Talking tough on Silicon Valley housing

Too many new jobs. Not enough housing.

We hear about about it all the time: The Bay Area won’t make a significant dent in the housing crisis until it does something to redress the jobs-housing imbalance.

Gabriel Metcalf, president and CEO of SPUR (the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association) is suggesting a way to get past the problem: Let the state put cities under the gun to meet their housing goals.

In an interview with the Mercury News, Metcalf suggested a state requirement “that cities meet their housing production targets in order to maintain local land use authority. In other words, if a city isn’t hitting its targets for housing, then the state could issue permits to build housing there.”

As it stands now, he explained, “California has turned over land use authority to cities — even if cities refuse to build more housing and essentially turn themselves into gated enclaves of wealth and exclusivity.”

Metcalf was asked whether Silicon Valley tech leaders may finally be ready to get into the fray and do something about the crisis. Facebook has pledged to spend about $20 million in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto to create a fund to build new housing, primarily targeted at low and moderate-income families. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg met last summer with a number of housing experts to learn more about the crisis — making some wonder if he might launch an initiative via the foundation he runs with his wife Priscilla Chan.

“I’m really encouraged by the focus that tech leadership has on housing,” Metcalf said. “If a group of leaders from tech decides to go big on solving these problems, we could go far.”

And there’s a long way to go. The Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy computed last year that about 59,900 housing units were added from 2007 through 2015 in Silicon Valley, but 100,300 housing units were needed during that eight-year period to maintain the ratio of 2.7 persons per household.

Metcalf’s comments are from an upcoming Q&A in the Mercury News.

Above: Photo of affordable housing rally in San Francisco (by John Green/Bay Area News Group)





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  • lori_s

    We do not need more housing, we need the tech companies to diversify their operations to other areas. We do not have the water or the infrastructure to keeping increasing our Bay Area population not to mention the disastrous effect on our quality of life when you have to plan your life around when is traffic the lightest.

  • David S

    Among dirty little secrets (our media makes sure to ignore) is that for the last couple decades, almost all new rental housing in Santa Clara County have been projects for expensive rentals and not at all affordable ones. The SF Bay Area has been overrun by armies of house and rental project flippers, and financial real estate corps, with financial loan companies and politicians in their pockets that are the real bad guys behind the scenes.

    A speculating flipper gets a big loan from a bank at no interest today and buys out some apartment complex for a few million, raises rents, drives out cheapo renters for a few years by various well-known ways. Then a decade later another speculator at a bank gets yet another larger loan and buys out the first speculator and the cycle repeats increasing real estate and rental costs. Real estate feeding frenzy. In the mean time those who labored years to get a difficult degree in technology or science and then getting a high paying job end up being skewered for most of their income by these undeserving leeches from elsewhere that have done the least to make this valley great.

    After 2008 when real estate imploded, these same leeches let rich foreigners come in, especially from Asia, and buy up all manner of real estate no questions asked. And then politicians greased the legal stuff so they could move in with their extended families and over years accumulate documents like drivers licenses and credit cards etc to become de facto legal citizens. And of course at the low end California politicians have made sure the state has been overrun by low end illegal immigration that often are packed into ANY available low end units like sardines…no questions asked. Sanctuary state! Overall it ends up squeezing at both ends of what had been our middle class.

    If someone built a large bare bones apartment complex (like was common decades ago) or condo project of 50,000 units with monthly rentals of say $1500 a month, upon opening, there would be a vast mob of people stampeding to get in. Because NO they are not living in their current $3000/month unit because they like all the fancy amenities but rather because they had little choice for getting any housing at all.

  • rosalie91

    Affordable housing should be pegged to the jobs/worker ratio. For example, Palo Alto offers three and a half jobs per worker while San Jose only offers .87 jobs per worker. Clearly, Palo Alto needs to be made to offer more affordable housing while San Jose should be allowed to impose a moratorium on housing.

  • John R. Grout

    Housing extremists are trying to turn the Bay Area into another Oakland, waving red flags and spewing socialist slogans. There is no public obligation to support people who cannot afford to live here beyond helping them to relocate to somewhere they can have JOBS and support THEMSELVES. Most of the children of most of the fifty-something or older couples in the Bay Area had to relocate… why do these self-entitled proletarians have the right to stay at public expense when they should be productive members of society who can support themselves?