I like Amazon.com. I like it a lot, but there’s problems with that which I noticed the other day when I was driving around in San Francisco. I saw quite a few street merchants who had closed up shop here. No sign that they had moved. They just emptied out the place and left.
I remembered the places that were there and have come to call this The Amazon Effect. It’s not really all Amazon’s fault, but they do what they do very well, probably better than most other online retailers. Buying online today is easy. The tech company [which I am now a previous employee of] would buy everything through Amazon and Amazon Prime Now. I had a bad headache one day and I can’t take aspirin so I asked the girl who handles purchasing if there was any Tylenol around. She told me, If I don’t find you within an hour check back with me and I’ll have some Tylenol for you.
She didn’t tell me to walk up to the local drug store which I could have done. I didn’t even think about where it was coming from, but I happened to be upstairs and in walks a guy from Amazon Prime Now and delivered a bottle of 250 Tylenol which she handed over to me.
How pray tell, does a local store that I could have easily walked to and got what I need deal with that when someone can just pulled their smartphone and with a couple of taps get it delivered right to them within an hour? They can’t. This is what I am calling [again] The Amazon Effect. Technology has made it so easy to order and return merchandise no matter how big or how small that there’s no point to have to leave your house. Amazon is the biggest culprit in my mind, but there are also brick and mortar retailers with a large online presence that are undercutting local merchants such as Walmart, Target and Costco. They will deliver items purchased online free or at a very modest delivery fee if they have local drivers.
This is creating a problem with local merchants in San Francisco. It’s probably happening all over the place, but in San Francisco where rent to live is already high, it’s high for business owners as well. If you have to be rich to live in San Francisco, rich people will still need to buy things and that’s what stores are for. If there’s no stores then people will have to turn to their computers instead of going out shopping anymore.
I’ve noticed that there seem to be lots of people, in particular millennials who have no problem buying their groceries online instead of going to the store. For me, I personally want to be the one who looks at my meat and produce and decide if I want this apple or that apple. I don’t want a worker who’s paid minimum wage in a city that’s too expensive to live in and probably doesn’t care too much other than filling the orders quickly to pick my food for me.
Big chain stores can easily survive this because sometimes you just want a pair of socks, not a pair of socks knitted by a fair trade paid Guatemalan single mother struggling. But chain stores has special rules in San Francisco so you have to have a car to get to most of them because they’re outside the City. It’s a noble idea, but I can’t spend $20 on a pair of socks. Smaller family owned businesses like your corner stores that you can run to when you forgot something are hit the most. They can’t compete on price unless they’re selling booze or cigarettes and even on those products their markup is pretty small.
Restaurants are hit as well, but San Francisco has the most restaurants in the nation and with a limited amount of food ideas there’s only so many ways you can serve a burger, burrito or Asian food. Restaurants aren’t as affected by Amazon because tech has allowed them to cook and deliver food through all of the food delivery tech companies so they don’t need drivers, but if you’ve got a ton of the same type of restaurants too close to each other then they all are kind of screwed.
I unfortunately don’t have an answer for this problem unless the City can offer incentives to these smaller businesses like they are to the big tech companies. Sometimes it seems that those who think San Francisco isn’t what it used to be are blaming the people coming here without thinking the fact that San Francisco is changing because of the businesses we’re losing.
I have seen this theater being built over a year ago and was interested in seeing what a new theater in San Francisco might be like. I got the chance to experience it when my company held a night out there to see of all things, Back To The Future which came out before most of the employees were born.
It’s a lot different from other movie theaters where you walk up to a ticket booth and buy your ticket then give the ticket to someone standing at the door. You can actually walk in and the ticket seller is off in the back past the stairs up to the theaters. This seemed very odd to me at first because you could easily walk into a theater to watch a movie without paying.
As it turns out this theater is a theater where watching a movie is second place to the experience. When I first walked in there were several retro video games and a record store which going with the retro theme only sold vinyl. There was a bar in the very back and when I got up to the theater we had rented Each seat had a table with a menu. You can write your own ticket up for food or drink you’d like to order and a server will sneak by and grab your ticket and deliver your order. Kind of a cool idea since theater food wasn’t always known to be the best.
Because we were a private affair they offered up popcorn which had truffle butter [don’t worry, it’s not a link to the Niki Minaj song], garlic parmesan or kimchee coatings] as well as draft beer and champagne. After walking around a bit I noticed that they had tables set up in between the rows filled with pizza and sliders. Being an old school native these were not the classic theater foods I expected. I have to say the chicken sliders were pretty tasty and the pizza was of the thin crust California style with lots of veggies and I assume the pepperoni came from pigs who were masturbated and washed daily. In short, I wish I hadn’t eaten lunch that day because the food was really good. The popcorn was pretty addictive even though the the whole truffle thing is lost on me as I am one of those 30% of the population where truffles taste like dirt.
The New Mission is owned by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema which is a chain of all things that started in Austin, TX. Austin is a lot like San Francisco with a bit of a drawl so it fits with our culture here. The idea of getting real food and having a seriously well stocked bar on site actually made this an even better evening. I kind of felt like I was sitting at home watching a movie on my own big screen TV, but didn’t have to worry about cleaning up after my drunk friends when home. While the prices seemed a t0uch high to this old guy they aren’t really that bad compared to other places in San Francisco. Hell for today’s working class it’s down right affordable. Definitely check it out and make sure you walk all over the place to get the full experience. Stop by the bar at the end for a cocktail before you leave and don’t worry about anyone checking your ticket.
While there’s a lot that’s been said about Silicon Valley tech companies and their on site restaurants and chefs for most tech companies that isn’t always the case. Tech companies want you working as long as possible and really don’t want you to leave even to run down to the corner to get a burger. Food perks are common place and the place I work at is no exception.
Everyday we are offered a catered free lunch which I have to say usually isn’t bad. You just have to make sure that you get there not too long after it’s served or you’re generally going to get cold food which while you can heat it in the microwave still isn’t as good as when it’s first served. Depending on the day we can get anything from Indian, Mexican, Asian, Italian and Fusion food of all types, but American style food is few and far between. We did have burgers a couple of times, but that’s kind of outweighed by the other types of food we’re normally served.
All of the food is aimed to be on the healthier side of the spectrum and you won’t find a soda anywhere. Aside from the catered lunch they’re working on catering a dinner as well since lots of people work late and there have been a few nights I’ve done the late shift where dinner has been bought for us.
The refrigerators are stocked with lots of health snack foods as well and if you come in early which they like you to do you can even fix yourself breakfast. Basically they wouldn’t mind if you lived there 24/7 and there are plenty of people who work there that it seems like outside of work they just need a bed to crash in. For a lot of you this might not seem odd at all, but I grew working 9-5 style jobs were if you got a free lunch it was rare and not common and if you worked overtime it was rare as well and not common.
Life is different now in San Francisco with tech companies changing the way work life is and free food is becoming the standard for quite a few jobs. I’ve had a few jobs were there were always snacks around, but not to the extent that I’m getting now. Not to mention that there is one refrigerator stocked almost entirely with beer, wine and champagne and a side snack shelf with rum, gin, whiskey, scotch and of course since we’re in San Francisco Fernet Branca and Jägermeister [which I smartly moved to the freezer since Jager should always be served ice cold.]
As I said in my last article the people here work long and hard and don’t seem to have much life outside of work. These techies don’t have any family nearby so their co-workers become their surrogate family for many of them. Few are married and those that are try and not work long hours, but their husbands or wives usually are working long hours as well because they’re working in tech as well. Hopefully they’re putting some money aside so that one day they can have some free time to kick back and relax a bit other than on the rare weekend when they aren’t asked to come in and work.
It’s taking a little getting used to and I won’t say it’s a bad thing, but I am seeing a bit of a similarity to companies in China where the employees pretty much live where they work. They’re just being treated a bit nicer here and I guess the booze is what helps. Enjoy the pictures below of some of the meals I’ve been served.
I hear lots and lots from natives about how the Tech Bros are ruining the city. Now that I’m working with a lot of those Tech Bros I’ve learned a few things about them that I thought I’d share with you.
I was talking with lots of the people I work with about where they live and surprisingly, most of them like to live within walking distance to where they work. The majority live in SoMA with a few living on the edges of the Mission. Yes, there some that live in the Marina, but they are few and far between. Those in the Marina are the closest to a Tech Bro that everyone likes to talk about. Here’s what I found out about them though.
At least half of them don’t even live in San Francisco because even though they made very good money they don’t want to pay the exorbitant prices San Francisco charges. Many of those who do live in very small places within 15 minutes walking distance from work and there’s a very good reason for that. They’re rarely home. A 40 hour week would seem really nice to most of them, but there are quite a few who are there 50-80 hours a week. They eat breakfast at work, lunch at work and dinner at work. It’s rare they most of them leave before it’s dark and in many cases late at night.
The few that do tend to cut out early are more of the tech bro type that is vilified locally, but it is rare that you’ll ever see one West of Masonic because, well, even today, it’s too far away. Most of the people I work with are a lot like the people I grew up with. They like sports and video games and even TV which they’re usually watching at work because they’re there all the time. When they do have time off they’re usually renting a car and leaving the city or hopping on a plane to get out of the city because they want to get as far away from work as possible.
Those slackers sitting at a coffee shop staring at a laptop around the city aren’t what I see at work [I’m still not sure what they’re doing sitting in coffee shops all day long other than possibly updating their resumes because they don’t have jobs]. Where I work they’re there day in and day out working hard for their money. None of them own homes in San Francisco and for where they live they also aren’t displacing long term residents because in the long term no one has wanted to live where most of them lived or the places they live in weren’t there 10 years ago.
Perhaps I’m not seeing this problem because the tech bros that are being vilified are hopping on the tech shuttle buses and leaving the city. Those I’ve met that do work outside the city aren’t anywhere close to an age to purchase a house in San Francisco and usually again, they aren’t living in areas where people are outraged by the displacement of long term residents. I’m sorry, but the Mission is very much yesterday’s news to the techies of today from what I’m seeing. The Marina which has gotten a bad rap since the 80’s [what you don’t remember the douchebag preppies of the 80’s?] still has lots of trust fund kids, but they’re usually law students now and not working in the stock market like they were in the 80’s. People have said the Marina is too white, which actually isn’t true, as it’s gotten less white because it’s not mostly Italian immigrants anymore. It’s a very homogenized American neighborhood and yes, you will see more blondes, but lots of those blondes have dyed their hair and some are even of non-European origin. The main thing is that very few of them are tech workers and if they are it’s usually because their parents or grandparents have property there that they’re staying at.
OK, yes, there are some bad ones. I’ve seen the blog posts by entitled sounding higher ups in tech companies who live here and while some of their concerns about the homeless problem are valid saying, why can’t we just get rid of the homeless isn’t a real solution to the problem unless they mean to find a way to stop them from being homeless.
So in the end I feel that those who blame techies for the destruction of San Francisco [especially if they happen to live West of Masonic] is false because the people saying this probably don’t have much interaction with them if any at all. Are techies changing San Francisco? Sure. Just as the Beatniks, Hippies, Gays, Punk Rockers and Metal Heads have over the years. There will always be a group that is blamed for the downfall of San Francisco, but in the end they end up leaving a mark on the city just like those who came before them.
Having been encapsulated in my car for the past three years and not really having to walk the streets of the mid-market area it was a bit of a shock at first.While there are tech companies galore in the area, most are within a few feet of the metro station and the people who work there have little interaction with the locals.
I have a two block walk from Van Ness Station down to 11th and Howard and it’s an interesting walk depending on which side of the street you’re on. But before I digress, let’s start from the beginning. I consider myself rather lucky in that I live in the fifth house from the corner of a stop by the 48 Quintara. I can use the app Routesy to check the arrival time of the bus and thankfully it is very accurate. I can hop on and be driven up to West Portal station where I grab whatever shows up and take that four stops to Van Ness where I can get to work in 35 minutes. Considering most techies consider the Sunset District to be too far away I think that’s a pretty short commute compared to living in say, Oakland.
That being said, when I get off it’s a whole different story. There is a noticeable difference between the left side and the right side of the street as I walk to work. Both are dirty, but the right side is definitely more on the smelly side. On the left side I start off walking by Uber, Square and a couple of other companies and while I don’t have proof I can’t help but think they’re part of the reason it’s not as smelly. There are security guards stationed at the entrance of all the buildings and garages and they’re all big and stern looking gentlemen, but when I walk by they sort of lose that street face probably because they know I’ve got better things to do than mess with them. There’s still a ton of old dried up gum on the sidewalk as I get to 11th and Mission, but it’s missing from the block were Uber and Square reside.
Once I hit Mission things begin to change. There’s a taco truck that I mentioned previously that was chasing away a homeless person who was trying to hide behind it to take a dump. The amount of trash increases here as well as people who obviously look much older than they really are. I have to walk past people having arguments with no one else in side who’s faces show that while they look old and haggard they aren’t as old as they look. Meth comes to mind, but it could easily be years of alcohol abuse as well. If I’m not asked by something slurring their words hunched over for a cigarette even though I’m not smoking it’s considered a good day. As I reach Howard street there’s a bus stop which looks like it kind of doubles as a rest room. In the mornings there are lots of young people who go to a couple of places for mentally disabled people that I feel sorry for because they have to see the ugly soft white underbelly of the city. Most of the people on the streets look angry. If I had to live there I’d probably look angry too. It’s not a very inviting place, yet all the of the tech and tech related companies I pass by have these unadorned fronts with large glass windows showing off their beautiful insides. I can totally relate to people who have to walk by these places daily on the outside looking in. It just feels a bit grim to me.
I mentioned before that there are lots of car repair shops, but what I didn’t mention is that they’re all high end car repair shops. You walk by garages that are dingy on the outside, but when you walk by the opening they’re immaculate Mercedes, BMW, Audi and even higher end repair shops. All the cars look like they just came out of a car wash even if they’ve been in a wreak.
When it’s time for me to go home it’s been a bit warm lately in the evenings and so I walk up the right side of the street to stay out of the sun. This is a whole different area even though it’s just across the street. There are lots of support buildings for those in need and unfortunately it tends to show the downside of those who are less fortunate. There are makeshift tents, people passed out against buildings and smell of sewer plant is highly evident. Why it doesn’t cross the street is beyond me.
There’s a Salvation Army store that takes up a sizable chunk between Mission and Market that I assume is attracting people who go through the stuff the SA can’t use. Having to walk past old dried out gum on the other side of the street isn’t so bad in comparison to having to step over puddles of urine and feces on the other side of the street. I was walking up to Market the other day behind a couple of kids who might have been in their early 20’s chugging a 40oz of MGD when the guy says, I gotta piss hella bad, so he just stopped in a corner and started to relieve himself. His girlfriend noted that she had to too and dropped her pants in the bus stop and took care of business both of them ignoring that I was walking by or that there was an elderly woman sitting waiting for the bus.
Once I make it back to Van Ness Station things seem safe again, not that I’ve been harassed by anyone on the walk back, but still, it’s been an eye opening experience.
There comes a time in every persons life when needing to earn a more steady income becomes necessary. I’ve had to put driving for rideshare companies on hold for awhile and possibly permanently because an offer came my way that was better than what I was earning from the flailing pay cuts of the rideshare industry in San Francisco.
So as of a few weeks ago I, a third generation San Francisco have started a job where I’m one of the oldest people at the company and I am now…a techie. Part of the joy I got from this offer was getting to see how that half lived that lots of my friends blame for everything that’s changed the way they used to live in San Francisco as if time hasn’t had anything to do with that.
Now that my work time is parceled out within a specific period of the day 5 days a week and not chasing the surge as it was when I was a rideshare driver I actually have more time to myself even though technically I’m working more hours. While I can’t go into too many details about the company that I’m working for because of the NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] I had to sign before I accepted their offer I can tell you that this company is a mid-market tech start up who’s offices are just a couple of blocks away from Twitter, Square and Uber and it’s not any of those. It’s actually owned now by a very large American corporation with a long history in the United States so that alone gives it a little more clout [Klout?] than most other start ups.
Since it’s been over three years since I actually had to work downtown and I have to say that driving your car downtown is a much more isolated experience than actually walking the streets and taking public transportation, it was a rather eye-opening experience. The Mid-Market area can be a little bit terrifying to walk in for someone like me who hasn’t had to walk past people arguing with a fire hydrant or people trying to not be noticed trying to take a dump next to a taco truck. The initial smell wasn’t too off putting of the area, but there was a lot more smell of diesel mixed in urine and feces. As I leave the Van Ness metro station and begin by walk down 11th street I notice there are a lot of car repair shops mixed in with a few tech oases for start ups that don’t even have any real estate.
Food is far and between in this part of town which is probably a part of why lunch is catered every day where I work. [more on that later]. The people on the streets have a bit of hard look to them which is contrasted by the tech workers trying to get to the safety of their workplace a quick as possible. From my short experience of close to a month it seems like the company I’m at likes sheltering their employees from the World of Horrors that is right outside their doors. I have been cursed at by people wandering the streets who most likely never grew up in San Francisco, but where probably displaced homeless people or meth heads [again, more on that later] who think I am the one destroying their town, when I was born and raised here and not them and the fact that these people are only old enough to be my children.
Overall there is a sharp contrast of joy and revulsion between the time I leave the metro station and when I get to work that makes me understand why I was picking up so many people and driving them to work. It’s hard to stare at people who tried to make something of their lives here and are having trouble or just gave it up as a lost battle. More in the coming days.
The family happened to take a trip out to Visitacion Valley today on a quest for a DVD for my daughter and happened to arrive a few minutes before the library there opened so we decided to walk around. Once again we found a little gem in San Francisco.
I don’t know too much about this little urban park, but it runs for three blocks between houses and the beginning can be found at Leland St. and Peabody St. It was a cool little walk that while you’re in an area that’s very urban and a bit on the industrial side has very little inviting in the area. This part of VV is mostly single family homes, but you won’t even find much greenery around there other than a weed growing out of the cracks in the concrete so this was a pretty nice place for the people who live there.
As you can see from the quick shots I took there are places for people to sit and relax. It’s a nice bit of respite from all the concrete and asphalt in the area and because it’s a bit inland on the warmer side of the City the streets are a bit dirty due to a lack of rain. True you could go up a couple miles to Crocker Amazon Park, but for some of the older residents which we saw walking around and sitting in the little urban parquet that might have been too much trouble.
If you’re ever over in the area I think you should check it out. It’s not Golden Gate Park, but for those who are probably the farthest away from Golden Gate Park I think it was nice that the City gave them some nature to relax in. In the central park there’s a community garden where they’re growing vegetables and fruits. I couldn’t make out any of the plants and trees other than lettuce and a few artichokes, but since this is a warmer part of the city you could grow much more tropical produce than in other parts of the City.