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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Sticker shock

Left my wallet in San Francisco June 10, 2021 at 3:20 a.m.

Forgive us for interrupting the baseball and basketball seasons for just a minute. Because football made another appearance in the press this week. And, for once, it had nothing to do with Aaron Rogers or Tom Brady.

The story, first appearing on ESPN, says the draft picks for the San Francisco 49ers have to be warned off certain luxuries. Such as big homes. For to live in San Francisco is to live in the land of $4,000-a-month two-bedroom apartments. Young men just getting out of college and perhaps coming from the many lands of $700 apartments can be caught off guard by sheer numbers when real estate types begin showing them around.

"According to Monica Thomas, an agent at Compass Realty who works closely with the 49ers, the average sales price of a single-family home in Santa Clara County is $1.96 million, which buys a home that is roughly 1,800 square feet," ESPN reports. "Renting a two-bedroom apartment measuring 900-1,200 square feet averages somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000 per month, depending on amenities and location."

Even the coach of the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan, has to warn his new players. On his conversation with a draft pick and his family:

"We were hanging out and they were going to look for houses and things like that. I told him, 'Don't be too depressed. Everyone is very upset after the first couple of days and you realize you've got to change what you were looking for.'"

California has a 13.3 percent state income tax rate, the highest in the country. But there are other reasons for the Bay area's expensive housing.

Back when he was writing a regular column, Thomas Sowell regularly criticized local government's action in this regard. In the name of preserving "open space," county and city governments in California restricted or even banned the building of new houses.

"Was it just a big coincidence that housing prices in coastal California began skyrocketing in the 1970s, when building bans spread like wildfire under the banner of 'open space,' 'saving farmland,' or whatever other slogans would impress the gullible?" Dr. Sowell wrote.

"When more than half the land in San Mateo County is legally off-limits to building, how surprised should we be that housing prices in the city of San Mateo are now so high that politically appointed task forces have to be formed to solve the 'complex' question of how things got to be the way they are and what to do about it?"

Business Insider reports that the number of people living in their vehicles in San Francisco has increased by 45 percent over the past two years.

NPR reports that about 8,000 people live on the streets of the city.

And in 2018, a UN official on a "world tour" to see housing conditions said she was shocked by what she saw in one of the United States' most affluent cities.

There are those who call for rent control. Which is interesting. We found this in an NPR story, which is to say it isn't from Fox News or The Wall Street Journal: "Many advocates say California needs some kind of new rent control program, but the city of San Francisco passed a rent control law back in 1994, which helped keep existing renters from getting displaced--but only exacerbated the deeper problem of rental scarcity.

"The 1994 law convinced a large number of San Francisco landlords to take their rentals off the market by doing things like selling their units as condos or bulldozing them and building new ones because the law didn't apply to new construction. Research finds that the rent control law resulted in a 25 percent decline in the supply of rentals in the city--during a time when demand was surging."

So much for rent control.

Perhaps government intervention is doing more harm than good, and maybe the private sector could help. If local governments would take the handcuffs off, builders would love to put up more houses and apartments in such a thriving area.

And not only would it help lower the costs for NFL players, but everyone else, too. For more housing would stop the habit of rich people buying middle-class homes, and middle-class people buying smaller homes, and retail workers renting a bunk bed for thousands of dollars a month. And more people could come in out of the rain, literally.

That's the news from sports these days. We'll get back to politics tomorrow.

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