San Francisco

Eco-Modernism, Meet Opportunity Urbanism

California statehouse.jpg

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?


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


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 »

The Big Idea: California Is So Over


California has met the future, and it really doesn’t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once renowned for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the state’s middle- and working classes.   read more »

Why California's Salad Days Have Wilted


“Science,” wrote the University of California’s first President Daniel Coit Gilman, “is the mother of California.” In making this assertion, Gilman was referring mostly to finding ways to overcoming the state’s “peculiar geographical position” so that the state could develop its “undeveloped resources.”  read more »

How the California Dream Became a Nightmare


Important attention has been drawn to the shameful condition of middle income housing affordability in California. The state that had earlier earned its own "California Dream" label now limits the dream of homeownership principally to people either fortunate enough to have purchased their homes years ago and to the more affluent. Many middle income residents may have to face the choice of renting permanently or moving away.  read more »

Inside the Bubble


I was recently asked by a neighbor to write a blog post about greed in the super heated economic bubble here in San Francisco. I told her I think the problems that vex her are more complicated than pure greed, but I’d give it a shot. Keep in mind, where a person stands on any of these issues depends a great deal on their particular circumstances. The point of this post isn’t to argue in favor of one thing or another, but to illustrate how some people experience the city at this moment in time.  read more »

The Reluctant Suburbanite, Or Why San Francisco Doesn’t Always Work


This week I’m helping a friend move house after watching her grapple with some unappealing options for the last couple of years. In the end she’s leaving San Francisco and moving to the suburbs forty-seven miles to the south. She absolutely hates the suburbs, but given all the possibilities it really is the right thing to do under the circumstances. Here’s a little background. She attended Berkeley University in the 1990′s as a foreign exchange student and fell in love with the Bay Area.  read more »

Affordable Cities are the New Sweet Spots


I’ve lived in San Francisco long enough (I’m getting old) that I’ve seen several waves of bright young people arrive, burn out, then move away. For some they were looking for adventure, found it, and then carried on with normal life elsewhere. But for most it was simply a matter of the numbers not adding up. Working a dead end low wage job while sharing a two bedroom apartment with seven room mates is only romantic for so long. I’m fairly inquisitive so I’ve kept up with many of these folks to see how they manage after they leave. I travel a lot and pop in to visit on occasion.  read more »

Battle of the Upstarts: Houston vs. San Francisco Bay


“Human happiness,” the Greek historian Herodotus once observed, “does not abide long in one place.” In its 240 years or so of existence, the United States has experienced similar ebbs and flows, with Boston replaced as the nation’s commercial capital first by Philadelphia and then by New York. The 19th century saw the rise of frontier settlements—Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and finally Chicago—that also sought out the post position. In the mid 20th century, formerly obscure Los Angeles emerged as New York’s most potent rival.  read more »