Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense – Constructing San Francisco, Part I

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Good Afternoon:

“If San Francisco is not change, then San Francisco is not at all.”

That’s a phrasing my own invention, althought most likely someone has already expressed the same sentiments with different words. San Francisco is busily constructing its own future right now; building sites abound throughout the city, and crews everywhere earn overtime working six days a week. From where I work at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, I sometimes see as many as eight construction cranes from one of our lunchrooms.

One of the biggest projects consists of digging a tunnel under Stockton Street (one of San Francisco’s busiest) to expand our Muni Metro system (the equivalent of London’s Underground). My first two pictures show the site at Stockton and Market. Somewhere behind all that lies one of SF’s Apple Stores.

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I can’t even guess how many apartment buildings are going up around town. 10th and Market will become the home of a fairly interesting looking one. The construction workers had draped canvas sheets over the facade during the winter to keep the dust of construction from bothering pedestrians and keep the rains out at the same time. Recently, they pulled up some of the sheets and one can now watch the workers at work.

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San Francisco’s rental market has gotten so insane that even if every new apartment complex finished tomorrow (Sunday), the thousands of units of new housing will sell or rent out by next Saturday. No, I’m wrong; Wednesday at the latest. Superficially, we seem to defy much of the theory of free markets in this town; such a drastic increase in the supply of housing will likely not cause the prices to come down, just as rent control, Byzantine zoning laws and NIMBYism (Not In My BackYard) seems to have had no detrimental effect on attracting developers. I suspect that at a deeper level, what has and will happen in San Francisco actually confirms conventional wisdom. This seems a good time to remind everyone that I have no training in economics or urban planning, and to caution you that you should not accept my words at face value.

I also stink at predictions so badly that you will never see me fill out a March Madness bracket for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. I have written about the challenges facing artists trying to afford life in this city. Even the international press has taken an interest in our ongoing evolution. All San Franciscans know that San Francisco has embroiled itself in an as-yet undefined future that is already here. We have no idea how our hometown will appear in 20 years, yet it appears that we want that future right now.

Consequences to be determined and dealt with later.

If at all.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Incidentally, Wikipedia’s “Today’s featured picture” for today (23 March 2013) um, uh, features a great shot of the Cliff House.

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