Thursday, September 24, 2015

Progressive San Francisco and the 'Shakespearean flaw' that is its undoing (and the parallels to cities like Lake Worth)

This article in CityLab is a cautionary tale of 'progressive' policies gone unchecked. During periods of growth, when other cities and developers built new housing and new buildings, San Francisco decided not to. Now when people choose to move back into cities such as San Francisco there are few places to live and the rents have skyrocketed. Land, the actual space that structures occupy is at a premium. Those who have lived in the city for decades are forced to move out. 

The grand plan envisioned for San Francisco in the 1970's is over. Read this excerpt from the article:
     At its apex, progressive San Francisco accomplished amazing things. [emphasis added] It invented new models of delivering affordable housing and health care. It invested deeply in public space, from parks to bike lanes. It adopted a transit-first policy. It pioneered all kinds of equal rights for the LGBTQ community. It did its best to create a high-tax, high-service public sector that could generate the funds to provide a more generous social safety net, at a time when the national government was moving in the other direction. At times, it felt like San Francisco was working toward a form of social democracy in one city, proving to the rest of the country that a more European-style economic model could thrive within the confines of the United States.
     It was also a haven for people from all over the world: Refugees from Central American wars, migrants from Asia and Latin America in search of a better life, gays and lesbians from across the country. A large chunk of the population moved here as adults; San Francisco was a consciously chosen destination.
     But progressive San Francisco had a fatal, Shakespearean flaw that would prove to be its undoing: It decided early on to be against new buildings. It decided that new development, with the exception of publicly subsidized affordable housing, was not welcome.
Emily Badger at Wonkblog has more on this problem that has been getting worse for decades: housing hasn't kept up with the expected future demand.

For many years now the "no growth" faction in Lake Worth has been emboldened by their successes (or perceived successes) at stopping development in the City. But as I've been warning for quite some time they're taking credit for something entirely out of their control: market forces. The Great Recession, for example, had more to do with stopping development here than any other tactic or strategy that was employed by group(s) to stop it.

That has led to the gentrification paradox. In short, those in the City who have rallied and fought to stop 'gentrification' have created the very foundation for gentrification to occur. Instead of a healthy, reasonable approach to development and housing all along (translation: compromise) the City now has vast areas and empty lots rising in value that are attractive to investors and builders alike.

When looking for villains look no further than the 'visionaries' of past city commissions here in Lake Worth who worked so diligently to stop anything from built, including housing, and discouraged nearly all commercial and business investment.

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