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San Francisco-ization, a City's Biggest Nightmare

Cities spend a lot of time and energy pointing to examples of what they don’t want to become.
January 2, 2019, 6am PST | Camille Fink
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Perceptions of cities often represent for people what they fear might be coming to their own cities, such as rising housing costs, sprawl, congestion, and poverty, writes Emily Badger:

Our deepest anxieties about the future of where we live are embodied in other cities — in Portlandification, Brooklynification, Manhattanization. The comparison is seldom a compliment. You don’t want to become Manhattan (too dense), Portland (too twee), Boston (too expensive), Seattle (too tech-y), Houston (too sprawling), Los Angeles (too congested), Las Vegas (too speculative), Chicago (too indebted).

Many of these cities are doing well by certain standards: job growth, high household incomes, and low unemployment. "But San Francisco-ization and the other -izations don’t refer to the process of acquiring any of these good things. Rather, those terms capture the deepening suspicion of many communities that the costs of urban prosperity outweigh the benefits," notes Badger.

She also points out that there is not a single path to what is seen as an urban disaster. Manhattan, for example, is unaffordable because it built to cater to the wealthy. San Francisco, however, did not build enough, and housing costs skyrocketed as a result.

Badger wonders whether there are examples of cities that have successfully fostered the good outcomes and prevented the bad ones. "We could use a word for the condition of becoming such a place. Maybe Minneapolisization?"

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Published on Wednesday, December 26, 2018 in The New York Times
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