A few weeks ago, I visited the City by the Bay for the first time and I have to say that it’s hard to imagine that anyone would ever tire of the moderate weather, the Pacific Ocean within sight, beaches just a short drive away, and mountain after mountain of the country’s finest vineyards just north, ready to host your day trip.
They do tire of the costs of living though. My girlfriend and I could only indirectly feel the sticker shock of residing where the cable cars climb halfway to the stars by accessing Zillow. For those who actually do, it is enough to drive you away, in spite of its well-deserved reputation on virtually every front and incomes boosted by the tech boom.
Recently, the Bay Area Council released the results of a poll in which 46 percent of respondents said they wanted to leave the region in the next few years -- roughly half the percentage of Alcatraz inmates who wanted to escape.
In the paraphrased words of the band Train, “at least they have a hella fine Merlot.”
I love taking amateur pictures of city architecture on my smart phone, and in San Francisco, the beautiful houses stretch over rolling hills for as far as the eye can see, though the population is under one million. The zoning laws keep the city beautiful, but they also prevent construction of the sorts of buildings that might supply the housing demand that the climate, landscape and economy generate.
What’s worse is the homelessness crisis effected by the housing shortage. At least to some degree, the homeless are hidden away in the few bad neighborhoods in the city, but they’re there. And that’s not all.
As the New York Times summarizes:
As San Francisco streets have grown dirtier, videos showing syringes scattered throughout downtown have gone viral. The city’s hotels have urged the mayor’s office to solve the homelessness crisis, while the San Francisco Travel Association attributed the city’s lower-than-expected tourist numbers in 2017 to the shock of seeing people living in tent communities on the streets. At the same time, new development is stalling.
Of course, San Francisco is not the only city that is not developing to meet demand. But when Bloomberg Business has to point to the “good news” that San Francisco landlords “have had to offer sweeteners to fill pricey apartments” -- good for the rich prospective tenants who otherwise wouldn’t have rented beautiful, bragging-rights homes in NorCal apparently -- residents are going to take action.
Not everyone plans to up and move in the near future as a solution. As the New York Times reports, some voters are considering going Republican. Nellie Bowles writes:
At an upscale sushi restaurant, a few dozen members of the San Francisco Republican Party gathered on Tuesday night to watch the election results. Most did not want to talk about state or national politics, they wanted to keep it local.
The group largely supported the Republican candidate for governor, John H. Cox, whom President Trump had endorsed and who won a place on the ballot along with Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and a former San Francisco mayor. But among the longtime Republicans were some newcomers, drawn to the right over frustration with the city’s trifecta of very tangible crises: a large homeless population, record housing costs and a high rate of property crime.
“We’re the most beautiful city no one ever wants to come back to,” said Anna Coles, 36, a real estate agent who has lived in the city for 12 years.
Ms. Coles has seen a surprising resurgence of conservative politics this year on Nextdoor, a website that creates private neighborhood-specific social networks.
“I mean, I see people post these long diatribes about the petty crime and homelessness,” Ms. Coles said. “Folks are realizing they can’t vote along party lines anymore.”
Even the current special mayoral election to replace the late Ed Lee has reflected the will of voters to move San Fran to a more development-friendly direction -- London Breed, the candidate who has emphasized that issue as part of her platform, has been pulling ahead and still holds on to a slim lead.
Is there a shift in ideology happening here or just a desperate attempt to try something new after six decade? Likely, it depends on the issue.
Many in the group were involved in the real estate industry. Some suggested that the nascent pro-development YIMBY movement (shorthand for Yes In My Backyard) could be a way for young, liberal voters to find themselves leaning toward more business-friendly policies and voting Republican.
“Go to the neighborhood association meetings, and it doesn’t seem so liberal,” a real estate developer, John Dennis, said. “The YIMBYs, some of those folks might be ready to change affiliation.”
It remains to be seen whether Republicans, or conservatives and libertarians, can take advantage of this shift; “there are few viable local Republican candidates,” as the Times unsurprisingly acknowledges. Perhaps instead there is space for some right-of-center candidates who are not strongly party-affiliated to slip in. The Times piece closes by quoting Edward Bate, a 49 year-old real estate agent and San Francisco native: “It’s hard because people don’t want to identify as Republican, per se,” he said. “But then they look around.”