The Diagonal Slice

18 thoughts on “The Diagonal Slice”

  1. Interestingly, sales tax income is up in our small Iowa city. A few restaurants are providing outdoor dining, others are still trying to hold on by converting to takeout only. I expect winter weather will pick off the ones that are just squeaking by even now.

  2. But the qualities that make charming desirable places work are absent here. They’re too exposed and the space is too poorly defined.

    The spaces are 90% defined for automobiles. If they don’t break up all that asphalt and re-zone it for some sort of urban ag, those parking lots will become vagrant camps. I suppose they could be turned into KOAs to accommodate everyone living out a Sprinter van now.

    Property tax from homes never comes close to covering all the local government services and critical infrastructure. As physical retail dies the ‘burbs are going to have a rude fiscal awakening and they’re no better prepared for it than big cities.

    Yep. California, on the whole has a $50 billion deficit out of a 200 bn state budget. Good luck taxing the remaining people more.

  3. It’s worth noting that California isn’t the world. Here in Oklahoma, things are generally back to normal. Restaurants are open, inside and out, and stores are doing what they do. The main requirements that remain from Covid are to wear masks and practice social distancing of some kind (it is generally ignored, from what I see, aside from when lines form). Minor annoyances in life, I guess.

    My main observation, from what you’ve pointed out, is how “Home Depot, Target, Costco, Lowe’s, Walmart… Their sales are way up as a result of all the chaos in the world” are doing. It’s almost a mini form of centralized globalization. Big box stores, all doing well. It’s like Amazon and Google picked the winners of the Covid Crisis. Not necessarily a pretty sight.

  4. Johnny, what kind of establishment is the one with the stained glass doors? In the front a young skinhead in a black tee-shirt holds a sheathed knife.

      1. Cuz ya never know when Coyote make will come calling, offering one a *chased rabbit, pre-skinned .. right?
        ‘;]
        * or perhaps a large rat ..not really knowing what actual fauna lurks on the Peninsula .. besides ‘pets’, of course..

  5. I live near-ish to all the bleak malls you posted. Regarding winners and losers, I can provide some nuance you may be missing on the suburban story, at least for northern San Mateo County.

    For one, all the cities on the Peninsula were streetcar suburbs. Most have Main Streets. Folks hang out on the more charming ones – https://youtu.be/roILSNV-pRc?t=64. Perhaps mock it as urban lite, but it provides some urbanity without urban problems.

    For strip malls, results will vary. The winners are refurbished and cater to the local demographic: https://youtu.be/Jd4-dwwuhfk?t=56. These places aren’t easy to stumble across but make up the daily lived experience of local residents.

    Finally, there are dense housing developments all along the Peninsula. The more attractive ones are in existing downtowns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPMUuS4uMJo. Back over in dead mall land, housing is replacing it when financially viable: https://www.smdailyjournal.com/news/local/old-theater-may-get-new-act-in-south-city/article_7429805c-9f74-11e8-be17-8bac995da311.html

    No doubt there’s too much bleak asphalt to ever fill in. It won’t ever be Paris. Despite that, I think “urburbs” are the future environment for most Americans, not big cities. It doesn’t mean big cities are “dead”. It’s just gonna be a different relationship between suburb and central city. A healthier one.

      1. I’m coming out as a platypus 😉 I want sidewalk cafes but not poopy sidewalks! Not mutually exclusive in most countries, but this is the land of the free, the proud, the… Platypii? #mulleturbanism #dontslicemebro

        1. There’s a tendency to associate certain kinds of buildings and particular neighborhood forms with specific kinds of inhabitants. But as the economy and society shift the buildings can remain the same while the people who occupy them may not. There’s a story in there somewhere…

  6. Good essay. I’m trying to find something to disagree with but I really can’t find much. We really don’t know what’s going to happen, but I quite like the observation that the places that are hanging on best were designed for people a century ago. It is worth noting that some of the outlying communities around SF are experiencing a real estate boom as there is an influx of people from the city to the burbs, but yes there are also plenty of people staying in the city whose rents are going down. We’ll see how many restaurants survive the rainy season, which in many years starts in late October. If the regulatory lockdowns persist likely we’ll see a growing and illegal underground economy, and cash may be king again so as to lessen the risk of detection and maximize take home earnings.

  7. And here I initially thought the Diagonal Slice was going to be Market St since your first couple of pictures were of it…

    1. The proceeding photos show mainly youngins spritzed throughout .. not too many oldsters, and NO ancients ..at all!
      Interesting.

  8. My part of the world relies on a major public university to bring people who spend money on retail, and various other forms of government activity (commuting to jobs in Washington DC, and the state and federal facilities around it). What do you see for the higher-education economy? (In particular, I wonder about the sports/travel/industrial complex of collegiate athletics.) Local hotels have announced layoffs, and restaurants have closed, but a big development project is still adding more staff & student housing & retail.

  9. Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning. 90 in San Fran sounds lovely too. I’d be far more tempted to live there if it wasn’t so damn cold all the time.

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