In 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing, billionaire Marc Andreessen drew attention by publishing an essay on his company’s website titled “Time to Build.”
“I expect this essay to be subject to criticism,” he wrote, while expressing a mindset that has been dubbed YIMBY, for “yes in my backyard.”
“You see it in the housing and physical footprint of our cities,” he wrote. “We can’t build nearly enough housing in our cities with growing economic potential — leading to crazy skyrocketing housing prices in places like San Francisco, making it nearly impossible for ordinary people to move in and take the jobs of the future.” Then he expressed dissatisfaction with the state of the city’s architecture. “We should have glittering skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities at levels far beyond what we have now; where are they?”
Andreessen also lives in Atherton, California, America’s wealthiest city, which has held the title of the most expensive US zip code for five consecutive years, according to data from Property Shark. Atherton also topped Bloomberg’s annual Riches Places index for four years, through 2020. And as a prominent local citizen, new reporting from the Atlantic reveals he may be more than a NIMBY.
Andreessen, co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is known as an early investor in major technology companies including Meta, GitHub, Skype and Twitter. In June, Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, wrote an email expressing their opposition to a proposal that would increase the zoning capacity to build multifamily homes in Atherton.
“I am writing this letter to communicate our HUGE objection to the creation of multifamily overlay zoning in Atherton,” the two wrote in their email, signed by both, as reported by AtlanticaJerusalem Demsas. “Please IMMEDIATELY REMOVE all multi-family zoning projects from the Housing Element that will be submitted to the state in July. They will MASSIVELY lower our home values, the quality of life for us and our neighbors, and IRREVOCABLY increase noise pollution and traffic.
The comment, which was also reviewed by Condition, was published on July 14 by Atherton’s planning department. Andreessen did not answer Atlantica or Conditionrequest for comment.
In his original essay, Andreessen linked the need to build more housing to the American Dream. “Things we produce in huge quantities, like computers and televisions, are falling in price quickly,” he wrote. “The things we’re not doing, like housing, schools and hospitals, are skyrocketing in price.” With home ownership unaffordable for so many, he said, the American dream is in jeopardy.
His essay also included a call to action, citing the need to “break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education and health care to ensure that every American can realize their dream.” The only way to do that, he writes, is to build.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, pro-housing City Council candidates are dropping out of races because they can’t afford to live there, while a general lack of new construction projects has prompted others to seek innovative solutions. Atherton specifically has a fire and police staffing problem, as civil servants cannot afford to live there and are put off by the long commute. Public transportation in the Bay Area is quite underdeveloped, in addition to housing.
Andreessen was far from the only Atherton resident to voice strong opposition to the housing proposal. “Nearly all of the comments received expressed opposition to the use of overlay zones,” the city planning department wrote when it released the list of public comments received on the topic.
In his 2020 essay, Andreesson pinned the reason there is a housing crisis at all on the question of need. “The problem is willingness,” he wrote, referring to the willingness to invest in large construction projects. “We have to want these things.”
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