San Francisco

King Tide

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10,000 years ago San Francisco Bay was a dry grassy valley populated by elephants, zebras, and camels. The planet was significantly cooler and dryer back then. Sea level was lower since glaciers in the north pulled water out of the oceans. The bay isn’t that deep so a relatively small change in sea level pushed the coastline out by twelve miles from its present location. Further back in pre-history when the earth was warmer than today sea level was higher.  read more »

Kevin Starr, chronicler of the California dream

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“From the Beginning, California promised much. While yet barely a name on the map, it entered American awareness as a symbol of renewal. It was a final frontier: of geography and of expectation.”

— Kevin Starr, “Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915” (1973)

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How Silicon Valley’s Oligarchs Are Learning to Stop Worrying and Love Trump

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The oligarchs’ ball at Trump Tower revealed one not-so-well-kept secret about the tech moguls: They are more like the new president than they are like you or me.

In what devolved into something of a love fest, Trump embraced the tech elite for their “incredible innovation” and pledged to help them achieve their goals—one of which, of course, is to become even richer. And for all their proud talk about “disruption,” they also know that they will have to accommodate, to some extent, our newly elected disrupter in chief for at least the next four years.  read more »

San Francisco Observations

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I made quite a few trips to San Francisco during the late 90s into the early 2000s, but hadn’t been back in a very long time – probably close to 15 years.

Recently I was there for a conference and a long weekend and got to spend some time exploring the city. I won’t claim a comprehensive review, but I did have a few takeaways to share.  read more »

California: The Economics of Delusion

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In Sacramento, and much of the media, California is enjoying a “comeback” that puts a lie to the argument that regulations and high taxes actually matter. The hero of this recovery, Gov. Jerry Brown, in Bill Maher’s assessment, “took a broken state and fixed it.”  read more »

SF Vs LA: Different Strokes In Urban Development

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Book Review: "The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles." Michael Storper, Thomas Kemeny, Naji P. Makarem and Taner Osman; Stanford University Press, 2015.

How and why do places differ in their pace of economic development? Why do some flourish while others lag? These are among the most profound questions in economics and related fields. Are explanations found in geography, culture, institutions, or fortune?  read more »

San Francisco With 200,000 More People — Would we be Better Off?

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You want something truly scary? Take a look at these mockups of what San Francisco might look like if we build all the housing that the developers say we need.

According to writer Greg Ferenstein,  read more »

Eco-Modernism, Meet Opportunity Urbanism

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California has always been friendly ground for new ideas and bold proposals. That was a good thing when California’s economic and social policies encouraged middle-class opportunity, entrepreneurship, and social mobility, way back in the 1960s. But the contemporary California political elite tends to pioneer policies that endanger the spirit of opportunity that once made California great.  read more »

California in 2060?

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The California Department of Finance (DOF) has issued population projections for the state’s counties to 2060.  Forecasts are provided for every decade, from a 2010 base. The DOF projects that the the state will grow from 37.3 million residents in 2010 to 51.7 million in 2060. This is a 0.7 percent annual growth rate over the next 50 years.  read more »

Silicon Valley: Jelly in the Jam

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My last post was about how Silicon Valley is evolving into an urban form that’s not quite leafy and open enough to be a suburb anymore, but not really vibrant and compact enough to be a proper city either. “Too thin to be jelly. Too thick to be jam.” The story got an unusually large number of visits. I received some well informed comments that touched on the reality that Silicon Valley is a big place and I shouldn’t generalize. Palo Alto is very different from Fremont and so on.  read more »