The Galapagos

I had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos. The experience took me out of my comfort zone. It was inspiring to see the natural world and I really really enjoyed my time there.

Between the islands of the archipelago was open ocean - I couldn't see land in any direction. The waves were so big, the experience redefined my definition of turbulence - my body literally went flying. At the same time It was cool being out in the south pacific.

South American cuisine was interesting - it was a combination of fruits I've never had before with fresh sea food and rice. Empanadas were cooked right on the street and were fantastic.

The animals of the Galapagos were rather tame, I literally swam with sea lions, sharks, penguins and sea turtles. Landing on the island was surprising when the flight crews sprayed bug spray in each of the overhead compartments to prevent us from introducing invasive species to the islands - so the entire time one must question and be aware of your impact to the environment. Tourism is limited to a few hundred thousand people each year.

The local population is rather poor. It really made me appreciate things we take for granted. Things such as clean water, modern septic systems, and institutions we have in the United States such as the SPCA.

Leaving this place did leave a mark on me, since it was so beautiful and unspoiled.

San Francisco

This isn't exactly my story but its a common story in this place. A cab driver recently drove my friends to the suburbs. San Francisco is one of the few cities in the country where you do not need a car. So people don't leave here often, myself included. They asked where the old driver has lived and he responded "almost every neighborhood in the city". He went on to say, "San Francisco is a special place". Going across the bridge - it just feels different. Its difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is about this place, it could be the natural air conditioner, or its crazy people, its food or its hills. Admittedly there are a lot of problems here but every time I think about leaving where would I go?

Who is the most influential investor in Silicon Valley today?

Masayoshi Son. He is the founder of SoftBank [1] and he has put together an enormous investment war-chest to the tune of 100 billion dollars. This number far exceeds the aggregate global VC funds raised in 2016 of 64 billion. His 30 billion dollar Vision Fund compares with the 33 billion dollar United States VC industry (2017). [2]

The [Vision] Fund will target meaningful, long-term investments in companies and foundational platform businesses that seek to enable the next age of innovation [3]

Interestingly half of the capital of the Vision Fund is financed by debt - interest payments must be paid. [2] Sequoia Capital is raising its biggest fund in response. [4]

Development is Difficult in California

California is an expensive place to live. I knew that coming in to this state. But I did not fully appreciate this fact until trying to build something here. Larry Page once said Million dollar houses in Silicon Valley should only cost $50,000:

"Even more than technology, he puts this down to policy changes needed to make land more readily available for construction. Rather than exceeding $1m, there's no reason why the median home in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, shouldn't cost $50,000." [1]

Searching on Zillow, I came across an incredible deal. A near ocean front parcel of land, less than 20 miles from San Francisco for 12 thousand dollars. Determined to learn the back story and if any glimmer of hope existed I picked up the phone to talk with the Realtor to learn more about this land.

The unfriendly Realtor told me that the land was owned by a "84 year old community member" and I should call the Bolinas Community Public Utility District for more information. I'll summarize a few weeks worth of research:

Each of these regulations not only prohibit construction but also restrict land use through chicken and egg situations. For example Article III of the Marin County Site Planning and General Development Regulation explicitly prohibit camping without water and septic hookups.

This is a very small slice of California but represents an important example of the challenges for development. If an individual wishes to increase the supply of housing in this city, even on a parcel of land that is not restricted, they will have to deal with an unmotivated Government who have used a half centry old water emergency to stop development.