Eastern Neighborhoods Map

A year ago and a decade in the making, the draft Eastern Neighborhoods Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was first published.  As we wrote at the time:

The plan aims to support long-term Planning Department goals such as greater density and housing affordability, and particularly attempts to better define zoning uses, especially for Production, Distribution, and Repair (PDR). The plan sets out three specific plan options. According to the report “…Implementation of any one of the proposed project options would result in more housing options and a broader range of housing prices and rents, compared to conditions under the No-Project scenario.”

Today, the Planning Commission is finally poised to approve said neighborhood plan (1:30 p.m. at Room 400, San Francisco City Hall). And assuming our Board of Supervisors follows suit, say hello to over a hundred new projects and thousands of new homes.

UPDATE (8/8): The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan was passed by the Planning Commission. Next up, the Board of Supervisors with a vote expected by Thanksgiving.

141 thoughts on “Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, It’s Not Just For Policy Wonks Anymore”
  1. I can’t believe they’re only including 7,500 units spread across that entire area. Even with preserving a fair amount of industrial buildings, I’d imagine that they could easily build 50,000-100,000 additional units on numerous vacant lots or derelict buildings.

  2. “No, the term “density” is directly related to the attitude of real estate agents.”
    I think you meant “dense” there.
    “You’re welcome for the grammar tip,” said the r.e. agent.

  3. Zig, I agree and it does make me wonder. Open question for density advocates: SF’s infrastructure can barely support its current population. Doesn’t quality of life suffer as density increases? I’m not being a troll, I’m really asking.

  4. No, I meant density, not dense.
    Either way, you’re the perfect illustration.
    [Editor’s Note: And now on to the Eastern Neighborhoods…]

  5. “Doesn’t quality of life suffer as density increases?”
    An important question and I hope our policy makers are thinking hard on that one.
    I think that QoL improves for a while as density increases. Beyond a certain point it begins to drop off due to overcrowding, lack of air and light, congestion, etc.
    That transitional point may come earlier if the city doesn’t improve and increase services like roads, transit, etc. at the pace of growth. A lag here and there might cause a little transitional pain but that’s OK so long as the city can catch up in time.
    For examples of cities where density grew faster than services and degraded QoL, check out some of the developing world’s capitals : Jakarta, Nairobi, Cairo, Delhi, etc.
    For an example of cities with well balanced density, check out Chicago, Paris, etc. (the city cores, not the suburbs). Hopefully the SF eastern neighborhoods will join the club.
    Mostly in the USA we don’t get density but instead get Houston, Atlanta, LA type sprawl which shows how low density can also produce low QoL.

  6. @Zig:
    Putting more housing along the T line might not be such a bad idea. It would help with the line’s farebox recovery ratio (how much it earns on fares divided by operating costs)
    And doesnt the mission have BART service?
    @ misterplow:
    It depends on how you define quality of life.
    The standard american definition involves big house and big yard with lots of consumption. In that case packing more people into an already crowded space would lower quality of life.
    But if you prefer walkable spaces with lots of stores and interesting urban events and culture, then density can help because it will provide the critical mass of population to support all the services and restaurants and other shops that many folks seem to enjoy.
    Now if only it didn’t come along with the other type of “critical mass”…

  7. Doesn’t quality of life suffer as density increases? I’m not being a troll, I’m really asking.
    no. but one has to build the infrastructure. The problem is that SF is neither willing to build infrastructure, or to plan for appropriate density.
    many of the most liveable cities on earth are far denser than SF, including Paris and Manhattan as example. Much of chicago is also more dense than SF, and is very liveable. (yes, other parts of chicagoLAND are less dense than SF).
    the problem with SF isn’t its density but it has horrific public transportation and a very bad “planning” department.
    for instance: there is no reason on God’s green earth why SF doesn’t have either underground rail, or streets/byways dedicated to rail/bus/public transport.
    there is no reason why SF can’t have more greenery. There is no reason why it can’t deal with the homeless/drug problem (except that there isn’t enough political will). and so on.
    perhaps if SF spent more time putting in infrastructure and less time harboring illegal underage drug cartel members then the city would improve. or if they put in more time planning the overall city layout, and less time “saving” decaying abandoned condemned theatres.
    it’ll never happen of course.

  8. @SFHighrise – 100,000 may be a bit aggressive, and others are right to point out that the current infrastructure can’t handle that kind of population increase.
    But you are right about the current number being shamefully low.
    The confluence of those two issues gives rise to another point – the city is in major need of an upgrade in its transit infrastructure. And I’m not talking light rail or buses, as those make matters worse, not better.
    SF needs an extensive subway system accompanied by a looser noose on development at the city level. With communities as active as they are here, there is no reason to think that looser restrictions on new building that will allow for increased density that can support an EFFECTIVE transportation system will yield disastrous projects that mar what everyone seems to think is a beautiful city (I personally think 2 districts are gorgeous and the rest are in horrible need of a power-wash accompanied by massive gentrification efforts – read: an influx of new capital projects).
    Of course, this will never happen – at least not in my lifetime. After all, it took a DECADE to come up with this mish-mash. Sad.

  9. Tetsuo:
    I agree with you. SF is one of the ugliest cities from street level. It’s got gorgeous hills and the ocean… but on the street level it’s pretty ugly in most parts of the city, even “nice” parts like Noe as example.
    it’s why I’m always on my “trees” campaign. Trees really help to soften the hard concrete etc.
    someone else talked about too much density being a problem, and they are correct. The density you want is NOT necessarily like emerging market countries, or even places like Hong Kong. Instead, a vancouver-like density is “ok” but a Paris/London style density is even better IMO, and also better for the environment than the highrise density styles.
    SF is starting to do some of this. some of the areas are more 5-7 story developments with first floor retail. That can be a good, economical and “green” way to build, especially in a place like SF where AC and heat are largely unnecessary.

  10. Not related to Eastern Neighborhoods, but I do get excited every time I see Josh Switzky’s (planning dept.) teasing diagram depicting a park/open space on the NE corner of Howard and 2nd Streets …. some day, oh yes, some day … 🙂

  11. I agree with much of the above and know very well that we have catch 22 of not enough density to support subways but to much to effectively drive around easily and to have effective bus service
    All I will say about it is I feel ok with more density downtown near BART and around the 3rd street line and 4th and King..
    but I wouldn’t be to keen on it adjacent to the N or the Geary if I was one of the poor souls crush loading every day to take the meager transit service
    There is no leadership on this issue and any improvements will be torn down by the “community process” because they can never please everyone or be perfect. There is no sense of the greater good at all
    Until that all changes and other cities in the Bay Area do their part I am not to keen on a lot more density in much of SF
    I am very curious to see how BRT and the TEP project goes.

  12. This is not a chicken and egg problem. You will never get transit upgrades or expansion without the need first. Unfortunately in this country that need must be at the breaking point, it seems, before anything gets done. But that’s just how it is. So apart from the other benefits it brings and the needs it serves, density is the order of the day. This plan is open to too little in my opinion.
    Right now SF is suffering in a no-man’s land with respect to density: It is dense, just not dense enough. Another poster mentioned Chicago and Paris. In their cores (but over very large areas nonetheless) both cities have 50,000+ per square mile. SF has less than half that.

  13. With the exception of the BART corridor through the city, we are pretty much stuck with light rail as the most intense transit service. I agree that it sucks as a solution for a dense urban city….can’t get more than two car trains, and once they’re on the surface they are hobbled by traffic.
    Answers…further residential densification downtown (the best livability solution is walking, after all!), and intensification of development around BART stations and Muni Underground (market corridor), and to a more limited degree along Muni lines generally. And hopefully, someday, get the Geary line in light rail, and underground through Cathedral Hill.
    But there is never going to be an underground heavy rail system circulating through SF. BART is it.
    And by the way…there is so much opportunity around the Mission BART stations….it’s incredible that essentially nothing has happened for 30 years.

  14. Great point Timosha (re: breaking point). Agree completely.
    Zig – I too am very interested in progress and/or opinions on the TEP – Transit Effectiveness Project. Does anyone have the inside scoop (i.e., will it move forward or be stymied by neighborhood groups)? I am in favor of the TEP changes proposed for my neighborhood but I am sure others are not as supportive.

  15. i was at the presentation of this plan at one of the planning commission meetings and i was shocked at how awesome it is. the plan addresses issues of transit, open space, trees, air, light, street level views, density, safety, and on and on. i thought the plan was extremely forward thinking incorporating new progressive ideas in urban planning.

  16. “East SOMA” looks kind of gerrymandered. And who came up with the presence-lacking name “East SOMA”? Was it chosen to convey the message “…and this is where we put the crap”?

  17. I disagree that SF “needs” to have subways. Although subways are great, SF could have improved public transport in other ways.
    I’ve said this before, but there are several ways to improve public transport.
    My favorite idea (outside of subways):
    create dedicated bus/train/bike streets. These would not have any cars on them, and thus traffic wouldn’t be a problem.
    Imagine if every 10th or 15th block was a bike/train/bus ONLY street. (you could add taxis or motorbikes in if you wish but that could clog things more). In this case, nobody would need to walk more than 5 (or 7.5) blocks to get to good transit. you could cover most of SF doing this. and Public transport would whip by the cars due to reduced clogging.
    there are other cities that have done similar things, some with FAR LESS density than SF. One thing I dislike about SF is that there are few to no dedicated bike ways. Other much smaller cities have streets or pathways dedicated ONLY to biking. it makes commuting by bike a possiblity (a hair-raising adventure in SF to be sure!)
    anyway, it would be a way to get around the expense of an underground.
    of course it will never happen, because any street chosen for this will fight it as they don’t want to lose car traffic, or it would be a neighborhood street that doesn’t want to have busses on it.
    too bad, it would work really well in SF.

  18. “No, I meant density, not dense.
    Either way, you’re the perfect illustration.”
    You used density to describe attitude and that was dense, bruh. Good luck with any and all future anonymous slagging.

  19. of note:
    I’ve discussed my “dream” of public transport-only streets before. Any thoughts from y’all about if it is doable in SF?
    I of course realize that NIMBYism would be the biggest problem. but besides that?

  20. Ex SF-er : I’m sure that you meant that the bus-only streets would allow local property owners to drive on those streets to reach their garages. That should help sate any local concerns.
    You might be surprised to know that many bicycling advocates oppose creation of dedicated bikeways a.k.a. bike paths a.k.a Class I bike facilities. The main reason is that they are very expensive, introduce new and potentially dangerous bike/car conflict zones, and it is impossible to create a comprehensive Class I bike network. There will always be a need for cyclists to mix with traffic.
    Personally I support creation of Class I bike facilities in certain situations where there’s no reasonable alternative.
    An interesting alternative is very similar to what you have proposed for bus-only streets and are known as “bike boulevards”. There are ordinary grid streets that are blocked for car access every few blocks but allow bikes and pedestrians through. For cyclists, these feel very much like Class I bike paths. Residents along bike boulevards love them because they can still drive to their homes (albiet sometimes indirectly) and the automobile traffic and noise on their street is drastically reduced.
    Bryant Street in Palo Alto is a good example of a bike boulevard. These are really cheap projects to implement because 99% of the infrastructure already exists.

  21. ^^^ex-SF-er, NIMBYism (and the need for community input – many things are best left to the experts) is of course the biggest problem. We can’t even eliminate bus stops here without people throwing a fit. Your plan (which closely mirrors my plan, for the most part ;)) is pretty sound, except that you would still have to allow local traffic, as pretty much any block of any street has a garage of some type – this could be prevented for future development, but not for that already there.

  22. I’ve heard Sophie Maxwell toss out the idea of designating an east-west and north-south througway that is relatively flat exclusively dedicated to bicycles. The notion is out there ….
    Thumbs up for TEP …. who am I to say an 18-month study with hard data on usage to back up the recommendations can be wrong about killing or changing routes? If passing it requires a new city-run “Super SHuttle” service for the “hilly” areas, so-be-it … just charge an appropriate usage charge if shuttle service is that important for those neighborhoods.

  23. I very much like the idea of bike boulevards having used them when I lived in Palo Alto. Right now there is talk of adding bike lanes to Cesar Chavez — which I just think would snarl traffic and be an unpleasant place to bike. There is an altnernative proposal to make 26th St. (which runs parallel a block away) a bike boulevard. I think that would be a much better solution for both bikes and motor vehicles. There might be other good locations for bike boulevards in the Mission too.

  24. Thanks guys.
    yes, of course the local traffic to that street could use the street to get into their garages.
    as for bike ways:
    if the street is BIKE ONLY then there are few bike vs motor vehicle issues. In Europe (especially Northern europe) they have many of these. Car accidents vs bikes are rare, as there are literally no cars around to hit you.
    bike lanes are more problematic, but not if it is a FULL car-width bike lane dedicated to bikes again. Minneapolis bike ONLY pathways, and also full-lane bike lanes all over and sees very few problems with them. other cities also have bike-only streets or wide bike-only pathways.
    the small narrow “bike lanes” that are squished to the side of car lanes do have many problems, and I would not advocate those

  25. ex-SFer: Trains in subway tunnels can travel much faster than buses or light-rail on dedicated streets, because there are no intersections and no pedestrians in tunnels. Buses and light rail need to approach intersections slowly and be ready to break at all times in case some nut decides to cross the street as a train is approaching.

  26. quality of life improves in cities when density increases
    more and better transit, retail, dining, cultural institutions, employment, economy

  27. ^^^Subways cost a billion dollars a mile. It’s not that ex-SF-er and others think that subways aren’t better, it’s simple reality. SF is a VERY small city, and decent times could be had for 10 cents on the dollar when comparing to the cost of subways. We could have reliable twenty minute service from the mid-Richmond to downtown for much, much, much less than we could have reliable 10 minute service. Both are a lot better than the current 45 minute (or more) unreliable, sardine can experience.
    It’s all about political will for decent service. Great service would require political will AND gobs of cash.

  28. brutus:
    well said.
    Yes, flaneur, I agree that subways would be fastest/easiest, but I doubt will ever be a go in any substantial sort of way in the Bay Area, at least not in my lifetime. I just don’t see SF ever having the density needed to make that happen in a cost effective manner.
    I’m just trying to come up with viable alternative possibilities to the current fiasco that is SF public transport. it could be a “bridge” step if you will…
    as example, one could set up 5-10 north/south routes and 5-10 East/west routes. Once those are firmly established over the next few decades, then tear them up as density improves and make them an underground transit option.

  29. @ex SF-er: How would you police the “local traffic only” rules?
    Also, certain types of businesses would probably not be interested in bike-only streets (gas stations/auto services, grocers, hotels, restaurants w/ valets, etc.), but maybe it would not be enough of an issue to worry about, but it is somewhat of a drawback.
    For example, Third Street in Santa Monica (or Stroget in Copenhagen for our Euro-posters) are fine as a one-per-city walking plaza-street, but I wonder what would happen if there were 15-20 (or more?) of those across the entire city.

  30. I agree with a lot of the above about impoved transit without subways. We should be doing it but there could easily be a subway on Geary by the standard of Bay Area cost effectivness in transit
    Is the TEP addressing the insufferably long N and J trips (not just frequencies?
    I feel frustrated every time the J stops at a stop sign or takes 10 minutes to move from Market to the tunnel portal. The N is a disaster too in terms of trip time. I won’t even ride to baseball games anymore since it takes an hour and is just awful
    I don’t see any effort to fix any of these physical issues on the existing lines.
    I used to take a few classes and SFSU and really taking the K out there from Noe was just not competitive. I had to drive
    And this region has a 40+ subway stops but unfortunately they are often in places like Concord and Fremont
    Instead of doing something about Geary we are building more subway station at Warm Springs

  31. I think the quality of life is great here, I guess that is why I am not an “ex SF-er.” Transit is pretty good, easily the best on the West Coast.
    There is so much misinformation on this thread, it is hard to know where to begin, but San Francisco is currently planning two subways in SOMA. These things take time and money to build and with the California “car first” approach to infrastructure, San Francisco has to bear much of the cost. We just finished building the T.
    TEP is rolling, the final meetings for MTA Board approval are September 16th. Show up if you support it, we can use all the help we can get. TEP will provide for dedicated bus lanes for a few lines and fewer stops, speeding and improving service.
    I 100% disagree that the planning process is broken. It is because of public participation and civic pride that San Francisco is such a great place to live. If we let the developers rule the roost, we would look like Houston. Look at what they did to the Western Addition.
    Where I do agree is that we need more density, but I am in favor of doing this slowly. Things work well right now, I am not interested in a bunch of big change just for change’s sake. I personally do not like the crushing density of mid-town Manhattan or Tokyo and will fight to keep that from happening here. I can see going up a bit to Paris style density though, as long at it was done carefully, with infrastructure improvements along the way. The world’s great cities took their time and we should, too.

  32. “How would you police the “local traffic only” rules?”
    The same way that red light runners and just about any other traffic violation are policed : observation.
    BTW – I think that Ex SF-er was proposing a network of bus only streets, not bike boulevards.

  33. NVJ,
    I agree with some of your post, for sure, but I’ve been unimpressed with the TEP so far (and I have participated). We’ll see how many of the recommendations are fulfilled – my guess? Not many, and certainly not many of the ones that will actually drastically improve service, because almost all of those can viewed in some way as a reduction in service for others. The only problem that I have with the current process for many things in SF is that, as someone else mentioned above, there isn’t any recognition of “the greater good” at many times.
    As far as the “two subways in SOMA being planned”, one is the bank-busting, sure to be underperforming disaster known as the T, while the other is simply an extension of a commuter line, that while technically a subway, really has more to do with trips going out of SF, not intra-SF trips. Also, it’s worth noting that technically a Geary subway has been “in planning stages” in some way or another (Muni, BART in several different forms) since 1933, so planning something doesn’t always mean that much.

  34. I agree with NoeValleyJim. Try moving here from Phoenix, it’s like night and day. Every city has its problems, but all in all I love it here.

  35. One final thing, if we left planning up to the “experts” we would have seven or eight freeways criss-crossing The City. Thank God for the NIMBYs of the Haight-Ashbury who saved The Panhandle – and the rest of The City by extension. It is “experts” who gave us monstrosities like the old Sunnydale Towers and Embaracadero Freeways. I think a bottom-up planning process is superior everytime.
    The people who have actually put their stake in the ground and bought homes here think that the quality of life is great, just ask a homeowner sometime.

  36. I believe the process is broken. Certainly I appreciate the previous efforts that fought off development in North Beach etc etc. but this has now been corrupted. There is a place for some expertise to mediate competing interests and to have a regional vision. A more balanced process is what we need
    what we have remaining is a process throughout the Bay Area that benefits the entrenched interests and selfish people through highly restrictive zoning and totally strange and political public investments in transportation
    Most other countries that have cities we all admire have top down and regional planning. Cities like Seattle have made great strides with regional planning
    Here we have subways to Concord, a dozen competing transit agencies and almost no regional planning. After 10 years they hardly were able to pass a simple neighborhood plan for Market/Octavia; a central neighborhood in a region of 6 million people! What kind of process is that?
    San Francisco is ok because it is old city with some old transit tunnels and the region is blessed with some geographic advantages but really since the Market Street tunnel has anything been done worth a damn in SF related to transit? Has the region done a good job of providing middle and lower income people with fair access to jobs and housing with its planning? The status quo is bottom up planning and I don’t see how it can possible avoid parochial interests

  37. NVJ- how can you consider what the merchants on Geary are doing – everything they can to keep the status quo – no change, period. I won’t patronize restaurants on Clement and Geary any longer because of it. I don’t understand how the people who are crammed onto the 38 day in and day out don’t clamor for ANYTHING better. Instead they let the merchant class rule the roost.
    I love SF but I really REALLY dislike community-based planning. It leads to nothing but tire-spinning and design-by-committee-itis. I honestly hope that as the current NIMBY generation fades into retirement that the next generation realizes how badly the current one in SF has screwed things up. Unfortunately, the current relatively young Board of Supervisors is continuing down the same path. Maybe the young 20-somethings now coming out of college will be different.
    I agree with Zig – the freeway revolts were a wonderful thing but that kind of community involvement has since metastasized into a process-obsessed beast at the expense of results or progress. One only has to look at the groups in the Mission who are trying to preserve manufacturing zoning in the hopes that San Francisco will suddenly change from a service economy back to a manufacturing one. Delusional.
    Chicago appears to do it right. Process is not as important as results and it shows. Modern highrises downtown that real people can afford, a transit system equal or better than ours, a booming economy. If it weren’t for that darn weather….

  38. Doesn’t Chicago have double the murder rate of SF, a notoriously corrupt political culture and one of the most segregated cities in America? And in general, top down planning in America leads to disasters like Las Vegas. In Europe, they followed the lead of people like Le Corbusier and ended up with some of the worst Soviet-style slums in the world. Here we could do regional planning better, no doubt, especially when it comes to transit, but most of our problems stem from suburban obstructionism. I don’t know what you could do about that, other than appoint a hopefully benevolent dictator.
    The young 20-somethings will works their asses off, save every penny they can, buy a place and then not be in a big hurry to screw up a good thing. Those that can’t hack it will leave and go somewhere else where the competition is not as intense. I came here 20 years ago with nothing but an admission letter to the UC and a GI Bill in my pocket and made it just fine. You can too, if you work hard and sacrifice.
    And why *should* the entrenched interests screw up a perfectly good thing for newcomers? California has grown too fast as it is over the last 50 years: if anything we should make it even harder for people to move here. We wouldn’t have this problem if the United States would enforce its immigration policy, but I won’t go there.
    As you said, the proof is in the pudding and over the last 20 years San Francisco has gotten cleaner, safer, with better schools and neighborhoods and wealthier with a much more educated population. If that is a disaster, I want more of it.

  39. San Francisco is just as corrupt as any other big city – weak argument.
    Crime rate I concede but like most 21st Century American cities, the crime is typically concentrated in certain neighborhoods while others are as safe as 1957 Mayberry. SF is no different.
    You ignore the top-down planning successes like Portland and Vancouver.
    You honestly say that having to send your kids to crazy-expensive private schools is “better schools”?
    The City is filthy and has gotten dirtier in the 10 years I’ve been here. All the natives I talk to tell me it was MUCH cleaner in the 70s.
    Socketsite is full of commenters bemoaning the sorry state of architecture in SF. Most everyone agrees it’s because of the broken process-oriented community involvement at the most basic levels. Can you defend that?
    There is a balance to be struck and SF is out of balance. Everyone says “But we can’t let the developers run everything!” I say it’s just as bad to let citizens not trained in urban and regional planning run everything, too. You mention a more educated population – why are all those educated people completely unable to do anything for the common good? It’s all about Me Me Me. That addition your house blocks MY view. The TEP project takes away MY bus stop. A light rail line down Geary means *I* can’t park in front of my house during construction. That beautiful piece of public art is ugly to *ME* so no one can enjoy it.

  40. A majority of San Franciscans send their kids to public schools, including most of the people on my block. I intend to do the same.
    Anyone who tells you that San Francisco was cleaner or safer in the 70s is suffering from nostalgia. Ask anyone who remembers what Haight Street was like in the 70s. Look up the crime rates for the 70s. It was *much* less safe.
    San Francisco is known world-wide for its beauty and yet you claim that it is filthy. I think you are suffering from a touch of nostalgia yourself. The Mission, SOMA and even the Tenderloin are clearly cleaned up from what they were a decade ago. What specifically has gotten filthier? The BART trains are dirtier, that is the only thing I can think of.
    San Francisco does tons of things for the commonweal, in the last two elections we voted ourselves tax increases to improve the public parks and increase starting salaries at the public schools. And we have the most generous public mental health facilities in the region, partially because no one else will do their fair share. But no one is goring your particular ax, so you claim it is “unfair.”
    I will bet you that TEP gets passed essentially unchanged from its present form. I will also bet you that within a year or two after that, we will have a BRT lane on Geary Blvd and people will wonder how anyone thought it was a bad idea. And if you or I were Emperor, it would have happened yesterday. But we aren’t, and in the long run, that is a good thing.

  41. My Mom, from Alabama, while absolutely loving the views and the cool summer weather, always comments on how stinky and filthy our streets are, particularly downtown. I hear similar stories from European friends and from NYC friends. I have to dodge human waste on a daily basis and I really don’t recall having to do that when I moved here.
    In the end, we must agree to disagree. I honestly and truly believe there is a thing as too much community input and that SF is out of balance in that regard. When single individuals or small groups of like-minded people can block things that objectively will help the entire city then there is a problem.

  42. Ah, the old “human waste” canard. Tell you what, next time you see some human waste, take a picture of it for me and put it on your website, so I can see this thing that all these Socketsite readers keep talking about, but I can’t seem to find anywhere. I walk in SOMA every work day and often go to the Tenderloin for Pho but somehow I have only seen human waste once. That was the time I went to visit a friend living in an alley off 6th St. I am sure that if I went looking for it, I could find it, probably in the same alley, but someone who encounters it on a regular basis is either a homeless outreach co-ordinator, lives in a really bad part of the TL or SOMA or perhaps confuses our ubiquitous dog poo with human poop.
    Our streets are fine. We have an unusually large and visible mentally ill and homeless population, but that is because ever since Reagan booted all the mentally ill out of the State Hospitals they have had no place to go. Most communities literally beat them and run them out of town, but we are more tolerant. Hard to reconcile that with your claim that most everyone here is selfish. I guess we could be like LA and keep everyone in a tiny part of town where no one would ever see them.

  43. Not to be snarky but the human waste is a major problem. I saw it twice in the same block around folsom and ninth. That was on Tuesday I believe. I would move to Soma in a heart beat, it has everything but unfortunately right now it has too much. I gagged (literally gagged) walking past it. The smell of human poo is the worst poo there is. Humans are filthy nasty pigs.

  44. Don’t get me wrong, if human waste is ubiquitous, it is a serious health problem. Maybe we need more public toilets.

  45. Chicago can’t be doing everything right, or you would live there. Or are you an empty suit beholden to your corporate job with no choice in life? Either way you appear kind of dull in your arguments because of this.

  46. The human waste problem caused by what is now San Francisco’s infamous population of street people, many with mental conditions that would receive care in most modern countries, is a reason many still only buy property on the north side of the city. Like Eric, it seems to become the continual subject of my visiting friends who both like the city, and at the same time, are horrified by the conditions they encounter here. What San Franciscans need to understand is many city dwellers throughout the world would NEVER put up with this.
    I live in the Marina by choice, but still find the most interesting shops and restaurants and people are on the south side of town, but, I just still don’t feel comfortable living in the conditions that currently exist down there. I don’t like hearing people screaming at the moon at 2 in the morning, and I don’t like finding poo in my driveway the next morning (which I used to do when I lived on Chattanooga Street in Noe Valley).

  47. Why do we need to understand what many city dwellers throughout the world would or would not put up with? Instead of just complaining, perhaps you could suggest a solution.
    I remain skeptical of all these claims of ubiquitous human poop from anonymous sources. Call me crazy that way, but I need proof and I have lived here 15 years and not really seen any. I honestly suspect that these people who “see” poop everywhere have some kind of unresolved Freudian issues.

  48. NVJ:
    My issue with SF’s ‘beauty’ isn’t the human poop (I agree with you, I don’t often see human waste on the sidewalks, but I do often times smell a lot of urine, but that might just be sewer let-off).
    It’s the actual look of the city. When people talk about SF’s beauty, they in general don’t mean the streetscape itself. They mean that it is beautiful looking out over the city from Twin Peaks, and they love the hills and the Ocean and Marin and Napa/Sonoma and the beauty of the Bay Area Geography.
    I, and many of my peers find SF from the street to be not so attractive. By that I don’t mean dirty per se… it’s more just the overwhelming amount of run down buildings and concrete.
    I’ve previously shown pictures of other dense urban cities, and how pretty they can be. I honestly think the #1 reason why these other cities are so much prettier than SF is due to trees… it softens the look.
    for example:
    go to google maps, and type in 486 Belden, Chicago IL and then go to the “street view” and look down the street. (This is the Lincoln Park neighborhood, a very nice area of Chicago with condos/townhomes that can cost $500k to $5M)
    you can look at 1432 N cleveland ave or 1422 N hudson in Chicago. this is a hood (comparable to the bad parts of the Mission as example). Lots of public housing etc. it is gentrifying, so these exact blocks could (I have no idea) be gentrified now, but the area has traditionally been slums as recently as this decade. (the infamous cabrini green neighborhood).
    or go to 450 w 47th st in Manhattan and look at the street view. (I have no idea what sort of neighborhood that is, I chose it at random, I assume it is a nice neighborhood, but I don’t know if it is rich or upper middle class or uber rich). This is “Hells Kitchen” and my understanding is that it’s not a super nice area, but I could be wrong, it may have gentrified.
    wander around those streets for a while at random.
    then compare it to pictures of Noe Valley on 24th, one of the “primo” neighborhoods in SF.
    this is what I mean by SF being a very ugly city from the street.
    In general, many people think like me: SF has beautiful (possibly unparalleled) geography, it’s a wonderful city, but not so nice on the street.
    of course there are nice areas (on the street) in SF itself. some areas of Pac Heights and Seacliff and Cow Hollow. But those areas are a rarity for the city IMO, and tend to be restricted to the rich neighborhoods. and they’re not nice where the average person walks around… just around the $20M mansions.
    and this is why I constantly rage about trees. SF would be one of the most beautiful cities on Earth if there were trees. But half the time I talk about trees people say stupid things like “there are no rooms for Trees!” and “trees are so haaaarrrddd to maintain” and “trees will tear down the power lines and rip up the concrete”. but then I look out my window, where each tree is surrounded by concrete, but has less than a 4 ft diameter opening. and these are big trees. And my street is green and beautiful. and then I remember when I lived in Inner sunset (my 2nd fave neihborhood) and how my block (3rd ave) was one of the few that had any trees in my neighborhood.
    and then I think about how I just walked all the way from Market up to 24th street (because only ONE J church train came that whole time and it was packed full of people), and how few trees there were. and how concrete-y it was. and then I marveled that this is “prime” SF real estate (I know why it is prime, and I agree it has become prime… it’s just surprising when you actually LOOK at the place).
    SF if a great city. But it sorely needs better public transport, and sorely needs more trees. It also needs a change in the way the zoning/planning is done. You of course like it because you got yours. but heaven forbid if anybody else wants to tear down a decrepit mouldy old death-trap theatre. Or a falling down rotten old ugly house. or renovate THEIR OWN house.
    nobody is asking for it to be like phoenix or SoCal. Or even Chicago or Paris. just asking for what I feel are reasonable changes.

  49. and FWIW:
    to see “my vision” of what SF “should” be like. Go to google maps and type in
    “noe st/henry st, san francisco”
    and when you get there, go into the middle of the intersection, and look SOUTH. (the address at the top should say “noe st/henry st”)
    Look how beautiful this is. It is San Francisco, and it is gorgeous.
    and take a minute to look at how much Real Estate each tree takes up.
    I personally think we have too much “SF is perfect, love it or leave it” mentality. Yes, I love SF. Yes, I left it for my own personal reasons. No, I couldn’t care less if you stay or leave. Yes, I still love the city.
    And yes, I see lots of “problems” with the city and I have lots of improvements that I think would better the city. This is due in part by my experience of LEAVING the city and seeing what WORKS WONDEFULLY elsewhere and understanding that SOME (not all) of those things could be incorporated into the future SF without losing SF’s “uniqueness”.

  50. “This is due in part by my experience of LEAVING the city “.
    I think this is the key statement. I call it leaving the bubble. I own property in the Marina, one of which is my home, but both are now currently rented while I work developing a new office for our firm in Chicago. I used to think nowhere on earth compared with San Francisco, but on frequent trips back home, I am shocked how different it all looks to me now. I remember that Mayor Newsom brought the entire senior staff to Chicago to see what a well run city looks like. WIll the lessons be learned? Not when you have people fire back with stupid statements about weather or culture that have nothing to do with a discussion about urban planning. Frank Lloyd Wright said that San Francisco was a shanty town built on stunning hills overlooking a beautiful bay. If it were not for the natural setting, San Francisco would be feel more like Indianapolis to me.

  51. There are plenty of beautiful neighborhoods other than the ones you mentioned: Forest Hill, St. Francis Wood, Ingleside Terrace, most of Glen Park, parts of Duboce Triangle, etc. Go to 462 Magellan or 164 Noe if you don’t believe me. Also, one thing that is uniquely San Franciscan is how pretty much every hill top is occupied by a park: in most urban areas, it has some rich person’s mansion. Here the best views are reserved for the public. A lot of San Francisco’s beauty comes from its views but also from the justly famous painted Victorians. I know they are often dismissed here, but many neighborhoods are full of beautiful buildings.
    But I agree with you about the trees and we aren’t the only ones:
    SPUR had a whole issue about how the sidewalk zone could be improved, primarily by removing all the curb cuts and by planting more trees. The Sunset is particularly bad in this regard. I really don’t know why there aren’t more trees there: I suspect it has something to do with the weather and the fact that most trees here require watering, which is not something most renters are going to do. There is a group called Friends of the Urban Forest who is planting trees everywhere and in about 20 years, there efforts should pay off. Planting trees is a relatively small and uncontroversial change though.
    The biggest changes I would like to see are to make The City more pedestrian friendly and less auto centric: fewer curb cuts, wider sidewalks, more bulb outs, slower moving traffic on the streets with more lanes dedicated to transit and bicycles. But every change in this direction is met with howls of protest from car drivers. We *are* slowly moving in that direction: witness all the new bicycle lanes and the transformation of the waterfront from a horrid elevated freeway to what it is today.
    Most of the planners and architects who regularly comment here want to rip out our current built environment and replace it wholesale with whatever the trend du jour is in planning circles these days. I think it is Smart Growth this decade. I say, go ahead and let them prove their ideas first, which they are getting the opportunity to do in SOMA and China Basin. If it works out there, perhaps we can do more of the same in other neighborhoods.
    I have visited cities all over the world, though I have to admit I don’t do much travelling there days. I would really like to see Vancouver, since so many are impressed with it and perhaps visit Chicago again, which I have not seen since my youth. I am sure we can learn a lot from other places. The perhaps sad truth is that I more open to trying new things here than your average resident. At least I am a SPUR member and read Socketsite. Most San Franciscans seems to have reflex adverse reaction to change of any kind.

  52. The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan was passed by the Planning Commission, but “final passage of the plan as it now stands [by the Board of Supervisors] is no sure thing.”
    From Supervisor Aaron Peskin: “There are a shared set of goals in this plan, but the devil is in the details, and the details are all over the map.”

  53. Being from Chicago and now living in SF, there really is no way to say that the streets of SF are anything but disgusting compared to Chicago. SF has a major problem with how to keep itself clean, and yes tourists comment on it regularly, I find it shameful.
    That being said, the discussion around city planning is an interesting one. Top down, or bottom up, and there really are arguments on both sides. The reality is that top down works way better if the person/committee at the top is doing it the right way and has a grand vision that is carefully thought out (and even more so if it is what you personally want). You can argue that Mayor Daley in Chicago is such a force (many argue he is terrible for the city’s poor residents). However, when the top is not well intentioned and part of the developer network of campaign donations, you can have some flawed ideas get through to enrich developers, and that screws the city as a whole. It is a risk reward argument, but the way politics is corrupted, it is a pretty nice hedge to have an active community to fight developer wants (which is to make the most money, not to beautify the city).
    That being said, there is probably too much of an obstructionist population right now that not enough good ideas are happening rapidly enough, but those that want to put more control in the hands of the few might be very disappointed to see where that goes.

  54. Anonandback, & Ex-SF,
    Add me to those connected to Chicago who argue for much needed change in SF planning. IMO, Chicago has much less natural beauty, but other than the WEATHER, much more livability.
    The difference in quality of life is because of more sensible real estate prices, stemming from better zoning and lack of rent control, and very good public transportation.
    SF is becoming a city divided between the very wealthy and the poor. Without some fundamental changes, the situation will only get worse.
    I would urge any SFers to visit Chicago in the Summer when street life is humming, preferably when either Bluesfest or Jazzfest is being held near Millennium Park. Your eyes will be opened.

  55. NVJ:
    Yes, I agree there are beautiful parts of SF. As example, you brought up Duboce triangle (my favorite neighborhood). And I agree, that’s why I put a google map up for Duboce triangle (Henry and Noe is Duboce triangle area). that is my “vision” for SF. it’s also why I struggle to see the premium for Noe valley, which IN MY OPINION is concrete and ugly. (of course you disagree, and that’s what makes life fun!)
    and my goal isn’t to knock SF so much as to simply point out areas of needed improvement.
    the frustration that I often have is hearing people claim that SF is the best (or near best) in almost every category, including categories where it’s either mediocre or bad.
    I guess an anology would be Michael Jordan. He was the best player in the league for a long time but played NO defense. Other people commented on this. Chicagoans said “oh yeah, he’s the best player!” And he was. But not on defense. Then later in his career he became one of the best defensive players ever. And then suddenly he was not just the best player in the league, but arguably the best player of all time.
    SF to me is like MJ without defense. Yes, it has GREAT areas, and has GREAT topography and geography, but it sorely needs better planning, better public transport, better trees and streetscape to send it to that next level (like a Manhattan or Paris or Tokyo).
    but my criticisms don’t mean I don’t believe it’s a fantastic city (just as MJ was a fantastic player without Defense).

  56. You can check out lots of part of Manhattan and not see trees. 450 is at 10th; try 5th, 6th, or Broadway. No trees at all, some scaffolding. While I could choose any front set-back neighborhood in SF and see tons. Also, we have real back yards that sets us apart as well.
    I agree that Noe and the Mission need more trees. But that is part of planning now, and part of this plan.

  57. @ex-SFer:
    The block you referenced (47th between 9th and 10th) is in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen (previously known as Clinton). I lived at 45th and 9th for a year. It was a tough neighborhood decades ago, and is now one of the last neighborhoods in lower Manhattan that looks anything like it did back then. It’s almost as gentrified as Chelsea now. There are many tiny businesses and restaurants along that stretch of 9th. A few blocks downtown or West and things are not nearly as nice; you have Port Authority, the Lincoln tunnel, and the large semi-industrial area along the train tracks around 11th.
    The streets between 9th and 10th in that area are tree-lined, calm, and beautiful. You’re three blocks from Times Square and a short walk from Columbus Circle. The location is fantastic. Within a few years the whole area will have joined Chelsea in the Hideously Expensive category. As it was me and my wife lived in a 270 square foot 1 bedroom apartment that looked out on a brick wall. If you opened the window during daylight hours the fry vent from a nearby restaurant blew into the apartment.
    I still miss it sometimes.

  58. More importantly this new plan sucks, and will get worse at the board. It is another fake helpful effort for low income at the expense of development.
    15% low income in the buildings, fine that’s been set. Add $10/sq.ft. on all footage for a low income fee. Including on the low income units. Add $4/sq.ft. pipeline fee on all residential. Goes to planning commission if it’s over 48ft., nothing higher than 85 ft. on triffic cooridors. Why build density on the BART line? That would be stupid.

  59. sorry David Q.
    I honestly know little about Manhattan. I literally just put the cursor down on google maps randomly, and then later found out that it was hells’ kitchen.
    I just knew I wanted to avoid the upper east/west side, and the west village because I know those are “fancy” parts of town. (I was trying to show that “regular” Manhattan neighborhoods have trees… that’s why I chose Cabrini green in chicago… also gentrifying but nowhere near “posh”)
    a while back I walked from the Financial District all the way up to the Upper West side, then through the park to the upper east side, then down all the way to Grand Central Station. And I was amazed at how green Manhattan was compared to SF.
    I have only been to Manhattan like 5-6 times, so don’t know it well.

  60. Sorry bad analogy
    Jordan was a great defense player.
    Defensive Player of the Year (1988); Nine-time All-Defensive First Team (1988-93, 1996-98)
    The man was maybe analogous to a planning utopia

  61. Quality of life suffers when you have a city of a hole unhappy bitter residents. Reading this board it would seem 70% of the city fits this category. Time to ship all the transplants back to vanilla world.

  62. NVJ – Give me a f*ing break. Things are great for you because you live in Noe Valley, have access to Bart, and work in clean area of downtown/Soma. You don’t have to deal with the bums and street people that others deal with in other neighborhoods. You DON’T have public housing in your neighborhood!!! Check out most of the neighborhoods around NV. They Do! You don’t have Chris Daly or Tom Ammiano as your supervisor, pushing for more public housing in your backyard. You don’t have gangs acting tough in your streets. You don’t have the garbage and the graffiti that other neighborhoods have. You don’t have to deal with the 38 Geary as the other posters pointed out.
    Please don’t tell me that SF as a whole is operating so great and the planning process is working. Please also don’t tell me to move.
    I love SF for the weather, access to creative jobs, access to ocean/mountains and of course, the creativity/forward-thinking of the people that live here. I have lived in Manhattan, Chicago and SF. I love the vibrancy of living in a city. As for cities – I MUCH prefer Manhattan and Chicago. They are incredibly cleaner, more beautiful, safer and they make it trivially easy (and cheap) to get around on public transportation. Due to expedited planning and “building-up”, Chicago is actually affordable.
    Human poop!!! I live blocks outside of Noe Valley and we have had human poop behind our garbage cans twice! Try cleaning that up before you head off to work.
    I think that we need more planning for the public good and the future of the city. You are scaring me because you are sounding like some 70 year-old Pac Heights grandma pushing to preserve her neighborhood so it stays “exactly the same” as when she bought it for 40K 30 years ago.
    I think more of us need to take the view that “we are all in this together” and work towards the big ideas that are going to take this city to the next level. I would love it if most of the neighborhoods were safer and cleaner and walking home from Downtown SF meant walking through diverse (and safe) neighborhoods. I used to walk home from downtown Chicago and lower Manhattan. It would take hours but it was awesome and I never felt fearful and never had to worry about stepping on a sleeping street person.
    This city is so far away from its potential.
    It could be SO MUCH BETTER!! I am trying to maintain some faith that in the next few years we will get some real visionaries on the Board of Sups. People that will balance all interests to make this city great (then let’s see how much your real estate will be worth – btw)

  63. I can agree with ex-SF-er about the relative lack fo trees here, though I also agree with NVJ that it is getting much better, and there are already a lot of areas with loads of trees. (the entire Lake/Sacramento St corridor comes to mind – yes, mostly high end, but it allows a four to five mile walk with tons of trees). I have been impressed by the number of new trees planted over the past year, especially in the Richmond. I was out near 18th/Clement a few days ago and noticed new trees (10-20) planted on each side of every block. If there weren’t so many damned curb cuts, there could be even more trees.
    I stick by my assessment of the transit system in this town though. There is very little regional coordination (at times the agencies blatantly work against each other, rather than just not coordinating things) and there is a level of incompetence at basic things (like signage) and complex things (like building a light rail line that one and a half years after opening is still significantly slower than the bus that it replaced) that is unheard of in other cities of similar density (I refuse to believe that we have a “good” system by comparing us to most of America. Most of America is not as old or dense as SF, so transit here should only be compared to like cities).
    The transit here is mostly bad because of a lack of political willpower to make changes that would help things (union concessions are the biggest, though simple elimination of some stops and priority for light rail to not stop at stop signs are some as well). We could have an excellent system (even “world class”) without digging another subway, but it would take cooperation from labor, special interest groups (those that refuse to give up stops or consolidate lines), and most importantly – car owners.

  64. NoeValleyJim: visit the URL below my post for a local’s photo blog. It has human feces on a daily basis. Might not be suitable for work…
    Anyway, the transportation here sucks. For a big city we sure lack anything quick to get around town on.

  65. wow sf… nice argument.
    Let’s see here: quality of life suffers… when you have unhappy residents. wow, that is astonishing! what else do you have for us? “quality of life is improved when everyone is happy?” Or “if everyone were happy there would be no sadness?”
    I doubt shipping all the transplants out will help, because a lot of the people who aren’t 100% happy with SF were born/raised there.
    and I hate to tell you this: but SF is progressively becoming “vanilla” itself. The “approved” vanilla architecture, the Starbucks on every corner, the people in their Uggs boots and True Religion jeans shopping at Saks 5th avenue and Macy’s and Tiffany’s. A Gap and now a Ben and Jerry’s on Haight/Ashbury. How is that different than Dallas again?
    SF is a far cry from it’s heydey back in the late 1960’s 1970’s. In some ways SF is becoming “southern californianized”. it is nowhere near as “edgy” as it once was, and much (not all) of the rest of vanilla america is nowhere near as vanilla as it once was. times change. people change. places change.

  66. Yes, I appreciate your comments ex SF-er because you engage in constructive criticism, instead of just relentless slagging. There is no doubt that we can and should keep some of our sidewalks cleaner. I was just noticing how dirty the block
    of 24th just north of the BART station on Mission is on my walk to work. But I think that when most people say SF is dirty, they are simply referring to the homeless.
    I think that we need more planning for the public good and the future of the city.
    Everyone thinks that. It is just that we do not agree what the future of the city should look like.
    I spent a decade living in The Panhandle in a big shared house well into my 30’s, going without a car and scrimping and saving every penny to put together a down payment. I rode the 21 Hayes every day, which is much less reliable than the 38, and walked through what was a pretty scary SOMA back then to get to work, especially at night. So you won’t get any pity from me on how hard your life is. San Francisco is hard on newcomers, especially those who show up penniless.
    At least once a week I walk from Noe Valley to my office in SOMA and have never been hassled or threatened or seen any human poop or anything like that. Yeah, I see homeless people all the time. What is your proposal for dealing with the homeless?
    If you want to convince people to shared your vision of The City, you have to explain how it is going to make their lives better, not just whine about how hard you have it. The main reason I am in favor of more density at all is because I recognize that a certain amount of population growth in inevitable and I know that every SOMA high rise saves some farmland in Tracy, as well as keeping all those people off the freeways.
    Now, regarding the Eastern Neighborhood Plan, how long are these general plans good for? Ten years? 7500 over the next decade seems about right for this area to me. Add in the 6k for Treasure Island, the 10k in the Hunter’s Point plan, the 3k or so in the Transbay terminal, the 20k in the Stonestown plan, plus whatever is left to build out in Rincon Hill and China Basin – I am going to guess another 10k or so. That adds up to 56k new units, plus a few thousand as neighborhoods infill and you are talking 60k units. Put in an average of 2.5 people per dwelling and that adds up to 150 thousand or a 20% increase from today and puts us at about 1M people.
    How long is this all going to take? Probably 20 years. That is enough growth for me. Even to handle this, we are going to have to spend billions on upgrading the transportation infrastructure and I don’t know if we have the political will to do it. Let’s see how the TEP thing goes.
    I don’t know why the plan is so focused on holding on to things like Auto Body Repair shops, this seems like a stupid use of land that is so close to jobs and has good transit connections in place. I guess they have to go somewhere, but right in the middle of the city?

  67. NoeValleyJim the plan seems reasonable to me as well and a good outcome of process of compromise but this is only round 1 of our process in this town. The compromise will never statisfy some and they are ready to take drag this on and on
    Already today the BOS and housing advocates are discussing their dissatisfaction with the level of afforability (they wanted something like 65% irrationality) and the fees for infastucture not being sufficient
    Apperently planning has report that shows any more exaactions from builders will make projects infeasible (simple logic anyway) but then this is just “experts” taking and not the “community”. It isn’t about trying to built middle income housing here
    We’ll see how many units actually come out of all of this and when and what type

  68. NVJ – I disagree with some of your points:
    “I 100% disagree that the planning process is broken”
    The planning department has approved the eastern neighborhood plan. It now goes to the board of sups where it will be altered and changed and turned into something else. The board of sups are not urban planners and there is not, to my knowledge, any parameters on their power.
    “Socketsite readers keep talking about (human waste), but I can’t seem to find it anywhere”
    I am thankful that you have not had to clean-up poop on your property. I am not sure how you have missed the human waste in your walks across the city. I am surprised that you have not smelled urine on our city streets (I find that it is very common). I think when people are talking about filth – they are talking about garbage, homeless and graffitti and these are not solved by planning but are addressed by policies of our local government.
    “The people who have actually put their stake in the ground and bought homes here think that the quality of life is great, just ask a homeowner sometime.”
    I am a homeowner as are many of my friends/neighbors. Many of us want to see improvement. Many of us are frustrated. You really should visit Chicago or NYC, in my opinion. Compare central park to GGP Park. Check out the lakefront of Chicago. Walk from central park all the way down to SOHO. See how many times you see garbage, graffitti, homeless or drug users (that you will encounter in the union square shopping district and any corner of the ‘loin). Admire the greenery of Chicago. How did Chicago and NYC beautify their city and solve their homeless problem?
    I am most disturbed by your focus on “entrenched interests” and defense of NIMBYism. The whole “I got mine” slant to your posts is very troubling to me. The same mentality is what gave us prop 13 and the chronic underfunding of our education and infrastructure.
    I am not an urban planner and I don’t have the answers but there seems to be a great deal of successful urban cities from which to model.

  69. Many posters here appear to be working backwards from their entrenched conclusions, but this is still a useful thread. Thanks everyone!
    NV Jim/Jim A. – You’ve been making excuses for SF since I knew you over 15 years ago (recall I randomly figured out who you were from your handle here, and your posts, and I have not known you for 7 years). You are very monolithic to say the least, hardly as open-minded as you claim above (otherwise, your points of view would have changed *somewhat* over those years, making it impossible for me to pick out your posting “signature”).
    Maybe you are correct, but you are clearly filtering your reality (that’s fine, but why?), and it’s pretty clear lots of folks disagree!
    The good news is that no degree of poor planning/bad transit can destroy SF’s natural beauty and weather — and conversely, improve Chicago/NYC weather, so for now, I’m staying in the bay area 🙂

  70. @ ex SF-er
    Your comment below goes to the very heart of what impedes progress in what is supposed to be a very progressive city.
    “SF is a far cry from it’s heydey back in the late 1960’s 1970’s. In some ways SF is becoming “southern californianized”. it is nowhere near as “edgy” as it once was, and much (not all) of the rest of vanilla america is nowhere near as vanilla as it once was. times change. people change. places change.”
    This is so true, and so sad in some ways. That San Francisco cannot be considered a “capital” of anything of great import these days is extremely striking given how important it once seemed. It isn’t in any way significant to “the culture.” It isn’t the center of technological innovation (try 45 minutes south). It isn’t a gastronomic capital – Napa, Sonoma and even Berkeley have had greater impacts on the world in that arena. It isn’t the center of any aspect of the green movement, and isn’t, despite its best efforts, a very green city. It isn’t even the financial capital of the west coast (try L.A.). Instead, San Francisco is a model of self-congratulatory waste.
    I tend toward extreme cynicism on the issue, but my uncamouflaged take is that this place is a massive waste of extraordinary potential. For all the rah-rahing about “public participation” and “civic pride,” this is just an ugly city built upon some of the most beautiful land in the world.
    I have lived in Chicago, Tokyo and New York. None have the natural bounties of this place. And all three enable mass-access to extraordinarily high levels of QoL to their residents that San Francisco can’t even come close to matching. The “highs” in all four places are somewhat similar, sure. But the lows here are worse, and are worn with a pride that makes me sick. And the middles aren’t even close.
    Let’s try a little harder not to be the pot that call’s the kettle black, shall we? No one was asking for your sympathy, and it doesn’t behoove you to call someone nostalgic while trying to defend your lifetime of sacrifice living in the city’s bowels in order to finally emerge triumphant in your Noe Valley abode (all admirable) by singing platitudes about what is fundamentally a very dirty, very decaying city.
    And on the subject of the “human waste canard” – I walked out my front door yesterday morning to the sight of a very crazy, very filthy, and very naked from the waist down man taking a shit in the middle of the street. I live two blocks from the Pier 39 / Fisherman’s Wharf area. So there you go.

  71. I would love to live in the central waterfront area. It is sunny and warmer and of course has a waterfront. of course there are a few caveats before i would consider:
    1) it needs to be cleaned up (wreked ships, woddchip factory?, toxic waste)
    2) more development and density
    3) homeless sweep
    4) sweep of all those RVs that people lvie in around the neighborhood

  72. All right I don’t have time for another hour long missive as I am supposed to be at work, but I wanted to answer this one particularly:
    your points of view would have changed *somewhat* over those years, making it impossible for me to pick out your posting “signature”
    I have changed quite a bit on the development angle alone in the last 15 years. I used to be much more pro-development before I bought my home, perhaps not surprisingly. I have also switched from The Green to Democratic Parties and become more moderate in a whole bunch of ways. The truth is, I am a middle-of-the-road SF voter on most issues, like it or not.

  73. TetsuoTrees –
    I like this line, “The ‘highs’ in all four places are somewhat similar, sure. But the lows here are worse, and are worn with a pride that makes me sick…”
    Do you think that is true? Do you think that people really take pride in our “grit”? Or do you think people feel powerless to do anything about it?

  74. I am most disturbed by your focus on “entrenched interests” and defense of NIMBYism.
    Perhaps you misunderstand me. My line:
    And why *should* the entrenched interests screw up a perfectly good thing for newcomers?
    is more me playing Devil’s advocate than actually supporting the status quo. Though I am a strong believer in the democratic process, which we have plenty of here. The Board of Supervisors is the way it is because it represents, you know, the will of the majority of San Franciscans. Unless you can figure out a way to change the mind of at least half to agree with you, you are just going to keep fuming.
    And while it is commonly believed that some small but vocal minority can stop progress here, that is not how it has actually worked out in the past. A small but vocal minority wanted to keep the Embarcadero Freeway, the Central Freeway, stop live-work construction in SOMA, demand 50% low income housing in Hunter’s Point, etc. In every case, it was taken to the voters and the voters shot them down. No doubt this delays things though. Democracy is messy and slow, but it works.
    And there is definitely a wind of change blowing and not just on this little web community. The City is building much more now than in the 80’s or even the 90’s. Groups like SPUR are having an effect. Who knows, it might even be the start of a Movement.

  75. For all those clamoring for more density, and spewing crap about ‘chicago’ and ‘london’. SF has the 2nd highest density in the US, yes, more dense than chicago. London has a pop density of 12k/sq.mi, which is the exact denisty of chicago. SF has a density of 16k/sq.mi. Paris is at 25k per. I think SF has plenty of density. I’ll welcome more, sure, but please stop with the ignorant comparisons to places like london, we are more dense most cities in the world.
    for the noe-gally person who never sees poo in SF:
    That would be a picture of the ‘poo’ car, that yours & my taxes pay for to go around picking up human poo.

  76. for noe-poo and those like him/her:
    SF has very low voter turnout, around 50%, of half of those are absentee. That means that just because something passes in the polls does not mean that’s what is good for sf or what sf really wants. ~50% of those votes comes from people not even living in sf. (see http://www.sfgov.org/site/elections_index.asp?id=61511)
    also, you said “The people who have actually put their stake in the ground and bought homes here think that the quality of life is great, just ask a homeowner sometime.”
    Yea, well, SF has about a 35% homeownership rate. so about 2/3 of the pop rents. so who cares what homeowners think when the majority of the people think QoL sucks here.

  77. San Francisco has a POO car?! I don’t know whether I should be pleased or shocked?
    Thanks for the link natomahead.

  78. How did Chicago and NYC beautify their city and solve their homeless problem?
    Has Chicago solved its homeless problem? I had not heard that. Not according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless though this is perhaps not the most reliable source.
    I know New York has had great success with supportive housing and we have had some here.
    You’ve been making excuses for SF since I knew you over 15 years ago
    It’s called civic pride, dude. Maybe you should go find some.

  79. NVJ, for the city to need a POOPER Car to drive around scooping up human poo really is a point of “civic pride”.

  80. Hey, I did say that I am sure I could find human feces if I went looking for it. While Stevenson Alley is a disgrace, I bet every big city in America has something similar. Have you ever seen Skid Row in LA?
    It is pretty funny that people will complain about the shitty QoL here and in the very same breathe complain about the high cost of housing. What do they think, if SF cleaned up its homeless problem, that home prices would go down ?

  81. NoeValleyJim,
    I agree completely with you. I graduated college last year and I interned in Manhattan (Greenwich Village) and found it much worse than where I live now. In the village, you’d just see trash bags thrown on the sidewalks everywhere and dumped haphazardly, it was disgusting. And try those winters oh my god.
    I work in FiDi now and I never see poop on the streets where I am, maybe I’m just not paying attention or I live in a flukey part of town.
    I live in the Jackson Square in SF and I absolutely love it; it was well worth the money I paid for my place IMO. I think my QoL is great here in SF, but maybe I’m not speaking for everyone.
    It’s great that Socketsite exists to remind me of how bad it is living here when everything I feel suggests the contrary.

  82. natoma:
    you made a math error on Paris. Paris’ density is around 25k people per square KILOMETER, not per square mile.
    Paris (the city) has 2,168,000 in 86.9 sq km/33.5 sq m. That is 64,716 people per sq mile. (5x SF)
    (of note, Paris in general has been LOSING density, not gaining)
    as for London/Chicago
    it is difficult IMO to compare densities. This is not to say that your data is “wrong” but it is certainly misleading. You calculated London’s density based on Greater London, which is over 600 square miles. the definition of “city” is very different in London than it is in the United states. For instance, “The City of London” and “The City of Westminster” are considered cities by the English Government, but are INSIDE Central London. (and both are very very tiny, the City is only the Financial District… we would call those “neighborhoods”)
    And Greater London (what you thought of as the City of London) is really the London Metroplex… what we might call The London Area or something.
    I have a hard time comparing all of Greater London to San Francisco since it’s 12x the land area.
    Inner London would be more comparable to San Francisco. It has 123 square miles and has 3 million people, or 24,273 people/sq mile
    (twice San Francisco’s density)
    Chicago’s density is based on 250 square miles so I again question whether or not one should compare SF only with Chicago only.
    so there is a slight apples to oranges comparison (of course) happening here.
    I’ll tell you one thing: simply walk around and take the public transport of the main parts of any of those three metro areas and then let me know which is more dense. it becomes obvious quickly that SF is considerably less dense and considerably less metropolitan than either Chicago or London (not like that’s a bad thing by the way)…
    SF is a great City. But it’s not in the same league of places like London, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow, Hong Kong, NYC
    As for your density argument, though. I don’t know that anybody wants SF to be the most dense place on earth. we can leave that to places like Mumbai. but it’s just funny for me to see how few people live in SF and how spread out it is, and then to hear “there’s no more land on which to build!”

  83. We already have parts of The City where density approaches 50k/sq mile: Chinatown and the Tenderloin. And while they both have vibrant and interesting street “scenes” I don’t think they are what pro-density advocates are talking about.
    I wish I could find some statistics on the density of the NE 1/4 of The City, but it looks like if I want them, I will have to put them together myself. Does anyone have that info handy already?
    San Francisco actually has pretty high voter turnout, usually amongst the highest in the nation. Last Presidential election it was 75%. It is often low in special elections though, so I can see your point. I don’t know why you think people who turn in absentee ballots are not SF residents, if that were true, they would be committing voter fraud, which is at least a misdemeanor. Since California made it easy to register for permanent absentee ballot status, they have become common.
    Good luck trying to get anything past the electorate that does not have significant homeowner support. While a minority, homeowners vote in higher numbers.

  84. So NVJ, do you think a city is only “world class” if it has density? I would agree with you to a point, but I am more intersted in living in a stimulating urban enviroment with interesting people. Los Angeles is not dense, but I have met more creative people down there who have created the most interesting companies than I ever would at some Google cocktail party in Noe Valley.
    Do us a favor NVJ, get on a plane and go to Chicago for a weekend NOW! May I suggest you try the Sofitel Hotel, or the Peninsula, two of my favorites there. Step outside those hotels, and wander in complete safety ANY direction you want on clean sidewalks past some of the most amazing collection of architecture on earth. And do me another favor, LOOK UP!, for you will be passing buildings with an average height greater than 50 stories, and this type of density extends for miles and miles. The Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago has a greater density than North Beach, but that is not what makes it “better”, what makes it better is the safety, the trees and fountains, the outdoor cafes in the summer, the outdoor plazas created in front of many of the towers, and the world class architecture itself.
    Next, you must jump on the Subway, the El, or the Metra, and please note the frequency of the trains, and how they go EVERYWHERE. Last check out the neighborhoods comparable to your beloved Noe Valley. Try walking around Lincoln Park or Lakeview, check out the shops which somehow Chicago still has a suprising lack of chainstores and a lot of original local owned boutiques many of which have a real edge to them, similar to Hayes Valley.
    When we all FINALLY stop being so defensive about the real problems San Francisco has, we can then begin to fix them. As long as boosters keep bringing up weather and desity, others will bring up poopers and homeless. This is not how to solve problems that need to be fixed now.
    We will all await your report when you return.

  85. NVJ,
    The TL and Chinatown are well above 50,000 ppsm. If I remember correctly, the northeast quadrant is somewhere around 35,000 ppsm and the Geary corridor maintains 25,000+ out to around 33rd Ave. The Mission District and Panhandle are in the 30,000-35,000 range. SF’s density figure as a whole drops considerably because of our large amount of park land (second only to NYC in terms of percentage of land area in the US) and the huge swaths of single family housing in the southern portion of the City and the Sunset.
    If you’re simply going to compare “inner” parts of cities, SF is roughly equivalent in density to London, and far more so than Chicago. (Chicago seems higher density because they have a FAR larger downtown, but the mix of uses actually leads to a relatively low population density of residents – during the day, population density is of course higher, because of the influx of office workers) The difference (and the reason those cities can support massive heavy rail transit networks) is that medium density in both cities stretches for 100’s of square miles, where in SF we have very high density areas dropping to pretty low density areas. We’re missing the middle.

  86. Brutus, have you ever been to Chicago in the last 4 years? Who cares if North Beach has greater density than Mayfair, Shinjuku, or the Gold Coast of Chicago. North Beach is dirty, and not what I would call a destination neighborhood for anyone looking for a creative vibe.
    Is Density the last thing San Francisco boosters have left to yell about when they cannot win on the urban scorecard. “Don’t look at the homeless, the tired shanty architecture, or the poopers, just remember we have more density than London, so we are MUCH better.”

  87. All right, I will take you up on your offer to visit Chicago, but I want to know which neighborhoods in Southside that are perfectly safe that I should walk around. Because Chicago has twice the murder rate of San Francisco and yet all the Chicago booster keep proclaiming how “safe” it feels. There must be something else going on here.
    What I suspect Chicago has done is round up all the poor and segregate them into a really bad part of town, kind of like East Oakland, but much larger. If that is what you want San Francisco to do, just come out and say it.

  88. I don’t see me “boosting” any in my post or this thread. Read the rest of my posts in this thread.
    And yes, I was in Chicago about two months ago.

  89. Hey, I am seriously going to visit Chicago. I am sure there are many great things there we can learn from. I just think we should have an open discussion about the tradeoffs. Sorry if I came across as overly negative.

  90. I go to Chicago a few times a year because its where my girlfriend is from and we have a lot of friends there
    People here claim their public transit is great which I am not sure I agree with
    My perception is they do a great job of bringing in suburbanites and neighborhood residents to their downtown with good commuter rail and the EL but it is not very functional getting between neighborhoods. Most of my friends there who took Muni everywhere here actually drive a lot
    Somehow it all seems to work because as someone mentioned the city seems to have a moderate density for miles and miles so its like driving between neighborhoods like Hayes Valley or SOMA where parking is not easy but not impossible. None of my friends ever ride buses there. The only time you take public is if you want to go downtown
    North side you don’t see many homeless. Not sure what they did with them but they are not around. I saw a lot (and gang members) years ago on the West side but I hear that area has gentrified.
    As an SF/Bay Area native I have to comment that the people are more friendly and far less self absorbed and the city has so many more normal average people in it than SF. I find that totally refreshing and love it (and lament the loss of a local feel in SF) but others who like SF as the little bubble town of alternative lifestyles might find it disconcerting.
    The city is also huge so there is far less of a pressure feel there. There is enough room for everyone it seems so maybe this tempers the fights we have here about landuse. The affordabiltiy of really nice urban neighborhoods will make a San Franciscan cry. Then of course they have the great high rises if you are into that. The downtown is a little cold IMO off the few famous streets because of all the highrises
    Parts of the South side I have seem are a lot like West Oakland but more intense. There was defiantly a prescribed “black belt” at some point in Chicago and you can still see this with the projects. After that to the south there are a lot of old suburds
    Chicago is way more dominate in its region than SF is in the Bay Area but there is some serious sprawl in Chicagoland too.
    In the 10 years I’ve seen the city they’ve done some good stuff

  91. I disagree about the ex-sfers ‘apple-oranges’. Greater London is NOT the London metropolitan area. Greater London has 7mil people, where as the London Metropolitan area has 13mil. They are two distinct things. What you want to use as a comparison is inner or central London, the ‘downtown’ of London. But you want to compare that to all of SF. To make the proper comparison, you should only compare inner london to ‘inner’ SF, and exclude the less densely pop neighborhoods. That is not a true comparison though. Ditto for Chicago.

  92. Also I would point out that you see way more middle and working class African Americans going about their business in Chicago unlike SF where you just don’t
    Chicago doesn’t have a great racial history but I wouldn’t say the Bay Area is doing a great job either as we just didn’t have the scale of migration. I mean Hunter Point and Sunnydale, Iron Triangle in Richmond and West Oakland aren’t exactly nice integrated areas. The murder rates in these areas are terrible
    Also I recall I’ve read that adjusted for demographics SF has one of the highest crime rates in the US
    And yes I am thinking about leaving when I am ready to have a family.
    Part of me still loves the area and it is beautiful and part of me feels that the politics and people have changed enough that there isn’t really a place for me.

  93. natoma:
    your post doesn’t make sense.
    You want to compare 49 sq miles of SF to 250 sq miles of Chicago and 600 square miles of London. May I ask you WHY? how is it not apples to oranges to compare such different land area sizes?
    The problem with your analogy is that you are using American uses of the word “city” and trying to apply it to London.
    London is not a “city” in the American word. The “City of London” is ONLY the Financial district. That’s it. It is only 1 square mile. It is very low density since it’s not a residential area.
    The only other “city” in the entire region is the City of Westminster which is only 8 square miles. (and 2x as dense as SF)
    The rest of Greater London is made up of 32 boroughs. There is no other “city”. and London itself is not a “city” (except fot the aforementioned 1 sq mile financial district)
    Which brings me to this: why are you using GREATER LONDON to compare to San Francisco City? they are two different entities. Greater London is a collection of 32 boroughs and 2 cities, and SF is a city (and a county). They are apples and oranges.
    Even more so when you look at land area. Greater London is 600 square miles. SF is 49 square miles. SO Greater London is 12 TIMES the surface area of SF.
    this is why I chose Inner London. Inner London is 123 square miles, so still FAR larger than all of San Francisco. and yet it is 2x more dense.
    your argument doesn’t make sense.
    I agree with you that the full London metropolitan area is even bigger than greater London. But that has nothing to do with my point, which is that Greater london is far too large to compare with just SF itself.
    To me Inner London, Greater London, and The London Metropolitan area are like
    San Francisco, SF plus Peninsula, the entire Bay Area.
    Perhaps you could better explain this to me:
    when determining density for the purpose of how it feels to live in an area, why would one compare 49 square miles with 600 miles. or 49 square miles with 250 square miles????
    shouldn’t I compare 49 square miles with 49 square miles?
    using your argument, why can’t I just compare ONLY the City Of Westminster with the city of San Francisco, since they’re both “cities”????

  94. Could it be that many of the trends that San Francisco created are now fully grown in other cities, while at the same time, we are growing some of the characteristics we least like about other urban areas? We created one of the first Gay Ghettos but now every major city has such a thriving district, while ours has clubs, bars and stores closing and being replaced by Pottery Barn. While many gays here try to keep the memory alive, most cities now have gay families living thoughout the urban areas.
    We were one of the first American cities to see “white flight” back to the inner city neighborhoods, but this is now happening throughout older established cities throughout America. The problem is many of our new residents DRIVE out of the city to work, while most cities see jobs returning to the center city areas.
    And what are we doing in S.F. now? Are neighborhoods such as Rincon Hill going to be truly “urban” and San Franciscan, or are they really more similar to some of the high rise condo density seen in Irvine and Atlanta? And is Noe Valley really a city neighborhood, or does it have the architectural and density characteristics of working class neighborhoods OUTSIDE of urban centers such as Pittsburg and Cincinatti ?
    We talk about banning cars on Market Street, when Jane Jacobs would say that would kill Market. Look at U.N. Plaza. Without the watchful eye of people walking, riding and driving by, anything including the much discussed “poo” is allowed to happen. Look at Michigan Avenue or Fifth Avenue. The cars, busses, people are all part of the noise and energy of urban life.
    Could it be that most San Franciscan’s do not desire urban life at all but really crave small town density with car free quiet zones, and safe sterile high rise condos far above the noise and screams of the homeless pooping below?

  95. London’s average per sq.ft. $6100, I say again. Let’s compare that to SF. OR maybe we could stop comparing the two because it’s not worth anyone’s time. I would rather talk about dialect or beer temperature or anything else.
    Chicago v. SF at least has some merit.

  96. NVJ:
    To me, both SF and Chicago have dangerous areas and safe areas. But with a few differences.
    In SF, the dangerous people are often pushed into the suburbs, especially Oakland, Richmond, etc. So that leaves the city pretty safe. (except maybe Bayview and the ‘Loin)
    Chicago city (square mileage) is much larger than SF. So the poor/dangerous are pushed far away from the rich, but remain in the city, specifically in the Cabrini Green neighborhood (near north, mixed race), the west end (hispanic) and the south end (black).
    the north side of Chicago is very safe (Lincoln Park, Boys Town/Halsted, Andersonville, etc etc etc) as is the entire Downtown area and almost all of the waterfront/Museum row area.
    the city continues to gentrify so some of these “bad” neighborhoods are changing rapidly (especially Cabrini Green, near south side, near West side) which is pushing the poor/dangerous further south especially. it can be VERY bad down there, depending. but tourists never go down there.
    I’m not sure if Chicago is “safer” than SF. the north end feels safer but I’m not sure that’s true, I think it’s more just a perception.
    I’ll give you an example. Many times in SF you are harrassed but not in danger. like as an example, a crazy person might run at you screaming something in San Francisco, but they’re harmless…. so SF was “safe” but you felt threatened for a brief time… it gets your heartbeat up for just a bit. You just don’t see that in North Chicago/Downtown etc. but you were never actually ‘unsafe’ due to the crazy person… see?
    my take: SF is a very safe place, but it can be gritty and kind of disturbing for people not used to SF. Midwesterners aren’t used to drug addicts in the street, or people passed out in public places, or aggressive panhandlers. Nicer Chicago doesn’t have that. The police take care of it pretty quick.
    SF has a lot of it, it seems to be tolerated. And in the end, most of the time it’s harmless… but unpleasant for many.
    the nice areas of Chicago (north side, downtown, museum row, lakefront) remind me more of like Monterey or Palo Alto if that makes sense. You’d never see a bum harass a tourist in Monterey and rarely in Chicago, but you see it often in SF (in areas like Union Square or on Market as example).

  97. ex SF-er, I have an example for you. I was eating outside at Gibson’s on Rush Street when I noticed a panhandler show up and start to trouble some people waiting for a taxi across the street by shouting at them, the trees, and anything else in his way. It was not more than one minute when police showed up, stopped the abuse, and called a social services van to take the person away. That was as close to a San Francisco experience I have ever had in Chicago, and it was very short. It seems in the better parts of Chicago, neighbors, businessowners, and the police do not tolerate what in San Francisco is now common place.

  98. ex-SF-er,
    Let me explain the difficulties in simply comparing the 49 square miles of SF to 49 square miles of Chicago – the scale of both places is entirely different. If you take the Financial District in SF versus Chicago, the one in Chicago is several times as large.
    Therefore, the surrounding dense residential areas should also be significantly larger, but the proportion of dense neighborhoods to not-so-dense should be relatively equal. So, SF may have 15 square miles of really dense area, 15 square miles of middle density, and 19 square miles of low density. Assuming Chicago has equivalent density, it should have 75 square miles of really dense area, 75 miles of middle density, and 100 miles of low density. Since SF City is so much smaller than Chicago City, an apples to apples comparison would have to be all of one city to the other or only parts of each city to one another.
    And again, before anyone accuses me of “boosting”, I’m doing no such thing. I just enjoy statistical comparisons 🙂

  99. Brutus, perhaps you can help me with this question. Don’t more people live in downtown Chicago than in our Financial District area? Chicago seems to have much more of a mix with huge buildings containing both housing and office space. Michigan Avenue is a great example. The Hancock Building (Big John) started the trend of putting residences above office space. 900 Michigan has a hotel, offices, shops and then the top 40 floors are condos. The same with 800 North Michigan. Why can’t we have more mixed use buildings downtown and on Market, or does S.F. planning discourage such combinations? I am aware of some old office buildings being converted to residential use in FiDi now, but there is a street energy in Chicago that is created when you have mixed use buildings like they already have. The crazy thing is their mega buildings even have parking, but it is hidden in such a way that it does not take away from pedestrian space along the street.

  100. Brutus:
    Go back to my ORIGINAL post on densities where I said:
    it is difficult IMO to compare densities. This is not to say that your data is “wrong” but it is certainly misleading.
    the points you all bring up is why it is very difficult to compare densities of Chicago vs SF.
    If you compare the densities of the cities themselves, then SF appears more dense from a numerical standpoint. But that is only because SF is so much smaller surface area, so it is easier for it to be dense. In the same way, the city of Westminster is more dense than SF, and that is because it is only 8 sq miles.
    so in the end, the difference in densities is based on the decisions of mapdrawers hundreds of years ago with the way that the governments drew the city lines. In SF they decided for random reasons to choose a horizontal line across the peninsula making SF “officially” 49 sq miles. In chicago, they chose a different random reason, making it 250 sq miles.
    so yes, the calculation of SF vs Chicago shows SF as more “dense”. But then is that really very valid when one looks at the fact that SF is only 49 sq miles vs Chi-town’s 250 sq miles? this is the “apples to oranges” of which I speak.
    Because once you walk around Chicago and SF it quickly is obvious that the 49 sq miles around downtown Chicago are orders of magnitude more dense than the 49 sq miles around SF.
    And yes, comparing 49 sq miles of Chicago to 49 sq miles of SF would also be somewhat misleading, and also would be comparing apples to oranges.
    Like I said, it’s difficult to compare.
    But I just think it’s very misleading to claim that SF is more dense than Chicago when you just have to open your eyes to see that is not the case.

  101. ex SF-er,
    What doesn’t make sense? Density takes into account the land area. We are not talking about the size of the cities, or the number of people, we are talking about the combination of both, which Density takes into account. i.e., new york is 300 sq mi, where as SF is 49 sq mi, yet nyc has a greater density. Conversely, LA is 500 sq mi, and yet it is less dense than both SF & nyc. Size does not matter. we are talking about density.

  102. anonarch,
    Yes, more people live actually in the “Financial District equivalent” in Chicago, but it’s not a tremendous amount more. A few months ago I stayed near the corner of Dearborn and Hubbard, and while it was buzzing during the week, the place was a ghost town on the weekend until you walked the couple blocks the Michigan Ave. The difference in SF is that the FiDi is so much smaller than Chicago, so you’ve got residential neighborhoods within a few blocks of almost anywhere in the FiDi. But, yes, we should have more housing downtown (in SF), and past planning prevented it. Chicago is building more downtown right now as well, but that’s mostly because the area is so much larger and there are more potential sites. We’re building in Rincon Hill and the Transbay areas, and while those are not equivalent to the Trump Tower site in Chicago, they are in close proximity to downtown.
    On the parking situation – Chicago has a mich higher capacity for cars for several reasons, but alleys in residential areas are the biggest one. The alleys allow two things – the cars to be removed from the front, which creates a nicer pedestrian area, AND significantly more street parking is allowed. I would say in most equivalent neighborhoods in Chicago there is at least twice as much street parking simply because there are no curb cuts (or very few). The downside to alleys is that there are fewer and smaller backyards in the residential neighborhoods in Chicago, compared to SF, because that land is taken up by alleys and garages, typically.
    Yes, munipical boundaries do make things weird and it’s very hard to compare apples to apples (IMO, an apples to apples comparison would be about 200 square miles of Chicago to about 30 square miles of SF, plus about 20 square miles of Oakland/Berkeley, what I would consider the “urban heart” of both regions – in terms of lifestyle, job locations, and the transit network, the Sunset is more of a suburb than downtown Oakland. Chicago is the undisputed center of its metro area, meaning all of the highest density areas are within its city limits) As I’ve said before though, I don’t think Chicago in any way (except for job base) can be considered more dense than SF – but it carries a very high urban density over more than five times the area that SF’s urban density is carried, making a good transit network, etc, much easier to keep up.
    FWIW – I’d move to Chicago in a heartbeat if:
    A. I could make anywhere near the money I make here there (in the tech world, there is simply no comparison between the pay and opportunity here and there)
    B. The weather didn’t suck so bad (I could maybe even get over this if not for A)

  103. It sounds like one obvious advantage Chicago has is better regional planning, if for no other reason that the city itself is a much bigger portion of the total urban region. Regional planning here is very haphazard. I am actually kind of amazed that BART got built at all. It probably could not in the current political environment.

  104. Excellent point about how alleys change traffic and parking patterns Brutus. I had never really thought about how the inclusion of alleys completely changes the urban fabric, mostly for the better, especially if you are looking for a parking space.
    NVJ, you are right, not only is it doubtful BART could be built today, but I even doubt we could get the Golden Gate Bridge built today. I am hopeful for the Transbay Tower and high speed rail also, but these projects look like less of a possibility every day.

  105. “All right, I will take you up on your offer to visit Chicago, but I want to know which neighborhoods in Southside that are perfectly safe that I should walk around. Because Chicago has twice the murder rate of San Francisco and yet all the Chicago booster keep proclaiming how “safe” it feels. There must be something else going on here.
    nvj, murder rate is one thing to look at but i can’t find where you are getting 2x the murder rate for chicago per capita.
    I do however find that SF has a 30% higher VIOLENT crime rate than chicago.

  106. Stats from 2004-5
    Violent crimes and homicides, per 100,000 people
    Chicago, Illinois 1,217.8 15.5
    San Francisco, California 757.1 11.6
    Chicago’s violent crime rate was almost 60% higher, and Chicago’s homicide rate was almost 40% higher than San Francisco’s rates.

  107. I just googled for it and ended up here:
    But since you questioned it, I doubled checked at the FBI site:
    This gives 86 for 746085 in San Francisco, or 11.5 per 1000 and 468 per 2857796 in Chicago or 16.3 per 1000. Which puts Chicago at about 40% higher in 2006, but improved from 2003.
    Where are you getting your violent crime rates from? It appears that Chicago does not report rapes to the FBI (?) so the FBI does not calculate a violent crime index for Chicago.

  108. IMO, an apples to apples comparison would be about 200 square miles of Chicago to about 30 square miles of SF, plus about 20 square miles of Oakland/Berkeley
    and this is where we disagree. You cherry pick the most dense parts of the SF Bay Area, and then try to compare them to the entire chicago city limits (which has dense and not dense parts to it). Why didn’t you use all 49 sq miles of SF? oh yeah… because you don’t want to use the less dense parts… hmm… why did you choose Berkley/Oakland??? why didn’t you choose Sausalito and Tiburon? They are just as close as Oakland/Berkely. Or why not choose SF and then San Jose? Or why not SF and Menlo Park?
    Again, I’m not saying you can’t do what you did. You can do it all you want. I’m ONLY saying that 1) it’s not apples to apples and 2) it’s misleading. EVEN THOUGH 3) it’s mathematically accurate.
    we call this “lying with numbers”. I’ll give you an example. Which country is is RICHER?
    Bet you didn’t know it was Singapore (according to numerical data from three different sources: world bank, the IMF, and the CIA)
    Brunei is also far far richer than the US.So are the Netherlands and Norway. whew!
    and I also forget about the fact that San Jose is clearly bigger than SF, so it should really be called the San Jose Bay Area, right? I mean, SJ is like 15-20% bigger than SF AND it is closer to the job engines of the Silicon Valley. So clearly SJ is more important to the Bay Area than SF is. (actually if you go to San Jose blogs they do say exactly those things) So we should really be comparing San Jose with Chicago, since SF is really just an anomaly in the San Jose Bay Area, right?
    FWIW: how I compare is also NOT apples to apples. In essence, I’m saying SF and chicago are apples and oranges, thus one CANNOT compare apples to apples.
    I compare MY LIFE in Chicago with MY LIFE in SF. MY LIFE in SF involved basically the “Market corridor” part of the city from Inner Sunset all the way up to Embarcadero. I never went to Bayview ever. I never went to St. Francis Wood. I mainly stayed in the northeast 1/4 of the city. (Sunset, Cole/Carl, Haight, Castro, Duboce, Noe, valencia, Mission, Potrero, SoMa, Downtown, Nob/Russian/Telegraph hill, Pac Heights/Cow Hollow, Marina, Union Square. Basically where most of you hang out. I rarely went to Oakland or Berkeley or Marin so I don’t think of those much. I almost never went to Danville or San Mateo as example.
    IN chciago almost everybody in my Neighborhood (Lincoln Park) stays in the north lake-side neighborhoods from the South Loop all the way up to Andersonville. In other words, the NORTHEAST PART OF THE CITY. (we only go to the south loop to go to a museum, OR because now we have skyscraper condo after skyscraper condo going up down there.)
    So you can see the numbers:
    Near South Loop: 1.7 sq miles: 5.4k/sq mi (this is probably wrong as we have 1000s of new condos here but I only have 2000 data)
    Loop: 1.6 sq miles: 10k/sq mi
    Near North Looop: 2.7 sq miles: 27k/sq mi
    Lincoln Park: 3.2 sq miles: 20k/sq mile.
    Lake View: 3.2 sq miles: 30k/sq mi
    Uptown: 2.4 sq miles: 27k/sq mi
    Edgewater: 2.7 sq mi: 23k/sq mi
    Rogers Park: 1.85 sq mi: 34k/sq mi
    Total: 19.3 sq mi
    I have cherry picked the 20 sq miles where you would live FOR SURE if you lived in Chicago. Notice though, I have CHERRY PICKED. I’m not counting neighborhoods I’ve never been to like “Clearing” a far west neighborhood with only 8700 people/sq mi. or “hegewish” a far south neighborhood with only 2037 ppl/sq mi.

  109. Lastly:
    Brutus, I have no desire to have anybody move anywhere.
    For some reason people automatically think that my kvetching about SF means
    -that I dislike SF (I don’t I love it)
    -that I want them to move to the midwest (I couldn’t care less)
    -That I was somehow “pushed out” and hence “bitter” (I did leave, not sure about the bitter part, perhaps it’s subconscious. I can move back at any second that I choose but it’s not the right decision FOR ME today, 8/10/2008. who knows, in the future we may “have” to move back if my other half transitions into Venture Capital, since we have no interest in living in Manhattan. I would love to live in SF again if we made in the 7-8 figure range)
    I only challenge the “conventional wisdom” about SF and other cities that I believe to be untrue
    the two things that I find that San Franciscans most often get wrong is
    -how “cosmopolitan” they are compared to other places (specifically they underestimate how cosmopolitan other cities are)
    -their earning potential.
    I do agree that if you are a techie you will make IN GENERAL far more in Silicon valley than you will almost anywhere else. obviously, you can make a killing in tech elsewhere as well but it’s not as common. (as example, Overstock.com is in Utah, Microsoft is in Seattle, you get the picture).
    but life is fluid. most of the “facts” around here aren’t facts, they’re these preconceived notions like “there’s no more land to build” (there clearly is, and a lot-SoMa being a prime example) and “I can’t possibly make this kind of money outside of the Bay Area” (with rare exception you can if you so choose, but you have to be open to the possibility of it)
    too many people seem to have this idea that once they go east of Berkeley it turns into toothless slackjaws with pitchforks slapping pigs in a cornfield or something. and that the only jobs pay half minimum wage while whittling a carving of a moose.
    well I sit here as a born and bred San franciscan who has left and (gasp) found places that pay me more, with lower COL, with more “to do”, and lots of diversity and ethnicity, and lots of gay things, and all that. but I had to look. I couldn’t just sit in my apartment and tell myself “well, SF is the best so why bother looking anywhere else since I already know that SF is the best at everything”. And I had to make some HUGE sacrifices like losing friends and not being near the ocean and not near mountains and the HORRIBLE winters. I also gained some things like wonderful OUTDOOR dining and a better theatre scene and a beautiful lake (I never went to the Ocean anyway in SF) and a great neighborhood and a far higher salary and a far lower COL and more vacation time (and money to use during vacation).
    so it was a trade off.
    you know, like I’ve said all along. Apples to Oranges. Sometimes I like Apples. And sometimes I like Oranges. And when I comment that an Orange has more pulp than an Apple, it doesn’t mean I don’t like that Apple. An Orange does have more pulp than an Apple. An Orange is also more orange than an Apple. And you know what, that’s ok. I still love the Apple just as much as I did before I realized that the Orange is more orange.
    I think this no matter how many Apple supporters come on line and say “now you know, you left the Apple and we’re quite sure that an Apple has more pulp than an Orange… and in fact an Apple is more orange than an orange too… Apples are world reknowned for their orange color and their pulp” I just look at them and think “wow, they sure like their Apple, and really like to defend that Apple!”
    So to me, chicago and sf are great. they are nothing alike. they never will be anything alike. but they both can learn from one another. and there are MANY MANY MANY ways that chicago could improve as well… but I don’t discuss them here because this isn’t a Chicago board, and you all would have no idea what I’m talking about!

  110. as for the crime stuff:
    I personally agree with you that Chicago is more dangerous than SF. (see my comments above)
    with a caveat:
    1) Chicago is substantially bigger than SF, so it’s not surprising it has higher crime. larger population centers tend to have higher crime rates. This is not always the case. NYC and LA have higher population centers and lower Crime rates than Chicago
    2) A lot of Chicago’s crime occurs in the city itself, whereas a lot of SF’s crime occurs in the suburbs. (Oakland, Richmond). For that matter, the same pattern is seen in NYC. My understanding of things is that much of the crime in NYC is displaced to Jersey.
    (Chicago’s “oakland” and “jersey” are still in Chicago given the large size of the city!)
    if you’re interested:
    you can clearly see that Chicago’s crime is concentrated in the South, and a strip of land to the west. (as I said before)
    So I see almost no crime where I am (violent or otherwise). but I wouldn’t go down to the southern neighborhoods. This is similar to my life in SF. I felt extremely safe in Sunset or Duboce, but wouldn’t walk down Mission Street, or go to Oakland or Richmond city late at night. But Oakland is pretty far from SF. And South Chicago is far from Boys Town.
    but overall, Chicago IS more dangerous than SF, at least in the bad areas.

  111. ex-SF-er, this is very well said indeed! Like you, I relocated out of the Bay Area to set up a new office for our firm in Chicago. I complained the whole way here, but now love Chciago. I still own two properties in San Francisco, both currently rented out with a very positive cash flow.
    “the two things that I find that San Franciscans most often get wrong is
    -how “cosmopolitan” they are compared to other places (specifically they underestimate how cosmopolitan other cities are)
    -their earning potential. ”
    Great Point! You know things have changed when Alice Waters came to Chicago to “learn” about the latest developements in American Cuisine, as she was quoted in the Chronicle.
    (her favorite)
    (my favorite place to take Bay Area friends to show them what is going on back here.
    Although I would probably earn about 50k more a year in S.F., the cost of living here in Chicago feels abotu 50% less. I actually have seriously thought about staying here long term and keeping my S.F. properties for income, and perhaps retirement.
    I still miss biking Mount Tam, Napa-Sanoma, Pebble Beach weekends, and frequent trips to Palm Springs, but THAT is what airplanes are for at the moment. I love Socketsite because it keeps me in touch with what is going on with my real estate in San Francisco. They are both great cities, but as you said, very different, and they could learn a LOT from eachother.

  112. ex-SF-er,
    200 square miles isn’t all of Chicago. And I chose the areas that I did based on the years that they were developed (essentially ending at 1945). If you want to look at the areas developed through 1955, trust me, the SF area becomes MUCH more dense than the Chicago area. If you look at the areas developed through 1965, again, the SF area increases the lead again. If we look at overall metro numbers today, the Bay Area (including San Jose) is more than twice as dense as Chicagoland. It’s just the difference between California development (with oceans and mountains in the way) and Midwest development, with not a geographic obstacle in sight for hundreds of miles to the west.
    So, those were my reasons. I was comparing like time period areas to other like time period areas.

  113. What did fluj say, “comparing cities is like talking about your dreams”? But I am sure there are lots of innovative things we can learn from elsewhere and it is perhaps the easiest way to explore those ideas.

  114. One other thing to keep in mind re Chicago appearing denser in many respects than SF and Oakland/Berkeley – Chicago is still almost 20% off its population high, while pretty much every city in the Bay Area is at its current population high. (I know there’s some contention in SF regarding State versus Census estimates). So while the built environment may feel denser, that’s probably in part caused by the fact that the built environment was built for a higher density than currently exists.

  115. Typical my di** is bigger than yours mentality. Instead of just TRYING to enjoy the place you live, you feel a need to compare it, nitpick it, and spend your life finding fault with it.

  116. ^^^ Or simply having fun with demographic comparisons and attempting to find the meaning behind the differences. Potato, potahto.

  117. Brutus, you bring up a good point about Chicago being off the historic demograhic high. I wonder if American cities that are more like Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle, are going to become more affluent and therefore less dense?
    EG. In Chicago, except for the southside, the poor have been pushed well to the outer urban areas (Think Richmond in the East Bay), while the most expensive housing is now near what I call “ground zero” which is the corner of Michigan and Chicago Avenues. The units in the towers surrounding this centerpoint of the city command per sq. ft. costs as high as any building in San Francisco. 40 years ago, the people who now live in this urban neighborhood would not be caught there after dark except with a bodyguard and doors in their towncar locked while they would speed back to the suburbs.
    Many Victorian homes and flats that used to host multi-generational families are now owned by couples without children, which is very similar to S.F. My area of Lincoln Park has homes that were built as mini-mansions being returned from when they were split up into mutiple flats in the 60’s and 70’s. Although S.F. is gaining, I wonder what the statistics would be for the north side of San Francisco, such as north of California? I own in the Marina and have watched the children vanish, as well as the old elderly italian grandparents.
    I think what we are seeing is young people with money choosing to not live in the suburbs like their parents and instead creating wealth bubbles in city centers.

  118. i was wrng about SF versus chicago violent crime rate, but SF violent crime is higher than NYC and LA per capita. And the crime rate is double average US city. I would hardly call that “safe” I think because a lot of people on here have never felt threatened they assume SF is safe. personally i have twice been a victim of violent crime here and am a lot more careful and cognizant. you are always safe until you’re not.

  119. i was wrng about SF versus chicago violent crime rate, but SF violent crime is higher than NYC and LA per capita. And the crime rate is double average US city. I would hardly call that “safe” I think because a lot of people on here have never felt threatened they assume SF is safe. personally i have twice been a victim of violent crime here and am a lot more careful and cognizant. you are always safe until you’re not.

  120. i was wrng about SF versus chicago violent crime rate, but SF violent crime is higher than NYC and LA per capita. And the crime rate is double average US city. I would hardly call that “safe” I think because a lot of people on here have never felt threatened they assume SF is safe. personally i have twice been a victim of violent crime here and am a lot more careful and cognizant. you are always safe until you’re not.

  121. What is the source for your statistics spencer? I think you are wrong about the violent crime rate in San Francisco vs. the “average US city” but unless I can see your source, it is kind of hard to understand what you are talking about.
    This says that SF is 1.24 times the national average. I doubt that the “average US city” is going to be below the national average, but it is possible.
    Sorry to hear that you have been a victim of violent crime. I was robbed once at gunpoint on Telegraph Hill. It is definitely an unsettling experience.

  122. Spencer, the violent crime rate is much higher in LA than in SF– from the data I quoted above– 1107/ 100,000 for LA, 757/ 100,000 for SF. New York, however, has a lower crime rate.

  123. Brutus, are you involved with transportation planning by any chance? If so, one of the great constraints that people forget regarding why our transit infrastructure is not more developed is because with mountains and water everywhere, it is so much more expensive to build than a flat city like Chicago. Imagine the huge cost of a BART extension to San Rafael with all of the tunnels, faultlines, and envirogroups fighting every single part of this project.
    I just hope that the plan for the “Central Waterfront” becomes a little more creative than what is currently showing up down there. It was the last real space left in the city and it is turning into a very dull aesthetic enviroment.

  124. anonarch,
    Only as a hobby in my spare time. Transportation planning has always interested me, and while your point about the difficulties here has some merit, this is also the most backwards area in the first world to build transit projects, from what I’ve seen. Even LA seems to “get it” more than we do here. For example, there is no reason that the BART extension to Millbrae should have cost anywhere nead where it did, as the only thing complex about it (compared to a similar project in Chicago) would be seismic concerns. But, somehow, the process that we have here (along with BART’s needlessly expensive technology which is no better than the cheaper stuff used elsewhere) created a massively expensive, underused boondoggle.
    The T line is another textbook case of politics getting in the way of good transit.
    There is a massive “transit-industrial complex” that has been built over the last few decades here in the Bay Area, and that coupled with the ridiculous amounts of community input that are required with each project, usually means that nothing good actually gets done. IMO, the lone bright spot in Bay Area transit over the past decade is Caltrain. Muni, BART, and VTA (and to a lesser extent AC Transit) have thrown so much money into black holes that have done nothing to improve transit. It’s quite embarrassing that Houston will likely have better rail transit in about five years, and LA undoubtedly will. (The HSR bond will help transit on the peninsula, but that’s about it)

    poop on the sidewalks is a HUGE problem in SOMA. i live in one of the more gentrified areas of soma, folsom between 4th and 5th. almost every morning, i am confronted with a freshly laid pile of excrement, or some crackhead deciding to create an urban campout on my driveway.
    newsom has given us the “yerba buena community improvement district” along with its associated tax assessments, as this shit (literally) is scaring all the tourists and the yuppies that have moved in after massive redevelopment here in the past decade. our sidewalks are power-washed at least weekly, SFPD comes along to shoo the homeless away (from our area), but still, stepping on a freshly laid pile of crackhead doo is a very real daily reality for me…
    please check out washburn (right behind 9th/howard), 9th st (between market & mission), anywhere down 6th st…. and the smell of urine and crap is enough to make any sane man nauseous. there are specific sidewalks (and certain sides of street) that my fellow SOMA resident friends won’t walk on due to the amount of shit (literally) they have seen on that particular piece of pavement.
    i have personally seen a crackhead at high noon with a fresh dump in his pants, and what i presume to be several more days of caked on dried shit, sprawled out at 9th/ mission.
    NOEVALLEYJIM, please come see the action at ground zero, 6th/mission or 9th/mission… i have provided specific locales where you can see this shit first hand

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