I read a screed the other day from a resident of the Sunset District who was decrying the Starbucksization of the Inner Sunset District and how expensive restaurants were going in all over and places that should be free to the public now making me show my ID or I have to pay a fee, how can we stop all this gentrification!
Wow. The Sunset District is getting gentrified? Does that mean that the crime will go down and instead of bar fights people will slam their drink down and proclaim I am miffed! I suppose they don’t like that the housing prices are increasing. Maybe they should go back to the old prices that were .02% of what they were when my middle class family bought one back in 1954. Rent and housing prices have been a problem since the Gold Rush era.
The Sunset District like many other areas of San Francisco has been a middle class neighborhood for years. It was even referred to as the suburbs of San Francisco when it was first built because you got to be in San Francisco, but, well, not in San Francisco. Many of the chains that have moved in were San Francisco based companies that just learned how to do it right and got popular and opened more stores. You can even find some such as the San Francisco Soup Company at local malls yet other local chains such at La Boulange are OK to many people because they don’t look so much like a chain.
Then you have…those other chains. Starbucks [started by three USF students who learned the trade from Berkeley based Peet’s Coffee founder] is the banner child to hold up when people like to decry gentrification around here, yet studies have shown that when a Starbucks goes in all the other coffee houses actually do better because people who didn’t have an interest in coffee suddenly do. While friends aren’t supposed to let friends do Starbucks, I disagree. I would rather spend my money at Starbucks and know that I’m going to get a good cup of coffee as opposed to a local coffee shop that the coffee tastes like hot water in cardboard for the same price. Starbucks has just purchased local company La Boulange which I think is a good thing because that means that food from a local company will be sold there. Starbucks also does something local businesses can’t afford to do — offer health insurance to it’s part time employees.
Granted San Franciscans who’ve been here for more than 10 years tend to hate the new people moving in yet forget that they were hated by those that moved in 10 years before them. Since I’ve been here for five decades I’ve had lots of time to hate people, but I’m a little more relaxed now. If you look through out the history of San Francisco you’ll see that people were saying the same thing about change in San Francisco over a hundred years ago. I’m sure the horse and buggy types shook their fists many a time at the new fangled motor cars.
There are no poor people in the Sunset being pushed out which is also the case in many other parts of San Francisco. We have rent control so if you’re already renting a place you’re set. Wife and I were renting when the Web 1.0 boom hit and apartments around us started going for $2500. We simply smiled and continued to pay our $1300/month for our two bedroom house which we did until we decided to move out in 2003. You couldn’t have gotten a place for that kind of rent then just as you certainly can’t now. If you happened to have been like my parents and purchased a house years ago your mortgage payments aren’t going up and if you’ve already paid off the house neither is your property tax because you’re a golden child in San Francisco terms because of California’s Proposition 13.
I am not rich by any means and there are many days where I feel like I never will even get close, but because I’m one of the few left that is lucky enough to not have to earn $50k/year just to cover rent since I’ve stayed in one place for so long and my parents thought ahead, I don’t have to worry as much.
It is sad that people have to have a high income to move here and that businesses have to pay high wages so that people can afford to live here, but that’s part of the problem with a 7×7 peninsula that has no room to grow. I don’t mind that smaller businesses are being replaced by businesses that realize we don’t want to spend $5 on a roll of toilet paper or they have a very narrow demographic of people they’ll attract. I don’t mind that businesses with a sound business plan are moving in and offering up higher paying jobs in places you wouldn’t find those jobs before and offering benefits. I don’t mind one bit that the crime rate is going down around town although I would like to have a talk with the person who imported all the frat boys to the Marina. That’s a form of gentrification I could do without.
Now I’m off to Starbucks and then show my ID card to prove I live here so that I can walk around the Arboretum for free. I might take a free ride up the Harmon Tower at the DeYoung and enjoy the view afterwards. I’m a cheap date. You can have me for less than $5.