Golden Gates: The Fight for Housing—and Democracy—In America’s Most Prosperous City

Conor Dougherty. Penguin Press, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-525-56021-0
New York Times economics reporter Dougherty dissects the San Francisco Bay Area’s housing shortage crisis and the “antigrowth politics” that caused it in this incisive, character-driven debut. Focusing on Sonja Trauss, who founded the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation in 2014 (when the region was creating only one new housing unit per eight new jobs), Dougherty charts the rise of the YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) movement as it seeks to reform zoning laws and push for high density housing development in the Bay Area and other communities. He notes that affluent suburbanites, who fear a decline in property values, and low-income tenants of color, who risk losing their neighborhoods to gentrification, both view YIMBY activism skeptically. He also profiles others involved in housing affordability issues, including Sister Christina Heltsley, whose Catholic nonprofit battles real estate speculators in her working-class, Silicon Valley-adjacent community, and Lafayette, Calif., city manager Steve Falk, who quit his job rather than continue to support restrictive zoning measures. Dougherty expertly weaves these individual stories into his overarching assessment of urban policy, and makes a convincing case for “mixed” housing solutions that balance affordability, availability, and profit. Readers who assume there’s no solution to sky-high rents in America’s big cities should consult this detailed and optimistic counter-narrative. Agent: Melissa Flashman, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/27/2019
Release date: 02/18/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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