Ready or Not, Julián Castro Says Silicon Valley will be a National Model for Addressing Inequality

Silicon Valley may have a diverse population and abounding opportunities that have made it the global hub of high-tech. But beyond that luster, the region is also a microcosm—a case study—of the "gaping inequality," across the United States, says Julián Castro, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary.

Its position in the world makes Silicon Valley not only a critical economic hub for the nation, but also an important model that could set the tone for those battling similar issues now and in the future—for better or for worse.

“You have some inveterate tough issues to deal with like educational inequities and a lack of affordable housing opportunity,” Castro said Wednesday in the keynote speech of Joint Venture Silicon Valley's annual State of the Valley event. “The point is, you’re important because as that microcosm, if you can get it right, if you can tackle these challenges successfully, you set an example that is powerful, that is moving and that is bound to spur other regions into action.”

That may be a tall order for the region that by almost every measure is home to massive inequality, including a growing homeless population and staggering housing prices. Those inequalities have only grown during the pandemic, according to a newly released report by Joint Venture Silicon Valley's Institute for Regional Studies.

“We used to lament that in Silicon Valley the rich kept getting richer while the poor became poorer,” Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture said in a letter about the data. “Today we must frankly admit that the pandemic has made the rich richer while the poor are dying.”

Castro, the former HUD secretary for President Barack Obama and onetime mayor of San Antonio, offered advice for Silicon Valley as it tackles its most arduous issues—such as affordable housing and transportation—during a moment of reckoning across the nation.

He also said the burden shouldn't only be on cities' shoulders. Local governments need more investment from the federal government in the form of tax credits, grants and other incentives to make it easier for developers to build more affordable housing, he said.

But Silicon Valley's leaders can take action in the meantime, he said.  Not all of his advice is novel, but some may affirm an idea that politicos and policy wonks across the Bay Area have been saying for years: solving deep-rooted issues will take a coordinated regional approach.

“We know that no one city, no one county can solve these problems acting on its own,” Castro said. “I saw far too many times when it came to affordable housing for instance, suburbs often thought that that was the big city’s job and they worked as hard as they could to try to keep affordable housing from being built.”

In Santa Clara County, smaller communities, including Los Altos and Cupertino have historically not met their state-mandated goals to build affordable housing. Instead, many of the small cities that make up the sprawling region have deflected opted for a slow-growth approach that favors single-family homes over multi-family housing.

Those patterns, paired with the region's massive job growth over the past decade, means almost every city in the region has more jobs than it does homes. San Jose, the region's largest city, currently has the opposite imbalance, with more homes than it has jobs.

One local policy issue that cities can use to alleviate that imbalance is zoning, Castro said. He praised Berkeley council members' vote this week to embark on a process that would end single-family zoning and expand multi-family housing in the East Bay city.

San Jose city planners and a committee to update the city's General Plan are also exploring a similar concept, called Opportunity Housing, which could allow triplexes and fourplexes in parts of the city currently zoned only for single-family homes.

“I know that historically land-use regulations, zoning and planning regulations and the NIMBY-ism (not-in-my-backyard) that often comes, the pushback against the creation of multi-family housing especially if that housing is affordable housing,” Castro said. “The myths that surrounded the misconceptions, sometimes the bigotry in some places and biases get the better of too many policy makers and prevent the creation of units.”

16 Comments

  1. Here we go again, the communists are trying to make everyone equal for housing sake.

    Getting rid of single-family zoned neighborhoods will destroy a property owner’s equity and property values.

    The Bay Area is already over-populated. Go build your government subsidized slums elsewhere, like Honduras.

    People should be very concerned about water supplies.

    Lastly, scr*w Julian Castro.

    David S. Wall

  2. “I saw far too many times when it came to affordable housing for instance, suburbs often thought that that was the big city’s job and they worked as hard as they could to try to keep affordable housing from being built.” — Julian Castro

    I’ve never met a suburban home owner who resented someone for affording a better home or nicer neighborhood, nor have I ever met one who didn’t resent (or worse) the lowlife, uncivilized slob with whom (typically through inheritance or Section 8 shenanigans) he shared the block (or his kids shared a school).

    So what’s my point? The idea that affordability is the divisive issue is nonsense: supply and demand ensure that every home is affordable to someone, thus every home in every neighborhood is affordable to its residents, even those neighborhoods considered most exclusive. The exception to the rule is, of course, when conditions, such as a job loss, render a home no longer affordable to an individual owner or when excessive taxes, such as those in pre-Prop 13 California, force entire classes of residents out of their family homes.

    The suburban home owners impugned by socialist scoundrels like Julian Castro do not fear affordability, what they fear is depreciation: of their home values, quality of life (traffic, strained resources, etc.), safety, and standards of civility. San Joseans have traditionally demonstrated little if any resistance to measured residential development, confident that the new homes and apartments would not depreciate that which they’d worked so hard to acquire. What they wanted and got (from newcomers of all races) were new neighborhoods and neighbors who shared their values.

    What Julian Castro really wants is to reduce the inequality experienced by people he is convinced will never be able to compete by inflicting mass depreciation on the middle class, equating mere existence with achievement, and devaluing the combined traits that lie at the heart of individual and group success: talent, toil, and decency.

  3. Supply and demand. 1) Don’t approve so much office space. Make SV companies open offices in Roseville, Texas or North Carolina. 2) Many SV Workers who are now allowed to telecomute will choose leave the Bay Area further reducing demand. 3) Convert vacant retail and commercial spaces to housing. Several Thousand units could go up on the empty Fry’s stores alone.

  4. In addition to more idiotic liberal government policy that may ensue from the current “equity fad” (if just the latest bogus rationalization), ready or not, Julián Castro is set to be on stage nation-wide again in case Harris’s weaknesses everyone knows of can be exploited successfully in the 2024 primaries. Mitt Romney is making noise already in the GOP, after all. Castro wasn’t placed in HUD, as was Andrew Cuomo before, for nothing. That’s more important than any blabber from tech people likely for show only.

  5. Mr Rooter, I read Fryes went out of business, can anyone confirm. Wow, end of an era if true. Was like Santa’s shop for me.

  6. What we got here is a failure to communicate clearly. [Of the] Wall, Phu Tan and Commissar Kulak can’t quite spit out what they really have on their deranged minds. Let me see if I can cut through the fog a bit here.

    Lee Atwater, political consultant, strategist, adviser to presidents Reagan and Papa Bush and former chair of the Republican National Committee was a good ole boy from South Carolina. He designed the 1980 Reagan campaign Southern strategy and in 1981, while working for Reagan, he gave an anonymous interview to political scientist Alexander Lamis. Atwater’s identity was concealed until his death in 1991. Part of the interview transcript reads as follows:

    “[The] issue as a statistician or a political scientist…[o]r as a psychologist…is how abstract you handle the race thing…[Y]ou start out in 1954 by saying ‘ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘ni**er,’ that hurts you, [it] backfires, so you say stuff like ‘forced busing, states rights’ and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.

    “Now [1981] you’re talking about cutting taxes and all these things…totally economic things, and the by-product often is Blacks get hurt worse than whites… And subconsciously maybe that is part of it… [I]f it is getting that abstract and that coded… we’re doing away with the racial problem one way or the other… [S]aying, ‘we want to cut taxes, we want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of lot more abstract than, ‘ni**er, ni**er.’ So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the back burner” (see https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/).

    Thus, when Wall writes about “property owner’s equity and property values” and “government subsidized slums” and Phu Tan refers to “uncivilized slob[s]” connected to “Section 8 shenanigans” or “depreciation of… home values [and] quality of life” or “neighbors [with] shared…values” or “inflicting mass depreciation on the middle class” or “equating mere existence with achievement” or “suburban home owners impugned by socialist scoundrels like Julian Castro…[who]… wants is to reduce the inequality experienced by people he is convinced will never be able to compete,” they evoke a rainbow of colors, races and ethnicities. The allusions and aspersions clearly point to White pre-existing property owners and “colored” “newcomer” buyers or renters.

    The race-based, race-laced imaginations of the slumlord commentators reveal themselves even more clearly than Reagan and Atwater’s calls for cutting taxes and the size of government. Furthermore, the uniformity in outlook, theme and message suggest strict adherence to the politically correct party line. Atwater would be proud of your coding talents.

  7. Fry’s is dead.

    “After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (“Fry’s” or “Company”), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. […]”

    https://www.frys.com/

  8. David S. Wall refers to Julian Castro as a “communist” while Phu Tan Elli calls him a “socialist scoundrel.” If only. The article notes that Castro wants more “investment from the federal government in the form of tax credits, grants and other incentives to make it easier for developers to build more affordable housing.” What? No social housing? No municipally-owned land trusts and publicly-build and owned housing? What kind of self-respecting communist or socialist would call for public subsidies for private developers to build more affordable housing? Sounds downright neoliberal to me. Castro was Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary for Chrissake, and a graduate of Harvard and Stanford. Could there be anything more definitive than that?

    In fact, the Trumpist libertarian landlords (and their proxies) whose graffiti are regular features in the comments section are the natural allies and beneficiaries of the likes of neoliberal thinking and practice. What are you buffoons complaining about? He’s got your back. Like I say, the libs (libertarians) and the libs (neoliberals) are the yin and yang of anarcho-capitalism.

  9. ” they evoke a rainbow of colors, races and ethnicities…” — Econolclast

    This valley, in which home-buying in recent decades as been dominated by your “rainbow of colors…,” has responded to the changing demographics with nary a peep, yet in your deranged mind the issue remains divisively black and white. Why not give therapy a try?

  10. “tax credits, grants and other incentives to make it easier for developers to build more affordable housing.” — Facendo Guaio

    Are we talking about the same government whose last great effort to make the un-affordable affordable created the mortgage meltdown? Scary thought.

    If developers require help to raise capital shouldn’t they be able to attract private investors to this wonderful mix of scarcity, need, and civic good? And should it be that help is required to attract private investors (because they see unacceptable risk in Julian Castro’s definition of affordable) then shouldn’t the help (e.g. private activity bonds) go to individuals in the business of risk-taking and not developers in the business of bribing elected officials?

  11. Ms Econoclast,

    Pitiful attempt to try to caste me or others as racist by psychological abstraction, what a joke. Your racism is the only thing on display up and down in your comments, however carefully worded and academically cited.

    As a capitalist, I find racism to be anathema to my worldview. I want as many people with skin in the game as possible. If they are left out, they are susceptible to your siren song of racial resentment, envy and hate. I want as many buyers as possible, I want them to make as much money as possible, and I want them from every race and gender. I am downright insatiably greedy for as diverse success pool as possible.

    The reason I rail against the government is it does the opposite. Over and over. I have spent numerous hours pointing that out.

    Government does not take from the makers and give it to the poor. It gives wealth to the makers by way of the middle class by supply services, housing and crap food to the poor. With the only economizing done by captive government bureaucrats whose career path is paved through said entities they are employed to regulate. The Federal Government transfers wealth from the middle class to the rich, it is crystal clear. And they sustain that gravy train by keeping the poor broke.

    Unlike some others, I dont see an issue with encouraging or even subsidizing home ownership by low income buyers, but the programs – even under DNC control can be co-opted by rent seekers far too easily. Keep in mind redlining began in 1934 under FDR and had very nefarious aims they dont mention in the new woke literature. Or when and why blacks abondoned the GOP, it was not in the 70s, it was under FDR in the full bloom of Jim Crow and KKK activity.

    The race issue is far more complicated than your little essay suggests, and if you want to see coding in action, watch then Senator Biden’s response to Daddy Bush’s drug speech.

    I would trust a more local approach of ultra low interest rates for first time LI buyers. Or some timeframes of LI home owners have to wait to switch to market rate pool of buyers so they arent stuck with debt on an asset that can never appreciate. I think LIHTC programs have seen succes, but will get destroyed by activists such as yourself when you disallow the switchover to market rate rent. I have seen local efforts work in rent assistance, ownership, etc but once the US government steps in, it is just a matter of time the programs rots into rent seeking and revenge legislation.

    Your accusations of racism are so profoundly unsubstantiated they only act to discredit you. Your delusion that there is somehow truth to the myth of Atwater and the Southern Strategy, blinds you to the reality that the DNC and CA “Values” produce and sustain much greater inequity than a gaggle of squirrel hunting white trash in the back waters yeehawing in their confederate flag ornimented pick-up trucks. They are poor, futureless, and silenced. The public school system in CA is systemic racism in full effect, rich, powerful and the future.

    If you really wanted to fix things, you’d look for common ground, but it is clear that you want sustained conflict at the people level in hopes of burning it all down and reimaging your utopia. Ill survive that, even profit from it in obvious ways, as I have in 2020, my best year by far, but the vulnerable you claim to champion will suffer deeper poverty, death, and regression. And that will be on you.

    Listen, you are clearly smart, but you are under ideological possession. For you to utilize your talents, and actually do some good, you need to deprogram yourself.

  12. Mr. Trouble

    You are not wrong, Mr. Castro is the friend of a certain strain of capitalist. No doubt, just not my kind of capitalist. Because the things he pushes funnel money to people that can orchestra events behind the scenes to their benefit. Which precludes me, my reach, and my sensibilities.

    And I agree with you again, Mr. Castro is the death of all of your hopes and dreams. The DNC, triangulation, etc. is where progressive ideas go to die, by design. I have concluded that the local banking, social housing concepts have a more likely future in states that were once FDR Working Class Democrats that were put off by the new left and the McGovernization of the party.

    As an aside, the idea of the southern strategy has too many holes to stand up to scrutiny outside your ethnic studies classrooms, but it feels good I’m sure. Nixon lost the south to Wallace in 1968 and won almost every state in 1972, he didn’t need the south. Nixon was far more obsessed with not allowing the Kennedy Illinois/Texas thing to happen again. Reagan’s win was far more a function of pulling patriotic strings than the tutting dog-whistles you and your compatriots eat like macaroni and cheese on a rainy fall afternoon. What your insistence on burping these ideas out does do is sustain patterns that allow for the donor class to grow rich by way of Machiavellian machinations, forever pitting poor vs. poor over things they can do nothing about.

    Working-class latinos, blacks, and whites have far more in common than you and the intelligentsia are willing to admit. This is why the moniker NPC fits so well on the wokist left bots, its like you are hurting your cause on purpose to the delight of your coders. You are in a sadomasochist relationship with your overlords. But I read more smarts into you than that, even if you have self-selected yourself into capitulating to the programming.

    Anyway, if your want these ideas to come to fruition, you need to sell them to people that hate the swamp, not love it. Who believe in God and their duty to help those less fortunate than themselves not through taxation and coercion, but direct action and personal investment. Sell them on the idea they can buy tokens for heaven, make real improvements to their city or town while giving the finger to Washington. You’ll have them lined up around the corner. I know it works here. And there be a whole lotta whites guys, pickup trucks, and country and Gospel on the radio up here.

    But you’d rather sit on your high horse, regurgitate back decolonization theories and slogans, cite half-baked interpretations of US history, drop uncritiqued proclamations of vast population’s intentions and feelings; all the while basking in the false glow of fancying yourself the smartest cat in the sandbox. You may be smart, but your not helping. You are a gift to those that pull string behind the scenes, the ones Mr. Castro and Mr. Biden, and Ms. Harris serve.

    And it’s a shame.

  13. Even some libertarians can see that working-class people of all colors have more in common with each other than they do with wealthy elites (including landlords). Is it possible that Trumpist libertarians are in the process of adopting a Marxist class struggle perspective. It’s doubtful that landlords will but some portion of the Trump base is no doubt open and susceptible to such a view at least in part (for example, https://marshallparthenon.com/24495/opinion/progressive-perspective-on-working-class-populism/).

    For anyone really interested in White, Black and Brown working-class solidarity and joint work, the experience of Chicago’s Young Patriots, Black Panthers and Young Lords in the late 1960s and 1970s serve as a model, despite its imperfections: https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/the-first-rainbow-coalition/; https://southsideweekly.com/fifty-years-fred-hampton-rainbow-coalition-young-lords-black-panthers/).

    As always, it is a struggle mainly against the Democratic Party and the FBI whose reason for existing is precisely to dilute, undermine and defeat this type radical and organic movement building.

  14. Mr. Trouble,

    Oh how the most certain are usually the most wrong.

    First,

    “Is it possible that Trumpist libertarians are in the process of adopting a Marxist class struggle perspective.”

    Few who have read or even been exposed to Marx would argue his critique of capitalism does not make some points, mostly his insight in alienation. More over, I would point out the game Monopoly was designed as a cautionary tail of the end state of capitalism, i.e. one owner of everything with the rest bankrupt. Anyone who has achieved some sort of success, knows that the second million is far easier to accumulate than the first and so on. Once you start winning, winning gets easier. And once you lost, winning is far more difficult.

    I am not a Natural Law Capitalist, I am okay with making it easier to get past zero, it is critical to do so in my mind. Look at large scale multiplayer games such as Clash of Clans, they repetitively incentivize lower level players to keep trying, for the good of the game. And we also have to consider there just will be people that can never self sustain, that must also be designed into the capitalist system, but in a way that encourage as wide a distribution of wealth as possible.

    However, these things have a way of getting revectored in committee, where say a law directed to hurt Amazon, actually hurts mom and pop, and Amazon gains second order benefits from it while being able to absorb the primary blow. This actually happens all the time, and I suspect was behind a lot of the RC push a few years ago. Equity Residential and the CAA where tied at the hip through the whole process and it was very likely that the terms where a done deal before the whole kabuki theater of the “task force” commenced.

    Many, if not most, landlords are not rich. And certainly landlords directly benefit from their customers having increasing salaries, and many of their customers are in fact members of the working class and span all races and ethnicities. Additionally, it is not in any landlords interest to have tenants for life. Philosophically and economically it is better to turn the unit every 4-5 years or so, and I am quite pleased when tenants go on to buy there own house.

    I would put most of the commenters and landlords not in the category of Trumpist Libertarians as you do, but Conservative Distributionists, who are terrified of the radical awakening that can occur when no one else has skin in the game. Speaking for such a group, I want as many homeowners as possible, benefitting from the stability and wealth accumulation that owning such an asset gives while offering a feeling of personal investment (opposite of alienation) in their private real property. You may be alienated from your work, but if you get something in exchange that is as good or better, so that Marxist critique can be neutralized. And renting is alienation, no matter how syrupy the chocolate sauce white liberal “tenant activists” poor on it.

    I can not speak for all those who voted for Trump, and I did not in 2016 as I saw him as a NYC-style Democratic with Keynesian instincts and a desperate need to be liked by or at least hold the attention of people who hate me and my way of life. What he was to me was an extension of the Tea Party and acted as a grenade to the turncoat, un-American War Piggery GOP such as Kristol, Ryan, and Cantor. Say what you will, the rank and file conservative has done the best they can to flush the swamp and ride at least the elected portion of GOP of rent-seeking lowlifes back to their country clubs. Success has certainly been fleeting though.

    But, it is more than I can say for the DNC, which is the true enemy of the average “man”, not because the national GOPers are inherently better, but that the DNC maintains a façade of the “party of the working man” when it is now officially the party of the donor class. Skillfully uses racial, gender, and other cultural antagonisms to further their blood lust and insatiable greed.

    Anyway, again, Mr. Trouble you could not be more wrong or nearsighted in your worldview. While it is suboptimal, the Democrats do create a market distortion that landlords such as myself can leverage and weather these storms and build wealth. However, one must be honest that this is a game of musical chairs and those not rotating money out of these progressive markets with $3000 rent and 3% cap rates are in the end going to be holding the bag or strung up in Place de la “Calcorde”.

    I prefer fair price and fair profit myself.

  15. I’m confused, isn’t Julian Castro supposed to be running Cuba into the ground?