California should sell its prison with a bay view

San Quentin Prison, near the San Francisco Bay, sits property worth a lot of money—money that the state could use.

Eric Risberg / AP / File
San Quentin State Prison sits near the San Francisco Bay. Guest blogger Matthew E. Kahn writes that the property should be used for real estate development.

San Quentin Prison sits next to the San Francisco Bay in between Berkeley and Novato. It is rusting away and it sits on some of the most valuable land on the west coast. The state has debated before whether it would be wise to allow real estate development on such a property. I think it should and I bet that this is the tip of the iceberg. California should bundle reform. Under my proposal; voters would vote to simultaneously; agree to sell these assets, raise some taxes (sales tax, vehicle registration tax), and implement a restructuring of public employee pensions moving forward (including raising the retirement age for new hires).

From NPR:

"Assemblyman JARED HUFFMAN (Democrat, San Rafael, California): I think people of all political persuasions look at this massive prison complex right on the water and this world class property on San Francisco Bay and scratch their heads and think, wow, what a crazy place for a prison.

GONZALES: State assemblyman Jared Huffman says back in the days of the Gold Rush, this quiet peninsula was an ideal spot to house prisoners, but 150 years later Huffman thinks there's a better way to use this prime location that some say is worth a billion dollars.

Assemblyman HUFFMAN: So I think there's a pretty broad acceptance that there are higher and better uses for this property.

GONZALES: Right now besides housing thousands of inmates, San Quentin is also home to California's death row. Selling the prison would mean finding a new spot for the death chamber and no community is clamoring for it. Plus, the state would have to build another prison, and that costs money California doesn't have."

California has assets and must think about how to use them for their highest use. An economist would say to let the market decide and to auction them off. The prisoners haven't earned the right to have a Bay View.

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