The Squeeze and Wiggle

18 thoughts on “The Squeeze and Wiggle”

  1. I grew up in a 960 sf apartment in New York City. There were four of us. My parents often took my sister and me house shopping, but neither wanted the bother of having to own a place. We had a playground and city streets nearby, a good transit system and decent enough schools. I guess I never fetishized the house and yard thing.

  2. I’ve had this sort of discussion with my wife many times. Here’s an example of the trade-offs from a family’s point of view:
    S.F.
    – Career: best
    – Housing: impossible
    – Weather: great except for the summer
    – Walkability: great
    Sonoma County
    – Career: generally bad unless you commute for 1.5hrs a day
    – Housing: next to impossible
    – Weather: perfect
    – Walkability: Petaluma downtown maybe
    Sacramento
    – Career: lots of 2nd class jobs
    – Housing: do-able
    – Weather: great except for the summer
    – Walkability: downtown only
    Pittsburgh
    – Career: a few 3rd class jobs
    – Housing: oh my
    – Weather: oh shit
    – Walkability: great bones
    Portland
    – Career: meh, but you can keep in touch with the Bay
    – Housing: overpriced but do-able
    – Weather: gloomy but mild. summers are awesome.
    – Walkability: good

    Personally, we live in a (mostly) auto-dependent older suburb close to BART and 15 minutes from the City. It was a trade-off. But we see our friends and family drifting away year after year, mostly to Oregon.

    1. I would be interested in how you define “best”, etc., in terms of career. One of the surprises I have had in my 40-plus years of work is that what I though would be the best career moves for me turned out to be the worst for my personality. A friend says there are three aspects to a job: the pay, the work, and the people you work with; she says that you need at least two of the three to be happy. At age 58, I stumbled into the absolutely best job I have ever had in a career that I did not know even existed until I was tapped to be a temporary replacement for someone retiring. I like my work, colleagues, and supervisors, and my pay has been steadily increasing over the last four years. The trade-off — I live in a town I don’t particularly care for (although I can walk no more than 2 miles for all daily needs) and am 70 miles from family and the big metro area.

      At my age, finding a satisfying job with a livable wage and being nearish to family are my only criteria for where I live.

      1. By “best” I mean working with the best of the best, being a leader in one’s field, globally. But also the quantity and quality of jobs (benefits, advancement potential) for all level of employees. Those kind of opportunities are really only available in New York and California… and sometimes other regions like the Pacific Northwest and Texas. Of course, “best” is subjective and changes over time.

        1. Why not consider moving to NYC? The weather isn’t as good as in the SF Bay area, but housing is half costs only half as much.

    1. Worse, it’s a billboard for a casino. The tropical paradise (if there ever were such a thing) vacation is just bait to lure people to lose their money gambling.

  3. You aren’t kidding about Pittsburgh’s summer brutality Johnny! I just moved here after bouncing around a couple other places you wrote about (in large part because you wrote about them); Cincinnati (EWH and Northside) and Detroit. Bought a house here in the Pittsburgh metro for under $70,000, move in ready, with a big yard, 2 car garage, walking distance to grocery store, library, gym, etc.

    1. Like I said – I love Pittsburgh. Add insulation to the house, slap a few solar panels on the roof, and get a direct current air conditioning compressor.

  4. As I near my 40’s and have lived in Brooklyn, NY for 16 years, I find myself in a similar position. I share a beautiful top floor corner loft overlooking a church courtyard with two others. My lofted bed requires a climb up a bookshelf staircase. The main access to the city and my job, the L train, will be shutting down for “18 months” in April 2019. I work at a hotel but it’s not my dream job.

    My parents (retired – in their mid-70’s) brother, and sister all live near each other in the suburbs in a limited access subdivision a drive’s away from strip malls and grocery stores. This is Jacksonville, FL and that life isn’t for me.

    BUT, in May, I jumped on a 1920’s (Sear’s Catalog?) bungalow in the Murray Hill Heights area (upcoming). The house, at 960 sf is the same as my apartment in Brooklyn but sits on a tenth of an acre.. on a park(!), with a front porch(!!), a block walk to restaurants, stores, bars, a library, theatre, etc., 10 minute bike ride to other ‘hip’ parts of town (Riverside/Avondale/5 Points). 25 minute drive to the beach or to my parent’s house.

    They say New York is for the Young or the Rich. I’m neither. I can’t afford to own a place in NYC or the surrounding area. I don’t want an hour commute each way on a cold or hot crowded subway. The winter’s here suck. I miss having a yard. I want a dog.

    I’ll find a tenant for the house until I have a job lined up down there. I’ll start a veggie garden. Add rainwater barrels. Maybe solar panels at some point. Get some hens for the backyard. Sit on the front porch for coffee in the morning or wine in the evening. Yes, I’ll have to get a car but won’t need it all the time. I’ll maybe have to take a pay cut but I’m expecting my quality of life to improve greatly. I’d love to post some pics.

    1. Sounds like a great plan. Keep me posted. I’d love to watch as your life unfolds. Trust me, you go from forty-ish to fifty-ish really fast and you don’t necessarily want to be renting with room mates past a certain age. Photos would be great!

  5. It’s a far cry from the ’70s and ’80s when as a young guy just starting out I could easily afford a basic apartment in SF and still have some money left over for nights out.

    They have almost ceased building single family homes in the Bay Area. Yeah, a few developments in Sonoma, Solano and Contra Costa counties, but really not a lot. They are putting up apartments galore at the moment, but, as you point out, young people with families still want a house. Well, they’re not allowing many to be built in the name of Smart Growth, so what exists will continue to become more and more pricey.

    1. San Francisco needs to get over its NIMBY nonsense and start building a lot more places for people to live. Build market rate housing luxury condos. Build affordable housing. Build low-income housing. It doesn’t matter. Just build. That, or San Francisco will continue along its current trajectory towards being a place where only the very wealthy can afford to live. It’s ironic to me that the most “liberal” city in the country (barring, perhaps, Portland) is also one that so adamantly embraces the NIMBYism that makes the city completely unaffordable for normal people.

      1. My understanding of the situation is that failure ultimately fixes itself. San Francisco is in a bubble along with much of coastal California. We’re a market crash, an earthquake, and a political crisis away from a long slow decline. Things go up. They go down. They go back up again. Forty years from now things will be very different. Shrug.

  6. I like this: someone who wants a home, not just a living space; a community, not just a driving space. I guess it will depend on how many other people out there feel this way.

    Johnny, you talked about malls sitting empty due to zoning regulations. A community-minded group could move in and make a go of it. People find a way when given a chance.

  7. I’m usually extremely sympathetic to the people and situations you post about here. But in this case I wonder if your friends aren’t greatly over complicating the situation or perhaps they are more strongly wedded to San Francisco than the post describes. Because there are still a great many “actual towns” throughout the country. Just about any medium sized American city has attractive, interesting and affordable city-living options, and there are hundreds of modest-sized towns with vibrant city centers. It is actually a fantastic time for living in such a place IMO.

    1. Soooo… When families move to the edge of the metroplex in order to afford a five bedroom house with a pool – that’s a trade off. They’re accepting a long commute and a degree of isolation as part of the deal.

      When people leave California for Texas or Tennessee in order to find the kind of home and community they want at a lower price, they’re also making trade offs.

      What Sara and Andre are doing is finding creative ways to adapt their existing apartment to meet their needs while staying in San Francisco. They know they’re going to leave in a few years. But for them the advantages of hanging in there, advancing their careers, and saving more money are worth it. Just different trade offs…

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