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Learning from Steve Falk

Building new housing — in the places that really need it — is exceedingly difficult. This recent New York Times article by Conor Dougherty is a good example of that. It tells the story of a man named Steve Falk.

Steve was previously city manager for Lafayette, California (a suburb of San Francisco), but he eventually grew frustrated by his inability to affect positive change, and actually build things. He ended up resigning.

Below is a quote from the article. Steve is talking about housing affordability and supply.

“I’m not sure individual cities, left to their own devices, are going to solve this,” he told me once. “They don’t have the incentive to do so, because local voters are always going to protect their own interests instead of looking out for people who don’t live there yet.”

Steve is right in this assertion. I think it was Charlie Munger who once said, “Show me an incentive and I’ll show you an outcome.”

I don’t know the specifics of the proposed 315 unit apartment building in Lafayette (perhaps it was ugly), but the article claims it was an as-of-right proposal close to a BART station (transit).

How does that turn into 0 units and numerous lawsuits, while we all continue to debate housing affordability? Something is broken.

1 Comment so far

  1. Madis Pihlak

    This the problem of our age. Silicon Valley is the worst example of this this no build mentality. Change is tough for people and our age is all about change. A a recently retire multi disciplinary design professor and a planner in another life looking at Philadelphia in a safe 100% walkable area.( I did my Planning thesis on High density living in 1975/76 at Waterloo) Now Philadelphia is a diamond in the rough. It has an extensive electrified train ROW that is positively third world. It needs a massive infrastructure infusion. With that would be a real estate boom. And a high development fight. Toronto really is a model. Americans glaze over when they hear Canada. I am a dual citizen. I took architecture and landscape architecture students to Toronto for seven years until a Buffalo Dean we hired t=stopped that.

    If Bloomberg becomes president there could be a Marshall Plan for the US. That is the scale that is needed.

    Liked by 1 person

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