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Razing San Francisco: The 1906 disaster as a natural experiment in urban redevelopment

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  • Siodla, James

Abstract

Urban developers face frictions in the process of redeveloping land, the timing of which depends on many economic factors. This timing can be disrupted by a large shock that destroys thousands of buildings, which could then have substantial short-run and long-run effects. Studying the impact of an urban disaster, therefore, can provide unique insight into urban dynamics. Exploiting the 1906 San Francisco Fire as an exogenous reduction in the city’s building stock, this paper examines residential density across razed and unburned areas between 1900 and 2011. In prominent residential neighborhoods, density increased at least 60 percent in razed areas relative to unburned areas by 1914, and a large density differential still exists today. These outcomes suggest that thriving cities face substantial redevelopment frictions in the form of durable buildings and that large shocks can greatly alter the evolution of urban land-use outcomes over time.

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  • Siodla, James, 2015. "Razing San Francisco: The 1906 disaster as a natural experiment in urban redevelopment," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 48-61.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:89:y:2015:i:c:p:48-61
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2015.07.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Stephan Heblich & Alex Trew & Yanos Zylberberg, 2016. "East Side Story: Historical Pollution and Persistent Neighborhood Sorting," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201613, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
    2. repec:aea:aecrev:v:107:y:2017:i:6:p:1365-98 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Tanaka, Ayumu, 2015. "The impacts of natural disasters on plants' growth: Evidence from the Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) earthquake," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 31-41.
    4. repec:eee:exehis:v:65:y:2017:i:c:p:1-16 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Marco Modica & Roberto Zoboli & Fabrizio Meroni & Vera Pessina & Thea Squarcina & Mario Locati, 2016. "Housing Market Response to 2012 Northern Italy Earthquake: The role of house quality and changing risk perception," SEEDS Working Papers 0416, SEEDS, Sustainability Environmental Economics and Dynamics Studies, revised Apr 2016.
    6. Richard Hornbeck & Daniel Keniston, 2017. "Creative Destruction: Barriers to Urban Growth and the Great Boston Fire of 1872," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(6), pages 1365-1398, June.
    7. Xu, Hangtian, 2017. "Spatial Reorganization in Urban Redevelopment: Evidence from an Earthquake in a Metropolitan Area," MPRA Paper 78986, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Lin, Jeffrey, 2015. "The puzzling persistence of place," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q2, pages 1-8.
    9. Ioannides, Yannis M. & Zhang, Junfu, 2017. "Walled cities in late imperial China," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 71-88.
    10. Leah Platt Boustan & Devin Bunten & Owen Hearey, 2013. "Urbanization in the United States, 1800-2000," NBER Working Papers 19041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Duranton, Gilles & Puga, Diego, 2015. "Urban Land Use," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    12. Xu, Hangtian, 2016. "Multiple Equilibria in the Urban Spatial Structure: Evidence from the Hanshin Earthquake," MPRA Paper 75219, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Philipp Ager & Casper Worm Hansen & Lars Lønstrup, 2015. "Shaking up the Equilibrium: Natural Disasters, Immigration and Economic Geography," Discussion Papers 15-17, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.

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    Keywords

    Durable capital; Natural experiment; Persistence; Redevelopment; Residential density;

    JEL classification:

    • N91 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • R31 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Housing Supply and Markets

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