Palo Alto is synonymous with Silicon Valley. Hewlett-Packard, Tesla, Facebook, and Xerox PARC are just a few of the iconic firms that have called the city home over the past four decades.
But not everybody’s happy with the technology industry’s heavy presence. “Big tech companies are choking off the downtown,” Patrick Burt, mayor of Palo Alto, recently told The New York Times. “It’s not healthy.”
Burt wants to dust off an old, little-used regulation that prevents companies that specialize in research and development from establishing themselves in Palo Alto. In other words, most technology companies would need to go elsewhere.
If that regulation regrows teeth, tech firms could still presumably set up shop just outside the city. The big question, however, is whether such a drastic measure would actually solve the problems it’s meant to address, such as skyrocketing housing prices and congestion.
As detailed in a recent article on Bloomberg, the median home value in Palo Alto is $2.5 million, or 13 times the national average. One-bedrooms and studios can cost $1 million. That translates into an astronomical cost of living, even for well-compensated techies. More affordable housing is on the agenda for the local government, but such initiatives can take quite some time to bear fruit (or apartments, as it were).
In nearby San Francisco, currently in the throes of its own housing crisis, there’s an aggressive debate over whether to relax building and zoning regulations enough to set off a flood of new construction, including high rises. Until something is done, rents there remain among the highest in the country, averaging (according to a recent report by Radpad) $3,500 for a one-bedroom.
For tech pros, astronomical rents and expensive lives are the downside of moving to major tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley. And not all of them are putting up with the costs; that the fastest-growing states for tech jobs include Utah, Michigan, Alabama, and Illinois just demonstrates how tech companies—and the people who work at them—are more than willing to set up shop in places with reasonable costs.