The Casino Resort Hotel Favela

39 thoughts on “The Casino Resort Hotel Favela”

  1. It seems like having an RV sewage tank dump station not too far away would be really important for these people.

  2. With all the new-age nomads in the making .. soon to balloon into the millions, thanks to the grift and malfeasance provided by our ‘current’ betters – the 1%ers and their CONgressional enablers, I can envision a near-future where, once things go full hinky-like, a new/old type of war-band culture comes in being. All that’s needed is a few warlords to get things rumbling!
    And as petroleum EROEI goes into full force, these mobile ‘abodes’ might well move along with the hordes, pulled by animal power, or indeed human muscle .. depending of course on one’s place in the revised social ‘caste’.

    Yeah, I’m an optimist.

    *speaking of books to peruse, Lloyd Kahn’s “Shelter” books, along with “Tiny Homes” is worth a look for anyone interested in alternatives to mass-produced housing .. or just to view all the cool eye-candy contained therein.
    just an fyi.

  3. If CA were to legitimize the RV, it would be quite a boon for the upper midwest where they are manufactured. Personally, I’m all for it.

    1. The RVs that are now our de facto affordable housing are almost always older second hand units, not newly manufactured. At the moment RV sales are brisk, but they’re being purchased by people who have the money (or much more likely the credit) to buy them as an alternative to airline and hotel style vacations. So the Midwest will get its RV sales up, just not to the benefit of the people who live in them full time out of necessity.

      1. There is an economic argument that as more-affluent folks trade up to newer/bigger/better, the trade-in moves down the economic ladder. Works for houses and cars and there’s no reason the same theory wouldn’t apply to RVs, Johnny.

        Side note to Michael: the epicenter of the RV industry is not in the “Upper Midwest” (despite the odd Winnebago factory in Iowa). It’s in Northern Indiana, centered around Elkhart…an area that suffered 20-25% unemployment in the 2008 depression along with the car and car-parts manufacturing cities elsewhere in the state (and helped Indiana vote for a Democrat for president for the first time since 1964).

        1. We’re in agreement about second hand RVs working their way down the food chain. But the speed at which demand for RVs has risen creates a short term lack of supply for those at the bottom end of the market. Every summer we see this dynamic play out in miniature in San Francisco as thousands of people head to Burning Man. Come fall there’s a sudden glut of dusty mediocre RVs on the market for cheap. If you’re not going to Burning Man and you’re able to wait until October you can get a deal. If you need an RV in August you’re going to pay through the nose.

          1. Yes, we agree. The pandemic-related demand increases and supply shortages have created havoc in numerous industries and this one is no exception. Folks with secure higher incomes are itching to travel but air and cruising are limited, so new RVs sell or rent.

            It would be interesting to understand the market dynamic there: what percentage of new sales are “trade ups” versus first time buyers versus sold to rental companies. The trade-ups and rentals will definitely create more used units, but the bulge will take some time to filter down from the “gently used” to the “well-used” (relatively cheap) level.

        2. Yep. I’ve been to the RV/Motor Home Hall of Fame in Elkhart IN. Point is, if RVs turn out to be the tool for dealing with housing crises, then it won’t be local labor building houses & apartments. It will be far away assembly lines.

          In general, I think RVs will be increasingly part of the US housing mix. There’s a just lot of places in the US where it’s cheaper to do a 1 bed / 1 bath in form of an RV than a house, apartment, addition, etc. I’ve spent a fair amount of time “up north” this year, where many/most homes are on 2 acre wooded lots. Half the houses have an RV parked in the side yard. Why? Because there’s huge local labor scarcity, red tape at town hall, and when you add bathroom, it may trigger the dreaded septic tank replacement. So the RV fills the gap. And you get buy one & have it on your lot in the same day.

  4. I’ve been a big fan of your writing for the past few years. I really enjoy your perspective on the forces that govern our built environment.

    I’m curious to know what books have shaped your worldview? Could you give a short reading list?

    1. I’ll break down my reading list into separate categories.

      1) Books about architecture and urban form:

      Christopher Alexander
      “A Pattern Language”

      Charles Marohn
      “Thoughts on Building Strong Towns”

      Catherine Tumber
      “Small, Gritty, and Green”

      Jane Jacobs
      “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”

      Robert A. Caro
      “The Power Broker”

      James Howard Kunstler
      “The Geography of Nowhere”

      Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour, and Denise Scott Brown
      “Learning From Las Vegas”

      Rem Koolhaas
      “Delirious New York”

      2) Books about long term historical economic cycles:

      Anne Goldgar
      “Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age”

      John Carswell
      “The South Sea Bubble”

      W. Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello
      “The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another”

      Neil Howe and William Strauss
      “Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069”
      and
      “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy”

      Eric H. Cline
      “1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed”

      Joseph A. Tainter
      “The Collapse of Complex Societies”

      James Howard Kunstler
      “The Long Emergency”

      3) Books about gardening, home food preservation, and homesteading:

      David Holmgren
      “Retrosuburbia: The Downshifter’s Guide to a Resilient Future”

      Sharon Astyk
      “Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation”

      John Michael Greer
      “The Retro Future: Looking to the Past to Reinvent the Future”

      Richard Perkins
      “Making Small Farms Work”

      Joseph Shuldiner
      “The New Homemade Kitchen”

      Peter Bane
      “The Permaculture Handbook”

      Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
      “The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City”

      1. Ever consider writing a book, starting an organization or even just a wiki with your collected (actionable) observations? You have a really unique viewpoint that’s the intersection of urbanism, sociology, history, personal finance and prepping (err… resilience). Hence, the dedicated fan boys and girls on your little blog here.

        Imagine Peak Prosperity for people who like traditional cities. But without the hard sell of upper middle class prepper products. Just a Patreon tip jar. I would contribute.

        1. I’ve never been interested in monetizing the blog because it would feel too much like work. I’m bone lazy. As for a book… there are already plenty of great options out there that I’ve bought and continue to reference. I’m happy to allow other people to use my material for free if it helps promote their efforts.

      2. Wow! Thanks for putting in the time to make this a comprehensive list. I’ll be chipping away at this for the foreseeable future.

  5. “Colonies of RV dwellers are expanding in ever larger clusters in areas with the least resistance.”

    I just saw a cluster of old RVs under the Gowanus Expressway in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I’d never seen anything like that before here, in part because there are so few empty places.

  6. Sonoma County is in a unique situation in that there has long been a housing crunch due to extremely restrictive zoning laws and a general antibuilding sentiment, but that was then exacerabated by the loss of thousands of homes in the fires of 2017. Thousands of people were made homeless, and even if insured, many couldn’t find temporary housing within the county. Much of what was burned has since been rebuilt or is under construction, so anyone skilled in the trades is very busy right now. Workers have flocked from other areas to work on the rebuilding and many lived in RVs as there was no housing available to them. A similar situation on a much bigger scale occured in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina which pulled resources from the construction industry nationwide.

    That said, the state’s system of assigning housing quotas to the cities and counties has reduced the quotas allocated to the more outlying areas such as Sonoma County, so once the fire rebuild is done there will be little state pressure to build more and the local antibuilding sentiment is as strong as ever. Being an hour away from the denser areas of the San Francisco Bay Area the county has suddenly become extremely desirable in the midst of the pandemic. Prices are rising and houses are being snapped up with offers above asking price.

    That said about Sonoma County’s unique situation, similar photos could be taken and similar observations raised in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the Bay Area that were not devastated by fires.

  7. When friends or neighbors who still enjoy comfortable homes insist the caravans be disbanded by the authorities I remind them we’re all one earthquake away from a similar fate. They don’t like that suggestion very much…

    Great observation and great overall post, Johnny.

  8. Sophisticated land use hackers should embrace this trend and build a better camp ground.

    I would try to get two separate but contiguous campgrounds approved. Your special use permit will undoubtedly require campers a stay of “no more than 30 consecutive days.” At which point they would move to the adjacent campground.

    Back and forth until your local zoning bureaucrat blows his head off…

    Kunstler is right. The future will be spartan, but that might be ok.

    1. Lots of smaller campgrounds around my Midwestern metro are built around old sand/gravel pits and “borrow pits” out along the interstate where material was borrowed to build up overpasses on flat land. Many seem to be semi-permanent RV parking and permanent homes. Lots of awnings, decks, and outdoor living furniture and equipment.

      I am not sure what local zoning code specifies (I’m curious and will look 🙂) but a couple of the places that come to mind probably predate modern zoning restrictions.

  9. Enjoy your writing.

    Had it all once…and then some. Under employment has seen us slowly lose all of our resources. Living in a 1970 Homette my parents bought when they where teens. Trying very hard to give thanks for it and make it home. Realizing how close my family of 4 is to living like these folks.

    Get ready to see a lot more of this.

    1. Courage!
      I sympathize with your situation. Partly because Johnny has just sensitized me to the unfairness of the housing situation, partly because I read your comment with a bit of foreboding. I too am over-educated and unemployed with a family of four. Though I am not in any danger of living in an RV (which is not an option here in Ontario in the winter anyways), I can see how I am sliding into ‘early retirement’ way too early. It is (not) funny how ‘solidly middle class’ can become unsolid real quick.
      You have my respect for persevering.

    1. So… Your question is a bit like city people going camping in the wilderness for the first time and being appalled that there’s no hair dryer in the woods. You need to step back and see a bigger picture here.

      1. I understand with some of those larger vehicles where there’s some space, but I was more asking about the smaller vehicles, where the interior can get dangerously hot (https://heatkills.org/how-hot/#:~:text=At%2070%20degrees%20on%20a,it%20can%20reach%20113%20degrees.%E2%80%9D&text=%E2%80%9CWhen%20temperatures%20outside%20range%20from,to%20between%20130%20to%20172.%E2%80%9D)
        Some of the smaller trailers pictured here look like they don’t have windows. Is it safe to sleep in them on a hot summer night?

        1. One more time… If someone is living in a regular passenger vehicle or a tiny camper air conditioning isn’t the first problem they need to manage. Air conditioning was invented less than a century ago and most people never experienced it before about the 1950s. Big picture here. Big picture.

    2. Just in terms of regular houses (not RVs), if you are used to sleeping in A/C then even coastal California, (where the number of houses that have A/C isn’t as high as most of the rest of the south) in the summer is uncomfortably hot at night. Even with windows open. SF itself might be different, but Sonoma and southern California get hot in the summer.

  10. Obviously you are the Dorothea Lange of the 21st Century. Love all your photos and insightful comments on today’s society.

  11. Yep, nailed it again. I grew up in the area. A few local anectdotes you might find amusing:

    – The city has been trying to build a “downtown” for years but it’s been held up by the usual: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/developer-again-delays-400-million-downtown-rohnert-park-development/

    – Two childhood friends of mine recently moved to Eureka, where they could collectively afford a small hovel and knew exactly one person. When I asked why they didn’t just keep going another 50 miles across the border for 50% savings (Medford, maybe?), they were insulted. They weren’t leaving California! Because, well… there might be Trump supporters! It might even snow! Are you mad, man?

    – My mom’s friend was on the city council of a neighboring town in the 1990s. With the best of liberal Boomer intentions (protect the environment, etc), they probably voted down a fair bit of housing. She has blamed “techies coming north” for overpriced housing but had no problem selling her own overpriced house and moving… North. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jne9t8sHpUc

    My point is not to demonize anyone. Most people have good intentions, and the mechanisms that lead to an RV casino favela are well, complicated and multi-generational, as you point out. There are no cartoon villains. And we all think, well, as long as it’s not me under the overpass (or guillotine?)… I’m one of the good people, right?

    1. Failure will eventually fix itself. We’ve got a huge number of destination entertainment facilities, shopping malls, hotels, suburban office parks, et cetera that were built with economic growth, jobs, and tax revenue in mind. A serious percentage of them are either already dead or soon to be so. They’ll sit vacant for a while longer, but eventually they’ll be retrofitted into makeshift accommodations. I’m willing to bet real money that many of the folks who resisted change tooth and nail all their lives will find themselves living full time in a Ramada Inn someday. This won’t be a voluntary arrangement.

      1. Nailed it again.

        Plunging asset prices relative to incomes are the only way out of this mess. Yes older and richer asset holders would become worse off, but everyone else can’t be made worse off to maintain the unsustainable indefinitely.

        Why were there fewer homeless people in the first half of the 1960s? Because there were “trailers for sale or rent” and “two hours of pushing broom bought an 8 x 12 four bit room.”

        1. Different times, different standards. Rooming houses (single room occupancy or SRO) were still common up to the early 70s in most places, and in SF longer. (Maybe still?)

          Today I think most people expect their own bathroom and kitchenette if they are paying rent on a studio, so SRO is out of favor and there aren’t many left.

          1. Ah, but all the hotels Johnny identifies as khrushchyovkas (khrushchyovkii?) could easily be adapted to SROs with bathrooms. With Covid devastating the hospitality industry, hotel owners may be giving that option a hard look right now.

            1. Yes. Probably the first will be the “suite hotels” since many of those are built with kitchens or kitchenettes and marketed to corporate travelers who are not traveling.

            2. The government is stashing vagrants and COVID patients in a lot of these hotels whether the hoteliers want it or not. Government compensation is not enough to rehab these facilities according to government standards after the patients and vagrants leave. Governments plan on converting a lot of housing and hotels into public housing of different forms. The owners of this housing are typically insiders who collect Section 8 and other transfer payments. This might be where a lot of us are headed.

      2. Maybe you’re not pessimistic enough? 😉 Those with means will move away from “dead shopping mall” town to a more successful community. Plenty of regular housing left for those that can’t move. The casino will still be there, joined by other “recession proof” activities taking place at the former Ramada Inn off 101.

  12. So easy to dislike someone else in their misfortune. May God have mercy on us!

    Is it really that bad out in San Fran? One can never really tell from media, which I pay little to no attention to anyway.

  13. There was a headline in the past few days that Walmart was no longer going to allow overnight parking on its lots. I didn’t click on the story so can’t offer details, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the shiny big pickup guys are getting their way.

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