Patterico's Pontifications

8/10/2023

Making Lemonade from Lemons in San Francisco?

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:11 am



[guest post by JVW]

Hats off to those great entrepreneurial Americans who can make a quick buck in the face of societal collapse:

Last year, The Atlantic dubbed San Francisco a “failed city.”

Earlier this year, amid shuttering stores and a ballooning drug and homeless crisis, Elon Musk tweeted that the city feels “post-apocalyptic,” like a set piece for the zombie horror series, The Walking Dead. Writer Michael Shellenberger has dubbed the city “San Fran-sicko.”

Now, tourists and residents alike looking to get a first-hand look at the urban decay are in luck. A planned “Downtown Doom Loop Walking Tour” promises an up-close look at all the worst San Francisco has to offer: open-air drug markets, abandoned tech offices, deserted stores.

“You’ve read the headlines, you’ve seen the Tweets, now get close and personal to the Doom and Squalor of downtown San Francisco,” reads a description of the tour on Eventbrite.

The $30 tour is supposedly slated for 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, according to the Eventbrite post. The tour purportedly will start at City Hall and take participants on a 1.5 mile hike through Mid-Market, the Tenderloin District, and Union Square. “Sneakers advised.”

Some are suggesting that this proposed tour is an elaborate joke, a troll job meant to garner publicity. I hope that’s not the case, mostly because it has the most prissy and humorless San Franciscans scrunching up their noses in disgust:

The “doom loop” tour isn’t sitting well with some city residents and leaders. One resident told the San Francisco Chronicle that the tour was nothing more than a “bad publicity stunt.” A local community leader told the paper that the tour is “not really productive,” adding that it’s “harmful to walk around showing all the bad without any proposed solution.”

Another community leader told the San Francisco Standard that he intends to lead a free “counter-tour” at the same time, meeting across the street from the “doom loop” tour.

Del Seymour, co-founder of a job-training nonprofit in the Tenderloin, told the Standard that he plans to “celebrate the goodness” of his community.

Here’s a list of other things which are merely “bad publicity stunts”: sanctuary cities, vouchers for the homeless, toleration of camping on the streets and open drug commerce and usage, cashless bail, restorative justice, diversionary sentencing, green initiatives — I could go on and on. I hope this tour is real and that it does take place, and frankly I hope it becomes a regular part of San Francisco tourism. We’re far past the point where local leaders and the obnoxious advocacy class ought to have their noses rubbed in it.

– JVW

23 Responses to “Making Lemonade from Lemons in San Francisco?”

  1. I hope this free counter-tour passes by a graveyard so that participants have a chance to whistle.

    JVW (7a694a)

  2. For the tour guides’ benefits, I hope their clientele sign mugging waivers.

    The real estate guy in me keeps thinking about how all that empty office space could be converted to residential units.
    Vacancy and housing shortage problems not solved, but moving in a better direction.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)

  3. The real estate guy in me keeps thinking about how all that empty office space could be converted to residential units.

    Do you think they have the plumbing capacity to become residential units? I thought I read somewhere that this a huge obstacle: that so many of these office buildings would have to be gutted and re-plumbed.

    JVW (7a694a)

  4. Fair question, JVW.
    The high-rises have to have serious water flow for fire code reasons, but I don’t know if that’s enough. I await an enterprising developer to solve this, but it could involved more discounted pricing.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)

  5. Maybe they should shoot the next season of “The Walking Dead: Dead City” in SF. Or parts of LA … LA loves film shoots.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  6. The real estate guy in me keeps thinking about how all that empty office space could be converted to residential units.

    They’ve been doing that for a year or two now. There are some expensive retrofit issues, not just water.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  7. @3 and @4

    Fair question, JVW.
    The high-rises have to have serious water flow for fire code reasons, but I don’t know if that’s enough. I await an enterprising developer to solve this, but it could involved more discounted pricing.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d) — 8/10/2023 @ 9:41 am

    Anyone who tells you that it’s uneconomical to convert these to living quarters are most likely fibbing.

    If there’s a market for it, it’ll be profitable.

    You can plumb/wire in just about anything.

    The biggest hesitancy to converting such buildings to my knowledge is:
    a) resident/guest parking
    b) there’s no turning back if offices becomes de jure again
    c) local “home” stores (ie, grocery and the likes)
    d) differences between commercial and residential building codes.

    “d” is probably the biggest hurdle in most places.

    When my Uncle converted an old warehouse into lofts in St. Louis, the most time consuming effort was getting approvals with the city.

    whembly (5f7596)

  8. A friend has managed office high rises from San Diego to LA and Honolulu for an extremely enterprising Southern CA development company. He said they had looked at it long and hard, and in most cases it would be cheaper to implode them and start over. None of the infrastructure is set up for residences, the engineering may not be not set up for weight of interior walls they could be impossible to cost effectively bring up to residential code, none of those building were built green and would need exemptions, sometimes stripping interior walls of material causes structural integrity issues, on and on. It is also much easier to accurately price new construction than a remodel because as long as no one has to deviate from plans and specs, the new project should proceed close to budget. The remodel project begins to deviate as soon as the interior demo gets underway. From a professional perspective, a remodel that “stayed on original budget” raises some serious questions about what happened behind the quickly closed walls. I’ve seen projects where they did interior demo, then RFP’d all the trades, found out yes, it would have been much cheaper to have just demo’d the whole thing and additionally now needs redesign, re-engineering and re-approvals. Your carrying costs also just doubled

    steveg (9f4802)

  9. @10 steveg (9f4802) — 8/10/2023 @ 11:14 am

    I think the difference from my perspective is my family’s work with old warehouses, rather than highrises.

    With warehouses, you’re almost building inside the warehouses.

    With high rises, I’ll stipulate that it’s outside of my expertise, but I would have to think that the decision to remodel vs. demo, is what is the desired outcome? If you want really nice living spaces with modernity, demo is the only option. If you’re wanting just apartments (that can be really nice inside!) and accept some limitations that the building was originally designed for offices, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be feasible.

    Like I said, getting approvals from local ordinances may drive everything to demo’ing, which is sad if the end goal is building something affordable.

    whembly (5f7596)

  10. > sanctuary cities

    like it or not, this policy is *popular* in california — crime victims who are here illegally should not be afraid to cooperate with police prosecuting the crimes. without a sanctuary city policy the very real risk is that complaining witnesses will be deported.

    > toleration of camping on the streets

    the federal courts have strongly informed us that if there isn’t sufficient shelter space to move people into, it is a violation of the civil rights of the homeless to arrest them for camping in public. most people in SF are at the end of their rope with this and would like the camps cleared, but since there isn’t sufficient shelter space — and won’t be, because nobody is willing to allow a shelter to move into their neighborhood and SF long ago devolved planning authority to require neighborhood approval (which is also why SF can’t get housing constructed) — there is no legal option for clearing the camps.

    > restorative justice

    absolutely. repairing the damage is *vastly* preferable to punishing the offender without repairing the damage; it produces better outcomes for both victim and criminal.

    > cashless bail

    cash bail can *absolutely ruin* the life of a poor person who is arrested who is subsequently acquitted — coming up with the bail obliterates their savings and leaves them vulnerable to the tiniest economic disruption, not coming up with the bail leaves them in jail and causes them to lose their job and housing.

    yeah, in theory you get your bail back if you show up, but (a) that can take years and (b) bail is so high relative to the resources of poor people that everyone just borrows the money — and the down payment on the loan is just lost, forever.

    aphrael (4c4719)

  11. I moved from San Francisco to Reno back in the aughts. Reno doesn’t indulge ne’er-do-wells to that degree. You may call it cruel. I call it tough love.

    I won’t even take my beloved Mustang into San Francisco. Too many car break-ins.

    People in Reno, natives and refugees from California alike, don’t like what’s happening in California, and take pride in resisting it.

    norcal (290511)

  12. there is no legal option for clearing the camps.

    Not even to relocate them? (because a shelter has to meet standards?)

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  13. aphrael (4c4719) — 8/10/2023 @ 12:19 pm

    yeah, in theory you get your bail back if you show up, but (a) that can take years and (b) bail is so high relative to the resources of poor people that everyone just borrows the money — and the down payment on the loan is just lost, forever.

    What really happen is that they pay the bail bondsman 10%.

    The issue isn’t really cash bail. The issue is the ability of judges to set bail so high so that arrested person stays in jail. Which is done when the rime is very serious, or the person is thought by the judge to be violent or is a recidivist.

    Now the judges could consider dangerousness in setting bail or remanding someone without bail, but not in New York for decades. It was always set bail so high that it won’t be met. Bail was often a legal fiction.

    (I think they can assume that a person is more likely to flee the jurisdiction if the potential penalty is high and deny bail. The defendant also has to ask for bail and Rex Heuermann, the Gilgo Beach serial killer, didn’t, although he refused to allow his DNA to be sampled and haad to be ordered to do so. I wouldn’t know why his lawyer did not make one futile request to a court (bail) but did another (not to have his DNA taken)

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  14. With warehouses, you’re almost building inside the warehouses.

    Yeah, my cousin worked on a job converting an old warehouse to residences, and the benefit of a warehouse was definitely having large, open spaces that you can switch. I would imagine that having to tear down office walls and rip out carpet, etc. would be a hassle. But what my cousin learned working in a city in the Bay Area (which will remain anonymous, though it rhymes with Jokeland) is exactly what whembly wrote: dealing with local politicians and bureaucrats is by far the worst part of the job.

    JVW (71d88e)

  15. But what my cousin learned working in a city in the Bay Area (which will remain anonymous, though it rhymes with Jokeland) is exactly what whembly wrote: dealing with local politicians and bureaucrats is by far the worst part of the job.

    JVW (71d88e) — 8/10/2023 @ 2:56 pm

    I recall a story from years ago (maybe it was in National Review) about how long it took, and how much red tape the person had to wade through, just to open an ice cream shop in San Francisco. An ice cream shop!

    It’s sad to see how far San Francisco has fallen. My father grew up there in the 1940s, when it was a magnificent city. I envy him that.

    norcal (290511)

  16. Capitalism in action! If you don’t like capitalism move to cuba! Lenin said it best the capitalists will sell us the rope we use to hang them with! However his solution didn’t work out to well.

    asset (6d4c9d)

  17. Capitalism in action!

    asset (6d4c9d) — 8/10/2023 @ 3:27 pm

    San Francisco is anti-capitalism in action.

    norcal (290511)

  18. like it or not, this policy is *popular* in california — crime victims who are here illegally should not be afraid to cooperate with police prosecuting the crimes. without a sanctuary city policy the very real risk is that complaining witnesses will be deported.

    aphrael (4c4719) — 8/10/2023 @ 12:19 pm

    In many cases these days, cooperating witnesses who are undocumented can get work permits, nonimmigrant visas, and even green cards, and it applies everywhere, not just sanctuary cities.

    https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/victims-of-criminal-activity-u-nonimmigrant-status

    norcal (290511)

  19. What a great incentive to falsely accuse someone of a crime.

    nk (b85928)

  20. @norcal@19 Some of its problems definitely are due to capitalism, or at least supply and demand. It’s got a limited amount of land and a good climate, so high demand for housing and low supply, so the prices have gone up and up until all the middle parts of society, parts that are required to make a healthy society, have been driven out of the city, leaving the wealthy, the tourists, and the homeless. Theoretically what could happen under capitalist auspices is that the resulting reduction in desirability should lead to lower prices and returning middle groups which would then start to push the homeless back out of the city, but I have doubts that the capitalists who own the realestate are going to let that happen to their property values (which may be securing loans) and so they may artificially prop up the real estate market.

    Nic (896fdf)

  21. You can work within the shell of a warehouse. Home remodels down to the shell are pretty easy because most top out at two stories. Converting existing empty high rise office space is an area that can provide large rewards to successful innovators but problem is no one wants to be first, because it looks like a lot of money is going to get burned while learning

    steveg (9f4802)


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