Conor Dougherty: San Franciscos housing crisis is coming for your city next
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But in my spare time just reporter and you're listening to Rico decode a podcast about power change in the people you need to know around tech and beyond were part of the vox media podcast network. Today in the red chair is Connor. Doherty an economics and housing reporter for the New York Times. He's the author of a new book about economic inequality called Golden Gate's fighting for housing in America it explains the causes and effects of the housing crisis in San Francisco and asked this city is really the model for the future of the country. Connor welcome to Rico decode. Thank you so much for each other. You've been covering a topic that's not near and dear to my heart but something. I'm super interested in and I there's lots of ways we're GONNA go here But let's start first about how you decided to do this. When working at the time doing a lot of different things correct. You hadn't been covering this. I was originally high so I covered housing for ten years for the Wall Street Journal Economics Housing and I was hired to cover Google member at the times and I did that for. Maybe all of eighteen months. Ah I probably shouldn't say this but I was not the best corporate report. I was really proud of some of my stories but I was never so great at getting super deep inside the company and I liked covering. Why did you want to cover Google? Google? We'll talk about since you have no tolerance for evasion. I just wanted to get a job at the time so they offered me that job so I mean I was excited when I took the job I thought to myself. This'll be something totally new. Let's dive into it and I was out in the bay area. I'd been in New York for ten years and I thought to myself and this is a great segue into housing okay. I'm here now. If you want to be in reporter in this place you got to get in right to the to the company town so I thought that would be a great way to do it and it did lead me to housing all this other stuff related to housing and actually oddly enough you may or may not know how interested they are in housing When office and commuting and things like that it's it's interesting I think more Sergei than Larry which is interesting. I've had many many discussions with him about commuting and bicycles. Remember when I dropped all the bicycles and a liveable city? So it's interesting though. They many people blame them for. We'll get into that in a second. I will say for what it's worth when I covered Google tried to interview Larry. Of course never was successful but I did corner him events a couple times and he always blew me off and I asked him about different tech topics and he always gave me that. I'm bored look gives you but the one time I did ask him a housing question. He just lit up and got very into it. It was the one time I asked him a question and he looked at me and really engaged in gave a long answer so I did find. That indicative. Always been thinking about that. What headquarters are in effect in the headquarters east of nine different office type? Seda quonset hut at one point in the early days. People don't call that but they really have been that said they've been linked to the problem in DC in San Francisco. Excuse me so talk about why he decided. Obviously how's it is an enormous issue around this country? We had the housing crisis that we had the controversy but in San Francisco is particularly unusual situation. Or maybe it isn't. Why don't you describe it? I think it's particularly unusual in that. It's the worst version of something every city has but I one of the things I've struggled with with the book is Almost struggled but a lot of people wanna See San Francisco as this truly exceptional anomalous place and it's not it's just a version of it. It's an early and amplified version of something. That is happening everywhere. I mean I did travel extensively for the buck went to Minneapolis Boston. Vancouver British Columbia. A couple of other places that were in had the same basic problem and aside from the magnitude and the political culture was the same. So I think San Francisco is I really do believe it is an early. Look at the nation's future and when I say San Francisco I obviously me and the whole greater the bigger cities because I think one of the Democrat Trans obviously bigger cities in how we cope with those people living in them paint San Francisco picture. This is a city that let's be clear. It has limited space. Now you talked. About enormous amounts of space. It has just what it has surface. Cisco does but I mean obviously the outlying area so my short origin story which I think your listeners like is that I was covering Google and I was talking to Jeremy. Stop Lamon about which you know you'll be up. Sorry about what you know. His favorite topic is which is how much hates Google and how much the government should be a intervening doing antitrust enforcement and all that and at the end of the interview. I often try to leave a couple of minutes for some random question to so to see if I could keep my story ideas going. I asked him. I said well I heard your into housing. And you're interested in this horrible housing crisis. We have and he told me. Oh I've given a bunch of money to this woman. Her name is so neutral. She's a little Kooky she runs. A group called BARF. The Bay Area Renters Federation unthought. That's odd here's this guy who obviously had quite a lot of money if you really wanted to get involved in local politics in a traditional ways. Got More than enough money to do that. You'll have a publicly traded company and also as. I'm sure you know Jeremy. He's he's not like one of these talking about singularity all the time he's a very serious guy so and straight and narrow kind of guy And I I thought that's odd so I called Sonia up and then I went hung out with her for a couple days and watched her kind of go to City Hall and Complain About Housing and all she had all these followers. And all these young people really I when I say young obviously twenty five to thirty five engaged in her thing and there really was something going on there as an economics reporter. I was hyper aware. Maybe more than most people that there was a ton of research that this housing thing was a big problem and then it had been a big problem for a long time at Glazer. Who is this Harvard economist? Who's very famous for? Having called that there was a big housing crisis I knew all his research was out there and the Obama administration right around the same time at Suny had started to release papers on this too. So in my mind I thought this is wonderful. Illustration of this very wonky topic. Here's the first time I've seen someone who who's looking for housing and his will where there's a housing shortage and in the past. The story had always been much more academic. Say It's just a very boring dry so I- latched onto that story mostly because my best because it was a great way to illustrate basically academic research and that led me to only and other things is is this yes in my backyard very famous words. Nimby which is not in my backyard. Build here don't do density building and for those who don't know San Francisco. There is hardly any density building. It's the lowest of profile city. One of them that I've ever seen maybe some European cities but there were denser actually In tea and especially and they better public transportation throughout But it it's there's not a lot of housing there's not enough housing And throughout California. That's an issue. I think it was. What thirty three million housing units is correct or thirty five minutes? I don't actually know the answer that I do know that California has less per capita housing than any other UTAH. And that's actually an anomaly because you ties much larger families so it really is the worst. So you don't have enough housing and then at the same time you have this conversation of very wealthy people wanting to live in cities and there's a trendy demographic trend towards young people wanting to stay in cities versus go fleeing to the suburbs which had been happening for years so it's a return essentially people with lots and lots of money. Then there was the tech money and we'll get into that in a second so you had a situation that was sort of ripe for what happened so explain what happened. Had these people saying we got build here and you have this group of state local San Francisco. People often wealthy people who don't want you to build and keep it as adorable as it is. San Francisco for all its history and I've read a lot of history about the place in California generally has always always perfect people show up and it the the version that they see when they show up is perfect. And I think that that's certainly part of the place as you. Well know. The actual city of San Francisco had started to become much more of a tech hub than it had ever been companies like salesforce and twitter and other companies and Uber were actually being located in the city of San Francisco. This of course led to the tech buses because so the opposite meaning that the companies that were down in the valley. We're sending us up to get people who want to yes. There are these large double decker buses with Darth vader tinted windows and UC. You can be in a very kind of quiet neighborhood in San Francisco with just two lane. Streets in this giant bus will be on the corner and you will see all these people in their bose headphones in their backpacks and their casually dressed tech uniforms lined up. Ready to go into these buses and this became a very a galvanizing moment for the city. Because it really looked like a two-tier system here was these you know the San Francisco Public Transit is not terribly good. And here are these these people and of course on top of that you read all these stories amazing healthcare and free food and childcare working gyms and all these things and here are these amazing buses and I think that this I talk about this a little bit in the book. I think this started creating the perception about people is that these people do not have a stake in the city. They they come here. They use it as a vessel but they aren't Particularly worried about its public systems. It's th they do not have a kind of common good in it and at the same time. If you recall there was also this somewhat famous viral video where a bunch of employees of some company I forget had reserved a soccer field and got into a big fight with the Latino kids in the mission who had used that soccer field for years and years and years and it became this very intellectual argument where the the tech guys we reserved this online and the and the young guy was saying. We play here every Saturday. There's no reserve so I think that there was this fairly or unfairly. There was this reckoning over the idea that tech people were coming in erecting. Their own systems existed separately. Yeah and one day felt were better. The buses solve the problem and I understand. I obviously understand where the company's coming from there like we need people they are up there. We're going to send buses to get them. It's not our fault that this city does not have great This region does not have great public transit. And they're growing so fast I mean look how many people right and we'll bypass including they were thinking about hydrofoil. There were so Coleus. God Yeah there was That I did actually run a couple votes Just as a test run a couple of times so so transportation is obviously huge providence. You trauma that everybody in that region is experiencing and I think that it led to a lot of resentment that they're not trying to solve this problem for the region the way that public goods are the subway or any other and They're trying to solve for themselves. Only and I think that became a very on top of that was obviously. There were a number of studies about this that everywhere. They created attack bus. Stop the rents would go up now. This is where the NBC comes in. Yes and my backyard. Sonia who is this? Who'S NOT FROM THE TECH INDUSTRY. She was a high school teacher but the texture quickly latched onto her. And I don't just mean Jeremy and all the people who trump to meetings with pretended to be twenty five year old engineers. That sort of thing. She showed up and said this is not a sin tax problem. This is a housing problem. You created all these jobs. All these people want to come here if you call. The breast of the country was still recovering from the recession. At that time so I think unemployment was so quite high nationally and good employment was still quite a lot that remains low so all these people were coming to the bay area and in her mind she's from Philadelphia. Which if you've ever been to fill up it's a lovely city but there are still some pretty depressed parts of the entire blocks of empty property. She said look this. A housing problem not attack problem and I think the tech industry really glommed onto that because her and we can talk about this. Because you said you wanted to Kim my cutler a woman at Tech crunchers now at Initialized capital. She wrote this piece called. How burrowing owls lead Marcus? That was all about the tech bus protests in the essential. Gist of the piece was. This is not a bus problem. This housing problem so there was all this kind of. Let's call it backlash and I think that a lot of the people in the tech industry liked glommed onto this partly because these were people saying this is not your fault and they got very into history very economics reading about the housing shortage reading about how the Bay area has this long history. Nimby as them and I think what happened was people in the tech industry loved this topic partly because it was true so I should say the bay area doesn't housing prop not but also because this was a group of people and Movement and ideology that we saying this is not. Your fault is the region's fault for having bad public policy. I think we've gotten to a more nuanced conversation. But when we're talking about the origins at the beginning I really think partly it was. People saying people were very attracted to this idea. That here is a group. That has absolve us of guilt for merely coming here. And I truly sympathized with some of those people. You're whatever twenty two years old you go to college for computer. Science work very hard in these math classes while all your friends are writing papers about you know some easy topic and getting high in reading. I'm joking but I was a stem major in. It is much harder physical chemistry major and they moved to San Francisco for a good job and wherever they're from I met this one guy. He was from some tiny little town and kisses and he was like well. San Francisco sounds like a great place and you read all this romance and then everyone hates you merely for showing up and I think it's hard for people who are their signs all over the place. There's all kinds of scum sold on the. Yeah and and I think I understand why they were why there was a backlash because it's not fair. Either let's talk about what had the impact and then we'll get into the overall the bigger which I think you talk about quite eloquent. I should say so. The book kind of follows. The Ark of the one of the many ARCS in the book follows Sonia in this rise. In this you'd be thinking became very very powerful and kind of looks at how it began at that origin which I was there for and then by the end they're running for office and they got tons of money. Cgi is giving them a lot of money all right. So we're here with Connor Doherty. He's written a book called Golden Gate's fighting for the housing in America. It's about San Francisco but it's about our country and we'll talk about that larger issue when we get back. This episode is brought to you by Sen. Rob a luxuriant hand bike brand making super versatile bags for modern multifaceted women. 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Times reporter covering income inequality in issue housing around the bay area but around the country too but the bay area has become sort of this flash point of Of homelessness this issue around who gets to pay for these things who can live in cities if they're liberal cities for anybody who isn't very wealthy So let's paint the picture so you have the tech people coming in the rents. Do go up. And they move in and move renovate and by anyone. Who's bought a house in San Francisco knows? The process is shocking in terms of When I bought a house here in DC. I was sort of amazed by the ease of it like any and they have a housing issue here and it was sort of you know at one point. I'm like I'll take three or something because it's so crazy it's such a crazy thing you're used to in San Francisco so there's not enough housing. The housing prices go up. What has happened talk about sort of paint the picture of San Francisco Right now? What happened is for starters? It starts to feel much much much. More like a monoculture right you so there was a great article in the San Francisco. Chronicle that I think the headline was the grain of San Francisco and you can see as people buy these homes. They paint them. I think it's called gentrification gray and the in San Francisco's known private these lovely colorful homes and suddenly there these gray homes On top of that just the prices go up to to levels you cannot imagine on top of that. There were a number of things there. Of course we're some very very public evictions. There is a thing in San Francisco in in in all of California called active actions which is when someone buys a place that attendant lives in and tells them you have to leave. Because I'm just GONNA move in this started to become a a way to create condos so people would buy what were effectively apartment buildings and say. I'm going to move in. But then they didn't really move in. They flipped them to condos and and so across the the city you started to see the influx of wealth wealth kind of lived on. Its Own. Because if you think about the actual number of people who work in tech is still not in. San Francisco is still not that high. It's like seven or eight percent or something but the influence it has on the city and specifically it's real estate prices is way outside. I think forty or fifty percent of the people who buy who are buying homes in San Francisco our from tech but the actual employment is not that high on top of that. The homeless problem which is why it should be sad has always been a problem in urged since the eighties has been a problem in San Francisco but it just got so so so much worse so talk about how that happened because there was a a discernible shift. In the Way San Francisco homeless be just exploded. And I've lived there for twenty some years And it. The shift was dramatic and quickly. Even though there was always homeless problem it became something much more significant. And of course it's gotten nationwide worldwide and it's just a simple cascading effect. You have the home. Prices go up and everyone moves down a notch. The the So I'll give you an anecdote from the book. I followed a family in Redwood City as they were just placed by landlord so this was fifteen year old girl she her mom is a does elder care cleaned houses and and Melissa Jenner. So she's the woman who takes care of your grandma the woman who cleans your house under the table and then the woman who comes in and empty trash can as you are leaving your office. So this woman. They got an eight hundred dollar. Renting guy bought. The building gave them an eight hundred dollars. In interest they organize to fight this rent. Increase GOES ON FOR A couple of months spoiler. They don't win. They do get by out so then I went back so they move out. I went back. Who moves in of course throughout the fight in the process? People say seventy from FACEBOOK'S GONNA move in this. This is the only people who could afford this. I go in. It's another Latino family with the almost the exact same job profile sons worked construction in the MOM did house cleaning and and some other things but they had just stuffed like eight people into this place that used to have four so across the housing spectrum you see people crowding in you see tons of tech people into crowding into higher end apartments and so there's this cascading effect and the people at the very very very very bottom are pushed out and they just go to the streets and I think that that is. I think it's pure and simple that there's a lot more people there. They are much much more willing to crowd into places and kind of bulk up to compete to meet the higher rents and the people at the very bottom. I should note Homeless people. This is not universally true but he's largely true. I've spent a lot of time with people they often do. Not Have the greatest bonds. Family ties are not super strong. They don't seem to have the best community or friends. And so those are the people who get pushed out and obviously there's a large degree of mental health and drug addiction problems amongst homeless people. But that doesn't explain. The price explains it because they're of course lots of people struggling with substance abuse problems and mental difficulties all around country and they don't have horrific homeless problems all around the country. One of the things you right is what the suggest is. A real solution will have to be sociological. Which I thought this is a great party was in a P excerpt you had. It was great. Part of the people have to realize that homelessness is connected to housing prices. They have to accept. It's hypocritical. Say you don't like density but are worried about climate change. They have to internalize the lesson if they want their children to have a stable financial future. They're going to have to make space. They're going to have to change. It's interesting the reaction to homelessness in San Francisco. It's changed the nature of the city's Cha- it's changed the relationship between people talk a little bit about that because you spend a lot of time trying really hard not to be angry at a citizen at the same time to be empathetic to the people living in this tree and then and to avoid feelings of hopelessness. Because that's what it sometimes feels like when you're walking in San Francisco is like what can we do? Is there a solution? I I totally agree with you. This sense of dread as you walk through the city and you feel like horrible personal the time and you know it's it's interesting. I I will say this real quick. My colleague Tom Fuller Thomas Fuller at the New York Times when he first showed up from Thailand he started writing about homelessness a lot. So I'm from San Francisco as you know and a number of my friends complained they said. Oh I've I've noticed your New York Times Guy Just discovered homelessness and they were kind of giving me a hard time about writing and I said well maybe shame on us for thinking. This was normal. I think he's doing absolutely good job showing up and saying this is insane So I think you do start to think. Oh this is just normal and the fact that you accept it is kind of shameful in. Its in itself. I I should say I'M I. I was certainly guilty amongst the number of people who who accepted it. I think that there is this feeling of hopelessness. Because you don't know what to do do I give a dollar to somebody Is that going to help? Do I give money to Saint Anthony's the IV that obviously helps one organization? That is a soup kitchen if they build a bunch of housing but it's like high end housing. That's obviously not going to really help the homeless situation. Even though we do need to build housing in San Francisco so I think it's I think it's this feeling of. It's this complete feeling of helplessness. And by the way you obviously see this amongst the city as well they seem I mean look at Gavin newsom. That's the governor. But when he was mayor now governor. It's just it. Nobody knows what to do. And where you really see. This is these go to Oakland is considerably worse than San Francisco. Their entire parks that are just colonized by tents and everybody is just come to accept it and doesn't know what to do so and I think that is where we are. I mean what we need to do is build a ton of supportive housing and where and how we do. That is is our inaction but that's I don't really see we're going to get decision last part but one of the things you talked about is is this idea and you say one need only look at the airplane went to see. There's nothing to do with the lack of space concentration of opportunity and the rising costs of being near. It says much about today's winner. Take all economy that many of the cities with the most glaring epidemics of homelessness that are growing centers of technology and finance. There is simply put a dire shortage of housing in places where people in Companies WanNa live and reactionary local politics that fight every effort to add more home so just about that because you had an extra time about that but this I it's theme throughout this book. Is that people resisting. What is the obvious? Solution is build more housing totally. So I'll just say two things. One is the economy has changed. We all know this we have. The economy is kind of bifurcated into. Let's call them. Knowledge workers who tend to be paid relatively well and work with their minds and then service workers who tend to be. Some are paid quite well like surgeons and stuff. But there's this other this entire class of say retail workers People who clean your home's walk your dogs all these sorts of things that that are not paid very well. Those people have to be next to each other in cities because intellectual workers tend to want to be near each other for all the to exchange ideas and all these things and then the service work essentially have to be close to them because they are way typically exactly they cannot remote dog walk that sort of thing so cities are let's say engines inequality. I'm not saying that's bad in a perfect world. Cities have lots of opportunities for people to to move into the I in their kids get better educated and all that but we have to have housing for those two groups of people or the thing will fall apart. And we'll get what we have today. So that's our economy around the country. We are moving into knowledge direction. That is not going to change. There is going to be a certain amount of service of large service sector for things that robots can't do yet and that is where we are so that's not changing so accepting that reality and accepting that we need to construct our cities for that reality. Step one what we need to do is build a lot more housing and make it easier to build housing and make it easier to build different types of housing the way we have it in the bay area which is true. All around the country This true here in DC is we have a whole bunch of single family home neighborhoods are relatively low density neighborhoods that are in effect off limits and single townhomes. One family lives in the rest or or you know they're duplexes and other things. There was the existing housing stock and nothing will touch it there. Couple projects here and there but generally speaking those neighborhoods are off limits and then we have an area like south of market. Which is this former warehouse district over by the bay where the the there used to be an industrial area? When I was growing up that is like we build a ton of conduct that have ten million and and it's a whole new neighborhood out of whole cloth. Uc that same pattern in every city across America. There's the war in DC. There's the north loop in Minneapolis. There's Hudson yards in New York all around the country. People seem to have said okay. We need to build more housing. Let's go take this one district over here that used to be some industrial district and build a ton of stuff over there and build it as tall as humanly possible and make a whole neighborhood from whole cloth. That is not working because those buildings. I'm not saying you shouldn't do that but I am saying. Those buildings are super expensive. They they're super high and require elevators. Once the way construction costs works. Once you add an elevator you were in a whole other class of costs but what they call the missing middle housing which is housing the middle sized but also for middle income people that housing is essentially is not allowed. You can't build a ton of duplexes row homes and go to places like Philadelphia or Baltimore where you see doesn't look super active right now but we're you see that. They had lots of of housing affordable. Housing it's not high-rises everywhere. It's these dense kinda three and four story places. That is what we don't allow right now. One of the images. I always think of when I actually asked at one point if this could be the cover of the book but they didn't like it for some reason is if you go look at this famous famous. Mavis picture that everybody. Who's listening and people around the world? No it's the picture of the painted ladies. The painted ladies are these as everyone knows. They're the opening of full house. There these four five or six that are in a row in these beautiful single family homes and you can see the San Francisco skyline now dominated by the sales rise tower behind it and it's on Alma grunts as beautiful park and it goes down a hill when you look at that picture which was again the opening of the credits of full house. You see these five wonderful beautiful. Relatively squad homes. If you go as you know if you go very exactly if you go to an actually look in real life at that picture there was like a ten storey apartment. It's about seven stories is six five six hundred. There's a giant apartment building butting up against the top most painted lady that has always popped out of the picture. Because that's that's where we don't want to see it doesn't fit our idealized view of things or I don't know what the reason is but that is always copped out of the picture. That is what when. San Francisco is a functional city. That is what it looked like. It had this mix of things that the neighborhoods had a lot of different types of housing a lot of different types of people because the person who can live in a two story painted lady home is different than the person who can live in a an apartment building right next to it right but those people are are linked through the economy through different kinds of jobs. Like just say they all the other part. You're leaving out as Alamo. Square is very huge. Homeless population lives there and moves moves around it because the police keep trying to move people which is also another picture. When you're there are there. I'm always. They're always sort of like what is happening here. I'm trying to take this beautiful shot of San Francisco and there's tens and things like that which again are moved daily. So we can. We could talk forever about the policy stuff and how the we could start going through an alphabet soup of acronyms California Miramonte Equality Act in Nimby ISM is a to harder and blah blah blah blah blah. Right but the truth is and this is what I'm trying to get at in this book. San Francisco is just a window into you. Could take that same alphabet. Soup apply to any other city because look most cities in America with the exception of possibly New York and even a little bit there. If you go out to queens and stuff has this same pattern. Where they've they make it very very difficult to put density next to kind of lower density neighborhoods and people. Don't like it that problem that we make it very difficult to build where people already live. Is What gives us sprawl. It's what gives us freeways to know or I guess not to know but to the next suburb. It gives us all these other things and it was funny. I was talking to an economist historian rather for the book and he said sprawl is a political contradiction. Because meaning where would he means is it is something everybody hates and yet it also contains the conditions that makes it almost impossible to stop because people as much as people hate bra but almost rather create sprawl than solve it which is which would mean building where they live right where they are and so. We're sort of stuck in this thing if we're going to solve climate change if we're going to if we're going to address all these big problems we have bifurcated society housing. The cost too much emissions. That are a third of them. Are People driving our transportation? We're going to have to start basically addressing that people are going to have to live closer together and that our cities are going to have to be a little bit more compact all right. We're GONNA talk back because one of the important things to keep in mind as they are there systemic and that's the issue that I think a lot of people don't care that housing has everything to do with climate change which you were talking about. Which has everything to do with sociological issues and drug addiction and way of life which creates these cities that are homogeneous and aren't as interesting as they used to be Or maybe they never were We're here with Connor. Doherty the author of Golden Gate's fighting for housing in America. He's also a New York Times reporter. Who covers these issues? Look the drag and drop website. Templates are great. They're simple enough that anyone with a dream and ten minutes can build their own site for better or worse. 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This is David Fox senior editor at vulture and I host the podcast. Good one a podcast about jokes. It's a podcast about well jokes. Every week I sit down with a comedian comedy writer director who lives to one of their jokes and figure out how it all came together. I don't sit down with a pen and the pad and physically write down everything I just has not my style turns out comedians. Take jokes pretty seriously. I like all jokes. Okay that's what I do. That's what I live. There's really nothing else I care about. It's all very revealing. What did you learn from this? What was your takeaway? I nothing guy I'm not. I'm not a Shomar curse. Good one from vulture in box media podcast network. Subscribe for free on Apple podcasts. Or on your favorite podcast APP. You do not to use the puck this effort. Oh what a great question. Just David Fox. We're back and we're talking with Connor. Doherty he's the author of Golden Gate's fighting for housing in America. So you do cover this day to day for the New York Times in your you talk about this idea of income equality just talking about the idea of systemic way to deal with this one of the things you do. Talk about in this book. Is that democracy really gets hurt by this housing crisis so paint a larger picture of the housing crisis in American. How we live how we're going to live together and maybe some solutions and what you think is working or is it sort of this. Lost Idea that we're just gonNA continue to create these bifurcated societies Where I just don't know how it solves itself so there's a lot of different things we could talk about with income inequality and stuff but I think the best way to solve income inequality I this is not the same against programs. I think the best way to solve income inequality is to make it possible for people to live near a place where they can get a great education a place where they can live in a thriving economy with lots of different kinds of jobs. A place where they can get on the escalators to success. Which are these tech companies? These knowledge companies are the industrial powerhouses of our time. And just as your chances of making it. Further in life were enhanced by being near a manufacturing company in the forties and fifties being in Detroit or one of these places that was building manufactured goods. These are now our industrial powerhouses. And you need to be near them. Most people need to be near them to get into the new economy. Because one of the things Scott Weiner who is my representative I live in the Castro. San Francisco's Or was represented now. He's he's feet. State senator right for the entire city by the way. I should note California's still a lot of people don't know this. California state senators represent more people than members of the US. House our senator. That's another kind of crazy people. He's GOT MORE PEOPLE NANCY PELOSI. He was my local. He was on the city council and then now he's in state. He had a bill. That just failed to talk about that. So this bill was called. Sp fifty and it got ton of attention nationally and the base. I many times we've talking I've talked about is gonNA try again. I'm sure the basic just of the bill is it would make it possible. It would make possible the four to eight story or I think four storey buildings within a half a mile of a transit. Stop also in a fancy school districts and stuff. That's totally reasonable solution to a problem which is get people near public transit so that they can get into jobs and create a lot more housing. So it's easy. So there's no commuting on top of that he's targeting that missing middle housing. I was just telling about telling you about. He's not saying. Let's go build a mega projects in the middle of nowhere. He say or not in the middle of the putting up you know in a place where people complain about it. Let's build a ton of mid level things in neighborhoods where people already live. And this bill People went beserk. And what was fascinating about the bill and this is something. I spent a lot of time thinking about in the book. Is that an all kind of came to a head in the bill that there's two main groups that oppose a lot a efforts to deregulate housing in cities they are neighborhoods worried about gentrification and they are kind of low density neighborhoods worried about their views and neighborhood character and re property rich people in this. Call the middle class people but yeah yeah And and that alliance sometimes explicit and sometimes implicit is is very very very powerful is powerful for a couple reasons. It's powerful because it allows rich people to basically claim the mantle of gentrification when they're posing bill which in California where people have a high sensitivity to appearing woke is important on top of that. It's it's just a large number of people in a large number of representatives. Kind of coming together. I understand an and I put that that is politics. He's going to have to figure that out. But I think what the difficulty shows is that people don't and we've seen this throughout our society. People don't have faith in the future. People don't believe that if as the basic problem with US B fifty s. That people simply don't believe it would work. I truly think that more than any one issue. We could identify in the bill. I think people really think this is going to lead to always a bunch of developers building a bunch of different types of stuff. And we're going to get more of the same. We're going to get more tech. Buses more monoculture more. And I don't for what it's worth think that's the case but I. It doesn't matter what I think. I just don't think people believe that it would work. And what some of the solutions being pros is the state takeover local a local. And you're seeing is you're seeing all. The Democratic presidential candidates have have released housing plans where they some kind of zoning component in it. So we're now even seeing not the imminent or anything but we're now even seeing people contemplating the federal government taking over. So we're having a so Yeah this is what always happens. Whenever a level of government can't figure out a problem people kick it up a notch and say let's let's have a higher power figure it out because the more you spread it out. One of the shifts was local decision making on the ground in areas they know best was pushed locally for years. And you will hear you will hear your local mayors say we don't want more growth. We don't win one more people. I mean they will flat outside. I don't think you'd ever hear a governor say that because the jobs and prosperity are just so much more part of their Their calling card. We'll talk about that with with London. Breed in in San Francisco and various players. There she has tried to put in on one hand. She's tried to put in the other hand. She's against certain things. It's a real. It's a really interesting to watch her. Sort of try to navigate. Explain her situation. So London breed the mayor of San Francisco. She is an African American woman. Who grew up in public housing in his from San Francisco She has kind of embraced this mantle of development and she's actually pushing a ballot measure which we of course have a lot of those in California but basically she will put in front of voters a thing that would make it would speed without getting into the details. It would take the development process from say two or three years and sometimes quite a bit longer to like say six months if you propose development on a parcel and it didn't require any changes or high variations or anything like that you could do it and and that would probably speed up development quite a lot. We'll see if it makes the ballot and has voters because she is she's essentially trying to end. Rund this the borders. She's trying to go around her legislator right to just say let's just make law through the voters because she's so frustrated with her own board kind of stymying her at every which. I think is in San Francisco. The mayor has power then mayors of other cities in the board tends to run everything. Yes well totally and I think that there's a level of exhaustion right now with process and she seems to be. I mean look you see this everywhere right like sp fifty and all these things in the in three times. Scott Weiner has pushed versions of this bill when it failed the second after it failed the president of the Senate Toni. Atkins says we're GONNA pass something like this by the end of this year. You guys better get ready so all around there is. There was a level of exhaustion right now in California with an action. So I think that in Governor Gavin newsom who has traditionally been this guy who shows up with a laundry list of thing. I'M GONNA solve healthcare. I'm going to solve this. His last status state speech which was just last week he did nothing but talk about homelessness and housing. So you're starting to see people at least recognized okay. This is the only problem that we should be focused on in this state right now because all of our other problems come from emanate from this. California has some of the highest wages in the country. It is way outpaced the nation in economic metric and it has the highest poverty rate when you adjust for the cost of housing so we basically created poverty should be like a beacon for the nation. So what's worked? I WanNa talk with working but explained that because now Republicans especially Donald Trump focused in on it yeah and that some of what Donald Trump is doing is mean spirited and. Let's call it right. A lot of what they're doing. Some of that is trolling. You'll see Tucker Carlson and others but a lot of what the the kind of more conservative side is saying. Is that some of these liberal. Good intentions have gone. There is some truth in that and I I think it it annoys people that there is some truth in it because take environmentalism. There's this kind of like nineteen seventies notion of environmentalism that environmentalism means. Great Parks down the street from you at a place to walk your dog and that sort of thing but let's not necessarily green if you're worried about climate change and it's not green if you're worried about sprawl it's not right and I think sometimes it is absolutely a fair thing to say. Has that gone too far in years. That focused on the wrong things. When that comes out of the mouth of a of Scott Weiner people will love it but I guess they kind of accepted. Because he's this you know anti-death penalty raise every tax game in who marches in the bondage parade in San Francisco Rays. So but when it comes out of the mouth of Donald trump or or someone from his administration. They don't WanNa hear it but that's just but there are. There is some truth to this idea that California has dug itself deeper into this problem than it would. Otherwise be and I think that at some point we do have to reconcile with that and it's not like anybody in the trump administration seems to have thought this through super deeply. So I think dismissing some of their critiques is completely appropriate but this idea that California has over-regulated housing made it too difficult to build the types of housing. The middle class people could live in. There was a lot of truth to that. And we kind of have to own up to it so when you talk about solutions what are they what can happen you have you know. You have the political pressure from national attention on this on the state like. Here's and it's not just in in. San Francisco was in Los Angeles. Most of the homeless people in this country live in California. Which is I think. People don't realize The great majority of the half of the unsheltered homeless people who are straight up outside in their cars under bridges on the sidewalk. Half about one hundred thousand of the two hundred thousand earn California and that is because not just weather but other it is because it costs a lot to live in California pure and simple everything I've ever seen says that homelessness is heavily tied to the cost of housing again. It's not to say drug addiction and these other things don't play into it but those are just things that make it difficult for someone to hold down a job or otherwise. Get a toehold in a place. The cost of housing ends up being the main variable. Like I said they have people with mental difficulties and drug problems everywhere. So when you're thinking about solutions what if you could wave your one if you could do or if there's a person that you covered that you think is the the right way. Tell me about if I could wave my wand I would make it much easier to build housing and build different types of housing and I would come up with some sort of gigantic federal program. One that had the word trillion in it and start to provide a huge subsidy program for people who truly cannot afford what the market is currently building. There has not been some time. So one thing that people one reason people in the Anti gentrification camp do not like new housing is that it tends to be more expensive more expensive than and so they worry that it will make housing next to it expensive as well as very little evidence that that's true nevertheless that's the fear but there was not some time when we built lots of brand new lovely housing and it was affordable for everybody. It has always mostly been the case that the way we create affordable housing as we build a lot housing gets older and moves down the income scale. We stopped doing that. We have done. It's actually the opposite moving back into the exaggerate so we did not build enough housing. So we're in a deep hole. We have to get out of that hole while we are getting out of that hole. We're going to have to make housing more affordable for people who can't afford it and this isn't just I mean there's all sorts of reasons to do this when I was following the family as they were being displaced by this eight hundred dollars rent. Increase that daughter fifteen years ago. She lost a month of school. She was completely stressed unable to function in any way the heartbreak and the trauma that they had for the year after the fiction was crippling. So she's If I had lost him I two parents who helped me with my homework and everything like that. If I had lost a month this might have been difficult to catch up. I mean I can't even imagine the repercussions and and those are repercussions that we will feel for many many many years possibly generations so stabilizing people in their home is imperative right now. The popular solution is rent control. That is a solution that a lot of economists have some problems with but I don't know what to say other than that is the. That is the main solution that is there for people and unless we pass some gigantic tax program. Which probably would be smarter way to do it? That is one of the things we're going to have to engage or it doesn't matter that the people are going to engage. It doesn't matter when I think so. If I could wave my mind I would make it much easier to build housing and I would enact a gigantic program at a federal level to help people who cannot afford the market is currently building is there. Is there any tech solution? So one of the things that I was actually very encouraged by was there was a guy followed through the through the book and he has started a factory and this is happening in various different places where they build buildings really not such as duck a House. They built apartment on an assesment. And it's it's a remarkable thing you go to this factory incident old where they used to make submarine periscopes. So it's very long factor in a naval base old naval base on Mare island and in Vallejo and it starts and there's just this piece of plywood and comes up like a little conveyor belt type thing and then it moves up to a Dali and two guys are below putting in pipes and stuff that it'll be the plumbing and in somebody's up putting flooring and it just goes in twenty two steps by the end. It's this apartment that you're walking around. There's tha everything is there. Besides the water doesn't work and then they stay drive this out on a truck to a site the stock them together like Lagos and then they brought them together and it takes a couple more months to really make the building work but they can actually put the whole building up in like a a day. I was really encouraged by this because the main engine of prosperity for all of human existence has been making it easier to do work whether it's animals pulling your plow or tractors or whatever else and construction has been one of the League are -ticipant. It's one of the least productive industries and so we need to find a way to make it actually much easier and faster to build the building so decent building to a you could have a lot of cheap and I should also say one of the things I love and I know you love this too because I've listened to your show is when people start putting significant money and risk and gumption behind something. That really is an audacious tech. Solutions launched another twitter. It's one of the reasons. Despite is some of his personal kind of quirks. I Love Elon. Musk think if tesla goes bankrupt and this is offered on we at least got a really great battery out of it like the world have have gotten something out of that. Yeah and if all these investors lose money they will still have contributed something and I think the same way about these housing companies that they they're putting a ton of money Behind this big idea and they will figure something out. And that's a great place to be tinkering because it's a place where we actually know that. Productivity is is quite low and if they can start to move that needle it will have a tremendous benefit to the world. I don't know that the world was having such a difficult time efficiently selling ads that we needed to. I mean I'm sure it has become more efficient as one percent more if it you know so I love it when I see people put real money behind ideas that seem more space agey in and there's a better way to build a house there is. I'm spent a Lotta time. I'm a real estate for its wider. When it comes out of the tech when it comes out of the the the phone and into the world I think we all find it. More imaginatively simulating yeah. It's been and there are a lot of solutions. Finish UP IF YOU HAD TO PICK. You know what's going to happen. Each's occurred. Give give me two opposing characters who you think sort of exemplify this fight for housing. Sonya's obviously one of them now. It's funny when I finished this book and I've been doing this tour. There's all these moments where you realize. Oh wait this is what the book is about what you didn't realize as you were writing it which is kind of a terrifying schilling but also something. I've heard is common. You look at cities and most of the land. Mass is single family homes. Those that is the dominating political force is home. It is the dominating geographical force it is the dominating cultural force. If we're going to change the politics changing that dynamic is paramount best. I can tell the only way to do that is to take the. Let's call them the gentrified and the ginger fires and somehow get them on the same side somehow. Get them to create a political coalition. That says we are the ones being left out right now and we need solutions. And you're going to have to share some of the space in the city for us so when I think about two characters that are on the opposing sides of this I think about Sonia and and Barf and its associated Jim Be Movement yes and my backyard and its associated people which are tend to be younger tech people who do fine but are not rich by any means and then I think about the people who are protesting them were worried about that who feel like they're being pushed out of city. Somehow those two groups need to find some kind of common cause because there's no the the the the dominating force of the single family home kind of empire if you will is so large and so powerful that if those two groups spend all their time fixating on each other they will never accomplish anything bouncy American dream right well new dream. I'm not saying we should get rid of the dream. I'm more saying that I think ownership by the way I think ownership is we can't just throw away ownership. What I'm more saying is that we need to have cities that are more dynamic in the space is changing and that sort of thing when you think about movies and you know if you look at sci fi movies the way they portray housing. I spent a lot of time thinking about like what do you I actually the other day I was like do. We need to own houses like because we don't own car. 'cause I'm not owning a car now. I rent a lot of stuff and I was like what about housing. Do we actually have to not just rent. But is there a different way to do renting like that? You'd at everybody doesn't need to own a home because now it's been the. It's the wealth generator now. Also seen though and I think this is why. The tech industry was initially little exhausted by this thing. Is You have to kind of go. Mix It up in local politics at a very micro level and I think for tech executives and this industry that is so global and so large and it crosses cultures is very hard for them to get a revved up about. I'm going to go to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in or the Mountain View City Council. But you're actually that. No Patrick Collison headed straight. Yes that's right. Gave a million dollar the stripe the company given a million dollars to California which is a statewide organization. Germy of course gave all this money to you are actually starting to see. These companies become very thoughtful and active. Not as much as they could be but about the places that they actually are. And Jeff Bezos has done some stuff in Seattle controversial and well but fine. I mean I don't know that. What People in Detroit Day? Two million years ago is not controversy there so fair point I just think and by the way I want to say one thing a lot of times in San Francisco and in other cities tech. But let's just focus on San Francisco for a moment is portrayed as this invading outside force. It's this thing that impose. Oh Mark Zuckerberg. He moved here from Harvard in his imposing himself. That view could not be more wrong. This industry or at least the conditions that created this industry are at least a century old or probably longer and it has been anchored in this region. It has been the primary economic engine for that region for quite some time. And when you look at that region you see institutions Stanford the venture capital Industry Berkeley Kepler's Bookstore. Which is a little bookstore in. Menlo Park where the counterculture met kind of the military industrial complex. You Take Kepler's which is where the grateful dead I think met each other and but then also where a lot of computer people hung out you mix those two things the Military Industrial Complex Park Research Lab and all that and then you mix this kind of counter culture thing you smash those things together. What are you get you get Steve Jobs? And there's so many different impossible to replicate things in this region that are merging kind of this counterculture with this basically military spending but now corporate spending and that is what makes the place the place. Yeah and if it's a Frankenstein it's our Frankenstein. And I think that people try to portray outside thing but it is our thing that's exactly and I just feel like that is so missing and you know what it is. The Mirror image for years and years and years and years decades. You would hear people say oh. We're going to create the Silicon Valley in whatever you don't know hires and it was impossible. It's impossible because of all the things I just said but the flipside is is impossible to get rid of it as well. It is our thing and if you think that that place is exceptional and interesting and special and that it has this wonderful mix of culture and ideas those things there as fundamental to that industry as they are to the culture. I and I I. I get frustrated. Sometimes partly because I'm a native Californian and I'm so aware of this history and how old that industry is that I I just I think people are going to have to reconcile it with it as if it's their uncle their family rather than treating it like. It's this invader right. That is a really good way to put it absolutely California's still greatest place on. I miss it so much when I'm out there. It's really daunting and it's really. There are so many creative solutions that could be brought to bear to this and show away for the rest of the country. I think in lots of ways in terms of how we deal with people living together of different economic levels and how we pull everybody up and it's important that it works in California. That's my feelings. I think so too. I mean I'M A. I'm kind of a local child. You know I'm I'm still very provincial. In my thinking I skateboard I have had the same haircuts until the centers I. I'm I live a couple blocks from my dad and I live in Oakland now so no more but my dad lives in Norway Valley and So I do think that it's funny. People will say where is doing this right and this is a question. I get a lot and I don't have a perfect answer but I kind of say to myself. Well have we ever asked her? So there's a lot of things we did. I couldn't we do this first. Two But you know so. I tend to be optimistic because right now. We're talking about this a lot and we are exhausted by this where the shame we feel walking around and seeing so many homeless people That disappointment we have with our own. Monoculture I think that people are starting to think that there must be a better way and we. It's on us to find. That's a really good way to end. Thank you Connor Connor Dorothy. His Book is about homelessness is about housing. And it's about the way we think of our societies and how we want to build them. It's called Golden Gate's fighting for housing in America. Thanks for coming. You can follow me on twitter at sweatshirt. My executive producer Eric Anderson Eric. America my producer. Eric Johnson is it. Hey Hey. Es J. Connor. Where can people find you and your online? I am at at Connor. Doherty which is C. O. N. O. R. D. O. U. G. H. The RT Y and there is a search engine. Google and if you do Golden Gate's fighting for housing in America you will find it or find a local books you can go to a local bookstore. It's an all sorts of places all right if you like this episode. You really appreciate it if you shared it with a friend and make sure to check out our other. Podcasts PIVOT RESET RICO. Median land of the giants. Just search them in your podcasting APP of choice or Tapa Link in the show notes. Thanks also to our editor Joe. Robbie thank you for listening to this episode of Rico Decode. I'll be back here on Monday tune in then.