Editorial: Area’s prosperity must be nurtured

The dangers threatening the long-term prosperity of the Bay Area’s revived economy are easy enough to identify. But overcoming them would require a forceful exercise of political

willpower.

By far the worst culprit is the runaway cost of local housing, which can eat up twice as much income percentage as in other expanding business centers such as Seattle or Charlotte, N.C. Other prosperity killers are painfully long commutes, increased immigration obstacles for highly educated foreigners and a lack of tax breaks to attract growing companies.

These findings come from separate studies issued last week by the Bay Area Economic Forum and the Public Policy Institute of California. The Economic Forum report warns that our revived local economy cannot long sustain itself without continuing to attract top talent from around the world.

Bay Area business success is driven by industries based on knowledge and innovation, such as high-tech, biotech, medical research and financial services. In order for the kind of people who spark this economy to continue coming here and remaining, it is necessary to deliver an attractive quality of life.

But an attractive lifestyle becomes increasingly unobtainable when the high cost of living — most especially housing cost — leaves virtually no disposable income for a median $70,000 salaried professional after paying for necessities.

Nor does it help that Bay Area commuters spend an average of 70 hours a year stuck in traffic, or that the California tax structure discourages cities from welcoming new businesses or new housing, or that post-Sept. 11 immigration crackdowns make U.S. residency harder to attain for the highly educated Chinese and East Indian professionals who start one-third of the Bay Area’s emerging technology companies.

The more limited focus of the Public Policy Institute report supports the disturbing central concept that high housing expenses are a dead weight on the California economy. The institute found that California is the third-poorest state in income/housing imbalance.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to see these problems than to do anything to fix them. Where does the money for more and cheaper housing come from? Where can additional housing be placed in the densely populated Bay Area? Where is the money for public transportation good enough to actually get people out of their cars? What could realistically be done to keep the business environment strong and encourage innovative entrepreneurs to set up businesses here?

However, understanding what questions need to be answered is at least making a start toward resolving the looming problems. Any Bay Area solution must be arrived at regionally, not by individual cities. And there is no time to waste.

editorialsOpinion

Just Posted

Epic Cleantec uses soil mixed with treated wastewater solids to plants at the company’s demonstration garden in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Epic Cleantec)
This startup watches what SF flushes – and grows food with it

Epic Cleantec saves millions of gallons of water a year, and helps companies adhere to drought regulations

The Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in Japantown could become permanent supportive housing if The City can overcome neighborhood pushback. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Anti-homeless discrimination stalls supportive housing in Japantown

Will NIMBY arguments keep homeless housing out of neighborhoods?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents in the U.S. (Shutterstock)
Why California teens need mental illness education

SB 224 calls for in-school mental health instruction as depression and suicide rates rise

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, pictured in July, said there was “an unacceptable pattern of misconduct and systemic failures under the previous leadership of the Department of Building Inspection.” (Daniel Montes/Bay City News)
Mayor issues executive directive to increase transparency in DBI amid misconduct allegations

Controller’s office report alleges nepotism, cronyism, corruption

Most Read