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:: The Fall of the Tall Staff

Palo Alto, CA recently noted that they may consider offering housing subsidies to families that earn less than $250,000 a year. This is because three bedroom homes can go for $2,100,000.

This, of course, is insane, and a sure fire sign of impending demise for that city.

“Wait, what? It’s full of rich people. Surely, that’s a sign of success!” i hear you say.

Yes. Yes, it is. Thus the reason it’s going to fail.

After several millennia humans have pretty much discovered a workable strata for functioning societies. Turns out, you kind of need people at all the various income levels for things to work right. Have too many at a given level, and things go poorly, fast. Levels of per capita pretty much fit a bell curve, the majority of the population should make “middle-class” wages.

Have too many people below the median, you get cities that can’t afford to collect taxes for infrastructure support. Feel free to drive through sections of Michigan, West Virginia, Tennessee or similar if you want to see examples. Have too many people above the median? Nobody is willing to do “common” jobs like pick up trash, or work at counters, or do the hundreds of jobs that folks tend to ignore or easily dismiss. A “thriving” downtown in places like that are 30 storefronts, three of which are 1000 square foot “boutiques” only open alternate days when the spouse of the “money maker in the family” gets around to opening it for his friends. The rest are realtor offices.

These jobs are low income because nobody wants to pay a lot for them. Now, mind you, low income jobs require that there’s a trade off. If you’re earning minimum wage, there’s only so far you’re willing or able to travel to work that job. Mass transit ain’t free, neither is a car, and there’s significant issues with spending 6-8 hours commuting for $88 a day.

The problem is that Palo Alto isn’t alone. The surrounding communities (including the one i live in) are nearly as bad. Housing in the SF Bay Area is outrageous, and frankly unaffordable. i live in a 3 bed room, 2 bath house that could easily sell for $1.5 million. i paid far less for that, which is a good thing, because i cannot afford to buy my own home now. At one time, this was considered a “starter home”, aimed at folks moving in to support a near-by airbase. In other words, aimed toward the rising side of that income bell curve.

About half a mile away, are the “lower income” housing areas, mostly apartments full of families who’s parents bus tables, are janitors, delivery folk, stock runners, and cashiers, but there’s hardly enough folk there to support all the local jobs that need them. There are lots of “Help Wanted” signs in store fronts because the folks that used to be available have been pushed beyond the radius of where they can afford to commute in.

So, yeah, Palo Alto.

Honestly? i really hope that shops and restaurants close because they simply can’t find staff. i hope that garbage piles up, parks and public areas degrade, and people have to pay through the nose when their toilets clog. i hope that nobody can get a meal for less than $60 because all the cheap eats places had to close due to labor shortages. i hope that folks have to drive 30 minutes to get to a grocery store because all the ones nearer closed. i hope that whoever spent $2.1 Million dollars buying a 3 bedroom bungalow is either forced to sell at a loss or has their home foreclosed, because they were stupid for contributing to their own demise.

Look, folks, functioning communities need low income housing because rich folks are too lazy to take out the trash or vacuum their own cubes. Hell, i bet you see folks leave stained coffee cups on the kitchen counter instead of putting them in the freaking dish washer at work. You think they’re going to go empty the garbage cans at the park this weekend? You need folks who are not making dot com cash to be your uber drivers and pick up the phone when you call 911 at 2AM. You need that “undesirable” section of town (Really? Undesirable? Do you cut the crusts off your mayo and cream cheese on white bread sandwiches too?) because some folks can’t afford to buy a Tesla that matches their iPhone 6+.

You need those because you’re not going to do those jobs. While we’re at it, if you do live in Palo Alto (or one of the many “affluent” areas, your responsibility is to do things like pay your taxes without bitching constantly, say an earnest “Thanks” to folks that do the jobs you’ve been gleefully ignoring while you poke at your phone, and not grouse about how wonderful it would be if a Whole Foods went in where the Mercado Sanchez is. Also, feel free to not pay more than most game shows offer as a top prize for anything listed as a “fixer-upper”. Pay attention to the voice that says “Yeah, it’s nice, but Good God that’s a lot of money.”

Because it is.

And it’s only making matters worse.

Wall Street Journal has an article that hints about this problem in Menlo Park. Wonder if someone will create an app that will put your house fire out?
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