Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A primer for New Yorkers who want to explain California housing to Californians

I shouldn't have to write this but...

1. The three biggest cities in the state are Los Angeles (by a large margin), San Diego, and San Jose. Any discussion of the housing (particularly involving densification), needs to focus on those three. The central valley should also be mentioned as well.

2. (or maybe 1b) For most purposes, the appropriate unit for discussing LA is not city but county. With a population of over ten million, more than one in four Californians are residents of the county. 

3. (or maybe 2... I'll stop now) San Francisco is not adjacent to or even particularly near Silicon Valley. Instead it's around fifty miles away. There are people who live in SF and commute to SV but it's a wasteful and completely unnecessary practice. San Jose is nearer and cheaper.

4. SF is not only more poorly situated and substantially smaller than SJ; it also covers a fraction of the area. Take away landmarks and public spaces and there's not much open space to develop. 

5. For this and other reasons, SF is such a problematic outlier with respect to housing that any state-wide argument based primarily on the city by the Bay will almost certainly be wrong to a significant degree. 

6. The housing crisis is very real but that doesn't mean everything you've read about it is true.

7. While building up is often preferable, building out is almost always an option. We have lots of land.

8. And lots of high ground. If you're going to write about sea levels, remember to look up elevations. For comparison, look up your own city's as well and don't forget to factor in hurricanes and storm surges. If you live in an American coastal city facing the Atlantic or the Gulf, you very probably will not be reassured with what you find.

9. The West is country of extremes. It's not unusual for two people both in the city limits of LA to call each other up and ask "how's the weather where you are?" Mountains and canyons complicate housing and infrastructure construction. The sheer scale of places like LA County make sensible seeming arguments absurd in practice.

10. At the very least, spend some time on Wikipedia and Google Maps when writing about places you're not familiar with (and maybe even places you are familiar with). If you don't, you're likely to make an ass of yourself and we'd hate to see that. 

1 comment:

  1. Housing booms (what other people call housing crisises) are nearly always caused by too many jobs in a too small area. The USA has lots of nice areas, but the jobs are very concentrated. All the successes or problems of SJ/SF are caused by too many jobs, not too little housing.
    More peninsula transportation simply adds value to an area that is already extremely congested.