The Jiffy Lube Metropolis

10 thoughts on “The Jiffy Lube Metropolis”

  1. Johnny, Thank you for taking the time to write all these articles, illustrate with photos and make them available for us to read.
    You have posted a few times about gas stations, such as the one in Quartz Hill that was converted into a coffee bar, and building something else on the site where people can live or run a shop or eatery. I thought about the underground tanks that gas stations have (had). The tanks would need to be removed before building on the site. Also contaminated soil from leaks would need remediation. I know about the changes that happened starting about 35 years ago where the original single wall tanks were replaced with double wall. Often the dirt was cleaned or dug up and dumped elsewhere.
    Some of those places likely still have the tanks buried under the asphalt. With the cost of building in places like S.F. the underground tank removal might be a small part of the budget. Other locations might find repurposing old gas stations too expensive. I have seen fenced off former gas stations, in otherwise desirable locations, that have been empty for a long time.

    1. Victor,

      All true. When land values are high enough a contaminated site will be remediated. When land values are low they simply fester.

      Here’s something more interesting to chew on. Almost every older community has legacy contamination from past industries. Many of them are slowly releasing underground plumes of nasty stuff. Here’s just one example from Ann Arbor. What is being done in responding? Not much…

      I spent a chunk of my growing up years in Toms River, NJ and the old Ciba-Geigy chemical plant left a similar plume behind. And then there’s the recently shuttered Oyster Creek nuclear plant down the road with fifty years worth of spent fuel rods sitting in a swimming pool in the back yard. What could go wrong?

      We aren’t going to fix most of these problems. Instead we’re going to absorb the consequences of not fixing them.

  2. My brother moved to San Francisco in the 60s as a hippy, and he remembers it as a run-down dump with derelict and burnt out buildings all over the place. Despite the boom in CA since then, SF’s population as only increased slightly.

    About Jiffy Lube, it’s worth mentioning that electric cars don’t need transmissions, water cooling, or fueling stations for liquid fuel. If you look at the engine and drive chain of a modern car, it has thousands of parts, many moving. Electric cars have about 10 parts that do the same thing. So nobody will be needed to build or service this stuff.

    If electric cars come in, it won’t just wipe out a big part of the car industry, it will gut the after-sales service industry. Obviously, this change will reverberate in the real estate market as well.

    1. I think the future will surprise us all. I used to think that oil shocks and limits to supply would result in high gas prices and a shift toward electric vehicles as well as walkable communities and transit. It doesn’t seem to be working out that way. High oil prices (a la 2007’s $147 a barrel) resulted in a crash in the economy that radically reduced consumption and the high prices spurred an oil drilling boom that flooded the market with new supply. The “Drill Baby Drill” people were right. At least for the moment…

      My guess now is that the cost of buying and maintaining a car of any kind is increasingly exceeding the diminishing prospects of more and more formerly middle class people. The result is a lot of people walking around suburban landscapes that were specifically designed to repel humans who couldn’t afford to own at least one semi-reliable car. You know, “The wrong element.” These are Trump voters. And they want their cars back along with their lost dignity.

      “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.” – Janis Joplin

      It’s complicated.

  3. Hmmm. Perhaps that shows a way forward for San Francisco – permit by-right the rebuild of any structures that used to be on a lot. So if you own a gas station that used to host a six story apartment building, you don’t need to apply for permission to build another such building of the same dimensions.

    1. I say let any surface parking lot get an expedited building permit period. But that’s not how the current system works and I don’t see things changing anytime soon. Instead we’ll see people with cash pay extra for the property they really want while most folks find work-arounds that involve migrating to another city that has similar qualities at a lower price point.

      Keep in mind, the bubble economy we’re experiencing won’t last forever. The market will cool eventually. And today’s luxury accommodations are destined to become the “affordable housing” of future generations.

  4. I’m sure San Francisco had its share of livery stables, feed supply stores, carriage sellers, blacksmiths and other horse related real estate. Granted, San Francisco moved to the automobile early after the ’06 quake. Apparently, horses spook more easily than automobiles.

    Interestingly, there was an article about the closing of the last gas station in Manhattan south of 23rd on the east side. It wasn’t just a gas station, it was also somewhere professional drivers could stop and pee. Even on my last visit to NYC I noticed a lot fewer places to get fuel.

    1. I was waiting for someone to compare gas stations to stables. I almost addressed that in the post and decided not to. Here’s the difference between a gas station and a livery stable. The gas station is a horizontal quarter acre of single use – mostly pavement, an underground tank, and a kiosk to sell chips and soda. Livery stables in town centers were almost always compact vertical multi-story mixed use buildings on a much smaller footprint.

  5. I remember in the ’50s that LA was kicking San Francisco’s butt and we were proud of it, but I never heard of San Francisco being characterized as the Detroit of its time! Now the Bay Area is kicking So Cal’s butt, and I mourn.

    1. There’s a reason Beatniks, Hippies, gays, immigrants, and assorted counter culture people settled in San Francisco. It was cheap. Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. Heroine. The middle class decamped for the suburbs for a good long time in the middle twentieth century. How soon we forget.

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