of the problem, said 58-year-old Mark Himelstein, is that the tech
industry for years grew unchecked in Silicon Valley.
didn’t have balance,” said Himelstein, a management consultant who
owns a home in unincorporated San Mateo County and responded to the
housing poll. “There was no relationship between the tech
companies’ hiring practices and hiring goals and funding lower-income
would like to see companies work more closely with local cities and
counties to fix the problem. For starters, he said, large companies
should release data on their hiring plans — including how many people
they are hiring, and their pay ranges — and then work with officials
to plan housing for the new employees.
the techies themselves are quick to blame their employers for the
housing shortage: Of the tech workers polled, 47 percent said
technology companies are a major reason for the shortage, compared to
49 percent of nontech workers.
tech companies are stepping up as they realize the problem is
impacting their bottom line, Lorenzana said. With the prohibitive
cost of housing making it harder to recruit and retain workers,
companies including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Cisco are
contributing money and clout to building more housing. Another 100
tech leaders recently signed a letter supporting SB 827, which would
lead to more housing development near transit hubs.
plenty more that tech companies can do, Lorenzana said, from donating
money, to spearheading residential construction projects, to simply
speaking out in favor of housing development.
think what you’re seeing right now is tech and the private sector are
finally understanding that this is an issue that is affecting their
consumer base, and it’s affecting their employees,” Lorenzana
said. “And whether it’s their job or not, there is a role for them to
tech companies can’t conjure up more housing without city officials,
who experts say can be reluctant to approve large-scale residential
development projects, or can otherwise limit construction with rules
that govern where projects can be built, how tall they can be and
how much parking they must provide.
city officials, for example, for years have resisted plans
by Universal Paragon Corp. to build nearly 4,500 housing units on the
Baylands former industrial site, only recently agreeing to consider
allowing a fraction of that. In Cupertino, which approved Apple’s
massive new campus for 12,000 employees without any additional
homes, housing advocates recently criticized Mayor Darcy Paul for
saying the region’s housing shortage was “not
dire.” Fed up with Cupertino’s approval process, Sand Hill
Property Company recently used a new law, Senate Bill 35, to go over
city officials’ heads and propose a
redevelopment plan for Vallco Mall that includes six times the number
of housing units the city originally intended.
been green-lighting office projects like crazy,” Elkind said of
Bay Area cities, “but they don’t care about where those workers are
supposed to live.”
cities are making an effort to build more housing. Mountain View
recently approved a Google-backed plan to build 10,000 new homes in
North Bayshore, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has proposed a plan to
build 25,000 homes over the next five years.
Vice Mayor Rod Sinks says city officials shouldn’t shoulder all
the blame for the Bay Area’s housing shortage.
recognize that the cities have a major responsibility for this, and we
haven’t generated enough housing,” he said. “On the other hand … it
takes two to tango.”
the city approves housing, it’s up to a developer to build it, Sinks
said. And it can be challenging to find developers willing or able to
step up. Housing projects are getting more expensive to build as
construction costs rise, Sinks said, and it’s more lucrative for
developers to build office space or market-rate housing instead of
also important to remember that cities’ housing policies are largely a
reflection of their constituents, including long-term residents
with a “not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, attitude toward development,
said Gary Painter, an economics professor at the University of
Southern California who studies housing markets.
residents are probably the source of a lot (of) blame,” Painter said.
“They don’t want newcomers to come in and change their quality of
life, because they’ve already been here and established that.”
the poll, just 25 percent of respondents said NIMBY
groups play a major role in the Bay Area’s housing shortage.
regulations have a hand in the problem too, experts say, by
creating incentives for cities to favor commercial development