San Francisco in Crisis as Silicon Valley VC’s Destroy City By The Sea
One-third ponder leaving Bay Area amid costs, congestion
It is so difficult to keep up with the Joneses, especially while navigating through all the gridlock traffic, that a third of Bay Area residents are thinking about clearing out in the next few years.
Housing costs and a lack of availability, high prices in general and traffic topped the list of concerns in the latest of a series of surveys of residents in the nine counties surrounding San Francisco Bay. Optimism was, in fact, pretty hard to find in the poll of 1,000 residents by the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored public policy advocacy group.
“This is our canary in a coal mine,” said Jim Wunderman, president and chief executive officer of the council, which has been pushing, often against the grain of public opinion, for more high-density housing to be combined with more transit options in already developed areas.
Wunderman foresees trouble if nothing is done to ease the crunch.
“We need to act with urgency,” he said about the need for more affordable housing. “We need to act decisively, and we need to act regionally to address the underlying problems of housing and traffic that are causing discontent and aggravation.”
A mass exodus is not likely despite the fact that 34 percent of Bay Area residents said they are strongly or somewhat likely to move out. The poll found that an additional 54 percent of the respondents plan to stay put and 31 percent of those people are adamant about staying in the Bay Area.
Still, a good many citizens are disgruntled. Only 40 percent feel the region is headed in the right direction, and an equal percentage believe it is “seriously off on the wrong track,” according to the poll.
The most optimistic folk also happened to have the highest incomes. San Francisco residents were No. 1 in the region on the glum scale, with 52 percent saying the Bay Area is going off the rails, so to speak.
The pessimism pretty clearly tracks the recent surge in Bay Area housing prices. Last year, 55 percent felt things were heading in the right direction. In 2014, 57 percent were looking on the bright side, the poll said.
And, in case the source of people’s gloom wasn’t clear, pollsters asked folks to list their top three problems. Cost of living got the top score, with 25 percent of residents declaring it the most serious problem. Housing, with 23 percent, and traffic, with 13 percent, were next on the Bay Area’s list of big troubles. In all, 64 percent of residents in the survey identified cost of living, 48 percent named housing and 39 percent ranked traffic among their top three issues.
The trifecta of complaints in 2016 pounded last year’s biggest concern — the California drought — like a heavy El Niño rainstorm. Only 1 percent of Bay Area residents named the lack of water as the biggest problem this year, compared with 24 percent last year.
The results are in line with a previous poll released Wednesday by the Bay Area Council, which also showed a marked increase in concern about the availability and affordability of homes compared with previous years. Curiously, the majority of residents in that poll thought more housing and a better transportation system should be built outside the Bay Area.
Neither Wunderman nor Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, the director of San Francisco’s Housing Rights Committee, agrees with that solution. Sherburn-Zimmer says rent control, tighter eviction controls and more affordable instead of luxury housing would go a long way toward solving the problem.
“San Francisco residents know that when you build luxury housing, rents and evictions in the surrounding neighborhood go up,” she said. “They don’t want whole neighborhoods being bulldozed so you can build housing for the wealthy.”
The survey, conducted between Feb. 12 and March 9 by the Oakland research firm EMC Research, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Survey says: 34 percent of Bay Area residents are ready to leave
Residents of the California’s Bay Area are eyeing the exits, according to a survey by the Bay Area Council.
Some 34 percent of San Francisco-area residents are considering leaving because of high housing costs and traffic, The Mercury News reports.
“We can whine about this, or we can win by solving our traffic and housing problems,” Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, told The Mercury News. “The last time the Bay Area had seemingly solved its traffic problems was the worldwide recession of 2008. A recession is not how we want to solve our traffic and housing problems.”
People who have lived in the area for five years or less are those most likely to start packing their bags, according to the Mercury News report.
Representatives from the Bay Area Council were not immediately available to comment.
The survey, which collected results from about 1,000 residents in the area, also revealed that citizens in the San Francisco Bay are split when it comes to how they think the region is faring. About 40 percent of respondents said that the Bay Area was on the right track, while 40 percent said it was on the wrong track.
“The economic divide in the Bay Area is real,” Russell Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, told The Mercury News. “We will lose low-income earners, and they will be replaced by high earners. We are losing the middle class as well.”