San Francisco: Overpopulated Mess

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

August 15, 2016

I’ve seen California’s future, and it’s overpopulated, over-crowded, traffic-paralyzed San Francisco. Even making allowances for the fact that my most recent visit occurred in July, a heavy tourist month, there’s no escaping that San Francisco is a mess, hardly the city whose “golden sun” shined so brightly for Tony Bennett.

Homelessness in San Francisco, not the stuff of a new Tony Bennett song.

Assuming a visitor could find public or private transportation – no sure thing, based on my recent experience – inching along a few blocks took forever. Walking might have been a better option except for the large, aggressive homeless contingent. Many streets had a distinctly unpleasant aroma.

The pity is that back in the mid-1980s when I lived in Lodi, I would routinely make the 70-mile drive to San Francisco just to enjoy a Sunday walk through Golden Gate Park. In the 30 years that have passed, San Francisco’s population has exploded from 677,000 to 865,000. San Francisco now ranks as the nation’s second most densely populated city with its outlying areas 50 percent more dense than New York. Between 2014 and 2015, the Bay Area’s population soared by 90,000 people. This unsustainable growth has prompted the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research president to say that the big local story today is “about housing displacement and gridlock.”

Singling out San Francisco as an example of a California city falling prey to uncontrolled population growth would be wrong. California has all too many cities whose population density increases are out of control. At the top of the list is Lodi’s neighbor to its north, Elk Grove, the once sleepy little town which during the last decade leads not only California but the nation among mid-sized cities with a staggering 155 percent population growth.

For a statewide look at how California has been transformed from the haven it was when I was grew up in Los Angeles during the 1950s to the massively overpopulated state of today, watch the CAPS mini-documentary, California: Then, Now.
 

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