San Francisco

California's Failed Statesmen

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The good news? Like most rock or movie stars, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with California. It's still talented, and retains great physical gifts. Our climate, fertility and location remain without parallel. The state remains pre-eminent in a host of critical fields from agriculture to technology, entertainment to Pacific Rim trade.  read more »

Despite Transit's 2008 Peak, Longer Term Market Trend is Down: A 25 Year Report on Transit Ridership

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In 2008, US transit posted its highest ridership since 1950, a development widely noted and celebrated in the media. Ridership had been increasing for about a decade, however, 2008 coincided with the highest gasoline prices in history, which gave transit a boost.  read more »

Time to Dismantle the American Dream?

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For some time, theorists have been suggesting that it is time to redefine the American Dream of home ownership. Households, we are told, should live in smaller houses, in more crowded neighborhoods and more should rent. This thinking has been heightened by the mortgage crisis in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices rose most extravagantly in the past decade. And to be sure, many of the irrational attempts – many of them government sponsored – to expand ownership to those not financially prepared to bear the costs need to curbed.  read more »

The Myth of the Strong Center

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At the height of the foreclosure crisis the problems experienced by some so-called “sprawl” markets, like Phoenix and San-Bernardino-Riverside, led some observers to see the largest price declines as largely confined to outer ring suburbs. Some analysts who had long been predicting (even hoping for) the demise of the suburbs skipped right over analysis to concoct theories not supported by the data. The mythology was further enhanced by the notion – never proved – that high gas prices were forcing home buyers closer to the urban core.  read more »

Transit Oriented Development: If Not San Francisco, Where?

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“The Great Transit Oriented Development Swindle?” reads the headline in the Fog City Journal, one of the growing number of internet newspapers providing serious, professional web-based journalism as an alternative to declining print newspapers (and their often less than effective web sites).

The article does not directly answer the question in the headline, but certainly provides enough ammunition to what has become a commonly accepted mantra among planners and urban boosters. It reveals how transit oriented development (TOD) is often based upon fragile foundations that amount to an ideological swindle. It is important to recognize that the Fog City Journal is no right wing or libertarian organ. There is little market for that in the city of San Francisco.  read more »

Welcome to Ecotopia

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In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.

In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle--largely approvingly--the emergence of a future green nation along the country's northwest coast.  read more »

How California Went From Top of the Class to the Bottom

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California was once the world’s leading economy. People came here even during the depression and in the recession after World War II. In bad times, California’s economy provided a safe haven, hope, more opportunity than anywhere else. In good times, California was spectacular. Its economy was vibrant and growing. Opportunity was abundant. Housing was affordable. The state’s schools, K through Ph.D., were the envy of the world. A family could thrive for generations.  read more »

The Cycles of Industrial and Post-Industrial in Silicon Valley

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For many locals, Silicon Valley surrendered to the tyranny of development when it lost its last major fruit orchard in 1996. Olson's family cherry orchards, a 100-year player in the valley's agricultural history, shut down its main operations, and Deborah Olson mournfully told a local reporter then, "We're down to 15 acres at this point." There is a happy ending. With community support, the Olson family continues to sell its famous cherries at its fruit stand in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Ultimately, Silicon Valley's history is predicated on a continual progression from industrial to post-industrial. Adding to the chaotic ferment and success, multiple sectors co-exist at different stages of maturity at any given moment.  read more »

Migration: Geographies In Conflict

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It's an interesting puzzle. The “cool cities”, the ones that are supposedly doing the best, the ones with the hottest downtowns, the biggest buzz, leading-edge new companies, smart shops, swank restaurants and hip hotels – the ones that are supposed to be magnets for talent – are often among those with the highest levels of net domestic outmigration. New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Chicago – all were big losers in the 2000s. Seattle, Denver, and Minneapolis more or less broke even.  read more »

California: The Housing Bubble Returns?

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To read the periodic house price reports out of California, it would be easy to form the impression that house prices are continuing to decline. Most press reports highlight the fact that house prices are lower this year than they were at the same time last year. This masks the reality of robust house price increases that have been underway for nearly half a year. The state may have forfeited seven years of artificially induced house price escalation in just two years but has recovered about one-fifth of it since March.  read more »