New York Times reporter Conor Dougherty parses the history and economic forces that underlie our national housing crisis from its epicenter in San Francisco, profiling activists with San Francisco Bay Area Renters' Federation, politicians, and developers. As rising rents and home prices have spread across the country, massive movements against single-family zoning and for tenants' rights have followed.
Though the entire book builds toward [Sonja] Trauss’s political ascent, Dougherty ends with a tear-filled post-election party. Despite Dougherty’s compelling reporting on SFBARF and Trauss, his book’s ending feels less than satisfying. Perhaps a lack of resolution to Golden Gates is fitting for such a seemingly intractable problem as affordable housing. Dougherty was the right reporter in the right place to capture the human stories at the heart of this dreadful irony. Despite its setbacks, SFBARF may be the start of a political breakthrough—or it might just leave us with more luxury housing and vomiting anarchists.
... is both an empathetic portrait of all sides — legislators, developers, pro-housing and anti-gentrification activists — as well as a masterly primer on the fight for new construction in California ... Dougherty expertly explains the confluence of microeconomic and historical forces that have created a housing shortage so severe that it’s rendered the most prosperous state in the country the poorest when adjusted for cost of living. To challenge readers to consider how change might be achieved, he features two very different YIMBYs ... essential reading for every Californian, new or native. But will outsiders care? Dougherty’s introduction lays out why they should ... I wish he had continued to connect what’s happening in California with what’s going on elsewhere.
Reading Conor Dougherty's informative, evenly paced, but often too locally focused Golden Gate, I waited for solutions. I thought that Dougherty, an economics reporter for The New York Times, might point the way forward — something that has eluded activists and politicians alike for decades. But I quickly realized it wasn't going to be that easy. Dougherty, like many good reporters, doesn't traffic radical solutions or broad panaceas, but instead tells the story of housing in all its complexity. And, with it, he tells the story of people who have fought pyrrhic battles for the dignity of a roof over their heads ... while it expertly lays out the structural problems precluding affordable housing, the book's very local focus makes it seem too much about just the housing tragedy of the Bay Area. It faintly acts as an allegory of the national housing crisis — but you have to remind yourself continually that this is the case. It often evokes nostalgia, as if a love letter to a bygone Bay Area now struggling to keep its soul amidst the torrents of tech money relentlessly raining down on it ... The book's real strength is in the stories Dougherty tells of various activists, politicians and residents in their fight for fair housing.