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Are the Skyrocketing Costs of Building in the City Due to Incompetence or Corruption?

San Francisco — Much has been written of San Francisco’s extremely expensive housing market. But behind one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world lies the fact that San Francisco is the most expensive place to build in the world. One bathroom cost $2 million to construct — as much as a luxury condo. On the public side, the Transbay Terminal has arrived broken and at a price tag of over $2 billion. Many San Franciscans have only ever seen the cost of building increase, even as the infrastructure of their City decays

The Better Market Streets Project (BMS) is a key example of the City failing to deliver on big-ticket items. The BMS was promised to change Market Street into a pedestrian thoroughfare, with protected bike lanes. 

All this at the cost of more than $600 million.

The project has taken over 10 years to begin in earnest last year, but already the City is trying to back out of its promise to build a protected bike lane due to the pandemic budget crunch.

While there are many academic papers discussing the nuances of public financing and procurement, the simpler explanation appears to be that many higher-ups in City government have been using their power  to enrich themselves, their friends, and family.

The City’s own Public Works site quotes Mohammed Nuru, former Director of SFPW as saying “Whatever a person’s role is on our projects – from laborer to CEO and everything in between – partnering will help us work better as a team. We hope to establish and maintain a relationship of shared trust, equity and commitment. We’re all in this together.” Mohammed Nuru has since been indicted by the FBI for alleged public corruption, as are some of his co-conspirators in City Government.

Many have called out the San Francisco government for not doing more, especially since we know that Mr. Nuru has been engaging in suspicious transactions with Mayor Breed, including paying off $5,600 worth of car repairs. This is how corruption is often implemented in San Francisco, via personal connections or channeled through non-profits.
San Francisco has a long history of public corruption, having always been a town of extreme wealth disparity and shadowy political bosses. Most would assume that the City’s time of mob-like graft are behind it, but the fact that everything keeps getting more expensive while at the very same time getting worse should warrant keen suspicion.

Photo Credit: “Traffic stopped, Call box, downtown San Francisco Freeway, California, USA” by Wonderlane is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

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