Silicon Valley ‘Suburbs’ Now Distant San Joaquin Valley

580 commute (Joe Lewis / Flickr / CC / Cropped)
Joe Lewis / Flickr / CC / Cropped

With 700-square-foot San Francisco condos selling for $1 million, the North San Joaquin Valley, which stretches through Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, is the new Silicon Valley suburbs.

Each weekday morning, it is bumper-to-bumper traffic for San Joaquin Valley residents of Modesto, Stockton, Manteca, Tracy and Merced that squeeze on to the I-580 freeway for the average 2.2 hour commute to the high-paying jobs of Silicon Valley.

When the U.S. Census Bureau crunched the numbers in 2013, it found that about 115,000 commuters traveled 90 or more minutes to their jobs in the Bay Area. Most of these “freeway fliers” represented about 3.9 percent of the total San Joaquin Valley work force of more than 2.9 million.

But Breitbart News real estate contacts say those numbers have almost doubled over the last three years, as housing costs have pushed Silicon Valley tech and service workers farther and farther out to find housing they can actually afford.

According to the Glass Door employment website, a software engineer can make about $118,000 working in Santa Clara, but only about $65,000 working in Stockton. Yet the cost of housing is 76 percent cheaper in Stockton, according to the Tulia website.

Real estate prices in Stockton vary from $24,900 for fairly new two-bedroom, 2-bath, and 1125 sq. ft. mobile home to $320,000 for a gorgeous new 7-bedroom, 5-bath, and 3,125 sq. ft. executive single story home with spacious front and back yards.

Real estate prices in Santa Clara range from $389,000 for a 40-year-old 1-bedroom, 1-bath and 657 sq. ft. condo to $1.69 million for a newer 3-bedroom, 2-bath and 2,511 sq. ft. two-story on a postage stamp lot.

Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have been ground zero for the tech boom from 2010 to 2014, gaining about 167,000 new jobs. But the total number of housing and apartment units during the same period grew by only 22,000. Perhaps the impacted community is Santa Clara, with 104,912 jobs, and where 95 public tech companies are headquartered has only 44,996 housing units.

According to Dave Vautin of the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, “The amount of housing being built is so small, compared to the growth in demand that it is causing the region to become much more unaffordable.”

Matt Regan of the business-backed Bay Area Council told the San Jose Mercury, “You only have to drive on (Interstate) 580 at 4:30 in the morning and just look at the headlights coming over the Altamont Pass” from San Joaquin County “to know that that’s where we’re building our affordable housing, on the other side of the hill.”

Policy experts argue that the key to bringing commute times down is to build higher-density apartment buildings and townhouses near worksites and along public transit corridors. But denser housing is an anathema to suburban Silicon Valley residence that already feel overwhelmed by traffic.

“As soon as a project proponent arrives at City Hall with a multifamily development idea, the pitchforks are sharpened and the flaming torches are lit,” said Regan. Because of such opposition, many attempts to build new housing have been scaled down or abandoned altogether.”


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