The cover of this week's San Francisco Bay Guardian bears the headline "Is Oakland Cooler Than San Francisco?" Not that we haven't heard this before, like, from our Oakland friends, but lots of hip cats live over there! Artists and folks who enjoy cheap rent and true, gritty, urban experiences! The Guardian's main objective is to criticize San Francisco's "failed housing policy," because if we had more affordable housing, they say, we'd have more cool people staying here. But isn't there a difference between abundant and cheap housing and formalized "affordable housing," which is in the city's control to zone for and protect?
There just seems to be a flaw in the logic in this cover piece. First off, it stands to reason that rents are always going to be higher in San Francisco because it's the bigger city with more desirable amenities and (slightly) better public transportation? And last we checked, rents for market-rate and newer spaces in Oakland aren't so low these days it's just that there is available housing stock in rougher neighborhoods and less desirable buildings, and more un-gentrified neighborhoods to look in.
The Guardian says San Francisco is losing its "diversity, cultural edge, and working class to the East Bay" due to the City's policies favoring development of expensive, market-rate housing. But we're not so sure that one follows the other. Yes, most of the artists fled Manhattan after the 80s because they couldn't afford to live there any more, but the market is the market many more people wanted to live in Manhattan in the 90s and beyond... could New York City ever have stopped that momentum? A city government can't control the market, all they can do is make an effort to provide more affordable housing units for the people who qualify.
The question remains: Would building more affordable housing keep the artists here? We'd argue that most newly developed affordable housing, with its income limits and application processes, favors the poor and elderly on fixed incomes with stable lives, and not 25-year-olds who move around and travel a lot and can't afford better housing because they have transient and inconsistent jobs. The cool kids are always going to need cheap housing, but they're not looking for it in city-sponsored affordable housing complexes.
Anyway, we like Oakland. We know it's not all crime and murders, and we regret, as a news source, having to repeat the crime stats as they tick up. And there are plenty of truly nice places to live in Oakland (which aren't cheap)! As soon as we get married and want a yard we might even move there.