San Francisco: "Crime Doesn`t Climb"
September 10, 2013, 07:05 PM
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Gordon Wintrob writes:

Among San Francisco`s diverse neighborhoods and varied micro-climates, we`ve heard the phrase "Crime Doesn`t Climb," meaning that the city`s loftier areas are often associated with less crime. San Francisco, sometimes refered to as the "homeless capital of the United States", ranks in the bottom 10% of safest cities in the country (New York City is nearly three times safer). Although certain neighborhoods (e.g. the Tenderloin) have particularly high crime rates, we wondered if there was more granular data that could answer the question: does crime climb?

Former mayor Gavin Newsom put huge amounts of city data online as part of his technocratic philosophy of government. This doesn`t seem to have done much good yet in the real world, but it`s been great for moneyballers like Wintrob, whodetermined that, indeed, crime doesn`t climb.

I`ve never heard the phrase "crime doesn`t climb" in Los Angeles, but it nicely sums up several generations of Californian thinking about real estate. (One reason Charles Manson is still notorious 44 years after his minions murdered Roman Polanski`s wife in the Hollywood Hills is that it was shocking that crime did climb that time.)

Of course, there`s a high degree of self-fulfilling prophecy about the Californian belief that crime doesn`t climb. In Rio de Janeiro, in contrast, crime does climb into the hillside favelas, while the rich live along the beach.

Yet, as technology continues to get the upper hand over criminals, most gentrification energies in L.A. remain focused on hilly areas, even though hills detract from that 21st Century buzzword: Walkability. (Among other reasonable reasons walkability is desired, the huge crackdown on drunk driving over the last generation means that it`s nice to live somewhere where you can walk home after a drink.) Hills are even worse for bicycle riding.

At some point, there will be a phase change away from the inconvenient heights and living in the flats will come into fashion. Prescient investors will make fortunes. Remember, however, as Keynes liked to say, the markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.