King tides, waterfront property, municipal budgets

A hotel in South San Francisco routinely floods on the bottom floor during big tides. Offices and manufacturing in the same area also flood. Such valuable real estate and the buildings on it should have serious flood protection. Often they don’t, because the city can’t afford it. Instead, the city wants buildings that produce tax revenue, and as few residents as possible.

However this is short-sighted and doomed to failure.

Over the years I’ve had more than one mayor or city official in different parts of the country explain that each new resident costs the city money in services and infrastructure. What cities desperately need is tax revenue. That’s why we see a proliferation of casinos, premium outlet malls, entertainment complexes, and technology parks. A half assed soggy hotel is better for the city’s bottom line than anything that will burden the municipality with needy residents.

In the short term there are all manner of temporary quick fixes that can keep this system going. But over the long haul there are only two possible trajectories for these places. One is for huge sums of public money to be spent defending private property. The other is that the structures that currently occupy vulnerable positions will lose value, be abandoned, and gradually slip under the tide

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