All of San Francisco should be shouldering construction

By 8 a.m. the jackhammers were already going. The pounding permeated the 100 year old walls of my apartment like they weren’t even there.

Living in SoMa, I’m used to the honking and sirens and madmen yelling, but jackhammering is just too much. Maybe that’s because I can feel it in my teeth. I had to move from my bedroom to the kitchen just to write this piece.

Thankfully this is just road work and should be finished soon, but there is no end in sight for the construction that seems to be on nearly every corner in town.

San Francisco is going through its biggest building boom since Urban Renewal remade The City in the ’60s and ’70s. But to call this a boom is an understatement, it’s more like an explosion. It’s impossible to look up into the sky in S.F. and not see a crane. In fact the crane should be S.F.’s new official bird.

While most of the construction is aimed towards making this a better city, it’s really screwing things up in the meantime. A few weeks ago it took me nearly two hours to get out of San Francisco on a Saturday afternoon because of all the work being done. At this point, if someone is mad at you for being late you can just shrug and say “San Franstruction” and you’ll most likely be forgiven.

The ultimate San Franstruction I’ve seen is on 12th Street across from the Eagle. There’s a small two story house that was probably built just after the Great Conflagration, and on each side of it are very large projects that will dwarf the cute little house in the middle. It’ll be just like the house in the movie Up.

Much of this construction is very necessary. We have a small, compact city with not enough housing and too many cars. So condos and apartments are being built and roadwork is being done. For some people, especially the ones making money off the buildings and the roadwork, this is what economic prosperity looks like.

What keeps being overlooked though is that all this construction is only happening on the east side of The City. For almost a decade the Mission, SoMa and Downtown have endured the brunt of this remaking of San Francisco, while the Westside has been largely untouched. Part of this is due to zoning, part of this is due to strong neighborhood associations, and part of it is due to poor planning. But the none of that changes the fact that the Westside should be shouldering a lot more.

While there were some pretty big flaws in Senate Bill 827, state Sen. Scott Wiener’s housing bill that got defeated earlier this year, the idea that we need to allow the building of more housing in more places is right on the mark. Why should the east side of S.F. have to endure it all? We should be encouraging reasonable upzoning along major corridors like Geary Boulevard and 19 th Street and we should be making it easier for homeowners to add more stories and build in-law units on their property. This is not to say that we should have eight-story buildings from the bay to the beach like the law would’ve allowed, nor is it to say that we should give developers carte blanche to do whatever they please. We should continue to be focused on building as much 100 percent affordable housing as possible and compelling luxury developers to include as many below market-rate units as we can. But the east side of San Francisco simply can’t absorb all of it, the west side has to help.

If you want a better San Francisco, you have to actually be down to make it happen. It’s easy to say we need more housing but then shut it down in your own neighborhood. Real change can only happen if we all take some of the responsibility. If you agree, let your supervisor know.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at and join his awesome mailing list to stay up on the work he’s doing: Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.

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