Monday, October 30, 2006

Don't Quote Me

But I found a secret back entrance to the Stanford University Golf Course. To get there, turn off of Alpine Road onto Stowe Ln, a rustic little cul-de-sac, and from there take Stowe Ct, which isn't on maps and looks even less like an official street, although it does have a sign, and you'll find a gap in the fence. It's a deliberate gap, not just a hole, and there isn't even a sign telling you to keep out. Just walk or ride right in.

There's lots of well-paved paths through nice scenery with enough ups and downs to give you a workout. You can eventually work your way over to the main gate on Junipero Serra/Foothill.

I was a chilly morning, and the only people I saw were a totally indifferent groundskeeper and a few golfers who waved as they went by in their cart.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Snacks on a Train

Mrs 295Bus had a doctor's appointment, and since Redwood City schools are in "fall intersession", it became an impromptu take-your-daughter-to-work day.

Fortunately we brought reading material to pass the time til our train,

and some yogurt to eat on the trip.

She got to hold the camera too:

Monday, October 23, 2006

Today's Lunchtime Outing

Today looked to be one of the last nice days of fall weather. Admittedly, I've thought that every day for a couple of weeks now, but it's still a good reason to get outside.

Today I walked around Mountain View--I walked, instead of biked, because I'm still a little dizzy from a bonk I got last night ice-skating. Generally, when I fall skating, it's forwards, which can hurt a bit, but usually I just end up polishing the ice with my shirt, like some sort of human Zamboni. Last night I tried to learn t-stops, which involves leaning backwards, and clearly I don't have it quite down yet. I wasn't in a hurry anyway, so I took a walk through the decidedly non-creepy back alleys of Mountain View.

There were a few interesting architectural oddities along the way, which I'll take pictures of sometime and post on my nkncat blog, like a rustic garage with cow skull over the door. Yee haw! Eventually I ended up at the California Street Market at California and Mariposa, and picked up a lunch that's a bit of a compromise between the yummy but not so healthy stuff I used to eat, and my current palate: one tamal, a large V8, and a banana. All very portable, so I dined al fresco and continued my tour, looped around more quaint neighborhoods, and eventually back to work.

Monday, October 16, 2006

So where ARE we Supposed to Live, Then?

The Census Bureau, in addition to counting where people live, also counts where they work. City-by-city and county-by-county results are available from their website here. You can download it in MS Excel or ASCII format. It's pretty dry stuff--just a big table of numbers--but it helps answer very un-academic questions you might be asking, like "why am I stuck driving an hour to get to work every day?", or "why am I paying so much for rent on this dump?". Last August, I wrote a bit of a rant on this subject, and accused California cities of being all too eager to attract business, but equally eager to avoid providing housing for the people who work in them. Now I've got statistics to prove it!

First, here's a useful figures on what a good ratio of employment to housing should be. Nationwide, the Census counted 281,421,906 residents, of whom 128,168,928 were enployed; that's 2.19 residents per employee. In California, the figures were 33,871,648 residents, 14,506,499 emploeyees, or 2.33 residents per employee.

So that means that cities should, on average, provide room for 2.33 residents per person they create space for the employment of. How do local cities measure up? I looked at a sample of cities starting with San Francisco, and working down the Hwy 101/CalTrain corridor. I took population and employment figures from the Census spreadsheets, figured a population need based on the employment figures times 2.33, and a housing surplus/deficit by subtracting the actual population:

San Francisco776,733587,3001,368,409-591,676
Daly City103,62115,00634,96468,657
South SF60,55241,08495,726-35,174
San Bruno40,16515,56636,2693,896
San Mateo92,48246,512108,373-15,891
San Carlos27,71817,85741,607-13,889
Redwood City75,40252,887123,227-47,825
Menlo Park30,78532,93076,727-45,942
Palo Alto58,59878,657183,271-124,673
East PA29,5062,7966,51522,991
Mountain View70,70859,293138,153-67,445
Los Altos27,69310,68424,8942,799
Santa Clara102,361119,124277,559-175,198
San Jose894,943377,915880,54214,401
Morgan Hill33,55612,86629,9783,578

It's not surprising that San Francisco has a housing deficit, since its downtown has been developing as a commute destination from surrounding cities for over a hundred years now. But, whereas in times past, suburban "bedroom" communities provided enough of a "housing surplus" to offset the "housing deficit" of core cities, it's clear the peninsula and valley cities don't come close, and some--especially quintissential "Silicon Valley" cities like Palo Alto and Santa Clara, have developed into major commute targets themselves, while adding very little in the way of new housing. The result is a huge, region-wide, deficit of housing.

How big is the problem? Let's take a look at figures for the five counties that make up the urban core of the Bay Area:

Contra Costa948,816338,408788,491160,325
San Francisco776,733587,3001,368,409-591,676
San Mateo707,161353,376823,366-116,205
Santa Clara1,682,585946,7562,205,941-523,356

So the Bay Area basically is short of housing to the point of needing to make room for about a million and a quarter more people. The average household in California (according to the Census Bereau again) is 2.93 people, so that works out to about a half million housing units.

If you're wondering where you can move to get away from this mess here's some figures for counties in the "greater Bay Area":

San Benito53,23415,46036,02217,212
San Joaquin563,598195,709456,002107,596
Santa Cruz255,602107,407250,2585,344

These figures reflect decades of bad planning and willful blindness to a growing problem. The result for most of us is choice between exhorbitant housing costs and nightmare commutes, or some "compromise" between them. As I wrote in the manifest that I opened this blog with, a solution to this problem will require leadership beyond the parochial interests of individual cities. Our state government should incent cities to provide housing proportionate to their commercial space--by whatever carrots or sticks will get the job done.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Los Ricos Tambien Lloran

Today's post is by Mrs. 295Bus.

The other day I was riding around my neighborhood on my bike with a camera. I have the (in my opinion) misfortune to live one block away from Atherton, a township with super-rich residents. The minimum size of a housing lot is one acre, and in the Bay Area, that's unusual. There's also absolutely zero commercial zoning, nor do they have a public school. I don't know how they swing that legally, but they do. I live in your typical middle class suburb; it's an immediate transition from regular folks to the likes of the CEO of Google.

So here's my bicycle tour of Atherton.

First, they have this sort of nonsense. I'm convinced it's so you can't give easy directions so it cuts down on the riff raff.

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Oh look, it's greenery recycling day! They get pickup once a week in Atherton, which is a good thing, because it takes this many containers to clear those lawns of pesky leaves every week. To be fair, this is for two houses, so that's only 6-7 containers each per week. We barely fill up one container every two weeks, and we have a big oak tree in our yard.

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Then there's the creative folks, like these people, who have TV screens in their outside property wall. They turn them on at night - I've seen vacation photos, regular TV shows, and weird art shots of bloodshot eyes. Oddly, all the TV screens have been bombed by birds. Why? A mystery for the ages.

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See? It's a pretty house, except for the color. It's not really showing how putrid it looks in person in this picture. It's stucco - yellowish, greenish, brownish stucco.

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Now here's a little fixer-upper.

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You can't really see it in the picture, but the windows are broken out and it's obviously been abandoned for a long time. Gotta love the fake timber x's and all that. What would you pay for this little home improvement project?

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A cool 3.9 million and it's yours. It's not like this is on the bay, or the Pacific, or even on top of a hill. There is no awesome view, it's just a big lot on a quiet street, in the "right" neighborhood.

Construction is always going on in Atherton. There's more home improvement permits issued in Atherton than there are lots. On this bike ride I passed seven of those portable taco trucks -- I counted. There's that many crews at work on any given day.

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The funny thing is you're probably thinking this is for a basement, right? Well, basements are pretty rare in California, but I have seen this more than once in Atherton. My guess is that this is for the underground garage. Probably so that the owner can house his or her classic car collection.

So a little closer to the polo fields is this little gem, which made me laugh out loud. It just looked funny to stick some cheap patio furniture in the middle of a vacant lot, but I suppose it makes sense. The realtor has to have somewhere to sit on Open House day.

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How much would you pay for this landlocked, middle-of-nothing-special lot? There's plenty of room for your 10,700 square foot dream house. You'll only have to be paying property taxes on this amount, though:

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I can't diss Atherton, though, because it gives me a flat, nearly carless place to ride my bike as fast as I want. Wee!