Mark Hogan on San Francisco’s housing shortage: “Living in a Fool’s Paradise”

“… the current state of permitting regulations for building and the glacial pace of infrastructure projects in San Francisco benefit very few people and risk turning it into a caricature of its former self for tourists and residents rich enough to live in a fantasy, not a living city. If there was ever a time when San Francisco needed to embrace a dynamic, expansive policy for building housing, offices and transportation, it is now.”

San Francisco architect Mark Hogan wrote a very smart and well-informed essay Living in a Fool’s Paradise for the Summer 2014 issue of Boom A Journal of California. In this essay Mark tackled the very prickly issue of how San Francisco became “the most-expensive large city in the United States”.

If you have seen any of the media reporting on San Francisco housing prices you have probably been reading about how city residents want to evict the “rich Google and Apple techies” who are thought to be responsible for making their neighborhood unaffordable. That favored media meme converts the real supply/demand economics into a human-interest story about evicted single mothers and Google-bus protests.

The true story is more complex. Mark moved to San Francisco in 2003, when it was feasible for a young architect to rent an apartment in Lower Nob Hill. Specializing in urban housing, Mark has experienced the inevitable price impacts of extremely restricted housing supply. In this essay he recounts the story of anti-growth Bay Area housing policies and some pragmatic solutions.

San Francisco has had a very strong tendency to try to stave off change through regulation and legislation. Limiting growth artificially usually has many unintended effects, however, as there is no way to prevent people from moving in, and we probably wouldn’t want to if we could. For individuals who want to live in walkable neighborhoods with reliable access to public transportation, there are not that many places in the Bay Area that are as attractive as San Francisco. The city is at or near the top of this list regionally, nationally, and even globally. The demand for such beautiful city living is not going away. It’s only going to increase.

Mark’s analysis reminds us of Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Harvard’s Glaeser has made a deep study of urbanization including supply/demand for space of all types. Mark Hogan offers his first-hand perspective – informed in part by his current position as Chair of the Housing Committee at the AIA San Francisco. You can follow Mark’s thinking at and on Twitter @markasaurus.

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1 thought on “Mark Hogan on San Francisco’s housing shortage: “Living in a Fool’s Paradise”

  1. Tom Sowell has written a lot about this problem, notably in Economic Facts; Economic Fallacies, I think.— Sent from Mailbox

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