Why can’t San Francisco turn vacant retail and office space into shelters for migrants and the unhoused?

Headlines are packed with stories about major retailers shutting down stores in San Francisco and distressed office towers. At the same time, we know that folks in the Bay Area are passionate about social justice and welcoming migrants (San Francisco has been a sanctuary city since 1989). See, for example, “Nordstrom is the latest retailer to leave San Francisco” (CNN) and “Office vacancies in San Francisco jump to a record 33%” (The Real Deal).

San Franciscans who say that they want to help the vulnerable and reduce inequality are still wealthy. Why won’t they vote to tax themselves so that the city can acquire the vacant retail and office buildings to turn into housing for migrants and those who are currently suffering from unhoused-ness? These buildings are already equipped with bathrooms and it wouldn’t cost a lot to add more showers. From the WSJ:

2 thoughts on “Why can’t San Francisco turn vacant retail and office space into shelters for migrants and the unhoused?

  1. There are 7,000 homeless in San Francisco, and the city’s budget has grown from $6B/year in 2008 to $14B. Thus with just one year’s worth of the much-maligned tech industry windfall, SF could buy a $1M condo for every single homeless man, woman and child in the city.

    Why aren’t they? By my back of the envelope calculations using the deliberately obfuscated financial reports from the city, between 2008 and now the city bureaucracy managed to absorb at least 40% of the extra $7B/year in increased salaries and benefits. The civil self-servants certainly know how to look out for Number One!

    Of course, with Covid and WFH the tech industry is giving SF politicians exactly what they claimed they wanted, and leaving the city in droves, taking their money with them (that part the politicians didn’t want). Be careful what you wish for.

  2. Good question. What they’ll do instead:

    Hire 500 social scientists who deliberate for a year and arrive at the conclusion that the situation can be remedied by replacing the term “immigrant” with “person who experiences migration”.

    After that, hire 500 programmers who replace the term in all Californian databases and go on GitHub to denounce people who are unwilling to use the new term.

    Then, hire 500 Twitter influencers who praise the efforts and denounce anyone who is unwilling to use the new term.

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