“The City”

It’s true. I hear it all the time. “We’re looking for apartments in Oakland.” This is the mantra of so many of my friends who are looking for a new spot, but can’t afford skyrocketing rents in San Francisco. Buying a house is not even on the table. A move to Manhattan is more financially feasible, at least for the moment.

In his article in The Atlantic Cities blog this month, Gabriel Metcalf outlines how America’s most progressive city turned into an island for the elite. With anecdotal quotes of average housing costs at $4,000 for a 1 bedroom apartment in our hilly gem, Metcalf argues that it’s not the Google bus that’s to blame, but the sheer lack of housing to shelter the growing number of eager urbanites that flock to this economic hub. If you’ve seen the T-shirts, you know that San Francisco is “The City” for the Bay Area, the only place in California where one can engage in a truly walkable, compact urban life.

“The Town”

In our work with a range of clients dealing with urbanism, sustainability and transportation in the Bay Area, we’re always encouraging and communicating about regional thinking. As a result, Metcalf’s suggestion that Oakland and San Francisco merge into one city, where Oakland serves as a larger field for livable neighborhood development and San Francisco provides some much needed city services in return, is a refreshing abandonment of ‘business as usual’ thinking. While it’s unlikely that this civic conglomeration would ever take place, we continue to formulate the Bay Area as a “Regional City” or even City State, where citizens may work in one town and live in another, and need affordable housing and viable public transportation options to get them between the two.

California is growing, and the Bay Area is an epicenter for this growth. We can either continue to build out impoverished exurbs in our fertile valley farmlands, or formulate vibrant, livable, mixed use communities near the urban core serving families with kids, seniors, and yes, even hipsters.

The San Francisco Exodus
Gabriel Metcalf, Oct 14, 2013
The Atlantic Cities, Place Matters