there will never be anyone coming from outside the box who wants to be in the box, i.e., static demand, which is simply not true of a desirable job center, e.g., Hong Kong, where increasing supply never brought down housing costs. The companies have long told us that everyone wants to be in the box (Silicon Valley).

So if you have a box with 10 people and 10 houses and 2 businesses, but 500 more people want to get into the box from outside, plus 10 more companies that want to move in to be next to the ones already in the box, and they have 5,000 more people who want to be in the box, and those 5,000 people need care and feeding, so that brings in 10,000 more people, then all the willy nilly building of housing in the box, no matter how small and dense, will not solve the problem, because the box continues to be an attractive job center and there are billions of people in the world, and companies and people will keep coming in until it hits capacity. Ask Hong Kong, where they are building apartments called "coffins' that people can't even stand up in or living together as families, and still it's not affordable.

The ONLY way you ever get anything like supply and demand equalizing, is if the job generator is included in the equation. Having more job generators is good; putting them all in one box instead of having lots of boxes with lots of job generators is bad for everyone except the most selfish of businesses. Distributing jobs to enough boxes is what equalizes demand.

The overly simplistic view also assumes that there is no such thing as investors, who have long been a factor in Bay Area housing prices. If a place has a history of demand, if there are temporary blips, investors tend to swoop in, or people tend to hang tight to sell until things get better. So things never truly get cheap, and the small dip creates its own demand cycle anyway. We've seen exactly that happen in down cycles here, where housing never really gets cheap, it just gets a little cheaper, and not even that much where there are good schools.

In a world that has natural disasters, it's probably better for the businesses and the country in the long run to have lots of vibrant boxes distributed than keep putting all eggs in one boxket...

From a public investment standpoint, it REALLY makes no sense, in light of a national and state-wide housing crisis, for public money to go mainly to building housing where it is so expensive and builds absolutely the least housing. What makes more sense, as this editorial states so well, is to figure out how to make more places desirable to the job creators, so that existing affordability of housing in a lot more places (boxes) can be a factor, too, and that housing built in those places will do that most good, if job creators can be attracted to multiple job centers.

There are some great parts of California that are already seeing some of this, some that welcome it and some that don't. The state really needs to be involved in taking a holistic look at the issue and making cities around the state as attractive and equitably high quality of life as possible.

The infrastructure here is pretty maxed out. I'd love to see someone put forward a referendum that requires any new buildings to pledge to bet the first to institute water restrictions during droughts, and they should be pretty draconian before others are asked to conserve. Existing residents have already sacrificed over and over again for the selfish wants of area companies that are far better positioned to solve this problem.


24 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2020 at 1:46 pm

Supply and Demand is just as fictitious as Schrödinger's Cat, they are both thought experiments divorced from real life experiences. Supply and Demand is one of the many falsehoods of crony capitalism, the system that rules us, and which is profoundly estranged from Adam Smith's free market ideas that do not factor in issues like monopolies, an omnipotent oligarchy, politicians bought by corporations and billionaires, large corporations that snuff out competition and innovation, and the societal vast inequality in purchasing power.

<<How does it make sense for people to come here, find what they think is a high-paying job, and then discover all their money, and even all their lives and their wives and children's lives are going to pay rent, or housing costs?>>

Because people from outside the area think this is the coolest place to be in, that they would rub shoulders with billionaires and become very wealthy. In my travels around the world I meet people who shock me by not only knowing where and what it is, regardless of country or continent, but all want to move to Palo Alto. My guess is that there are about 20 million people around the world who at any given moment would love nothing more than to move to Palo Alto.


27 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2020 at 3:34 pm

<<How does it make sense for people to come here, find what they think is a high-paying job, and then discover all their money, and even all their lives and their wives and children's lives are going to pay rent, or housing costs?>>

Welcome to my life for the last 30+ years. There are far more of us who made the sacrifices over a sustained period of time than there are those who waltzed in and bought in any way that resembles most other housing markets.

Maybe it's time citizens at least put forward an initiative to require companies to share information about actual conditions and housing costs in this area, including during bust times, because it never gets easy even then.


7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 22, 2020 at 5:27 pm

^ "share information about actual conditions..." How about a poll on how many of us would still choose to be born if we knew the actual conditions.


16 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2020 at 1:50 am

@musical,
"^ "share information about actual conditions..." How about a poll on how many of us would still choose to be born if we knew the actual conditions."

I'm not sure how a poll is relevant to this conversation, but if companies were forced to give new prospective employees a sheet that described how their salary was only worth about a fifth of what it's worth almost anywhere else in the country, and giving the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment/ a picture of a typical house they could buy for $2,000,000 -- and letting them know that in the event of drought restrictions, they'll have to be the first to conserve, up to 90% of their water (hint hint) -- we might just start to see change (for the better).


14 people like this
Posted by China Bot Kwan Wo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2020 at 9:10 am

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Giraffe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2020 at 6:03 pm


I guess our leaders aren't doing so well:
Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2020 at 7:19 pm

>> I guess our leaders aren't doing so well: Web Link

Good link to SJMN article. Some of our leaders think these "issues" are signs of "urban vibrancy". Our neighbors see them as problems: homelessness, high cost of housing, high cost of living, traffic congestion, and cost of healthcare.

"Residents say they’ve grown frustrated with the inability of state and local leaders to fix long-standing and obvious problems — homeless and RV camps popping up along city streets, rising housing costs sinking the working poor and middle class, and traffic and transit solutions [that are not being implemented]"

(Sorry if this table doesn't format well. See the linked article.)
These are the issues that "we" see as the top 5 most serious problems facing the area, total, and by county.

Problem All counties (2019) All counties (2020) Alameda Contra Costa San Francisco San Mateo Santa Clara

Homelessness 79% 89% 90% 90% 96% 82% 87%
Cost of housing 83% 86% 89% 81% 89% 85% 85%
Cost of living 81% 81% 87% 79% 83% 76% 77%
Traffic congestion 76% 75% 76% 81% 61% 81% 76%
Cost of healthcare 68% 66% 66% 70% 59% 67% 67%


15 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:57 am

An overwhelming majority of us will leave this area before 2100.
Yet still I predict the population here will rise.


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2020 at 10:50 am

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde

>> Yet still I predict the population here will rise.

So will the sea level. If we are taking bets, I'm betting on 238 cm myself.

Web Link

Of course, we *could* choose not to cause either of these things.

-Anon. AKA "Killjoy".


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2020 at 7:52 pm

Has anyone brought up immigration? I say this as an immigrant who came to Palo Alto in the 90s when I was still in elementary school.
What I'm seeing is people from every country in the world, supposedly the "best and brightest" whom these companies strongly desire, are drawn to the great Bay Area and concentrated here to work for these tech companies.
I read an article that people are leaving California in droves... only to be replaced by twofold by immigrants who come to work in tech companies.
So doesn't immigration play a factor in the overpopulation here? Is this place really designed to accomodate everyone from every country in the world who wants to come here, and has the vaunted tech skills that companies desire? Sounds to me like while the quality of life here declines, other countries take advantage and get a leg up on America, or else they come here and jack up the house prices radically, e.g. the Chinese who seem to be buying a lot of nice houses in Palo Alto.
Could it be that unfettered immigration is the chief reason for the overpopulation in the Bay Area?
Obviously a Globalist thinker or a person who perceives "racism" in every comment wouldn't understand my argument.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter North
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2020 at 7:58 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 24, 2020 at 11:37 pm

1. If you increased death duty (estate tax) and reduced capital gains on houses, people might sell them and that would increase the housing stock. As long as the basis resets when a house is inherited so the heirs don't have a big gain, people will hang on to their houses and let them out - good rents here can pay for a decent living elsewhere.
2. Pittsburgh, PA would be one example of a city where Google, Uber and others offer jobs with lower cost housing.
3. Around London, UK there are New Towns built to accommodate people - Crawley, Stevenage, etc. We needn't build on good agricultural land, but there are plenty of places in California where you could build new towns with lower cost houses.
4. Town ordinances forbid multi-unit dwellings in some places, or limit the number of renters, or landlords don't want multiple tenants in a single house. If you go to some countries you will find multi-generations sharing a house. In Palo Alto, we have students squashed into homes to afford the rent. Young professionals often share accommodation all over the world in expensive cities. So town ordinances need to allow more people to share the large homes around the Bay Area.
5. In the Industrial Revolution a few benevolent company owners built accommodation for their workers. Examples are Sir Titus Salt (Saltaire, Bradford, UK), Cadbury (Bournville, Birmingham, UK). Just as Stanford builds housing for students and staff, any employer or town council could build for those who cannot afford to join the enterprise.
6. I agree that high towers could be one way to go - earthquakes and soft land not withstanding - if Oracle can build towers, so can developers for affordable housing.
7. I could not afford to buy a house in London, UK when I graduated so I moved to the US as getting my own house was important to me. There are many lower cost places to live in the US, so even if it means living kith and kin, rather than grumbling about house costs, some may be better making a move elsewhere.


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2020 at 7:02 am

@Angela Hay - your comment about Stanford building housing for students and staff brought to mind the fact that, at least in College Terrace, houses that Stanford owns often sit empty. One possible explanation is that Stanford is reserving the houses for future faculty. Regardless, the practice reduces housing inventory, adding to the area's problems in the same way that ghost houses add to the problems. There's nothing illegal about what Stanford is doing or ghost houses but both add a question around the supply side of the equation.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2020 at 10:15 am

Posted by Angela Hey, a resident of Portola Valley

>> Town ordinances forbid multi-unit dwellings in some places, or limit the number of renters, or landlords don't want multiple tenants in a single house. If you go to some countries you will find multi-generations sharing a house. In Palo Alto, we have students squashed into homes to afford the rent. Young professionals often share accommodation all over the world in expensive cities. So town ordinances need to allow more people to share the large homes around the Bay Area.

The issue is usually not people, it is cars. When I was young, I lived in shared housing with other young, unrelated people. That's what people do -- they have roommates. Nobody objected, because none of us had cars. We walked, rode our bicycles, and used public transportation. Most "young professionals" as you say who work in Santa Clara County will need cars to get to work, even if they live at a Caltrain station. Because, you can't get to most work locations in Sunnyvale/Santa Clara/San Jose in a reasonable length of time without a car.

Around here, Menlo Park has been known to be more aggressive about cars parked on the street overnight. The issue isn't multigenerations, or, "unrelated adults", even if an ordinance says "no more than 5 unrelated adults per household". The issue is parking the 5 unrelated cars.

And now, some development proposals are building mid-rise housing "car-lite". The tenants WILL own cars and they WILL park them in nearby neighborhoods, overflowing the street parking in those neighborhoods. The problem is the last mile (or two or three) from, e.g., Caltrain, to the place of work. You can't get to most workplaces from here in a reasonable length of time.

>> I agree that high towers could be one way to go - earthquakes and soft land not withstanding - if Oracle can build towers, so can developers for affordable housing.

Anything new is not affordable, and, that literally goes twice for high rises, whose construction costs much more per square foot. You can build at NYC density at 30 units/acre, with 4 story multifamily or townhouses. You don't need high-rises to get density. But, even at the lowest-cost, most-efficient 4 story, builders still won't build affordable units. They've said so, and, you can see it in action everywhere. Only high-end units are profitable.

That is why we need to reduce demand. -No more office space.-


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Delusion
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2020 at 12:45 pm

This reads like an Onion article and I think this headline would be more fitting:

"'Kill regional economy' says man who benefited from strong regional economy"

It takes a special tier of privilege, economic stability, and delusion to propose destroying the regional economy rather than allow apartments.


28 people like this
Posted by Henriette
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2020 at 1:15 pm

@Delusion,

It takes an very special tier of privilege to think you have a right to live in Palo Alto. But why not set your sights even higher? Why not Atherton, Hillsborough, or Beverly Hills?

There is no Palo Alto land use policy that would destroy the regional economy.

On the other hand, your political philosophy has destroyed the economy of entire nations.


17 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Posted by Palo Alto Delusion, a resident of another community

>> "'Kill regional economy' says man who benefited from strong regional economy"

This "red herring" is beginning to smell. Time for some fresh fish.

>> It takes a special tier of privilege, economic stability, and delusion to propose destroying the regional economy rather than allow apartments.

Remind me again why nobody has built apartments on the Fry's property sometime during the last 20 years?

In case you are actually new to the discussion, the current owner, Sobrato, has stated that it has no plans to do so at this time, despite purchasing the RM-30 zoned property knowing what the current zoning was/is. The city hasn't stopped Sobrato, or, the previous owners, from building housing there. What *we* (some of us are identified as neo-residentialists) want to do is stop building office space. There is room for plenty more office space in San Joaquin County, which is also part of the regional economy, and building the office space there will benefit everyone because so many people are commuting from over there to over here. We don't need the. office space here.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 25, 2020 at 3:13 pm

Big article today about Anderson Dam in south SC County which is part of our water storage system. It has to be drained because it has not been managed correctly and is now subject to collapsing in an earthquake. It is sitting on a fault. And if it collapses then it will flood into San Jose - the city. Meanwhile the biggest dam in the state - Oroville - is still defective and need additional repair to withstand any major water event. This is due to the federal inspectors coming in and checking out how the state is doing on managing the most important factors to support the population.

If we do not have sufficient water then why is everyone trying to jack up the number of people living in this area? The state government does not understand and is working each of it's issues independent of all of the other contributing factors. The top management of this state needs to understand that all of the factors are elements and building blocks that support the whole system.
Meanwhile San Jose is building away - can't stop that whole scenario. But we can stop our contribution to a bigger problem.


2 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 26, 2020 at 9:09 am

East Palo Alto is adding 5 MILLION sq. ft. of new office space.

I think that renders this discussion rather moot.


18 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 9:13 am

> "'Kill regional economy' says man who benefited from strong regional economy

The regional economy was humming, thank you, when there were zero tech workers in SF and Steve Jobs, Bill Hewlett, and many others began their businesses in GARAGES. Contrary to those whose selfish interests it serves to claim the housing crisis is new, this area has been expensive and in demand for decades, with a few dips here and there like after the earthquake combined with Reagan’s recession. (Still Not cheap, though.)

The tech whales are killing the startup culture and making quality of life here so bad, large chunks of their own workforces want to leave. You can have too much of a good thing. See my example above. There is an economic characteristic of these kinds of job creators that is like gravity, and they just keep densifying beyond what even makes sense.

Remember all that utopian gobbledygook about how ride ”shares” were going to be so environmentally friendly and allow fewer people to have cars, resulting in less pollution and congestion so we can build build build? Well, studies now tell us the obvious, Er, opposite.

Ride shares are not only increasing congestion and resulting in 70% more carbon-producing pollution/energy expenditure for the same trip (well duh, the ride share has to come from somewhere else, and they’re not really rideshares, they’re just amateur taxis), and worse, rideshares are causing people TO AVOID PUBLIC TRANSIT. Well duh, again. But they built their leviathan businesses on lies, Er, false utopian promises, and now we are stuck with THEIR negative consequences. All these dystopian, Er, utopian new urban planners, don’t get that people (esp highly paid techies) value their time and convenience.

Web Link

Web Link

We just need to stop the madness and get the tech whales to multiply into a few more boxes before this one is dangerously unlivable. Contrary to the contention of the neoyuppie (otherwise called yimby) that I quoted above, multiplying job centers will improve two or three local economies, and save this one which has already hurt the startup culture and seriously hurt ordinary small businesses, and decimated the lives and livelihoods of many thousands who sacrificed whole lives to put down roots here.

This kind of economy has also made things worse, not better, for low-skill or non-tech workers. (My techie teen does non-tech freelance work - schools and the quakers pay the best, googlers pay the worst, I.e, won’t have anyone to do the work soon.). The next drought is looming. It’s not like the big companies weren’t warned. Next water restrictions, lots of people I know have had it and will fight and organize to make all the new development take the restrictions first.

Thanks for finally printing something that points out the neoyuppie bulliy emperors, Er, build baby build-er’s, have no ... sense.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 26, 2020 at 9:23 am

As a follow up in today's papers is a map of all of the dams in the state which require attention. We have had numerous go-arounds with SU concerning the Searsville Dam which is over 100 years old. If that dam goes in an earthquake that water and sludge is coming straight down all of SU's housing and our housing. Why does the state keep paying people to manage these structures and nothing happens. At least SU should be working their issues since they are currently building new housing.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 9:30 am

Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> East Palo Alto is adding 5 MILLION sq. ft. of new office space.

What is that doing to EPA's jobs/housing balance? What will their new numbers look like?

EPA is in San Mateo County, sits next to what *should* become a major commuter railway, and, already is a major commuter bridge. EPA will need, however, to do its own jobs/housing balance.

>> I think that renders this discussion rather moot.

No, it doesn't. Under current rules, cities that have too many jobs get punished. We need to reduce the number of jobs in any city until jobs and housing are balanced. Under current rules, it doesn't matter what somebody in some other county is doing.

Of course, we may need to change these semi-feudalistic current rules that try to make every city into its own walled jobs/housing fortress. But, right now, that is how it is. Palo Alto has to do what it has to do, regardless of what EPA does.


13 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 9:34 am

"The tech whales are killing the startup culture and making quality of life here so bad, large chunks of their own workforces want to leave. "

That's another thing the neoyuppies never talk about. Surveys show that that majority of millenials want single family homes. Supercommuters commute for lower housing costs AND higher quality of life. People want single-family homes, because they allow a much higher quality of life. They can be mixed with starter housing, etc., but demonizing the single-family home just means the neoyuppie workforce will relocate like a horde of locusts when they reach a certain age and realize they want families and a little bit of land and sky and autonomy,like the yuppies did in Los Altos, only now there's no large tract of SFH's left here.

SFH's are not inherently less environmentally friendly than MFH, especially since SFH's can put solar on the roof and garden to produce their own energy (including for the electric car), food, and even capture enough water, for their own usage, for all the occupants. MFH's simply can't. SFH's can have a much smaller lifecycle footprint. SFH's don't contribute to global warming urban heat sinks the way dense building does, and they allow wildlife in a way that urban space cannot.

The attack on SFH's has been a selfish, destructive developer-water-carrying lie, just like the ever-densify lies, or the lies about rideshares -- it's a means to an end for a few who benefit, to the detriment of everyone else AND the region. (AND the environment.)


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 10:11 am

Posted by Sense, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> That's another thing the neoyuppies never talk about. Surveys show that that majority of millenials want single family homes.

One thing the surveys tend to overlook, though, is how people would react if they could get a townhouse as big as a "single-family home". The median new single family home is about 2400 square feet and has 2+ parking spaces. A lot of people don't want/need a lawn, but, there is a difference between a 240 square foot micro-unit like the new ones in South-of-Market SF, and, 2400 square feet.


9 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 26, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Poor China Bot Kwan Wo gets his statement removed because he wasn't politically correct. Being the social studies teacher in California you are politically incorrect. You have to get to the seminars before you can escape the holy cows, however. Let's do this for Mr. Wo and for the Trump: Santa Clara county evidently has 200,000 illegal aliens. Remove them and you've gone a long way to solving the housing problem. Simple math. Remove rent control and get rid of all the many free loaders. Gunfight at the Mountain View Corral coming up.

George Drysdale social science teacher and protector


8 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 12:53 pm

@George drysdale,

Explain how illegal aliens are competing for those $4,000/month apartments? And why you think the tech whales who have brought in hundreds of thousands of people to the area instead of forming subsidiaries where the housing and people want the jobs, hundreds of thousands of people with high salaries, isn't a factor? It's the ONLY factor in the extreme demand.


13 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 1:05 pm

@Anon,
Lather, rinse, repeat. Surveys I've seen meant SFH's with yards - in suburbs! (gasp)

Back in the '80s, the yuppies all wanted townhouses! no yards! apartments! And then they grew up and wanted yards and schools, which is when Los Altos became more valuable real estate than Palo Alto (used to be reverse).

Townhouses, even big ones, still do not give people the autonomy that a home does. And Single-family homes with yards have far greater potential for every family to meet their own energy (solar), food (gardens - I have sustained my own family on just the garden of a 6,000 sq ft hillside home), hobbies (that can become businesses), peace, autonomy, quality of life, etc. Townhouses/dense construction make urban heat sinks worse, which in turn are really bad for the environment; SFH's with yards, don't. And there's also longterm effects of being completely divorced from the natural world where people live in townhouses. Townhouses in Palo Alto are mostly designed so that you can't age in them and no one with a mobility challenge (which is over 10% of the population) can live or visit there.

I'm not saying they're evil, I'm just saying that no, they are not the same to most people.

Admit it, the denser housing is for the neo-yuppies, and the tech whales have simply not paid attention to how bad their bringing in an endless supply of them would be for the local environment, communities, culture, etc. Go forth and densify! But go find someplace where it's not going to mean destroying the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of existing residents, destroying a wonderful place, and where it won't matter so much when all the neo-yuppies empty out to find their single-family homes.

The problem is that our infrastructure, and water, are limited, and the climate is changing. Infinite growth is not sustainable, safe, or wise. We need more editorials like this one, that speak the truth, and action to get the tech whales to start building subsidiaries.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 2:22 pm

Posted by Sense, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> @Anon, .. Surveys I've seen meant SFH's with yards

You may be right. But, there isn't much higher-density townhouse housing around here, so, it is kind of difficult to say exactly what the marketplace would say. And developers are always looking for an office-space angle, so, the threat/promise of upzoning ("public benefit" "planned community" etc deals that include office space) distorts the price of developable real-estate.

However, some of the units at Arbor Real (the old Rickey's site) are medium-density (~11 units/acre ?). townhouses without yards. The units in this development have several types at several densities, so, I'm not sure what the 4-story townhomes density is, but, AFAIK everything there sold well and has maintained their value, and, seems to be just what some people wanted and want. The townhomes are large and have adjacent garages/parking. I see only one unit listed at this time, at $2.8M for 2800+ square feet. As I said, some people seem to like townhomes.

My point is just that we don't really know if most people will go for this kind of higher-density townhome arrangement as an alternative to detached single-family homes, but, if that development is a good indication, people will go for it. Allen Akin posed a challenge earlier in this thread regarding how to get to a density that supports public transportation "from here". I think larger townhomes will be part of it.


3 people like this
Posted by Propping up property taxes
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Fix Prop 13 inequities. Watch supply bust open wide. Then free market forces will bring fair adjustments for all and net property tax revenue will increase. Use that revenue to build attractive housing for the folks still clinging on to their 1985-rate homes. Get rid of this skewed situation.


18 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2020 at 11:53 pm

We just had the driest February on record. My plants (with which we defrayed our food bill) haven't recovered since everything died during the last drought. I still have memories of losing my young trees only to see day after day a contractor dumping water freely flowing from hoses into the storm drain on the street during construction of a giant oversized hotel.

We don't have the infrastructure to encourage more population growth. This is a semi-arid area in the midst of climate change. It makes no sense to destroy communities that people are happy in and have built through great sacrifice because some companies want to pile in the area like it's some kind of infinite-capacity clown car. It's not. Luckily, this is not Hong Kong Island, and companies can find more places to congregate, and our economy will be better for it.

As for the people in the 1985-rate homes. People I know who got homes anytime then or since, except for one or two who struck it rich with companies that sold, most spent years working up to getting a home, living in substandard conditions, spending all their time looking, figuring out how to scrape together any money for any property, becoming their own electrician/plumber/drywall/painter/insulator, etc etc, selling when the market moved and doing it all over again. Everyone lives with no money for anything, no money to see family out of town, no money for niceties, entertainment, or retirement, it all goes to the housing because NOT getting into SOMETHING is worse. For years after getting the home, they just try to hang on until things get easier from the stabilized costs. It can take decades. And then the next boom, and people like you applying the housing market rules from other places to here because developers love to put the squeeze on people on the bottom rungs to take advantage. This is not new; what is new is people like you and the big-money developers/tech whales outright attacking those who are here so you can take away what they built, lying and creating false narratives about redeveloping (that displaces the poor and disproportionately people of color) somehow helping affordability, even though it does the opposite. You should all be ashamed.

We have already seen articles from our own emergency people that due to the existing density of the area, people will die in foreseeable disasters. In SF, it's worse. Stop being so %$#%$ng selfish for one, and consider that all it takes to solve this is to do something that in the end will be good for business, good for the planet, good for the state and national economy, and it's just getting the companies to spin off subsidiaries to a few more places instead of trying to choke the life out of here for their own selfish desires. They can quite literally all congregate and build dense dense heat islands to their hearts content wherever they want -- how about somewhere that doesn't mean destroying vibrant existing communities AS THEY HAVE BEEN DOING? This is a vast nation and state, they should pick somewhere that isn't so drought, fire, and earthquake prone.

I want Sacramento to treat the impending drought more seriously, and put a moratorium on development across the state, and make those in new developments/new employees who came here most recently, ration first, because everyone could see this coming a million miles away, yet still pushed to bring in more and more people, and overdevelop for their own selfish interests. Don't be evil, my %$$.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 27, 2020 at 6:32 am

Argue over Town Houses (TH) vs SFH's. Look at your Saturday and Sunday papers - what type real estate are they selling? And your famous local real estate company / person who has ads for high end homes on TV. There is a balance out there with availability for all types of housing.

Go to open houses on the weekends - what type of houses are they selling? Younger people who are single typically want town houses. No maintenance requirements. Just come and go. People with children want SFH's. Room for the children to kick around a soccer ball, dig in the garden, have a dog outside to play with. And a place to plant flowers and food items. Teaching children about daily living in every day life. Growing children need room to run around.

People who are older, children grown up and no longer in the home no longer want to deal with the yard maintenance, tree maintenance, house maintenance to upgrade aging homes want to sell and go into town homes so that those functions are performed by a management company and they are free to travel.

Those are all individual choices that are based on the availability of all choices. And the cities on the peninsula have those choices. That is why we live here vs the city of SF. And we are going to protect that right to have choices.

The people who are trying to force some other set of options on cities are typically people in Sacramento who live in a TH in SAC and have a TH is their district. A lot do not have children so no need for space to run around. Look at the people who represent you in your city, county, district - how are they living? Are they trying to force a life-style that they are living vs other life styles that are typical for this city? Every one is entitled to what ever life style they choose or need at any point in their lives - up until they try and legislate their life style onto everyone else. The point at which any one's lifestyle becomes a legislative priority then PC is going out the door.


5 people like this
Posted by Propping
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2020 at 6:50 am

Web Link “ Prop 13 has shaped life in California over the past 40 years, helping to enrich one generation in homeownership and impoverish the next in overpriced rental housing.” There is no god-given right to live in Palo Alto whether you bought in 1985 or want to in 2020.


10 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 27, 2020 at 8:01 am

A succinct analogy I saw elsewhere that's relevant here:

Building housing doesn't reduce the cost of housing for the same reason that building freeways doesn't reduce traffic. You have to control demand.


11 people like this
Posted by Pepper03
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 27, 2020 at 9:40 am

I agree with Andy. The large tech companies should be building in other areas, especially the midwest, where cities have lost people and need increased population. In " The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America" the author, Alan Mallach, describes how many cities have infrastructure but have lost population because of loss of jobs. The tech companies could invest in these cities and make them desirable to tech workers. Tech cities could be revived, the tech workers could live very well, and the demand pressure could be off Silicon Valley. Just as information, Ro Khanna has been pushing for tech jobs in the west. More could be done to encourage the tech companies to invest there.


10 people like this
Posted by Sense
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2020 at 9:57 am

@Pepper03,
We could tax companies on a progressive basis based on how many workers they bring in/have brought in, and put the biggest burden of water rationing on the largest, but give them a break if they have a plan for creating subsidiaries in California or partner states and drawing down the workforces in the most impacted areas.


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