As we wrote in 2007 under the headline, It’s All About Density: “Going green might be trendy (and we’re all for it), but as far as we’re concerned it’s a focus on density (and infill) that will define the next era in San Francisco’s development, neighborhoods, and lifestyle.”
The headline we penned earlier this year: Is A Lack Of Density Cooking San Francisco’s Golden Tech Goose? Or in the words of ‘badlydrawnbear’ in response to poor market conditions for the development of affordable housing:

…the only reason SF, and the bay area, has an ‘affordable housing’ crisis is because of everyone’s refusal to allow increased density…watch Silicon Valley choke on its own success as companies move away because even the ‘highly paid tech workers’ can’t even afford to live here anymore.

Comments in response to the above, including a discussion on the outsourcing of engineering talent and working remotely, have been moved below.
The Next Era In San Francisco’s Development: It’s All About Density [SocketSite]
Is A Lack Of Density Cooking San Francisco’s Golden Tech Goose? [SocketSite]
Fresh Groceries In The Tenderloin Stymied By Poor Fiscal Conditions [SocketSite]

12 thoughts on “It’s All About (A Lack Of) Density”
  1. More and more engineers are working remotely. What I have seen is tech workers starting at a job for a year or 2, prove their value, move to a place where they want to live and keep working remotely. This works fine for some individuals. Tech is starting to dematerialize, giving another meaning to the “cloud”.

  2. @badlydrawnbear…..BRAVO!!!!
    Just do a google of which urban areas have the greatest amount of housing construction. “It’s absurd, and it’s tragic” that the Bay Area is not one of them.
    1.) NYC
    2.) Dallas
    3.) Houston
    4.) Washington D.C.
    5.) Chicago
    6.) Boston
    7.) Los Angeles
    8.) Phoenix
    9.) Seattle
    10.) Atlanta
    (From Architectural Record)

  3. “More and more engineers are working remotely.”
    And some are working really remotely by remaining in their lower cost home countries. Just about every tech company larger than a few hundred employees is actively offshoring simply because it lowers payroll cost.

  4. MoD,
    I have had a few friends (from the big guys in the BA) who have worked with outsourced coders in far away lands tell me they’re backtracking more and more after disastrous projects. 3 issues: reliability, culture, speed. It does not always work. Good for me…

  5. A bit of topic but since it has come up … the days of outsourcing IT are coming to an end. GM Just announced that it’s current IT model of 10% US based staff and 90% outsourced will be flipped over the next three years with 90% of IT staff insourced and only 10% outsourced. The will be cancelling $3 BILLION in outsource contracts and instead hiring US resources to do the work.

  6. People have been saying “more and more engineers are working remotely” and “the internet is great, location doesn’t matter anymore, you can work from Podunk where housing is cheap” ever since 1998.
    And what happened? Real Estate in the Santa Clara valley is in higher demand, not less. Perhaps location and face time with your boss and coworkers are more important that the internet triumphalists thought.

  7. True, Brahma,
    But things are not as clean cut. For instance my past year was 30% abroad remote work (great schedule thanks to time zones) and 20% from home, leaving 50% in the actual office. Yes I have 2+ homes on 2 continents which puts me into your “rootless cosmopolitans” square little bucket.
    Among my co-workers and friends, some have made the jump you described, living cheaper and larger out-of-state. Others work from home 100% of the time but live in the BA in expensive abodes (now THAT’s getting the bangs for your bucks!). Others do like me, partial remote work.
    Heck, even when I’m in the office I do not get much face time with my co-workers. We often go from one meeting to the next through the phone. It’s more efficient as you can double-task or do real time checking while in a conference. But we do mingle for lunch or coffee.

  8. @AnonArch: As surprising as it is to people (especially those from the Bay Area), the SF MSA is not one of the top 10 by population in the US. Your list of top 10 construction markets pretty closely matches the top 10 Metro Areas, so it stands to reason that SF wouldn’t make the list. I’ve included it a link to the Top 10 MSA’s in my name.

  9. About people moving away to work remotely, that’s absolute baloney. All these years I’ve been working in tech I can’t count more than a handful of those who move away with an intention to maintain a career here. Those who moved are outliers and definitely not a trend.
    The real story is we are sucking in talents all over like a vaccum. This is especially evidently in the last 2 years. Try tally tech companies and ask who has been in Bay Area for less than 5 years. My bet is it could account for a quarter or more. Location does not matter is a myth contrary to facts and statistics.
    Another story to share, we recently lost a valued remote employee. He is tired to work alone in his garage and is ready to work for a local company in Pacific Northwest. And we have secured another valued remote empoloyee to spend at least 3 days a week in our office. The reason is clear. He can interact with us far more effectively than if he is remote. Other than a few exceptions, 95% of our engineering workforce is onsite.

  10. I would posit that for a discussion focusing on density, CSA’s are more appropriate to compare than MSA’s. By that measure the SF-Oak-SJ CSA is the 6th largest in the US behind NY, LA, Chi, DC, and Boston. Certainly the housing markets in our CSA are intertwined and interdependent.

  11. @Lance, I agree with “rabbits”. The list of urban regions with the most new housing construction currently taking place in now way corresponds to the top ten urban regions by population. (As was posted above, the S.F. Bay Area is number 6). Houston, Dallas and Washington D.C. are just after NYC, and Chicago is ahead of Los Angeles, though many of these high construction growth regions would be ranked further down if ranked by population. This lack of new construction was not always the case for the Bay Area which had a HUGE building boom in the 70s and early 80s, and we still have the almost identical skyline to show for it.

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