Here’s What San Francisco Looks Like As An Affordable City
Greg Ferenstein

I’ve been traveling the country for the past year trying to figure out what different cities and towns have to offer, what draws people to them, and what problems some of these places are facing.

I love your idea of crowdsourcing ideas for problem solving and honestly love all of the responses here, even those who were absolutely against the idea of densification. Having views from both sides really helps balance the way we can look at these problems.

My experiences have shown me that there are a handful of cities drawing people in in droves and who aren’t able to keep up with the demand for housing, the traffic, the NIMBYism, and the gentrification. Cities like SF, Portland, Seattle, and even Boulder, and Denver are getting stressed for housing. But I think we might need to look at the issue from another point of view. Why are people trying to move to these cities?

Mainly from my perspective at least, the reasons are access to jobs and access to culture (or people and ideas). Big cities tend to have these 2 things in pretty high abundance. But what about small towns? There are a lot of really cool small towns. But they aren’t making it. Why? People aren’t moving there. There aren’t good jobs and therefore there aren’t enough people, ideas, and culture to keep them lively, fun, and interesting.

So I propose something a little different. I propose we start trying to grow our small towns. We create ways to entice businesses to open branches in these places. Which in turn gives people jobs to make a living in these towns, increases the population so that other businesses are drawn in and since these towns are currently “small” they will have the ability to see the mistakes that have been made by the larger cities who’ve come before them. They can plan ahead for traffic, they can try new things for sprawl, they can start protecting open space land now.

So instead of making someplace like San Francisco who’s already got a set culture, history, and polarized ideas about where it should go next, let’s create new places for people to create. Let’s create new cultures, new cities, or even new cities from the ashes of the old (think Detroit or Memphis).

At least that’s what comes to mind reading the diversity of responses already laid out here.

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