How many people can Sanhattan hold?

There’s a medium length but not very informative article today titled Everybody Inhale: How Many People Can Manhattan Hold? Very speculatively, if Manhattan remains one of the premier cities in the world into the post-human future, perhaps trillions.

But I mostly use this as an excuse to harp on an old point, closer to home. How many people can San Francisco hold? Oakland? Currently these places are horribly underpopulated, semi-rural outposts, with populations of 805,235 (6,632.9/km2) and 390,724 (2,704.2/km2) respectively. At current Manhattan (27,394/km2) and Brooklyn (14,037/km2) densities respectively, San Francisco’s population would be 3,325,635 and Oakland’s 2,028,175.

That’s right, Brooklyn is twice as dense as San Francisco: this isn’t about skyscrapers.

Considering the immense benefits of density for both creativity and energy efficiency, it is a horrible shame that there does not exist a reasonably dense city in the U.S. outside of New York. Autonomous vehicles will be the next chance to significantly reconfigure cities, not least by vastly reducing the amount of space needed for cars. There are a couple obvious ways to get started in that direction now. Whether a city makes good on this opportunity for reconfiguration will globally be the most significant determinant of success or failure in the coming decades. Pity it is getting zero attention relative to circuses.

7 Responses

  1. [...] a followup to a post comparing the population densities of Manhattan and Brooklyn to those of San Francisco and Oakl… (not even close): if San Jose (945,942, 2,000/km2) had the density of Staten Island (468,730, [...]

  2. Practically speaking, do you think geology (elevation changes) had something to do with why SF is so less dense than Brooklyn? Or maybe it is just all those dang victorian single family homes taking up a lot, instead of the standard brownstone multiple unit buildings in Brooklyn.

  3. Elevation changes probably have some effect on density, but I doubt it has anything to do with why SF is so much less dense. SF’s most densely populated neighborhoods are hilly. I don’t know what proportion of residences are actually victorians or brownstones in either place, but suspect that comparison captures the basic difference, even if (pure speculation) it plays out more in the size of larger apartment buildings. And most of SF by area is suburban, with houses closer together than in more recent developments. At least that’s what it looks like to me — and I have to admit I have zero familiarity with outlying areas of Brooklyn.

  4. [...] Regarding security, malfunctions, etc., we need to demand use of proven secure protocols and source open to inspection, i.e, not play security through obscurity. Regarding space, planning for urbanity remade (largely, recovered) through autonomous vehicles needs to be the top urban planning priority. [...]

  5. Thanks for the pointer. 11 million would be good progress. I usually agree with Timothy B. Lee and have linked to him before, eg

  6. [...] densification of an existing near-city. This does seem rather unlikely. As I’ve noted before, the population of San Francisco and Oakland would have to quadruple to be as dense as Manhattan [...]

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