Readers React: The discontent among residents of the San Francisco Bay Area
To the editor: The lack of housing in the Bay Area described in Robin Abcarian’s column, and in many other urban areas, is a result of the cities’ failure to regulate business needs to match housing.
The cities have little power to regulate employment directly. However, significant increases in employment usually require new commercial or office buildings or expansion of existing ones and that does come within the cities’ purview.
Environmental impact studies are usually required for significant construction. Currently they cover just about everything that might affect the city except where the employees can live. For the welfare of the city and the employees, the building permits should be contingent on housing availability.
There are no good solutions to increasing housing in built-up cities that are not expensive, traumatic in execution, and result in a forest of high rises like Singapore.
We must accept that the expression “filled up” applies to cities as well as your car’s gas tank.
Richard Rignet, Long Beach
To the editor: Faced with an acute shortage of housing that has driven up costs and caused residents to flee to other states or less expensive places to live in California, San Francisco voters’ knee-jerk liberal response is to vote to provide “free” legal representation for every tenant facing eviction -- to be paid for, of course, by city taxpayers. Or maybe they will now tax the landlords to finance lawsuits against the landlords?
That counterproductive strategy (combined with rent control and other measures that make residential housing an increasingly unprofitable investment) will only make things worse, by driving up costs for landlords and making it even less likely that additional rental housing will be built.
The only beneficiaries will be current tenants, including deadbeats and squatters, who will be able to live rent-free for many additional months while they await jury trials on their evictions and often exact expensive settlements. Those now unable to find affordable housing will not be helped at all and will depart in increasing numbers.
Peter Rich, Los Angeles
It is natural that the nicest places to live will be the first to become unbearably overcrowded as population continues to grow, yet overpopulation was never mentioned as the root cause of all of the problems facing San Francisco.
The proposed fixes to alleviate the symptoms, such as getting rid of environmental protection laws and changing zoning regulations to allow massive home building, may temporarily lower housing prices, but at what cost? Bulldozing the oak- and redwood-covered hills that surround the bay? Tearing down the flats that give San Francisco neighborhoods their charm and replacing them with high-rise apartment buildings?
It is simply not possible for the population to continually grow without serious negative effects on the quality of life for most people.
With continued overall population growth, something else will eventually make people stop wanting to live in the Bay Area. Maybe it will be unaffordable housing, or maybe it will be the destruction of that “extraordinary natural beauty” by over-development.
John La Grange, Solana Beach
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