March 5, 2013
If San Francisco Grows By 150,000 People, Where Will Everyone Live?
As we first reported last month, San Francisco is expected to add 190,000 new jobs by the end of 2040, new jobs that will be filled in part by a projected 150,000 new residents by 2035 and for which a projected 92,000 new housing units will be needed, double the existing pipeline of units in development throughout San Francisco as mapped above.
And as we first wrote back in 2007: "Going green might be trendy (and we’re all for it), but as far as we’re concerned it’s a focus on density (and infill) that will define the next era in San Francisco’s development, neighborhoods, and lifestyle." That's a bingo.
∙ Planning For A Projected 190,000 New Jobs In San Francisco By 2040 [SocketSite]
∙ The 43,580 New Units In San Francisco's Current Housing Pipeline [SocketSite]
∙ The Next Era In San Francisco’s Development: It’s All About Density [SocketSite]
First Published: March 5, 2013 5:15 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
It looks like very little is planned for the Hunters Point shipyard site. That's probably not adequate to take up the rest of the slack. But it would be interesting if Asian style high rises went in there.
If SF does grow by 150K people there's another problem to face: transportation. Already you can see that if SF adds 190K jobs but only 150K people that the city has at least a net influx of 40K commuters. That's made worse by the trend of SF residents commuting to jobs south. That trend both adds outbound commute traffic and increases the void in SF jobs that needs to be filled by inbound commuters.
There's no room to expand roads and we're doing little to expand transit capacity. Transportation infrastructure takes a lot longer to build than a highrise office or residential building.
[Editor's Note: Hunters Point Redevelopment Plan For 10,500 New Units Approved! (and financed).]
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 5, 2013 5:36 PM
Haven't you heard, current SFMTA policy thinks bike lanes and more parking meters are the answer to future congestion.
Posted by: 94123 at March 5, 2013 5:57 PM
I'm sure they will just build more land. :)
On a more serious note, the presumption is that these jobs and the people that will hold these jobs will follow the trend of higher income wage earners. These higher income earners will continue to gentrify neighborhoods and displace home owners that chose to sell into the inevitable(?) rising home prices causing a further upgrade cycle of older housing stock. Manhattanization.
We're already seeing formerly edge areas like Bernal, Potrero, Mission, Cole Valley become very very popular. The Lake Street corridor, Laurel Village are hot; and even the inner sunset/richmond are gaining steam. Lots and lots of places where people will ultimately choose to live displacing current residents.
There are also several intra-city transit ideas that could be implemented to make further out parts of the 7x7 more accessible. I also think that the value of Marin and Bart accessible locations will benefit. And yes, density will also play an important role.
The real question is whether anyone actually believes that SF will grow by 150k. Also, what is the source of this data? I just spent the past few minutes opening up every link in all of the many cross-referenced posts in this and the attached SS posts and I can't find any external links citing this 190k increase in jobs and 150k increase in residents. I'd be curious to see who is making these claims and what is their track record in making them. This is the only thing I found but couldn't find anything specific on those #'s: http://onebayarea.org/regional-initiatives/plan-bay-area.html
[Editor's Note: As we originally reported, "Plan Bay Area projects San Francisco will add 190,000 new jobs by 2040." And from the Plan Bay Area site to which we linked: Jobs-Housing Connection Housing Distribution Details. The population growth is an ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) estimate.]
Posted by: eddy at March 5, 2013 6:31 PM
Bike lanes and more parking meters are one approach to the problem. Not the only one. One reason they're popular, though, is that they don't require hundreds of millions of dollars to implement, like many other "solutions".
Posted by: Alai at March 5, 2013 6:33 PM
The real answer is on the tip of the tongue of all pious "progressive" politicians, and has been for years:
"transit first, transit rich."
It was the great favorite of the former politician, Ms Olague, who for many years on the Planning Commission used to recite it with fervor at least once every meeting. Similarly attached to this liturgical invocation was Ms Moore and Mr Sugaya, and do not forget Aaron and Chris, the Marx and Engels of our time.
It may even go back further in history to Agnos.
"transit first, transit rich"
If you repeat it over and over you too shall believe!
Posted by: conifer at March 5, 2013 9:26 PM
There's still tons of room for infill, especially if we start by tearing out all the crap 2- or 3-story 1950s-60s multiunits (the ones that gave Philip K Dick nightmares) and replacing them with taller, more stylish buildings.
What the city REALLY needs, however, is a lot more 3-5 bedroom flats, in order to retain families.
Posted by: Aaron at March 6, 2013 4:51 AM
It is no small task "tearing down" the "crap" 2 story buildings because they are filled with 4 families and being "crap" they are affordable. That is not going to happen anytime soon.
There is such a lack of regional planning in the Bay Area. Many people don't care about living in SF, they care about decent housing, near transit and accessible to jobs. We just invested billions in BART to San Mateo CO. Why do they build malls and Costcos next to the stations?
Posted by: Zig at March 6, 2013 8:08 AM
I seriously doubt there will be nearly 200,000 more jobs in the city as projected. If anything, the jobs will be dispersed within the entire Bay Area.
The city is too damn expensive to live in for most people, commuters are already stretched to excursions reaching points as far as the Central Valley, new/existing businesses will find it a better value proposition setting up elsewhere, most likely out of state. SF is not seeing a whole lot of diversity in the types of businesses that are coming in. When the good times are good then the city dances, but when there's a tech bust it's a different story.
All I know is that when my partner retires from teaching public school in the city we are getting out. SF, you have some beautiful, endearing qualities and charm, but you ain't all that.
Posted by: Mark at March 6, 2013 8:45 AM
"The population growth is an ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) estimate."
Exactly. That's it and nothing more. They pulled it out of their er, hats.
And to be clear, ABAG is just an association - an advocacy group really for a very small number of acolytes of the same OCD master-planning cult that includes "Open Plans" and SPUR, and unfortunately a group of apparatchiks at the SFMTA and of course planning.
What these once well meaning if somewhat addled movements want is to get very very tight about charging everyone out the wazoo for everything, using a post WW2 european model that itself was born out of the poverty and lack of resources that turned Western Europe into a tightly controlled, soulless uuber "planned" culture. The roots of this current cult of planning all come from that. And they trip themselves up because in their myopia they cannot see what makes American cities different. Our diversity, our open spaces, our looseness and mobility, our entrepreneurial energy and vitality. San Francisco is not Amsterdam and thank god for that.
Our population has been relatively flat for decades because the city reached anice equilibrium of density in the 1970's, and rightly pushed back on any more in the 80's.
Posted by: Future_Anonymist at March 6, 2013 9:06 AM
The growth will be market-rationed by a combination of some new construction/density (outside of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers zone of control), higher prices, and higher densities/gentrification in accessible suburbs and Oakland. Think Hoboken New Jersey.
Posted by: Rome is Burning at March 6, 2013 9:33 AM
Our population has been relatively flat for decades because the city reached anice equilibrium of density in the 1970's, and rightly pushed back on any more in the 80's.
This is an absurd misreading of the overall trend. The population PLUMMETED in the 60s and 70s, then turned around in the 80s and has been mostly skyrocketing ever since (some ups and downs in the 90s/early 00s).
The population low point was likely reached sometime in the late 70s, not any kind of "nice equilibrium of densty" lol. The census low point was 1980, with 130,000 (!!!) fewer people than we had in the 2010 census. We're now at a population 20% higher than that census - equilibrium? lol lol lol lol lol lol.
Posted by: anon at March 6, 2013 9:38 AM
I doubt these projections. The new jobs numbers is hard to beleive. Financial and corporate headquarter uses are leaving SF. Mission Bay/SOMA will add some jobs but please 190K. No way. Unless these are going to be more low paying service jobs.
Part of the problem is that cities in the Bay Area are being blackmailed with housing projections. They have to build so much or they lose state and regional money. Danville was recently told to add thousands of units and it's like no way.
Other problem is density. The neighborhoods will fight any upzoning and put it on the ballot if necessary. At the same time the City downzones much of the area SE of Mission Bay which would be a perfect site for high density and take pressure off forcing it into the neighborhoods.
Right now SF's population is what? 810K or so. I doubt it will grow much from that number. 850K tops.
Take these job and population projections with a grain of salt. The Bay Area is the slowest growing major metro area in the country and ABAG is inflating the numbers.
Posted by: Tobias at March 6, 2013 11:17 AM
I doubt these numbers too but I don't doubt the direction: growth. And I think it will be disproportionately here, as opposed to silicon valley, etc. One reason is that we are building a lot of housing. (Another is that technology companies in the social / mobile era have something to gain from being in an urban area.) Do you think any other bay area community has >40K housing units in the pipeline? They are more resistant to high rise than we are.
I would cut the growth figures in half - which is still considerable.
As for transit, I think we should close a couple of streets to car traffic and create dedicated bike streets across the city.
Posted by: dissent at March 6, 2013 12:14 PM
"using a post WW2 european model that itself was born out of the poverty and lack of resources that turned Western Europe into a tightly controlled, soulless uuber "planned" culture."
The same argument can be made for America cities and suburbs post-WWII. In fact is there anything more uber planned than SFH on 1/4 acre lots with highway access? We created a new culture and way of living. I don't see any evidence that Western Europe was any more or less "planned" than was American urban areas after WWII. We just had different resources, preferences and process perhaps.
Posted by: zig at March 6, 2013 12:28 PM
Our population has been relatively flat for decades because the city reached anice equilibrium of density in the 1970's, and rightly pushed back on any more in the 80's."
Sorry to reply again but this view is the problem. Yes SF's population has been relatively stable but the Bay Area's hasn't and this has had real consequences for working people and family formation in the area. Your view has controlled the process with development moratoriums yet you are critical of "uber" planned Europe. So planning is OK when the ends match your values and preferences about what equilibrium should be but not mine. Do I have that right?
Posted by: Zig at March 6, 2013 12:36 PM
There's still tons of room for infill, especially if we start by tearing out all the crap 2- or 3-story 1950s-60s multiunits…and replacing them with taller, more stylish buildings.
I completely agree that there's tons of room for infill, which is why I don't agree when pro-growth and pro-increased density types say that we have to rip down every Victorian or Craftsman in S.F. in order to facilitate more residents. There's plenty of underutilized lots and surface-level parking lots around, still.
That said, Zig's response at 8:08 AM was dead-on. The "crap" 2 story buildings are affordable, and if we make space for "taller, more stylish buildings", there's no guarantee that the developers won't just build more luxury (read: unfordable for the overwhelming majority of actual San Franciscans) condos for mainland Chinese speculators to use as ersatz money laundering schemes.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 6, 2013 12:52 PM
Look at the two major transit projects slated for opening in the next decade: Central Subway and BART to San Jose (well, part of San Jose). Neither will solve any of the current transit problems, much less offer a solution to future issues the Bay Area will face. The CS goes nowhere and achieves nothing. BART to SJ misses the mark completely as it won't link people to jobs. (Where in the plan does it connect to the major tech office parks?) It doesn't and people will continue to drive, both short and long distances, to get to work. Or, they will look for work elsewhere in the country where there's a better quality of life. And companies will either follow or lead.
Posted by: Mark at March 6, 2013 12:57 PM
I completely agree that there's tons of room for infill, which is why I don't agree when pro-growth and pro-increased density types say that we have to rip down every Victorian or Craftsman in S.F. in order to facilitate more residents.
Who has stated this?
I've seen many people talking about allowing upzoning along Geary, massive amounts in the Western Addition, along the edges of Golden Gate Park, etc, but never seen any propose bulldozing Victorians to build highrises.
Posted by: anon at March 6, 2013 1:59 PM
The real issue is not the alleged 150K for SF, but the additional 2 million for the bay area by 2040 (also an ABAG estimate)
SF is already the 2nd densest city in the U.S. and thus, accomodates more than its fair share of regional population.
Given their land areas, Oakland and San Jose/Santa Clara should be min. 1 million and 2.8 million respectively. Not to mention the retrograde peninsula suburbs masquerading as crucibles of innovation.
Here's Forbes' critique:
Posted by: rubber_chicken at March 6, 2013 4:15 PM
I agree rubber_chicken. SF should expect to grow, but the rest of the inner bay area should grow more. It is much easier for Fremont to accommodate 200K people than SF. (They'll still have the transport problem to solve though)
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 6, 2013 5:21 PM
Which comes first, transit or the people? NYC built the elevated 7 train through Queens back when it was mostly farmland and filled in the area with residential and commercial communities afterwards. On the flip side, the east side of Manhattan's been screaming for additional subway coverage to alleviate the ridership burdens placed on the Lex Ave line (4,5,6) for nearly a century. While the need was always there, the 2nd Ave subway is now starting to take shape, albeit only one small part has been funded to date.
The Bay Area cannot afford to move laterally to cope with future growth. The boundaries are already pushed to the limits. It can succeed with smart infill development, aim for height when appropriate and use mass transit as the catalyst for where density occurs, be it systems already in place or future projects.
The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Arlington, VA used Metro to its advantage to resurrect a floundering commercial district with location-appropriate density development. No reason why Geary Blvd can't see the same granted a Metro-style subway line be in place to facilitate the growth. Same for San Pablo Ave., El Camino Real, etc.
Posted by: Mark at March 6, 2013 5:53 PM
ITA that the focus of Bay Area growth, it won't be 2 million, should in in SJ/Santa Clara - up to 3 million there and Oakland 1 plus million.
SF is populated out. It should have no more than 850K residents and it's fairly close to that now.
The future job hub will be Oakland and San Jose/Silicon Valley. Not SF.
Posted by: Tobias at March 7, 2013 8:08 AM
@Tobias - green will be red from now on.
See? I can make bizarre statements too.
Posted by: anon at March 7, 2013 9:04 AM
@Tobias: SF is slightly more than twice as large as Manhattan, which has 1.6 million residents and still doesn't compare to the density of Hong Kong.
I'm not saying Hong Kong level density is something to shoot for but I have no idea why you'd say SF would be "populated out" with only 850k residents (most of them living in 2-3 story buildings).
Posted by: shza at March 7, 2013 11:56 AM
shza's comment made me go re-read a piece the New York Times published the other day, Everybody Inhale: How Many People Can Manhattan Hold?:
Some perspective: As crowded as the city feels at times, the present-day Manhattan population, 1.6 million, is nowhere near what it once was. In 1910, a staggering 2.3 million people crowded the borough, mostly in tenement buildings. It was a time before zoning, when roughly 90,000 windowless rooms were available for rent, and a recent immigrant might share a few hundred square feet with as many as 10 people. At that time, the Lower East Side was one of the most crowded places on the planet, according to demographers. Even as recently as 1950, the Manhattan of “West Side Story” was denser than today, with a population of two million.With respect to the denigration (that's an inference) of 2-3 story buildings, there was another 'graph that caught my eye.
I sometimes think that 'anon', or at least one of the 'anon-s' that frequently comments about newly-proposed buildings being too short, is a socketsite stand in for the also frequently-referenced Ed Glaeser (from the same piece as above):
…Ed Glaeser, a Harvard economist, inevitably comes up in conversations about how cities should grow. In his recent book, “Triumph of the City,” he makes an argument — which many consider persuasive — that dense places are uniformly better and more interesting than emptier ones, and that they should be allowed to develop unfettered, even if it means building towers where brownstones once stood.Emphasis mine. To be fair to 'anon', I believe that commenter isn't advocating skyscrapers all over the place as much as (as I understand it) more upzoning in places where 2-3 story buildings dominate to allow more 8-10 story buildings.
Affordability is the first reason. If you build up, he says, housing prices will fall and more people will be able to live in their own sliver of Manhattan sky. And that’s a good thing, Mr. Glaeser adds, since the energy of all those newcomers will fuel innovation and entrepreneurship, attracting talent and growth to create a virtuous circle. From energy-efficiency to life expectancy to finding a date or something to do on a Saturday night, Mr. Glaeser argues that denser places have the edge.
So here's my thing. When I read the sentence that I've emphasized above, it struck me that what's probably going on (I haven't read his book yet) is logical deduction from first Econ-101 level principles and assuming efficient markets rather than looking at actual data and deciding that more "build[-ing] up" would result in more affordable units.
What affordable units? Manhattan's been allowing more and higher building for quite some time and it's even more unfordable for New Yorkers than it ever has been.
Here's my observation: most of the units in high rises today (I'm talking S.F., now) are luxury units that aren't at all "affordable" to households that earn no more than 120% of Area Median Income.
Does anyone know of a current high rise (let's say more than 20 floors), or preferably three, that features condos that are affordable?
That's a sincere question, because if S.F. Planning allows taller buildings and more (unaffordable) luxury units are all that get built to take advantage of increased allowed building heights, then that doesn't help working San Franciscans.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 7, 2013 1:50 PM
I have heard anecdotal evidence that building high rises towers in Vancouver took pressure off of rapidly gentrifying older neighborhoods but don't know if that is true.
I don't know if anyone thinks the actual high rise units will be the affordable housing.
My brother-in-law owns a very nice 2/2 in a 5 story Bld in Hoboken NJ that I think he paid mid 600K for. It is accessible to the Path and has a view of mid-town Manhattan.
Maybe it can be argued that the willingness of NYC, and the communities of New Jersey near-by to build more housing has given people like him much better choices than me living in the Bay Area.
This would be the point for me at least. More neighborhoods like Glen Park and Noe Valley (inside or outside of SF; doesn't matter to me) would give my family more choices, just like more high rises downtown might give more single and retired people in these types of areas more choice to move out of their family appropriate housing.
In short I don't think luxury apartments in the sky alone helps things but they are part of the solution IMO. If they are the focus that might be misguided I agree
Posted by: Zig at March 7, 2013 2:38 PM
Zig: The high rises in Vancouver did not slow gentrification of older neighborhoods like Kitsilano and East Van, which if anything are now more expensive than equivalent neighborhoods in SF. It did reduce the pressure on sprawl and helped create lively downtown neighborhoods.
Posted by: Dan at March 7, 2013 2:47 PM
The high rises in Vancouver did not slow gentrification of older neighborhoods like Kitsilano and East Van
There's no way for you to know whether they slowed gentrification of those neighborhoods from what they otherwise would have seen. It's quite possible that absent the additional housing stock prices would be even higher than they are now.
Posted by: anon at March 7, 2013 10:28 PM
Brahma - no one is realistically expecting new highrises to be affordable (or at least they shouldn't be). The point is that new supply of any type helps take pressure off of everything else out there. Another thousand fancy highrise units makes that boring two bedroom flat in the outer Richmond appreciate by 6% this year instead of 9%. Etc, etc.
It's quite likely that any of the neighborhoods with the new highrise units will actually see prices increase at a rate higher than other places. And that's fine. It isn't a "build more and the new buildings cost less" phenomenon.
Posted by: anon at March 7, 2013 10:33 PM
Yeah it's crazy that they aren't planning a subway under Geary already. The avenue is so wide they could do cut and cover tunnel excavation while keeping traffic on the road above.
Posted by: Jack at March 8, 2013 7:25 AM
I don't know if a Geary subway has been the subject of any serious analysis, but just as a thought experiment I can see serious challenges constructing one between Market and Gough. From Gough to the western terminus it's probably easier although they may have to go pretty deep at Fillmore and at Masonic which are obvious locations for stations. And at some point it would probably have to become a surface line like the N-Judah so they don't have to build a subway station for every 5-10 avenues.
Anyway the NIMBYs in the Richmond District will make sure it never happens.
Posted by: gentrified is a dirty word for clean at March 8, 2013 7:49 AM
If they did a train down geary, I'd prefer it be an elevated track or a subway rather then a surface line. Keep a few local busses running for people that need to hop a few avenues but have the train be for longer distances.
And yes, the really expensive part would be Gough to Market. Perhaps build it so that it can go down Van Ness (and eventually tie in with a Van Ness line) then join up at Civic Center.
Posted by: Rillion at March 8, 2013 9:01 AM
anon (& Zig): what I'm reading you as saying is that Glaeser's wrong, or perhaps just being deliberately imprecise in his use of language in order to maximize potential political support for the public policy changes he advocates.
If a municipality allows developers to "build up", then housing prices will not fall, but rather the rate of price appreciation for existing housing stock will be not be as high as it otherwise would have been. The second derivative of the price curve will be negative. That makes sense to me.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 8, 2013 12:25 PM
^Yes, that's what I'm saying. Glaeser's analysis doesn't take into account that places where new construction happens tend to be getting better in terms of a place to live, so prices are likely to rise in that localized area. However, it does help prices of the region to not rise as quickly as they would.
If, in theory, a place without demand started building new highrises we would see prices fall, but that's never likely to happen. Highrises only make economic sense to build when demand is astoundingly high and prices of the entire region are skyrocketing (as has been the case for 30 years, nearly non-stop, in SF).
Posted by: anon at March 8, 2013 12:45 PM
I think San Francisco proper could easily absorb 150k new residents, if we build housing for them all. New construction doesn't have to be all high end, look at Cubix. Want you aren't going to find is large cheap apartment units, the market just doesn't work that way. There is such a pent up demand for housing that we would have build a boatload of it for it to come down in price. It is probably not even possible to build family housing that is affordable for median income families.
Where should they live? I think all the neighborhoods, including my own, need to upzone a bit. I don't really see it happening though, given the overpowering NIMBY tradition here.
Posted by: NoeValleyJim at March 9, 2013 2:43 PM
Repel rent control and protected tenant status rent control, and there will be a surplus of apartments. 150k? Maybe.
Posted by: Anonchiban at March 10, 2013 6:42 PM
San Francisco plainly can't absorb 150k new residents, because we can't build housing for them all. We also don't have the transit infrastructure to move them all around efficiently.
Last time we were all discussing this topic, I though this was an excellent, yet often overlooked point:
The city is using pumping trucks right now (and some say into perpetuity) to force sewage through — because its backing up from all the new construction built atop the same old infrastructureYou can't build lots of new housing units without a massive infrastructure investment, even if you allow it all to be high-end.
Posted by: Stucco_Sux at January 21, 2013 9:04 PM
The impact fees that developers pay, that most of them bellyache about being so high at the planning commission hearings, aren't covering the costs of the new infrastructure, and because of Prop. 13, there isn't enough general property tax revenue coming in to City coffers for the city to fund necessary regular maintenance much less upgrades to support new construction.
So what happens? I post this, from today's Matier and Ross column:
Last month's water-main break that flooded 23 homes in San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood was particularly nasty, but the break itself was hardly unusual.San Francisco can't even support the population that's here and the housing it currently has ($5.4M in claims & judgments in two years?), much less a six-figure amount of new residents. If something simply has to be repealed, Prop. 13 would have to be first on the list. That or a massive increase in impact fees so that new development pays for all necessary infrastructure.
The city reported 209 water-main breaks and about as many burst sewage lines over the past two years, and paid out claims and judgments in that period totaling $5.4 million.
Officials with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission partly blame the city's aging infrastructure – noting that 200 miles, or about a sixth, of its water pipelines are more than a century old.
Some of its brick sewers date back to the 1850s…
"Projections show we are going to hit a bump where the age of our sewer and water mains have reached their expected life," said PUC spokesman Tyrone Jue.
Since that isn't in the cards…
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 10, 2013 7:20 PM
Developers do pay a high cost to develop in SF, but it isn't mostly impact fees for infrastructure improvement. Instead we're asking developers to subsidize lower income housing. Additional housing that places even greater strain on infrastructure.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 11, 2013 9:01 AM
^That, and the basic lack of "by-right" development in most areas. We're moving toward that with some of the recent neighborhood plans, but there are still too many veto points that create uncertainty and increase the time prior to breaking ground and the amount of financing needed.
To bring cost down, we really need to create neighborhood plans or citywide zoning - and then stick to it 100%. No exceptions granted to developers, no exceptions granted to folks wanted to stop development.
Posted by: anon at March 11, 2013 9:10 AM
Developers do pay a water/wastewater fee and development impact fees:
Posted by: sparky*b at March 11, 2013 10:04 AM
I'm aware that developers pay fees for both impact and water/sewer and indicated that above.
The question is, whether or not given the circumstances (water-main breaks, burst sewage lines and absurdly common flooding), those amounts are high enough to cover the necessary capital improvements to infrastructure required to support substantial growth in the number of residents. Just looking at the results for support of the current residential level, I think the answer is: nope.
Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 11, 2013 1:41 PM