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Posts Tagged 'gentrification'

Back To Work: Tech Bros, The Real Story

Tech BroI 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.

Next: Tech Food and Free Beer Fridays




Gentrification Of The Gentrified

"Margaret! Clutch the pearls! Even richer people are trying to move us out!"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.