Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Great Divide

Panhandling on Market Street

I’m milking the San Francisco trip for all it’s worth. And what’s left is the chaff. Well, maybe not chaff but certainly a hodge-podge of images that have little to do with the accompanying text. Much has been written about the stark competition for the soul of San Francisco and what has been described as a dystopian divide between rich, high tech millennials and the homeless population riven with poverty, drug addiction and mental illness. The disparity is exemplified on every street where the anointed stride confidently, eyes averted, past the unfortunates. The homeless have become an indelible symbol of a city basking in its own good fortune.

Silhouettes with the Sausalito Ferry in the background

Gull and Bay Bridge

The divide will get worse before it gets better as the nouveau riche with young children who would have left the city for the suburbs a decade ago are electing to stay in the city by creating suburbs within it. So, four-bedroom 2,000 square foot condos starting at $4 million per are proliferating. That puts more pressure on both the availability and the pricing of residential real estate. It’s also why workers are commuting 1-1/2 hours each way from Sacramento or Stockton. Having already lost its working-class San Francisco is pricing the middle class out of the market, too. What may be left are vertical country clubs in a festering slum.

In Los Angeles and elsewhere the idea of building dense multi-family, moderate income housing near transit hubs has been proposed and the logic of same, given the paucity of affordable housing in coastal cities and the plague of traffic congestion, is irrefutable. Yet, the voices of single-family homeowners recently won the day in LA. The proposal to concentrate housing near rapid transit didn’t get out of committee and has been tabled for two years. And two years after that one imagines. Seventy percent of housing starts in California are single family. That’s not sustainable on the face of it but the American Dream abides.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

After the great earthquake and subsequent fires that very nearly destroyed San Francisco in 1906, a renaissance of sorts came to the city, created by an incredible stew of skilled workers from countries around the world. Any joblessness probably vanished because there was work and plenty of skilled workers to do it - home builders, cabinet makers (Fred's family), iron and steel workers, etc. Geology and history have thrown a lot at the city by the Bay. It morphs and recreates itself. I suspect that will happen again. Talk about a chameleon. The one constant seems to be the lowly seagull, and your photograph is perfect! Thanks for milking your San Francisco trip. What a great and telling excursion.