The Treasure Island Development Project: A Case Study in Neoliberal Urban Development

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The inclusion of affordable housing in urban development has been in decline since the 1970s. This decline is a result of the implementation of neoliberal policies that have greatly reduced federal funding to cities for the provision of social services, such as affordable housing.  Local governance, with budgets thrown into disarray by federal retrenchment, is forced to become entrepreneurial to make ends meet.  Unsurprisingly, cities’ affordable house stocks have come to be defined by a lack of both availability and livability.  However, as local governance functions as a filter through which neoliberalism must pass, some cities have demonstrated the ability to prioritize and protect affordable housing.  Using archival resources and interviews, this research examines how unique, local factors have allowed San Francisco’s Treasure Island development project to incorporate an affordable housing plan that captures 27.2 percent of the project’s 8,000 total housing units.  The results indicate that San Francisco’s long history of well coordinated affordable housing activism has created a local governance that informally requires large-scale urban development projects to include an affordable housing akin to the Treasure Island development project.  

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