Since 2014, San Francisco has held the dubious honor of most expensive rental market in the country. Median home prices have risen by 66% in the last four years alone, creeping as high as $1.38 million. As a result, now only 13% of San Francisco homebuyers can even afford a median-priced single-family home within the city limits.
These numbers aren’t pretty—that is, until Bay Area artist Doug McCune gets his hands on them. McCune’s most recent work manages to transform San Francisco’s soaring housing prices into a delicate, spiraling 3D print. The sculpture, which determines the height of each section based on average price per square foot at a given place on the map, reveals a city torn apart by dramatic economic disparities.
For McCune, this issue hits close to home. A programmer by trade, he and his wife had owned a house in San Francisco’s Richmond District for several years. In 2015, however, they made the decision to sell the property and move across the Bay to Oakland. The process sparked a critical examination of housing prices within the city. “Even within San Francisco, where everyone who can afford a home is, by definition, relatively rich, you see these houses listed in neighborhoods like the Marina or SoMa, and the price difference is so extreme,” McCune said. “They almost double from one point in the city to another. Even if you’ve bought into the city, the expensive parts are so out of the price range that you write those neighborhoods off. They’re not even within the realm of possibility.”
To visualize this phenomenon, McCune gathered statistics for 5,000 recent home sales from real estate database Redfin. As he divided an aerial map of San Francisco into hexagons and calculated average home prices for each section, the sculpture slowly began to take shape. Although he initially imagined the work as a series of suspended islands, McCune soon noticed a steady price increase between certain areas. A winding path emerged, linking high-cost neighborhoods to the ones below. The final design, which stands about a foot tall, took 36 hours to 3D print.