San Francisco is a hot bed for technologists, geniuses rethinking all aspects of consumer interface, product and services alike. And now, several are leveraging their expertise at a more macro level to design a new city.

For all the optimism, innovation and wealth that are produced here, the Bay Area can also feel like a place that doesn’t work quite right.

The cost of housing has priced out teachers and line cooks. Income inequality is among the widest in the nation. The homeless crisis never seems to ebb. Traffic is a mess. On bad days, transit is, too. And local governments are locked in conflict.

Clearly, the region has not been optimized.

“It could be so much better,” said Ben Huh, who moved to San Francisco in 2016 after running the Cheezburger blog empire in Seattle. “There’s so much wealth. There’s so much opportunity.”

In the maddening gap between how this place functions and how inventors and engineers here think it should, many have become enamored with the same idea: What if the people who build circuits and social networks could build cities, too? Wholly new places, designed from scratch and freed from broken policies.

Mr. Huh leads a project begun by the start-up accelerator Y Combinator to explore the creation of new cities. Hundreds applied to work on what looked like “the ultimate full-stack start-up.” Last October, Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company, announced it would team up with a government agency in Toronto to redevelop a stretch of the city “from the internet up.”

For others in tech — intrigued by word of a proposed smart city in Arizona, a big Bitcoin land grab in Nevada, a special economic zone in Honduras — fantasizing about newly built cities has become a side gig. They dream of utopias with driverless cars, radical property-ownership models, 3-D-printed houses and skyscrapers assembled in days.

While some urban planners roll their eyes, it is true that America’s cities have always been built on someone’s hubris, whether the characters who plotted Manhattan’s street grid, or those who imagined the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Who were these guys who were thinking so big? Then the question is, where are those people now?” said Paul Romer, the former chief economist at the World Bank, whose ideas (and TED talks) on new “charter cities” have influenced some in tech. “Tech types — as much as people might talk about the parochial way they’re approaching it — deserve credit for thinking bigger than anybody in government right now.”

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