San Francisco

Can California Make A Comeback?

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These are times that thrill some easterners' souls. However bad things might be on Wall Street or Beacon Hill, there's nothing more pleasing to Atlantic America than the whiff of devastation on the other coast.

And to be sure, you can make a strong case that the California dream is all but dead. The state is effectively bankrupt, its political leadership discredited and the economy, with some exceptions, doing considerably worse than most anyplace outside Michigan. By next year, suggests forecaster Bill Watkins, unemployment could nudge up towards an almost Depression-like 15%.  read more »

California Meltdown: When in doubt, Blame the Voters!

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By rejecting the complex Sacramento budget settlement, Californians have brought about an earthquake of national significance as has not been seen since the passage of Proposition 13 over thirty years ago. Once again, California voters handed politicians something they fear more than anything else, constraints on the ability to raise taxes and raid revenues for their pet interests.

Some, like long time Los Angeles Times statehouse reporter George Skelton thinks it’s the voters’ fault, as he suggested in his recent op-ed. The problem, we are told, lies with voters. The state’s massive fiscal crisis, which I and others warned was coming, was apparently unforecastable to California politicians and their enablers, like Skelton.  read more »

In California, the Canary is Dead

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Canaries were used in early coal mines to detect deadly gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide. If the bird was happy and singing, the miners were safe. If the bird died, the air was not safe, and the miners left. The bird served as an early warning system.

Domestic migration trends play a similar early warning system for states. California’s dynamism was always reflected by its ability to attract newcomers to the state. But today California’s canary is dead.  read more »

Death of the California Dream

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For decades, California has epitomized America's economic strengths: technological excellence, artistic creativity, agricultural fecundity and an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. Yet lately California has projected a grimmer vision of a politically divided, economically stagnant state. Last week its legislature cut a deal to close its $42 billion budget deficit, but its larger problems remain.  read more »

Housing Prices Will Continue to Fall, Especially in California

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The latest house price data indicates no respite in the continuing price declines, especially where the declines have been the most severe. But no place has seen the devastation that has occurred in California. As median house prices climbed to an unheard-of level – 10 or more times median household incomes – a sense of euphoria developed among many purchasers, analysts and business reporters who deluded themselves into believing that metaphysics or some such cause would propel prices into a more remote orbit.  read more »

Corporate Sponsorship of the Golden Gate, the Ultimate Sign of Failed Infrastructure

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The most anticipated tourist attraction in the city where I live, The Golden Gate Bridge, is a testament to the lasting utility of a well executed infrastructure project. The world’s most famous suspension bridge still serves as the critical artery connecting San Francisco to the bedroom communities of Marin County to the north, where much of the city’s workforce resides. Remarkably, this marvel of engineering was completed in the late 1930s – a time when the U.S. was coming out of the Great Depression.

The New Deal brought about an expansion of infrastructure that should inspire us. Yet nearly 70 years after its completion, the sobering reality remains: it’s difficult to imagine a project of that moxie being constructed today.  read more »

"Milk" Puts New Attention on San Francisco's Castro District

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The Castro District of San Francisco has found itself thrust into the national spotlight by recent events. With the premiere of Gus Van Sant’s “Milk” across the country and the continuing controversy over Proposition 8, the neighborhood so instrumental in the gay rights movement is receiving a new surge of attention – and more importantly respect – for its rich history. Yet the Castro is not a museum district; it is a living, breathing neighborhood that is changing and facing significant challenges in a down economy.  read more »

San Francisco and the Meltdown

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Initially San Francisco and the Bay Area market seemed to be immune to the financial meltdown resulting from the mortgage crisis. After all, the City and its accompanying affluent suburbs had not suffered drastic drops in home prices as seen in many other regions of the country. Yet as the mortgage crisis has snowballed into a complete meltdown of the worldwide financial system, the poster child of the ‘new economy’ now appears less and less immune from the turmoil dominating our news headlines.

The region that consists of the City by the Bay and the adjacent Silicon Valley is no stranger to drastic market corrections.  read more »

No More Urban Hype

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Just months ago, urban revivalists could see the rosy dawn of a new era for America's cities. With rising gas prices and soaring foreclosures hitting the long-despised hinterland, urban boosters and their media claque were proclaiming suburbia home to, as the Atlantic put it, "the next slums." Time magazine, the Financial Times, CNN and, of course, The New York Times all embraced the notion of a new urban epoch.

Yet in one of those ironies that markets play on hypesters, the mortgage crisis is now puncturing the urbanists' bubble. The mortgage meltdown that first singed the suburbs and exurbs, after all, was largely financed by Wall Street, the hedge funds, the investment banks, insurers and the rest of the highly city-centric top of the paper food chain.  read more »

A New Model for New York --- San Francisco Anyone?

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From the beginning of the mortgage crisis New York and other financial centers have acted as if they were immune to the suffering in the rest of country. As suburbs, exurbs and hard-scrabble out of the way urban neighborhoods suffered with foreclosures and endured predictions of their demise, the cognitive elites in places like Manhattan felt confident about their own prospects, property values and jobs. So what if the rubes in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tampa and Riverside all teetered on the brink?  read more »