By Chris Roberts
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Next Week: The Case Against Cable Cars
Don't underestimate brown-nosing: Of all the lamebrained, libertarian, knee-jerk Shinola passed off as journalism in your "alternative" publication, your cover story ("The Case for Ending Rent Control," Aug. 9) has got to take the cake. The streets are already filled with those who can't afford $2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. In Oakland, where your wondrous free-market example is a reality, lifelong residents are getting evicted at a rate faster than the bpm in a drum 'n' bass ditty blaring at a rave.
San Francisco runs the danger of being an artistic ghost town, populated exclusively by the rich, unless loopholes in rent control are strengthened and brakes are put on the so-called dot-com office space development boom.
Maybe you haven't noticed it, but there's a class war going on. And all of your brown-nosing to the ruling elite still won't save you when your landlord takes the shortsighted route and evicts you to make way for an Internet start-up.
Drawing blood: Peter Byrne wanted to use me to bash rent control, so he laid a trap, then when what I said wasn't damning enough, put words in my mouth. Knowing, but not letting on, that I had just passed through some capital improvement costs, he asked what I thought of the initiative limiting pass-throughs. My reply: "I think it's draconian, but it's an understandable response to conditions." Byrne's version: "Holden says the ban would be unfair to landlords, even "draconian.'"
"Draconian," in my dictionary, means "very harsh." Fairness is a different question. The inherent unfairness of the landlord-tenant relationship, in the landlord's favor, is one of the conditions I meant.
Byrne takes five or six thousand words to say our rents are high because we have density limits and rent control. I was just in Hong Kong, a developer's wet dreamland, where demolition and construction go on day and night and there are no limits and no controls on anything. The rents are astronomical. Q: What else, besides great views and great dim sum, do S.F. and H.K. have in common? A: They are both great places to live, with finite space.
A renter against rent control: Peter Byrne is to be congratulated on his excellent analysis of rent control in San Francisco. I am a tenant in a rent-controlled apartment, but I realize that the free market best serves the interests of both landlords and tenants. Also, it is an immoral infringement of property rights for the government to set the price of something that should be set by voluntary agreement. Unfortunately, I fear that a worse deterioration of the housing situation in San Francisco is inevitable before the citizens realize the truly bad results of our rent control laws.
Mark D. Fulwiler
The Starbucks theory: Although Peter Byrne's analysis of San Francisco's current high-rent, housing-shortage problem is accurate, the solution may be more complex than simply abolishing rent control. Yes, the market would, eventually, level off the cost of housing after the initial price hike following decontrol, but one should be careful not to underestimate the power of the market at this time. San Francisco could easily be completely comprised of high-tech folk who could afford the theoretical 50 percent increase in rent. There is more money in the Bay Area than you can shake a stick at, and landlords will want the most they can get for their space, as any good businesspeople would. That equals, possibly, more than a 50 percent increase in rent and most low- or fixed-income tenants moving to Fresno.
Suffering everywhere: My rebuttal to Peter Byrne's article is the high rents all throughout the Bay Area. Has he tried to rent an apartment in San Mateo, where there is no rent control? Because of demand, rents here are high with or without rent control. The free market is ruthless. Does he want to reinforce this ruthlessness in San Francisco?
The middle ground: Peter Byrne has confirmed something we all know -- that moderation is best. Rent control, as instituted in 1979, with reasonable rent limits, would never have created the housing crisis we have today. It was meant to prevent abuse, not eliminate rental housing. The subsequent changes, promoted by radical activists such as Bostonian Ted Gullicksen of the S.F. Tenants Union, have caused our problems. Boston eliminated rent control in 1995, rental housing reappeared, and their housing crisis soon disappeared. When will San Franciscans learn?
A man with a plan: Supply and demand works only when you have a supply and a demand. Currently, a large demand exists for housing in S.F. The supply of housing is not available because:
- San Francisco does not have any undeveloped land to build ample housing;
- The city enforces numerous rules and regulations that drive up the cost of construction;
- Most people do not want to live in high-rise buildings.
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