mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
political reform
The Extinction of Palo Alto?
Features Icon
show comments
  • Fantastic article — thank you. As a resident of Palo Alto (well, technically of Stanford) I am continually staggered by my neighbors and colleagues, all of whom consider themselves to be the allies and champions of the working classes, yet virtually all of whom also support highly restrictive housing policies on pseudo-environmental grounds.

    Stanford is currently building highly subsidized faculty housing on land that formerly housed Facebook and several other tech firms. But Santa Clara County is going to assess and tax the new units at market rates, which means that a modest single-family house will be valued for taxation purposes at roughly three million dollars. Regardless of subsidies, such housing will be out-of-range for most new members of the faculty. Eventually, Stanford University, one of the main sources of Silicon Valley, is going to be priced out of existence by this insanity.

    San Francisco is in the same boat. As Reihan Salam noted last year at the eco-modernist Breakthrough Dialogue, if San Francisco had the same density of New York City it would have 1.5 million people, and if it had the density as Manhattan the number would be 3.5 million. Yet the Lefty-Greenies of SF tell us that we can never “build our way out” of the housing crisis. But that is what we always did before, and always successfully.

    • The 3000+ US counties who are *not* Santa Clara should be discreetly dialing up Stanford and offering relocation packages. Who knows, maybe some of them already are. If Stanford is not being served well by Santa Clara County, it should move. Until it, and others do, Santa Clara county is likely to continue doing what has worked for them in the past. Perhaps Mr. Musk’s hyperloop can join the two campuses during a long, drawn out transition.

      • Jim__L

        Have a look at a project called “HackerMetro”, which is likely to have more impact than Hyperloop on truly distributed workspaces.

        (Although it may still be in deep enough stealth mode to make it hard to find.)

        • HackerMetro is on facebook and look somewhat interesting. My wife and son have a med tech VR idea they’ve been kicking around. I’ll pass these guys on to them. Thanks.

          I wasn’t talking about a distributed workspace there, more like a bridge from the legacy campus to a new one that would have a sustainable operations model that could attract scholars and students who could live near the campus. As older scholars pass on, the legacy campus would shrivel.

    • Jim__L

      Please revise your answer to the San Francisco housing crisis, this time including the words “San Andreas Fault”.

      The solution is to move more jobs out, not to move more people in.

      • Nat Rev

        When SF breaks off and goes into the Pacific, the ocean will likely spit it out.

    • Nat Rev

      Martin, I don’t have words to express how much I hope the housing market crashes in the Progressive Paradise. You’ve built an unsustainable “community.” I can’t wait to watch while you – a “community” you – die in it.

      I’ll raise a glass of single malt in celebration.

  • QET

    Just what we need: still more “administrative bodies” and legislation where self-certified experts decide what’s best for us.

    How about: don’t live in friggin’ Palo Alto, San Francisco or anywhere else that is too expensive?! Let those places slowly consume themselves by driving out police, fire and teachers, or evolve into modern latifundia for the new feudal class that will have service vassals as tenants on their estates. If everyone else just stops trying to live there, the barons will vacate soon enough and then the “working families” can move back, as the cycle repeats itself.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    US Census Data

    Population 29,662 66,853

    Black 16.7% 1.9%
    Hispanic 64.5% 6.2%
    Asian 3.8% 27.1%
    White 28.8% 64.2%

    Median Home Value $386,000 $1,000,000+++++
    Median Household Income $52,716 $126,771
    Per Capita Income $18,827 $75,257

    • Fat_Man

      Sure does make the point. They love to talk about diversity and they hate to be a part of it.

      • Jim__L

        Diversity is something that needs to be exported to the exurbs — you know, those places that tend to vote Republican too much.

  • CaliforniaStark

    Rather than attempt to cram more people into Palo Alto like sardines, wouldn’t it make more sense to spread tech jobs to other locations in California and the nation. The Central Valley is just over the coastal range from Palo Alto — why not give an economic boost to Stockton, Fresno and other cities in Central Valley? Housing prices are more reasonable. The study that was referred to in the article was named “Room to Grow” — the key word is “room.” Attempting to put too many people in one area is going to result in scarcity, and increased price, as has happened in Vancouver.

    • 415woman

      What, and move INLAND!??? Be near farmers, ranchers, and Mexican immigrants? And (gasp) Republicans? Surely you jest.

      • Del_Varner

        As Victor Davis Hanson as so adequately described–the Central Valley is the Third World.

        • Jim__L

          No, it’s not.

          I’m speaking as someone who grew up there, and who still takes his kids to their grandparents’ on a regular basis. VDH is speaking out of fear of what it might become, from a trend he fears is rising. (And if nothing changes, he’s right.)

          But ONLY if nothing changes. There’s still enough infrastructure there that an influx of a few tens of thousands of tech jobs in any given city (Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield) would revitalize the place in a heartbeat.

          Your post sounds very much like the kind of snobbery that is driving people to vote for Trump. Is that how you mean to come across?

          • Del_Varner

            Hey, I grew up in the SF Bay area, and I have family in Sacto, so I know what it’s like there. The cities maybe OK, bu the rural parts are not.

            would the tech workers really like to live where it’s over a 100 a lot in the summer?

          • Jim__L

            Do tech workers live anywhere other than an air-conditioned cubicle that looks the same whether you’re in SF, Hawaii, Denver, Bangalore, Taipei, Modesto, or anywhere else?

          • Del_Varner

            But it’s not the tech workers havng the problem. How about the teacher, servers, custodians, etc who make may 75K a year? Can they commute from Modesto to Palo Alto, Melo Park, Atherton, Mountain View?

          • Jim__L

            Put the jobs in Modesto, and the sky-high property prices drain away.

          • Nat Rev

            It’s CA. Nothing will change in the direction to make the CV anything but a third-world, Mexican s**t hole.

        • CaliforniaStark

          Just so happens that much of the tech industry workforce lives in the Third World. Those enlightened, progressives who run the tech industry are paying for their expensive Palo Alto homes with profits earning from products make at manufacturing plants in places like China and India.

          • Jim__L

            You got that right. Workers in Bangalore are at best half (usually a quarter) as productive as workers in Santa Clara, but if you only pay them a fifth or a tenth what you pay in Silicon Valley, you’re coming out ahead.

            Some of their productive American workers are already telecommuting from places like Modesto and Merced (which has a UC, by the way) most days of the week, and only coming into the office for a several hours a month.

            Why this is not supported and encouraged by official company programs, to the point of setting up satellite campuses in those towns, is simply a result of Bay Area snobbery.

    • Matt B

      Many tech workers are moving to Seattle due to its relative affordability. Of course that does not help the teachers, etc.

    • Nat Rev

      No. It makes sense to move the Tech industry out of California. To Kansas.

  • Andrew Allison

    Diagracefull isit nit that elected city councils and planning officials are permitted to represent residents rather than catering to non-resident. We can’t have that![Sarc]. Neither, obviousy, can we alow people to choose rhe sort of neigborhoods in which they choose to live. Socialism at its best. There are a couple of tiny problems standing in the of socializing Palo Alto housing. One is the absence of land upon which to build it, and the is rhe loss of tax revenue by forcibly lowering value. As California Stark points out, what’really neded is regulation encouaging bussiness to move out of the Bay Area to the impoverished Central Vally.

    • Jim__L

      Palo Alto will build a wall, and force East Palo Alto to pay for it.

      You’d think these people would be Trump supporters…

      • Andrew Allison

        More likely the other way around. EPA is struggling mightily to prevent gentrification.

  • More Liberty

    More progressives going after progressives, etc, etc, etc. Grabbing the popcorn and watching big government cooks go after eachother.

  • Jim__L


    The root problem is that these jet-setting executives decide not to put the jobs under their control anywhere other than Palo Alto, Mountain View, or in the city.

    Incidentally, their solution is to establish a culture where their employees never have children (“Freeze your eggs, you’ll get back to them when you’re 65, really!”) and work 16-18 hours a day. And then try to export this culture to everywhere else in the country. (Ha, OK, not really — they don’t want anywhere other than Silicon Valley, or maybe Shenzhen, to compete with them. They’re perfectly happy ignoring the existence of everywhere else in the world, except to make disgusted noises about how backward they are.) What they’re really doing is imposing their opinions, by law, on the rest of the country so these delicate little snowflakes never have to listen to any criticism of their aberrant sex lives.

    It’s a problem, and they don’t even see it as a problem. They will try to keep importing young and unattached kids straight from college, plying them with the same free-sex-crazed culture they got in the dorms (now known to adults as “group housing” or the more high-flown “intentional communities”), screwing up their lives to the point that when the baby-hunger hits the women in their late 30’s nothing ever comes of it because between workaholism, fully indoctrinated “sex education” (i.e., how not to have children) and a culturally-encouraged total inability behave in a way conducive to forming lasting intimate relationships, kids just don’t ever happen.

    At 23? “My sex-drive isn’t a biological signal that I’m in my peak child-bearing years, it just means I’m sex-positive! I’m much too young to talk about marriage and children!” At 33? (and 34, and 35) “I’m still in my early career, kids just can’t fit into my life right now!” At 36+? “Wow, I want babies! Why can’t I just have kids out of a test tube, and screw around with whoever happens to be within arms’ reach at any given time? We need to experiment with forms of family other than mother/father/children. Things were better when parents could push their kids onto grandparents to raise, after all it takes a village to raise a child [if Mom doesn’t want to bother…]”

    No one is going to stand up tall and speak up for families, in the Brave New World that Silicon Valley has on offer. Individuals are exiled, silenced by peer pressure, or end up just going along. Organizations like churches are blackguarded in the media, pressured by government, and are too often in survival mode rather than spreading the Word.

    In the end, for the West to survive, those bought into the Silicon Valley culture need to see the abject lunacy of their ways. I happen to be extremely fond of many of them, so I’ll continue to try to do so gently.

    On the other hand, Reality today is laying the groundwork for a rather ungentle check on their behavior, in the not-too-distant future.

    Something that can’t last, won’t.

  • Matt B

    Anyone who has not read Revolt of the Elites by the late great Christopher Lasch should get a copy.

  • rheddles

    Having lived in Palo Alto for 10 years I can assure you it does not face extinction, though it, like any community, will change. The question is how it should change and who decides, typical gentrification issues. And there are lots of local issues involved here that are not understood by those who do not live there; north or south of Oregon, east or west of Middlefield, Eichler or traditional? Ms Downing thinks she has a right to live in PA and the laws should be changed so that she can afford to do so. How selfish; more or less so than the resident since 1947 (yes there is one) who doesn’t want her neighborhood to change? Every yuppie would want to live in Palo Alto. But there isn’t enough land. And to make it affordable do you really want to live in a 20 story condo on the Camino a mile from the San Andreas fault?

    QET is generally correct. The coming feudalization of Caliphornia was apparent 12 years ago, when we decided to leave. It wasn’t a place in which we wanted to rear our children. You can see the start of the feudalization in the Stanford housing arrangement Martin Lewis discusses. I would not be surprised to see similar arrangements for public servants. And at some point Silicon Valley will price itself out of the market. I’m working now to create a more sane alternative.

    But no matter what happens, they aren’t making any more land in Palo Alto. And it remains close to Redwood City, Palo Alto without the attitude, where the motto is Climate Best by Government Test. Palo Alto will always be a desirable address, even after the big one, and it will be priced accordingly. Get over yourself, Ms Downing. Enjoy Santa Cruz. It sounds more your speed anyway.

    • Jim__L

      Ironically, Oregon itself runs mostly north-south. And isn’t San Andreas roughly along 280, where the lakes are?

      I’m happy to hear you’re working to create a sane alternative to SV. Where?

      • rheddles

        I always looked at Oregon as running from the bay to the hills, so east-west. But at that corner of the peninsula, it may well be more north-south. 280 is about a mile, maybe two, from the Camino, not that far.

  • Nat Rev

    Good. I hope home prices go up to $5 million. Then I hope the RE market crashes. Couldn’t happen to a better group of assholes.

  • After reading the various comments posted here, I can only conclude that many reader of The America Interest could use a course in the economies of agglomeration (see Simply put, the high-tech sector needs a high degree of spatial concentration. “Silicon Valley” as an economic sector would collapse if its jobs were scattered across the country.

    • CaliforniaStark

      You obviously have not been reading WRM’s paeans about the joys of telecommuting. Think of enjoying the bucolic life of turning off you computer and going outside and picking your own almonds and walnuts. The tech sector would not collapse if tech jobs were spread to other locations; this is an argument used by the reigning tech barons to try and prevent competition from tech upstarts who might fly the coop.

  • JDanaH

    Here’s a radical idea: Instead of some administrative scheme to override city council decisions for the “common good”, how about restoring ultra-local control? I.e., let individual property owners decide what to do with their property without giving their neighbors veto power. In other words, start enforcing genuine private property rights.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service