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:
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:
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":
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.