Housing Construction in San Francisco, 1995-2014

Housing production in San Francisco was the highest in over two decades last year, with 3,514 new units added to the city’s overall inventory (which now totals 379,597 units), a dramatic swing from the 269 units of housing added in 2011.

That being said, the number of employed residents in the city increased by 23,400 in 2014, a seven-to-one ratio of jobs to housing which has kept pressure on San Francisco rents and property values.

With respect to the city’s housing pipeline and projects in the works, building permits for 3,834 units of housing were issued last year; proposals for another 3,756 units of housing were approved by Planning; and applications for over 8,000 units were submitted to the City for review, up 66 percent from 2013.

The vast majority of new construction continues to occur on the eastern side of the city, which shouldn’t catch any plugged-in readers by surprise.

Top 10 San Francisco Neighborhoods for New Construction

Top 10 San Francisco Neighborhoods for New Construction Mapped

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Zebra

    If I am understanding it correctly, the “progressive” solution to the problem is to kill jobs instead of add housing?

    • Posted by Brian M

      I think the current internet bubble will kill itself, eventually. How many of these “companies” have a hope of turning a profit?

      • Posted by anon

        The combined US airline industry has a net loss over its entire existence. “Profit” means many different things. My guess is that many of these unprofitable companies will be swallowed up by those that do, but will still maintain heavy and expensive operations in SF.

        • Posted by anon

          Big difference between a mature industry such as the airline industry hovering around the profit/loss line due to competition and then getting hit with a one off event causing huge losses (Much of the recent industry losses were in the post 9/11 period), and new company creation where large initial capital infusions are supposed to pay off eventually with large profits down the line. Losing a heap of money now just so you can lose more money in the future isn’t really a great plan.

          • Posted by anon

            “Large initial capital infusions are supposed to pay off eventually with large profits down the line”

            Why in the world would you assume this? The large initial capital infusions could be made with the intention of being paid off through a buyout later, rather than profits. Future profits are only one small piece that potential investors look at (and a rather unimportant one for many projects).

          • Posted by anon

            “The large initial capital infusions could be made with the intention of being paid off through a buyout later,”

            And the buyer is buying the with the expectation of selling out at a higher valuations to yet another buyer, who then…

            That’s just the old “greater fool” play. And sure, that works right up until it stops working.

          • Posted by Ivoryhouse

            …unless you hit facebook, google, salesforce etc etc – competition may be cutthroat but there are plenty of winners.

          • Posted by anon

            Google and FB each have profits in the Billions. So they don’t really say much about companies which show no profit nor have any reasonable chance of ever showing a profit.

            Competing to win is one thing, losing while trying to pitch a story about how winning isn’t that important is something else.

          • Posted by anon

            Yes, and Facebook paid 19 billion for a company with zero profit. These new companies are just another way to get some of the profit from the Google’s and Facebook’s of the world back into the economy. Think of it as the modern day equivalent to Bell Labs.

            Tax laws have changed enough that it’s no longer worthwhile for big monopolistic companies to plow extra money into research with little chance of paying off. Instead, they keep the money and plow it into acquisitions that build upon their moat. This isn’t a “greater fool” play, it’s a legitimate tactic for incumbent players – it’s worth a LOT of money to ensure that they maintain existing revenue streams, even if the chance of disruption is very, very small.

          • Posted by anon

            A small fractions of today’s startups are truly technology plays which if they succeed might produce acquirable technology.

            The dirty little secret of many “tech” startups though is that most of them are just using mostly off the shelf technology to test out a market or try out a business model. Which is great and all that if there’s an actual working business model. But if your “business model” is to lose money for the foreseeable future and you have none of your own tech…. better hurry up and find that greater fool.

      • Posted by SFRealist

        By these companies, do you mean Google, Apple, Facebook, Salesforce, Genentech?

        Because they turn huge profits

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      yep

  2. Posted by Mark F.

    They could build and sell or rent 100,000 more units in the city. And we still wouldn’t be anywhere near the density of Manhattan.

    • Posted by Sam

      To be fair, the 100,000 units would probably be solely in the areas mentioned above, and probably not Bayview. So it’d be decently dense

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      Get a clue. Look at the history of permitting/construction in San Francisco. We don’t have the capacity to permit or build that many units in a short period. Among other things, not enough skilled trades-workers. Also not enough transportation infrastructure and probably not enough water. This idea of 100,000 units that gets thrown around in the comments here is asinine.

      Look at the plans for Park Merced. The developers are planning to do that over many years (and several business cycles). As long as the economy is growing, there will be construction but not at the pie-in-the-sky pace advocated by people who want to turn San Francisco into Manhattan. Eventually, the economy will turn and development will pause for awhile.

      Nobody has explained why having Manhattan’s density in San Francisco is even a desirable outcome (and despite all the density in New York, their housing prices are even more expensive than ours).

      • Posted by San FronziScheme

        Why do people keep mentioning Manhattan?

        Density of Manhattan: 71,671/sqm
        Density of SF: 18,718/sqm

        That’s almost 1 to 4. We have a long way to go before we even reach 1/2 of that density.

        The reason for wanting 100,000 extra units is because it would help satisfy a lot of the pent-up demand that puts pressure on the locals. Long term residents complain a lot that they can’t afford their city anymore. Some are lucky to be settled into a nice prop 13 or rent control cushy situation. Others choose to cash out, but it’s a one-time deal with very little chance they’ll ever come back.

        Now why would 100,000 be a reasonable number? It’s an order of magnitude question. The BA might have 10s of 1000s of pretty well off techies, but it’s not 100s of 1000s, and even less millions. Since the market is made at the margins, an artificially low turnover (created by prop13/rent control) has disproportionate effects on market rate. All it takes is a couple of 1000s extra millionaires from a wave of IPOs to mess up the SF residential market. All it takes to saturate the rental market is the hiring of a few couple of 1000s extra engineers in the SV. A number like 50,000, 100,000 or 150,000 would absorb the current demand AND allow some movement between the rest of the BA and SF. Right now the market is gasping for air due to lack of supply.

        • Posted by Dixon Hill

          You are talking about increasing the number of units in the city by 26%. I haven’t heard anyone give a time-frame but I would assume that 10 years or less is a time frame that would be meaningful for all of these commenters who want to buy their own inexpensive home. It’s completely unrealistic and not going to happen.

          First-off, as has been pointed-out here on numerous occasions, transit in San Francisco is not that great for moving the population we have now. For people who like to travel outside the city, some distance from BART stations, a car is a necessity. Car shares are a possibility for some but, so far, occupy the margins of the transportation market. If you added just one car for each two new units built, we would have gridlock and no place to park.

          Second, our construction industry is currently going all-out to build 3,500 units this year and a couple of million square feet of office space. The capacity to deliver that number of units in 10 years or less probably does not exist.

          Third, with the current imbalance of supply and demand, capital markets are very willing to supply the money needed to build new housing. If it were possible to build a much larger number of housing units, equity investors and lenders would consider this a much riskier market. They like markets where buyers/renters are in a tight spot. Except for the non-profit developers, their business model does not include a mandate to provide anyone with an affordable place to live.

          Fourth, the business cycle has a nasty habit of intervening in housing booms. Assuming that we could continue building at the pace of 3,400 units per year, it would take nearly 30 years to get to 100,000 units. Expect at least 4 business cycles during 30 years. It would probably be 50 years + before San Francisco could absorb that many units.

          Finally, people seem to believe that if Art Agnos and Aaron Peskin would just go-away, San Francisco would be a nirvana of unconstrained development. Agnos and Peskin did not create themselves…they have a large constituency, which isn’t going away anytime soon (assuming that some of the newcomers to San Francisco become homeowners, they may find more to like about the “obstructionists”). And even if if the politics of San Francisco did somehow become friendly to unconstrained development, there is something called CEQA, which is a California law.

          Again, for so many reasons, it is not going to happen.

          • Posted by anon

            Then how in the world did SF go from zero to 300,000+ units in less than a hundred years with 1850s to 1950s era technology? Every “concern” that you’ve mentioned easily takes care of itself if you allow the market to function. The “supply/demand” concern is the funniest, as if what you’re saying was true we’d see a complete lockup in the construction of new housing in places like Houston.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Because that time period was vastly different from today: very little planning/building controls; very little neighborhood involvement; construction was cheap; things were just built faster.

          • Posted by anon

            So it’s entirely bureaucratic then.

          • Posted by tahoejoe

            There was also a lot of vacant land that is no longer vacant.

          • Posted by anon

            There was plenty of redevelopment during that time as well, so it really isn’t as easy as “stuff’s developed now”.

          • Posted by Jake

            There was also graft on a massive scale of SF and CA politicians to get whatever businesses wanted, especially whatever Southern Pacific Railroad wanted. Mission Bay is one of their old railyards.

            It wasn’t until reformers were elected in 1910 that CA got the ballot initiative as a way to counterbalance SPR. Before then CA and SF were little more than glorified brothels for big business.

            Every since then SF voters have progressively and intentionally encumbered our elected officials to limit the damage they can inflict. The SF battles over downtown building heights go back to the 1920s. Tall won. And the environmental battles to reverse the freeway/autopia, stop filling the bay, and end the ‘redevelopment’ of entire (poor) neighborhoods go back to the mid-1950s and 1960s.

            This great tall city some people want is by design/plan almost entirely in the CBD and former industrial zones, allowing the majority of SF to be almost entirely medium scale and primarily residential. That is actually what most of the citizens want and have always wanted. Will of the people, my friends.

          • Posted by anon

            No issues with short, just want it dense. People have never really voted on things like street widths, FAR, setbacks, etc.

          • Posted by Jake

            Short and dense like Mission Bay? Or Nob Hill without the few tall buildings?

            We aren’t going to change many street widths, unless it is to remove parking to add wider sidewalks and/or cycle tracks. Certainly not to crowd them with more closely packed buildings. Other technical details you mention would be hard to put on a ballot, though you could always try. A gift from the progressive era of a hundred years ago.

            I believe the predominantly residential neighborhoods don’t want a large increase in their density (density map at namelink). For example, Sunset and Parkside don’t want the density of the Richmond. Richmond doesn’t want the density of Western Addition, WA doesn’t want the density of downtown. Noe doesn’t want the density of Mission. Marina doesn’t want the density of Russian Hill. Billionaires row doesn’t want to be replaced with elegant towers like Pac Hghts has east of Fillmore. They would all fight anything more than the slow incremental increases they’ve been getting for 10-20 years. Just don’t tell them how 0.5-0.7% per year growth compounds.

            The only parts of SF that can be remade much denser are areas with few people or fairly powerless people, like SoMa, Showplace, Dogpatch, MB, BVHP, Market St, Civic Center, TI, Parkmerced. Exactly the places already slated for that by planning. You can fiddle with the details some, but you’re not going to grow SF much faster than the current plans.

            Besides, there is room enough in all of that to build another 100,000 units. The developers sat on Mission Bay for 20 years or so until the dotcom boom convinced them there was enough market.

            BTW, Seattle today doesn’t have as high a population density as the SF of 100 years ago or even of the Sunset today or of the Richmond plus all of GG Park. Seattle is much closer in density to San Jose than to SF.

          • Posted by anon

            Mission Bay isn’t remotely dense. I’m talking about short and dense like North Beach or Paris or the Village.

            And yes, Seattle density is much lower overall, though in large part because of huge swaths of former suburbia now within the city limits (basically all of northern Seattle and much of southern Seattle) along with huge swaths of still-active industrial land (and an airport!) that SF never really had an equivalent of.

            Regardless, I’m not sure of the point. Seattle and SF are both built out, meaning both require redevelopment in order to densify. We can find plenty of places denser than SF, so why do you consider SF at optimal density? Is your thought that if redevelopment were easier in SF it simply wouldn’t happen because SF is already denser than Seattle? That makes no sense.

          • Posted by Jake

            Mission Bay is denser than North Beach, about a third to a half denser, or at least it will be if built out to the current plans. MB has much more commercial space, yet will eventually have nearly as many people as NB.

            No one is saying SF is optimal anything. When I am crowned emperor things will change. Until then votes count, and for roughly 50 years the voters have been willing to let the more commercial and mixed areas get much denser, but not the predominantly residential areas.

            The only reason we can have even this much growth is that we are basically turning the port into an amusement park and have pushed most of the pdr industry out to the east bay south of Oakland. That’s what is being ‘redeveloped’ into dense housing and offices.

      • Posted by anon

        If there’s no concern that the market will actually build that many units, why not change the zoning to allow it? As you’ve said, there’s no chance of it actually happening, right? Why do we need laws making it illegal to happen?

      • Posted by Futurist

        Yes, exactly. I won’t even mention Manhattan (even though I just did). But nobody really comes up with good, strong valid reasons why we need, say, 100k more units to “satisfy demand”. More units will never “lower” the cost of living/housing in San Francisco.

        Why aren’t people talking about building 100k units in Oakland? Even in Oakland, not everyone wants increased density.

        • Posted by anon

          I’d love to see 200k+ plus in Oakland. Did you want to talk about that as well?

          What I’d really like to see is increased allowance for housing everywhere in the Bay Area, which in spite of your denial of supply/demand, would help to lower real prices over time (though nominal prices may not fall much). 100k or so in SF, 200k or so in the inner East Bay, 200k or so on the peninsula, 500k in San Jose, etc.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Yes, I agree with all of those numbers, but realistically speaking those other cities you mentioned have equally complex and slow processes for construction. I think the numbers you are talking about could only be achieved over a period of 25-35 years.

            Remember, the entire Bay Area now is about 6-7 million people. Traffic is pretty bad. Many of those millions will oppose any substantial growth, IMO.

          • Posted by anon

            Sure, people are very unimaginative about the investments that can/should be made to transportation.

          • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

            Of course there is way more bureaucracy now. There has to be with so many more interests and considerations at stake in building in a densely developed city rather than a sparsely developed open area. And, of course, we know way more about safety issues that must be taken into account.

            Regardless, Dixon Hill is absolutely correct in pointing out that talk of 100,000 more units in SF any time soon is just empty debate. Ain’t happening. May as well debate whether we can build 100,000 units on the moon and beam the residents down every day for work. It will have the same impact.

          • Posted by anon

            Seattle finished 7500 units last year with relative ease. You’d think that the more “innovative” San Francisco could at least match that, since both cities are fully built out (and increasing density should be harder in a lower density city like Seattle, since changes in density are what NIMBYs flip out about).

      • Posted by two beers

        “despite all the density in New York, their housing prices are even more expensive than ours).”

        New York prices are higher not despite all the density, but _because_ of the density.

        People here keep mentioning Manhattan, because density increases property values. The regular posters here aren’t concerned with affordable housing for the lower-wage workers who provide their services. The regular posters here make their living from real estate, and it is their interest to see property values go up, up, up.

        The regular posters well understand how real estate economics works (i.e. higher density and building more high-end housing raises all property values in an area), but they disingenuously invoke inapplicable econ 1 S&D models to fool affordable-housing advocates into accepting higher density and more high-end development as a means to make housing more affordable.

        There’s usually nothing wrong with trying to make a profit, but there is something wrong with deception.

        • Posted by anon

          And this is why there was no decline in prices in 2008 in Miami or Las Vegas, right? And also why Palo Alto continues to get cheaper because they aren’t building those darned dense developments.

        • Posted by anon

          “New York prices are higher not despite all the density, but _because_ of the density.”

          So supply gets added, yet prices go higher why?
          Because high density housing is more desirable (or more likely the nearby cultural benefits high density housing creates)?
          If so, what’s the problem. People are paying more for a more desirable good.

          If it’s less desirable there should be less demand and then why are people paying more when there’s more supply and less demand…

        • Posted by moto mayhem

          you really must be joking. having more than 2 beers again?

        • Posted by Fishchum

          You trot this ridiculous theory out time and time again and every time it gets debunked.

          Every. Single. Time.

  3. Posted by soccermom

    Carmel-By-The-Sea-ization > Mahattanization

    at least more likely, the way things are going now…

  4. Posted by Dixon Hill

    I like Carmel…

  5. Posted by soccermom

    That’s the thing. You know who really likes Carmel? The people who live in Carmel. The people who own in Carmel. You know who is disappointed by the comically high housing valuations there? No one who owns in Carmel. If only there were a sizable rent-controlled population of people in Carmel, we would have a nice little scale model for ourselves.

    It seems likely in the next 5 years we will see a few substantial bond-issues by the city to fund new affordable housing with bills to be footed by property owners. It also seems likely the bond issues will be voted down if widely understood.

    I mean, who needs 17 mile drive, when you have the 49 mile scenic drive? Let’s get rid of street addresses too, to confuse the hoi polloi.

    • Posted by SFCitizen

      The post offices would be very busy. Remember, CBTS doesn’t have home delivery of the mail. But then I wouldn’t run into Doris Day here at at a City PO.

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      Soccermom–You assume, erroneously, that it is necessary to own a piece of something to want to preserve its character. I happen to like visiting Carmel and I appreciate that the town is different from other towns in a nice way. They would have fewer visitors if they changed the zoning to accommodate everyone who would like to be able to afford to live there.

      I also like Paris and Mount Everest but I don’t own piece of them either.

    • Posted by Futurist

      Ahhhhhhhhh. A lot of people do. Including me. I also like Sausalito, Yountville, Santa Barbara and other beautiful AND small towns to visit.

      • Posted by anon

        so let’s put more density in Millbrae and West Oakland and Fremont. Or do you have special attachments to the existing built form of those areas as well?

    • Posted by Reader

      Abundant housing doesn’t need to be uniformly abundant, to make the bay area more equitable & livable. Make new cities, east of the East Bay hills, at scale, with ultra dense high rise development to minimize landscape impact, tied to existing BART stations and downtowns via bus rapid transit.

      Good insight, Soccermom: “If only there were a sizable rent-controlled population of people in Carmel, we would have a nice little scale model for ourselves.”

  6. Posted by SFCitizen

    In the neighborhood map, what street divides Hayes Valley and Castro on the east-west line? What street divides Castro from the Mission on the north-south line?

    • Posted by shza

      I would assume it’s Church that’s dividing Castro (and “inner” Noe) from the Mission. Good question on Hayes Valley/Castro.

      • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

        Probably Duboce (at least, that is the street that is the logical dividing line).

  7. Posted by BayviewSF

    Not a good news to new condo owners. SS already reported on price depreciation of the new condo.

    Supply is meeting the demand. Do not overshoot.

    • Posted by Alai

      So what counts as overshooting? For the price of a two bedroom condo to fall below half a million?

    • Posted by SFRealist

      Price depreciation. Are you insane? Please provide evidence of price depreciation.

  8. Posted by BayviewSF

    Was there any city policy change contributed to the 20 year high housing production?

    If there was no political assistance and this 20 year high housing production was purely caused by the market forces, it may signify the unprecedented boom in SF’s economy. Is the job growth, population growth and GDP growth also at 20 year high?

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      It could be argued pretty convincingly that the 20 year high is the confluence of market demand (particularly following several year of no development during the recession) PLUS the passage of several specific plans (Market/Octavia, Eastern Neighborhoods) that opened up areas other than SOMA and Mission Bay for development. Keep in mind that specific plans have EIR’s that minimize to a significant degree the environmental hoops you need to jump through to develop housing. The Rincon Hill Plan and the Mission Bay Plan were in place for the previous boom.

    • Posted by Jake

      Nah, it’s Chris Daly’s fault. More than 20% of this total is the Nema project. If Daly hadn’t been so stubborn, Sangiacomo could have delivered these units at least a year earlier. Then we would be inventing explanations for why we’re stuck at 2002-2003 levels of new construction.

      Most of this is just a few large projects in SoMa and MB. 77% of it is in one of the 15 planning districts, the one called SoMa though it includes MB, Potrero, and Dogpatch. More than 70% of the market rate units are rentals. Looks to me like most of the new housing is being built for the highly-paid transient workers of the booming office towers. Looks like Silicon Valley dressed in SF zip codes and stacked in the depression era density of Nob Hill.

      • Posted by iknowsnow

        20% just some Nema. That’s depressing.

        Where the density needs to go is not in downtown high rises. Those will never be affordable ever and will never occupy the price point levels at which current demand can be met (which is why you see not insignificant numbers of those high rise units being purchased by absentee uber-rich investors from the Middle East, Russia and China.)

        Where it needs to go is in places with 2-story and 3-story structures that get torn down and replaced with 6-story wood-frame buildings. You double to triple the density of the pre-existing building and do it with a building type that can be priced to meet a good slice of current demand, while also doing so in a building that will visibly wear out over time and become more affordable 30 years down the road (which those concrete-framed towers never will).

    • Posted by Jamie Whitaker

      im glad at least a couple of people recall that almost all of the thousands of units getting built in Rincon Hill now were entitled by the City almost 10 years ago. It was the developers and the economy that delayed and decreased annual housing production numbers.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      3500 new units is not a boom. we should be building at least 10K/yr

  9. Posted by anon

    Building any more housing in California before our water and infrastructure crises is solved should be considered a criminal act. How does any sane person think this turns out well?

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      I’ll bet you could replace the standard suburban SFH configured with a water hungry lawn with a 4 unit building without increasing water consumption.

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      Are you the same “Anon” who wants to build 100k units in San Francisco and another 200k in Oakland?

      • Posted by anon

        No, of course not. This anon appears to not have a clue about how markets work, and little understanding that the water crisis is entirely caused by subsidized water. Market price it and the issue goes away.

        • Posted by Futurist

          Ah. No it’s not. Guess you have not heard of our drought.

          • Posted by anon

            Market-pricing water would make the drought irrelevant to the concerns of a “water crisis”. Water would simply become more expensive, and people (mostly farms) would use less of it. Artificially making water cheaper in the hot and arid Central Valley than it is in the wet northeast is a problem caused by stupid policies.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Ridiculous analysis. WE ARE IN A SERIOUS DROUGHT.

          • Posted by anon

            Yes, but a drought doesn’t have to mean running out of water. You know, just like droughts don’t cause famines anymore.

    • Posted by Futurist

      I don’t know why you spend so much time here commenting on OUR city when you say you live in Tokyo.

      • Posted by anon

        I also live on Russian Hill, I just live in Tokyo temporarily.

        (true anon, not the one yammering about water non-issues)

  10. Posted by anon

    If you read the Uber sfgate article, you’ll see the rub.

    “Uber also has 2,000 full-time employees; it’s unclear how many are local, but presumably most work at its San Francisco headquarters.”

    Only 2,000 total real high paying jobs. Easy to build out to satisfy this demand.

    “In December, Uber said it had 162,037 workers nationwide, more than 15,000 of them in San Francisco.”

    15,000 drivers in SF. High demand, but at what price level? And is any of the new construction being built that they can afford? Not saying it should be built here, but the almost 8-1 ratio of low to highly paid workers can’t be ignored. And if they move elsewhere, the traffic impact has to be considered.

  11. Posted by iknowsnow

    3,514 units added in a city the size of SF and with its average market rents is completely pathetic. Our tech neighbor in the PNW – Seattle – added 8,311 housing units in 2014. 2.4 times as many units as SF with a population that is For the innumerate, that’s 3/4 the size of SF (852,400 residents vs. 652,400 residents). Put another way, if SF has the same regulatory environment at Seattle, adjusting Seattle’e production numbers pro-rata, that would be the same as SF building 10,844 units in 2014. (That level of sustained production would get us to 100,000 added units within 10 years.) So no, 100,000 new units in 10 years is not crazy. Seattle is actually tracking to deliver to market close to 9,000 added units in 2015. And close to the number in 2016.

    Arguments that the construction industry can’t keep up are just stupid. Labor markets are not these static things were the number of workers remains a fixed pool you run out of. As demand increases, the price offered to labor increases (that is, wages go up), more labor enters the market, and demand is met. Reverse that when demand decreases. This is what happens EVERYWHERE. All. The. Time. Arguing to the contrary is like arguing that if we build less housing, rents will go down.

    As for the water thing, I was wondering when some NIMBY would start making that argument. People will continue to move here, because jobs are here. They are not going away, so stop pretending you can just stick your fingers in your ears and go “nyah nyah nyah”. The best place to stick all those people is in coastal California, where the existing infrastructure exists and where its easiest to achieve water efficiency. 6 story apartment buildings use less water per capita than single family homes in the exurbs.

    As for the “if density lowers cost, why is NYC so expensive?” First off, Manhattan is expensive. The parts of Brooklyn near Manhattan are less expensive but still pricey. Ditto for parts of Queens near Manhattan. The rest of the boroughs are not necessarily cheap, but they aren’t eye popping to the same degree nor are they as costly as SF. (in terms of rents). ALSO, and more importantly – NYC has stopped building too. When you look at NYC’s housing unit production over the last 30 years, its almost as pathetic as SF when adjusted on a per capita basis. The Bloomberg years saw upzones in existing high rise areas and industrial conversion areas – but it also saw downzones in existing residential areas. (sound familiar?) Its next to impossible to get anything built in NYC without running a multi-year battle against raging NIMBYs. The MTC has a nice new website that includes tracking Bay Area housing growth. See the last graph in this link to see how NYC housing production trendlines are as bad as SF.

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      @Iknowsnow: Your final paragraph shows why more density doesn’t necessarily reduce prices. Manhattan is much more dense and doesn’t have lower prices. You note that their housing production trendlines are “as bad as SF”. At some point, increasing density becomes very difficult and, the way you tell it, increasing density is the only way to keep housing affordable. Experience shows that’s a treadmill to nowhere (except more tightly packed cities).

      The people who think Manhattan is such a great place to live should live there. People who like Carmel should live there. Every city and town doesn’t need to emulate the most densely populated places on the planet. And anybody who moved here and doesn’t like it can move to someplace they like better. It’s a free country.

      • Posted by Futurist

        I like that way of thinking: Increased density doesn’t (necessarily” lower the cost of housing. but increased density DOES lower the quality of life we have here: more crowded, more congestion.

        A LOT of residents here like the quality of SF living. We like our small scale neighborhoods. Let’s start to see Oakland and the South Bay take up a HUGE amount of slack in new housing and start to build.

        And yes, for those who whine and moan about how they can’t afford to live here, they too can always get real with themselves and move to somewhere they CAN afford.

        • Posted by iknowsnow

          And there we have it folks – straight from the mouth of entitlement and privilege – “I’m sorry you poor and not-poors-but-not-richies” – if you can’t afford to live in this twee amber-encrusted nirvana we have imposed on the City, you’ll just have to pack up and move somewhere else. Now please pass the caviar.”

          • Posted by Futurist

            LOL: (you sound like anon, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt).

            What’s so wrong with living where you can afford? I can’t afford to live on outer Broadway next to the Getty’s and I accept that. Makes sense to me.

            Entitled and privileged? me? not really. Midwest boy moved here just out of college. no job but hustled to get one. Worked full time days at my first architectural firm, then did moon-lighting residential at night and weekends to save up to buy my first condo. Drove old cars, lived simple. Loved it. No complaints. Sold my condo to buy my first really dumpy fixer.

            Not exactly rags to riches, but hardly privileged either. We all make choices. I can’t (personally) make SF more “affordable”. It is what it is.

          • Posted by Jamie

            Are you the BARF lady? My favorite quote so far is, “Labor markets are not these static things were the number of workers remains a fixed pool you run out of.”

        • Posted by iknowsnow

          NYC’s average density is less than Paris, and nobody calls Paris unliveable. So your argument is complete bull.

          I’d also note, there is nothing intrinsic about NYC’s level of density that has restricted housing growth. What HAS restricted NYC’s growth is the same kind of rampant NIMBYism that infects the Bay Area. NYC started seeing the same kind of anti-growth/anti-development activism starting in the 1970s that the Bay Area did. And the same kind of regulatory strangleholds and choke-points have been established in NYC over the last several decades. Here, you don’t get to build in North Beach/Telegraph Hill/Waterfront without waging a pitched battle with those Telegraph Hill Dwellers idiots. In NYC, good luck getting anything approved in the Village/SoHo/Little Italy without the blessing of Community Board 2 – which is rarely forthcoming.

          Same story, different city. Gentrifiers in the late 60s/1970s move back into the city, gentrify some old neighborhoods, and then adopt an IGMFY attitude about anyone else getting to move in, all in the name of “preserving the neighborhood/community”.

          • Posted by shza

            I am definitely not on the “no building more” side — just noting that Manhattan is denser than Paris, and Manhattan is really what people are talking about when they try to scare people here.

          • Posted by Dixon Hill

            @Iknowsnow–This may be really hard to grasp but between the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, Aaron Peskin, Mark Leno, Art Agnos, and about 231,000 voters who turned-out in the November elections, this city is full of “idiots”. Most of them aren’t going anywhere and they keep electing other “idiots” to the Board of Supervisors. Every time.

            That’s just how it is here and they aren’t prepared to necessarily turn their city upside-down for someone who showed-up for a job and is demanding “where’s my house?”

            You said that NY is just as bad. So maybe it isn’t just San Francisco. Perhaps the world isn’t set-up to give people everything they demand based on mises.org talking points. Deal with it.

          • Posted by iknowsnow

            Yes, because we should give the someone halfway across town the right to tell private property owners what they can do with their property. By that same logic, I should be able to tell my neighbor what kind of car he gets to park in front of his building or what color shoes he gets to buy. Maybe every neighborhood should have an iPhone Design Review Board to decide what color iPhone gets to be sold in their neighborhood.

            Its complete and utter B.S. And no – not every place in the county has the kind off bassackwards planning system that SF (and NYC and Boston) has. As I quite CLEARLY noted above, Seattle is kicking butt when it comes to housing production compared to SF – and that is a city filled with liberals and environmentalists, while also seeing tremendous tech-driven job growth. And its a heck of a lot more affordable.

            And if you bothered to follow that link I provided, you will see there are indeed large cities in the U.S. which able to produce more housing per capita than SF is by having far less regulatory (and NIMBY) barriers than the Bay Area. And as a direct consequence, housing is more broadly affordable in those cities. CEQA is quite possibly the worst possible thing that could have happened to California when it comes to housing affordability.

            This is apparent to anyone who can actually do math. I am sorry if math is hard, but innumeracy doesn’t make you right. It just make you innumerate.

          • Posted by Fishchum

            I wouldn’t even call Manhattan “unliveable”. I don’t know why it goes thrown around as some kind of hell hole.

          • Posted by iknowsnow

            Anything involving high rises is a hell hole to NIMBYs. Especially if it involves a functioning 24 hour subway system.

      • Posted by David

        You know in middle ages, being a serf was actually not a bad thing. You had a long term lease from the lord of the village and stable life. There was another class of people, the underclass were they didn’t have lease on the land. They were sh!t out of lock since they couldn’t live in the villages, they couldn’t go to the cities, they were the truely underclass people.

        You people who argue this way are making me and my age group a permanent underclass comparable to the one in middle ages. If New York doesn’t build anything, SF doesn’t build anything and Carmel doesn’t build anything, where the f. we are supposed to live. Right to a shelter is a fundamental human right and you are denying it to majority of my generation. I don’t think you yet know the anger that is building up in us. In our eyes, you are disgusting, selfish jackasses and if you continue this path, we wouldn’t hesitate to sabotage our own future to put you all in the street just out of spite. Medicare is running out of money and good luck getting funding for it. Eventually, it would force so much of it costs on your retirement savings to completely drain you out, put you on street and personally I couldn’t care less.

        • Posted by moto mayhem

          a lot of us are pretty young, and we have made it just fine. i studied for many years to mke a good living for myself, then sacrified by not going out to dinner, bars, etc in order to save. in addition, i livew with roomattes until I was 31. this takes discipline. i bought my place at age 37, after years of saving, investing, and being frugal. I was $80K in debt after grad school. i still ahve some of that as interest rates are so low. If i could not afford SF, I would like in Oakland. If I couldnt afford that I would live in Vallejo. These are good alternatives that have decent public transit to SF. WHy do you feel so entitled to live in SF, NY, or Carmel? these are the msot expensive places in the country. In addition, Im pretty sure the middles age village with serfs was bulit on a capitalistic democracy. If you want to live like a serf with guaranteed housing, you are in the wrong place.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      the politicians and city planners in Seattle are smarter, harder working and more efficient. Could we steal them away? SF has amazing innovators in the private sector, really near the top in the world. But our city planners, transportation planners and local politicians are 3rd world. Why do we allow this to happen?

  12. Posted by moto mayhem

    3500 units vs. how many new people and or new jobs?

    • Posted by iknowsnow

      Dude, its in the literal second sentence of the blog post. 23,400 new jobs. So for every 6.5 new jobs, 1 housing unit gets built.

      There are roughly 2.3 people per household in SF. I don’t know how many of the 2.3 represents employed residents. Highly like a portion of those households are children 18 and under as well as retired seniors. Its not entirely unreasonable to say that for every 3 households formed in SF, we build 1 housing unit.

      But please, let’s all go blame out of control housing costs on developers.

  13. Posted by Jake

    According to the seattle dept planning website (namelink):

    Seattle net new housing units added since 2004: 29,330.
    From the sf planning data above, for years 2005-2014 SF has added 21,343.

    Seattle has 83 sq miles of land. SF has 47 sq miles of land.

    29,330 housing units / 83 sq miles = 353 housing units per sq mile.
    21,343 housing units / 47 sq miles = 454 housing units per sq mile.

    Which city has added more housing density in the past decade?

    • Posted by iknowsnow

      Absolute density in terms of residents per square mile is so utterly besides the point. The innumeracy – it burns.

      What matters is housing units added PER CAPITA. Or, really more precisely, per household.

      29,330 housing units over a 10 year period for roughly 283,500 households (Seattle)
      21,340 housing units over a 10 year period for roughly 345,300 households (SF)

      That’s 103 housing units per 1,000 households (Seattle) vs. 62 housing units per 1,000 households (San Francisco).

      Any way you slice it, SF’s housing unit production over the last 10 years is absolutely pathetic.

      • Posted by Dixon Hill

        Your theories are wonderful but they aren’t going to happen here. The “idiot nimbys” who elect our politicians aren’t interested in your vision of paradise. And long-time San Franciscans really like being called “idiot nimbys”. That will win a lot of arguments.

        • Posted by iknowsnow

          NIMBYs are never in favor of change. That is why they are NIMBYs. I wouldn’t call them that in the context of legislative campaigning. I’d advocate lying to their faces in that case in order to get things done.

          Doesn’t mean they aren’t selfish, entitled NIMBYs.

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      +1. To quote iknowsnow, “math is hard.”

      • Posted by anon

        I don’t know why Jake proposed looking at the last decade, when others mentioned the last year in Seattle. Seattle has made drastic changes to zoning over the past five years, moving it from being as restrictive as SF to being closer to the restrictions of a Hong Kong (though still not with a completely market-oriented zoning setup a la Tokyo).

    • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

      Damn, Jake, you are good in digging up the numbers!

      Obviously it is far easier to develop new housing in areas that are less dense to begin with.

      One cannot simply say “smaller number of new housing units = bad”. There are a lot of other considerations. For example, 45% of SF workers do not live in SF. Why can’t that number be 50% or 60%? There is no “rule” that SF must create new housing that equals the new jobs. Nor must SF necessarily build new housing units proportionate to population growth. Average household size in SF is 2.26. Why not 2.6 (like New York) or 3.0 (like it was in SF in 1940)? Boulder, CO thrived for decades with a very strict no-growth policy — brought some problems, but also some benefits.

      These are not simple questions. And it certainly is not so easy as saying that because SF now has more jobs and/or more residents, we MUST build more housing. More housing brings lots of benefits, but it certainly brings a host of negatives as well (stress on infrastructure, need for more schools, cops, etc.). I certainly understand that limiting new housing puts upward pressure on prices, but that is also not necessarily a bad thing. People tend to try to reduce very complicated issues to simple answers.

      • Posted by Futurist

        Yes, they do. And I agree with you on this one. There’s too much discussion on JUST pushing San Francisco to build more housing. I want to see an EQUAL push on Oakland, the East bay, and San Jose/Silicon Valley to be aggressive in building new housing as well.

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          I agree that that the rest of the Bay Area ought to be providing new housing and certainly some cities are doing their share. But how can a city be pushed/influenced/cajoled into building more housing? Their tax revenue structure pushes cities to build big-box retail and office space since that’s a more lucrative revenue stream.

          Meanwhile Brentwood, Tracy, and Hollister are glad to build new housing. What a mess.

    • Posted by anon

      We’re talking about the last year, not the last decade. Seattle has implemented many of the adjustments to their planning code that SF should also adopt – but only in the past five years.

  14. Posted by anon

    “What matters is housing units added PER CAPITA.”

    Why this? Population growth here isn’t necessarily organic (i.e. existing residents having kids)

    Economic growth matters for a number of reasons, but 3,700 units is around twitter’s total global headcount and nearly double that of uber’s real (i.e. technical/professional) headcount, and these headcounts were build up over a period of years. Both of these have market caps in the tens of billions.

    Low wage job growth doesn’t have to be accommodated in SF proper.

    3,700 units per year would allow for one twitter or half an uber added to the economy each year! Plenty of economic growth there.

    • Posted by anon

      Only if household size remains similar. Is household size not still shrinking in SF?

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