Everyone knows that the city is in the midst of a major housing crunch. It's nigh impossible to find a place if you're looking, people are crazy, and rents are way too damn high even in neighborhoods where it was possible to find a decent spot just a couple years ago.
What's the solution? According to Matthew Yglesias over at Slate, the only way out is to increase the city's housing density by building up. Way up. In the piece, he questions S.F.'s current zoning laws which restrict to "rinky-dink" structures along main transit lines (like BART) and reflect a provincial attitude toward growth.
Yglesias takes Mission Street as an example of a "heavy rail corridor" that should benefit from high-rise apartment buildings rather than the current story set-up. He cites a rejected height limit of 85 feet, or 8-stories, for Mission Street buildings between 16th Street and Cesar Chavez Street, asking "Why restrict a heavy rail corridor to eight-story buildings?". In his view, Mission Street buildings should be pushing the clouds.
Yes, the man has a point. S.F. is bounded by water on three sides and really has nowhere to go other than up, and there are simply more people that want to live and work in S.F. than there's space for them. But we get a chill at this vision of S.F. The city is pretty damn charming (which is why everyone wants to live here). And we can't help but think that some of that charm comes from its views, Victorians, and general neighborhoody vibe, which large-scale condos aren't exactly pros at achieving. And while we may need more housing, we also need better infrastructure, transit, and services (parking!) to accommodate the millions more residents that would arrive if S.F. began approaching the density of Manhattan. And, of course, there's the question of execution: could this new vision of the city actually work in practice rather than just in theory?
Yglesias acknowledges the challenge:
"It's obviously not "politically realistic" to imagine San Francisco rezoning to allow that kind of density. But uniquely among American cities, I completely believe that 3.2 million people would want to live in a hypothetical much-more-crowded version of the city if they were allowed to."