San Francisco recently sold a street to a real estate investor to pay off delinquent taxes. Now, this is not a case of a city selling a publicly owned street as this was part of a gated community and an originally privately owned street. So the city basically repossessed the street and then sold it at auction to make up the funds that needed to be paid. But – this idea of selling publicly owned assets to raise funds is not unheard of – Houston, for instance, sold close to $2 million of streets and utility easements to raise funds.
Of concern is this trend coupled with the impacts of AVs and E-commerce on municipal budgets (see our report on this here). If city budgets become substantially constrained with the advent of these new technologies – not a far fetched idea – streets are one of the primary assets a city has and could sell in order to make up budget shortfalls. Ironically, this is also exactly the most powerful asset cities have when it comes to AVs and Commerce since – as Jeff Tumlin often says – it is THE operating environment all of these technologies run on. Will be important to make sure cities are leveraging this asset and not simply selling it off.