To the Editor:

You write that because of the influx of wealthy tech employees and a shortage of affordable housing, San Francisco “city officials must grapple with the arithmetic of squeezing more people into the limited space afforded by San Francisco’s 49 square miles.”

On the contrary, rules created by city officials themselves are the primary cause of high prices and displaced residents.

The Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser has found that “zoning, and other land-use controls, are more responsible for high prices” in cities like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, not scarcity of land.

In the absence of legal restrictions, developers respond to high demand by building taller, denser developments. If city officials make such development illegal or politically impossible, poorer residents may find themselves in a zero-sum bidding war against the likes of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Evan Williams of Twitter.

Washington, Nov. 25, 2013

The writer, an associate policy analyst of land use and local regulations at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank, is the founder of In My Backyard-DC, an anti-Nimby group.

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