The Eviction Series
August 2, 2015 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Paul Madonna (previously on MeFi) and his wife have been evicted from the home and workspace in which they've lived for ten years. In response, Paul is drawing and writing All Over Coffee: The Eviction Series about his life in San Francisco right now.
posted by mattdidthat (21 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

Fictional non-fiction is difficult to read, it makes all the claims of non-fiction without having to do any of the actual work of non-fiction. It is signalling at the highest level, you can talk about things as they feel to you and not worry about reality. The ultimate triumph of my feels over economics.

I live in London, one of the few cities with maybe worse housing issues than SF, London's problem is pretty obvious though - there is huge restriction on building new houses. An interesting argument about SF housing right now I heard recently is that people think that easing the restrictions on building new housing there would cause house prices to rise not fall, because the tech industry is so important and has such a competitive salary structure that any increased supply is going to be match by increased demand.

The idea that bay area housing is a bubble is absurd, you are living in a region which kilometre for kilometre is producing more interesting and valuable new companies than anywhere else in the world at an incredible rate. It is not a bubble that people are desperate to live there.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:07 PM on August 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

Whoa, this is weird - Mr. Madonna just bought something of mine and mentioned this in passing. Will check it out!
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not just San Francisco. For the past three months my wife and I have been trying to find a place to rent in the Greater Boston Area around Westford/Chelmsford/Lowell area.

There was very little under $2,000/mo for two bedroom shoe boxes (1000 sq ft if you were lucky) despite being 45 minutes away from Boston. The places (luxury apartments) in Lowell (and elsewhere for that matter) just made me depressed when I realized it was basically one giant gentrification effort that was kicking out residents. Plus you had to pay extortionate amounts for parking despite the fact that it was only a 100,000 city.

We finally found a place in Acton for $1850 a month for an attached 1300 sq ft two bedroom townhouse. 30 seconds after seeing it and determining it acceptable we put down an immediate application. The landlord was eager to just rent it so she thankfully went with us. But when we came back to give her the check for the first/last/security she said her phone hadn't stopped ringing. Things are aboslutely crazy over there despite large tracts of land and colonials being cheap as chips to build.

Everyone was telling me "things are cheaper in MA" but it's really not that cheaper in the rents. For the same price we're paying in rent we could pick up a 4 bedroom house twice as big. It's just absolutely fucking crazy there right now. It might as well be California. Despite all this massive amount of land we had the same stupid fucking shit that we'd have in an urban center with no amenities whatsoever (because the Greater Boston Area is a whole heap of 30,000 person towns that share borders and not a continuous conurbation like the SF South Bay peninsula) and it's just the most stupid ass shit I've ever seen in housing. Like I want to pay $2,000 a month to be within walking distance to a tiny strip mall and that's a feature in suburban Boston real estate.
posted by Talez at 1:11 PM on August 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

San Francisco shares some disadvantages with Seattle - geographically locked in, bodies of water forming bottlenecks for commuting, growing community due to tech boom, plus has some of its own - severe limits on new construction, market heavily skewed towards renting. I'm sympathetic to anyone caught up in that but it's weird that anyone would be surprised by them. Whenever it's SF it always gets weirdly personalized too.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on August 2, 2015

Can Paul and his wife fight this eviction using the law and drawings?
posted by clavdivs at 1:59 PM on August 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Rents are terrible pretty much everywhere. It's a structural issue, because people are getting shut out of buying /buying is looking unappealing for various reasons. It fucking BLOWS though.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2015

Yeah, it doesn't matter if it's a bubble if you're the renter.
posted by maryr at 2:18 PM on August 2, 2015

It would be great to own a bunch of property right now in a major city because you can basically charge whatever you want. All these whiners should just go out and buy some property and start making money instead of spending all day griping. If you can't afford to buy property, just ask your mom or dad to buy it for you or even an uncle or a cousin.
posted by chaz at 2:34 PM on August 2, 2015 [24 favorites]

Hello from my 'shoe box' inside Route 128.

All of the "massive amounts of land" in Massachusetts is currently occupied. It has been (at least by Europeans) for 380 years, give or take. Greater Boston has a number of towns that are basically unchanged in layout since a hundred years or so post-colonial times, and the people who live there would not have it any other way.

If you don't want to live in a 30,000+/- person town, there are plenty of places in Greater Boston where that is possible, but you're going to have to pay to park your car because a lot of people live there already.

San Francisco is basically surrounded by space you can't live on because it's the ocean, Boston is surrounded by that too, and also a lot of small towns that are going to to try really hard to stay that way.
posted by helicomatic at 2:36 PM on August 2, 2015

I'm beginning to suspect that rising rents, housing, and tuition are reflecting the actual declining value of the dollar more closely than the official inflation rate, which is if I understand correctly based on the value of goods which have been continually pushed down in price over the past decades by globalization and efficiency improvements. Maybe the bubble is dollars.
posted by phooky at 2:38 PM on August 2, 2015 [34 favorites]

phooky, that's a very interesting point.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:39 PM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Phooky, the CPI includes rent.
posted by sudo intellectual at 2:54 PM on August 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to live in a 30,000+/- person town, there are plenty of places in Greater Boston where that is possible, but you're going to have to pay to park your car because a lot of people live there already.

My problem isn't that people want to keep a small town small. That's the town residents' own decision. But that's another discussion about the ridiculousness that is suburban Boston outside of 95. What I object to is paying a similar rate to live in a tiny hyper urban living space in a place with no amenities in the middle of nowhere as I would in the city. Adding insult to injury is that outside of Lowell almost every city has less than 2000 people a square mile. Compared to somewhere like the Bay Area where the density is triple that in suburbia.
posted by Talez at 2:54 PM on August 2, 2015

Time to leave the Bay Area. I'm feeling that pressure too. I grew up in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay and have lived all over the peninsula for 50 years. I just don't like it anymore, the money obsessed idiots have taken over and it isn't a nice place anymore. Finding a new place is going to be a bit of a challenge but I'm starting to look forward to it rather than regret it. There's no staying here.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

DC's starting to feel awfully tight too, even in the midst of a building boom (that homeowners seem very eager to stop/slow while pausing to mock the pre-doomed failures of our pathetic transit investments rather than fund something decent).

Comforting to know that if I have to leave there will literally be no place to go that can offer any kind of relief :-/

Ever notice how often politicians address "homeowners" instead of "constituents?" Nobody gives a fuck about renters, but they all seem to be working awfully hard to make sure that we stay renters.
posted by schmod at 5:33 PM on August 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

1350 sf is a very large 2 bed apartment, not tiny at all, and 1850 sounds quite cheap for that amount of space in a decent area -- a big, cheap apartment.
posted by knoyers at 7:06 PM on August 2, 2015

I don't even know if there's anything interesting to say about the subject anymore. Everyone is angry at everyone else, no one has any solutions that are based in reality, and we get the city we deserve.
posted by danny the boy at 9:47 PM on August 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Right, I'll just add, my roommate and I pay over $2,500/month for a 2BR in Brooklyn, so these prices don't seem outrageous to me. But obviously what is outrageous in NYC might be different from what is outrageous in San Francisco.
posted by sudo intellectual at 9:55 PM on August 2, 2015

danny the boy: "I don't even know if there's anything interesting to say about the subject anymore. Everyone is angry at everyone else"

That's pretty much where I'm at with this debate in Seattle. Our esteemed Mayor decided to completely undercut the amazing, yet still confined in scope, changes proposed by a committee that met for two years, all because the SFH owners got riled up after a couple of columns in the Seattle Times by antagonist-in-chief Danny Westneat. Hizzoner was totally down for knocking heads over the minimum wage debate, but only when he had people literally marching in the street. He's not up for being the strong, silent type and instead bent completely backwards to make sure that those poor dears in SF7500 zoning never have to look at a townhouse or neighborhood corner store.

And what really slays me is that I own in Seattle* and I want this sort of thing. I didn't buy where I did to prevent other people from moving in, I did it because the whole walkable neighborhood and shops and things to do will be awesome if it ever happens. Because I can't afford to live in Roosevelt or Ravenna or Wedgwood, so I hoped that getting ahead of the growth would mean I could be there when it happens. But my fellow voters insist on harping on "neighborhood character." It's hard to have neighborhood character when we're nothing but a busy arterial and a run down gas station.

Meanwhile, everywhere else in this city outside of Rainier Valley or Southwest Seattle now seems so expensive and competitive to buy that even if I did want to move I'd wind up being in Everett before I could find something else. But, hey, no solutions must be best solutions!

* The irony is, my lot is zoned for multi-family. Some of the people crowing about how "this can never happen in my neighborhood" actually are my neighbors don't seem to realize that whole blocks could be converted to condos and there'd be nothing they could do to stop it. The only thing standing in the way are people like me who own and live in the existing structures.
posted by fireoyster at 12:26 AM on August 3, 2015

You know, the arguments explaining away higher rents -- ie "4000 a month isn't bad for a 1 bedroom if you consider ___" -- sound very like the arguments made for constantly increasing house prices pre-2008: "they aren't making any more land! Sure, you're spending 150% of your income on a mortgage, but it's an investment! You'll double your money in six months!".

It's also interesting that the now-conventional wisdom, a la Garth Turner and others, is that you shouldn't buy when you can rent: rents are cheaper and property values are falling, rents are more flexible, you can move to take advantage of the employment market, yadda yadda.

The market is now selling shares in rental property in REITs -- real estate investment trusts -- with the same pitch that they used to sell mortgage backed securities. The idea is that the rents that are being charged are going to continue at this level forever: wages are stagnant or dropping, but rents will go up 20% a year for ever and ever. Just as mortgages were always going to be paid and housing prices would never fall.

These arguments were spurious in 2008 and are spurious now. You cannot have a functioning city without spaces available for the people who make it run (teachers, cops, firefighters, garbage collectors) to live, and these spaces have to be priced so that people can afford them. And people will not pay more per month than they make for a place to live, nor will they work at two full-time jobs so they can raise their kids in a hostel. SF may be *DIFFERENT HERE*, but this just sounds like the second verse of the same old song.
posted by jrochest at 3:35 AM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

My partner and I bought a flat in Edinburgh 5 years ago. The monthly amount we had previously paid in rent was 25% more expensive than what we now pay in mortgage payments. The very idea that I can pay LESS per month AND accrue some sort of capital is insane.

The buy-to-let "investor" is just ruining the market for first time buyers and it makes my heart hurt to think what it's going to be like for the next generation.
posted by trif at 8:21 AM on August 3, 2015

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