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Mapping the Incredible Spread of Million-Dollar Homes Across San Francisco

96 percent of homes in the city’s Westwood Park neighborhood cost $1 million or more.

Million-dollar-housing creeps across San Francisco and adjacent areas, 2012-2016. (Trulia)

More than half of the homes in San Francisco cost $1 million or more. While million-dollar-housing creep is happening nationwide, it’s nowhere more prevalent than in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland.

The rise of “Billionaire’s Bay” is a distressing wake-up call from Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin, who has charted recent growth in seven-figure homes across the 100 largest metros. There’s no comparison: Between 2012 and 2016, the percentage of $1 million+ homes in San Francisco grew a gobsmacking 37.8 percent, rising to represent 57.4 percent of the homes in the city.

In San Jose, 46.3 percent of homes now cost more than $1 million, an increase of 28.9 percent. And in Oakland, an astonishing 19.7 percent of homes hit seven figures in 2016, a growth of 14.5 percent since 2012. Oakland today boasts a higher percentage of $1 million+ homes than San Francisco did four years ago—a figure that ought to give Oakland residents pause.

Trulia has helpfully assembled these data in a visualization that shows the One Percent spreading over the Bay Area like a rash.

A close look at the data reveal even more disturbing trends. As residents know all too well, some places in the Bay Area are bastions for incredible tech-driven wealth. There are 14 different neighborhoods where 100 percent of the homes cost more than $1 million, mostly concentrated around Palo Alto, plus another nine areas where 99 percent of the homes go for seven figures.

Again, ritzy neighborhoods in the Bay Area come as no surprise. What’s shocking is how quickly those neighborhoods arrived. Four years ago, 2.9 percent of homes in Westwood Park in San Francisco cost $1 million or more. Today that share is 96 percent. San Mateo more or less came up overnight, registering between 80 and 90 percent growth in its share of $1 million+ homes in four different neighborhoods.

Some might conclude that San Francisco’s policy of restricting the supply of housing for the exclusive benefit of incumbent residents has harmed, not helped, the residents of the city and its nearby suburbs. One such person is California Governor Jerry Brown, who has proposed a new state law to radically revise and streamline the housing-approvals process at the local level to grant “as of right” status to certain housing developments with units set aside for affordable housing. This law would side-step the neighborhood opposition that has prevented developers from building anywhere close to the level of housing that is demanded in the Bay Area.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, the nonprofit fiscal and policy advisor for the California state legislature, thinks that Governor Brown’s got the right idea. Without some sort of radical change, the Bay Area will continue down its current path of radical transformation—something most residents cannot afford.

About the Author

  • Kriston Capps
    Kriston Capps is a staff writer at CityLab. More

    Kriston Capps is a staff writer at CityLab, where he writes about housing, art and design. Previously, he was a senior editor at Architect magazine.