San Francisco Is Eating Itself


I have never started a post with such trepidation before — I’m terrified that I’m about to alienate a lot of people who I dearly love by stating an opinion (any opinion) on the topic of the changing face of San Francisco.

In case you’re unfamiliar with what’s been going on: with the ascendance of Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, and other tech companies based in the Bay Area, San Francisco real estate, long the most expensive of any city in the U.S., has climbed once again to heights affordable only to the affluent. The situation seems to be exacerbated by the fact that the aforementioned tech companies are a) in a hiring boom and b) offering free commuter service to their employees via giant, wifi-enabled luxury bus. Thus, the city has been flooded with well-paid 20-something software engineers, longtime residents are feeling the squeeze of increasing rents and evictions, people are throwing rocks at the buses, the people on the buses are saying ungallant things about SF’s out-of-control homeless problem, and no one is coming off well in the comments sections.

I have been following this subject with great interest from a distance. I used to live in SF, I love the city and had some, probably most, of the best times of my life there. So take all this in the spirit I intend it: great affection.

What’s striking about this debate is that no one is really wrong. Google et al are not wrong to do what they can (in this case provide the option to live in a world-class city) to attract the talent they want. The talent they want is not wrong to accept the perks (including but not limited to commuter bus service) Google (et al) offers to attract them. Nor are they wrong to live wherever they want. (By the way — a 40-mile commute doesn’t sound the least bit strange to anyone who’s ever lived in the suburbs.) It is a free country, right? People are still free to live anywhere they can pay the rent, right? If you want to commute two hours a day, four hours, eight hours, who’s to tell you no?

Yet on the other side, SFers are not wrong to hate fleets of 18-foot tall buses patrolling their narrow city streets, or rising rents, or increased evictions, or fro-yo places going in where that great dive bar used to be, or your favorite band leaving town. I get it. Your rage is completely justified. But it’s also kind of misdirected.

There are a million different things that are coming together to change SF the way it’s changing, and most of them have been baked into the city for decades if not longer. To name only a few: Limited real estate inventory — lowered supply. Rent control makes staying in one apartment long-term very advantageous — further lowered supply. Lack of any buildings taller than 3 stories — even further lowered supply. Sky-high real estate prices make buying property unfeasible — raised rental demand. Zoning laws make it very difficult to buy a single apartment — raised rental demand. SF proximity to Silicon Valley — raised demand. And let’s face it: SFers are very, very proud of where they live (I was too) and tell anyone who will listen that this is the greatest place on Planet Earth, well the word is out, Google’s new hires want to live in the greatest place on Planet Earth — further raised demand. I can’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of city planning, but I’m sure that plays a role, corrupt politicians play a role, corporate assholes play a role, etc etc etc.

Look at any of the comments sections where these things are being discussed. The vitriol being directed at tech workers is alarming. It’s evidently very easy to lump all these people together and call them self-absorbed, elitist, entitled, and worse, but take a deep breath and try to remember: they’re not an invading army, they have no mandate as a group to ruin the city, they’re not the Borg. They live there because, just like you (and just like me), they think it’s beautiful and artsy and full of things to do and close to amazing nature. They’re just individual people that learned a very boring but high-paying skill, trying to get to work at jobs that command a salary most of us would jump at. And as individuals, none of them thinks that they’re there to change the city in their image; they’re there to get in on all that awesome that you guys have been crowing about since the first week you got there (just like I did).

I left the city in 2001 because when both my wife and I lost our cushy Web 1.0 jobs in the first dotcom crash, our rent was no longer sustainable ($1400 for a 2BR in Glen Park, isn’t that adorable?). We had determined even before those pink slips came that we’d never, ever be able to afford to buy SF real estate — we came close to making an offer on a $450,000 shack (literally, a shack) in a part of the city neither of us had never seen before and never would again because it was the only thing we’d seen in a year of looking that came anywhere near our price range (not including the $250,000 of work it desperately needed), and we were at the time gainfully employed with Web 1.0 salaries. We saw that if we stayed, we’d always be at the whim of landlords, thus we’d never be really financially secure as long as we stayed there. Then we both lost our jobs, got service industry jobs and through no fault of our own lost those too, and the writing was on the wall: Time to go.

I feel bad for the artsy types that are getting priced out. I cried real tears when I had to leave too — I fed on the creativity and inclusiveness of the city, I felt I really came into my own thanks to the people I met there and the things I did and saw and heard. I met my best friends there, I met my wife there. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I still miss it.

But the way things are set up there, falling in love with San Francisco is kind of a devil’s bargain: you get everything SF has to offer, you get to live among all these crazy, creative, driven individuals and do and see and hear and read all this amazing stuff and express yourself in any way you see fit but unless you make a lot of money or are at least working toward it, you know (or should know) the day will come that you can’t afford to be there anymore. The only real, true rent control is owning the building; otherwise your landlord will eventually die or get divorced or decide to sell the building and retire to Costa Rica and all of a sudden you have to go to the back of the line and pay newbie rent like a schmuck. You can’t afford newbie rent, you’ve been here since 1994, you’ve set up your whole life around paying 1994 rent, so now you’re fucked.

It sucks that that’s happening to so many people now, but it was and is inevitable, it’s the nature of the city itself. It’s a gold rush town, it always has been, and it’s made itself over many, many times. People hated those of us who arrived in the ’90s and called us gentrifiers, now the people who arrived in the ’90s are yelling the same thing at these programmers.

You can’t blame people for being angry. The stakes are high, as high as stakes can get short of life and death. But it’s also curdled into something ugly that I don’t recognize as the city that I loved. People are worked into such a froth that they are grabbing onto all kinds of complaints and arguments that don’t make sense, or contradict each other, or are wildly unrealistic. They’re pointing fingers and demonizing people based on what they do for a living in a way that feels as far as you can get from the inclusive, do-your-own-thing ethos that SF has traditionally been all about. A few of the sentiments I’ve encountered repeatedly in the lively comments sections of online pieces about all this:

“Without the buses, all these people would leave the city.
Ok, maybe they would, but how exactly would that work? Do you ban all private buses from SF city streets? Do you single out buses owned by certain companies? Do you set up blockades on the 280? As a practical matter, how would you accomplish this?

“The deal SFMTA struck with Google to use city bus stops is a drop in the bucket, Google can afford far more.”
Sure they can, but what is it that you’re asking for? California state law says the city can’t turn a profit on fees like this, and if even a government as hungry for money as SF’s can’t gin up a justification to charge more than $1 per stop, it suggests that the financial cost to the city for the use of the bus stops is almost nil. Is the goal to make sure Google (et al) are paying for what they’re using, or to punish them?

“Those fools are going to get what’s coming to them when the bubble bursts.” was a bubble. Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter are not a bubble.

“Techies are entitled, elitist assholes”
This is the one that really bugs me, because I have seen it so many times, slipped into so many comments about details like the buses or rent control. Certainly, SOME techies are entitled, elitist assholes. Some stockbrokers are entitled, elitist assholes. Some artists are entitled, elitist assholes. Some baristas are entitled, elitist assholes. What’s entitled about accepting something you’re being offered? What’s entitled about working somewhere that values what you do enough to give you those perks? How is riding a bus elitist? What sounds elitist to me is writing off a whole section of people because they’re not cool enough to live in your city. And expecting a city to stay the way you want it, even as time marches on is more than a little entitled. I would have loved to keep the life I had in San Francisco circa 1999-2000 frozen in amber forever, but the world just doesn’t work that way.

Anyone can live anywhere they want, provided that they can pay the rent. And that cuts the other way, too: if you can’t pay the rent, no such right exists. There’s no extra points for seniority. Artists and weirdos don’t get an exemption from the very most basic rules of capitalism because SF has traditionally been kind to artists and weirdos. This kind of thing happens everywhere that’s kind to artists and weirdos, it’s just more pronounced in SF because it’s so small. New York has ten times the acreage and 100 times the vertical real estate. It will never run out of crappy neighborhoods that artists and weirdos can afford, but you can bet people are getting priced out all the time. It’s just part of the deal.

Your rage is understandable, and if it were better directed would be completely justified. The city you’ve adopted as your home is changing in ways that aren’t necessarily for the better. And I’m not saying you should just lay back and take it. I’m not saying you have to like it. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t fight it. But the things that are causing it are not new, not even the buses.

I’m certain there are angles and dimensions to this that I’m missing. I haven’t been to San Francisco in years, I’ve never seen one of these buses except in photographs like the one above. I don’t have any answers to how to make it better. I’m not even sure it can be made better. It’s just such a bummer to see a place that I remember as openminded, laid back, creative, nonjudgmental erupting with all this anger, everyone pointing fingers, blaming people that really aren’t to blame. Come on, guys. You’re better than this.

don't be evil

200 Responses to San Francisco Is Eating Itself

  1. Insulted_Programmer says:

    How dare you!!!! Programming is not boring!!!!!!!

    • Chris Lee says:

      Thanks for defending us as not assholes and then Freudian slip your way into revealing what you think what we really do is. I’ve seen some beautiful “programming” that rivals the art you seem to hold so dear to yourself. And maybe if you actually understood that you wouldn’t be so fucking confused about the issue. Which is this: We’re artists same as you, and we create all the beautiful things you saw in your past, but you apparently don’t see them, for whatever reason.

      • RBiggs352345 says:

        Alex is trying to make the argument that you guys *aren’t* arrogant pricks. You aren’t helping.

      • Z says:

        Ha! Say what you will about investment bankers, at least they’re mostly honest about just wanting to make money and don’t have an inflated sense of their contribution to the world.

        • Duff says:

          And therein lay the problem. Re-read what you wrote: “Honest about just wanting to make money”. Imagine a world without the favorite song, movie or art that you like. People actually make that shit- out of passion or whatever. How is someone who makes money even anywhere close to that value? They can be done away with, not the artist. Enjoy the city once it’s completely stale with honest rich people.

          • bryanc says:

            Why is it that just because artists don’t live in San Francisco that there will be no art?

          • Theryl McCoy says:

            SF being completely stale with honest rich people will be a lot better than being completely smug with wanna-be “artist” a holes.

      • Les Orchard says:

        Programming is objectively boring. It’s not sports, it’s not construction, it’s not cooking, it’s not flying jets.

        Programming is long hours of sitting quietly, staring at a screen, maintaining focus, absorbing trivia and working through problems. There are a lot of jobs that are boring like this – math, science, writing, accounting. Subjectively, there are beautiful patterns blossoming in your mind, and it’s challenging to convey the experience to anyone not in the field.

        Hell, I don’t want to put words in the author’s mouth, but I’d guess that music & filmmaking can be objectively boring & tedious in the creation too. The products are exciting, but the production is less so.

        Now, seriously, calm the fuck down and stop making the rest of us look like prima donna assholes.

        • Some boring programmer says:

          You have a peculiar definition of boring. Being quietly engrossed in your work for hours is “boring?”

          I’ve flown planes. I’ve written code. Sitting in a cockpit for hours on end while the plane is on autopilot is pretty damn boring. Writing codecs way more interesting.

      • Mike says:

        Ctfo Chris. If your takeaway from this is that he thinks what we do is boring, then you pretty much completely missd the entire point of the post. Stop being all aspergers.

        • Barney McComas says:

          Some people don’t want to understand and discuss, they just want to be insulted and argue.

        • Shane says:

          So he objected to something the author wrote, and that’s his “take away” and he “missed the point” and is being “aspergers”?

          Really dude, great contribution to the conversation. Really, really well done.

      • Anonymous says:

        Trolls getting way too much attention in this discussion.

        I work in tech, and fit a gross number of the tech stereotypes. Midwest born engineer mid 20s shuttling for giant corp out of SF.

        I too thought.. “wait, programming isn’t boring!!” However, at no point was I compelled to launch into an attack on those who perceive it as boring because, go figure, that’s asshole behavior. Not out here to rep such nonsense.

        Briefly on the point of programming being boring… I also love poetry, and find that it can be equally as tedious (and gratifying) as programming. Anything can be interesting to anyone. Those fuckin guys with model airplanes. They make it happen.

        Moved here for all reasons listed by author… A bit disturbed by the amount of vitriol directed at “tech workers”, but I think it’s that both parties are profoundly out of touch with each other. Only serves to further polarize the issue. This makes me sad, as I can rarely mention my profession to those not in tech without feeling like “that guy.” Would much prefer this elusive open-minded mentality SF so proudly touts.

        Maybe then we can move forward TOGETHER to keep SF inclusive and eclectic and beautiful and community-driven and all that good stuff only an asshole would eschew.

        Real talk.

      • Thomas says:

        As a software engineer, I agree that there are some beautiful pieces of code. But you have to remember art and beauty are subjective.

        Moreover, I think the writer has the opinion the activity of programming is boring. Truthfully, there are some programming tasks I find quite mind numbing.

      • Samira Said says:

        I think you’re the one who is fucking confused here. I highly doubt people like u with your language of assholes can create something good. Artist!!! My ass is an artist too!

      • Tim says:

        Desperately trying to maintain some sympathy for the plight of the techie in this issue, but trying to equate “programming” with “art” in this context is absolutely ludicrous. I’m an engineer, I’ve done lots of programming in various academic and professional contexts. You might enjoy and appreciated it as a programmer, but to insist that they are “artists” in the same sense is laughable. Just ask an honest question: Would you enjoy this city as much if the only “artists” in town wrote code? Admit what you enjoy about this place.

      • LAer says:

        ha! there, you did the job. boring socially awkward geeks who can’t take a joke. great way to stand up for yourself genius

        • Chris says:

          All of you: How come you can’t respond to anything about the article other than the subjective experience of your own work? His writing evoked historical realities in a city that serves as a a portal to the west coast. It’s changing because cities absorb new people and ideas. Defending the engineering profession and its merits causes non-techies to further their view that these newbies are nasty and competitive, unfriendly people! The author painstakingly defended your reality whilst you apparently can’t encompass his.

      • Timothy Flood says:

        lighten up dude. don’t act like a fucking victim. you’re not making star charts to the next star system. shit, brain surgeons don’t act nearly as entitled as you turkeys do.

    • Pascal Bourguignon says:

      Of course it’s boring. That’s why there’s so few women doing it.

      • Kelly says:

        I’m a woman, and a software engineer, and I find my work exciting. Boring is in the eye of the beholder.

        • Duff says:

          Remember the age old thought of “you kids need to get outside and play”? It’s like that with adults. There’s apparently a new generation of adults that grew up staring at a screen playing with the creative thought patterns in their mind- weather it be Video Games as a kid or programming as an adult. They also may listen to Synthesized blips and bleeps and think it’s music, when in reality it’s really someone else’s non-live non-linear creation of what they think you should be hearing, via copy and paste (as opposed to watching someone play an instrument). But- if they are happy and they don’t know that it’s boring compared to real life, then it’s totally valid. It’s just a new age of human. Not bad, just new.

          • Kelly says:

            Lol yes I am a droid who has never been outside. You have a strange way of compartmentalizing people. Most of the engineers I work with are some of the most outdoorsy artsy folks I know. But if it’s easier for you to understand the world by putting people in over simplified little boxes, good luck with that.

          • grendelkhan says:

            You know, there have been solitary, meditative occupations since long before the invention of the computer. Medieval monks copying manuscripts, engravers making woodcuts, and authors pecking away at their Underwoods all chose to do things that you’d judge to be “boring compared to real life”, and they did it before the kids came along with their beep-boop hippity-hoppin’.

            It’s an interesting hypothesis you have there, but it’s a bit too get-off-my-lawn-y for me.

          • einnocent says:

            Most programmers I know take part in the creation of subversive, participatory art, such as Burning Man art cars, underground parties, urban exploration, and other reality hacks. They bring their problem-solving mindset and their flexible view of the nature of reality into the real world in creative and engaging ways.

            You think your planned parties, your museum exhibits, your guided tours are “real life”? Well, you think it’s art when in reality it’s someone else’s creation of what you think you should be seeing. But hey, it you’re happy and you don’t know it’s boring compared to taking part yourself, then it’s totally valid. It’s just an old way of being human. Not bad, just old.

          • Anon says:

            Old men complain about how good life used to be in the “good ol’ days”, and how “these crazy young kids with their synthesized blips and bleeps are ruining the world,” and then they die and the world keeps turning.

        • Samira Said says:

          Come on programming is boring! It’s for nerds and I bet you are a nerdy women!

      • Theryl McCoy says:

        But how many women are doing men who write code?

        • dilemma says:

          Most the women I know are working in tech and there boyfriends work in tech, in marketing, accounting, programming, project managing.

    • Samira Said says:

      Americans are ignorants!!!

    • Jonathan says:

      Haha, I’m a programmer, at Google and I really don’t find it boring either!

      Other than that, this article was spot on!

    • Happy_Code_Monkey says:

      LMFAO! That was my thought exactly! This is a really well-written, sensibly-minded piece but I went a little bit ‘Oi!’ at that.

      I love programming almost as much as I love playing music. I find it hard to believe that many people don’t see the art in the craft.

      Anyway, thanks for the article!

    • gc says:

      This was an incredibly well written and well thought out article. No insult intended toward programmers I’m sure. Very fair way of looking at this issue. Kudos.

    • Volunteer when you can says:

      The problem is that our city is truly only beutiful to people who appreciate what it is and what it will be. SF is one of the dirtiest cities I have ever seen. It’s also packed full of crazy insane people (thanks Nevada and Oregon) and homeless. I love it. I sit and talk and engage these people. A lot of them have very interesting stories and have just become obsolete. I get the feeling as we catar to all these over paid people in an effort to not to leave ourselves. All of our quirky, weird, dirty places are going to become places like sight glass or citizen band or rick house. People are going to be willing to pay extra for stuff we have been doing for years just so they can get away from the dirty or poor part of the city. I used to love going out an meeting all the interesting/crazy people in SF. Soon they will be priced out and conversations will be dominated by what the new population finds interesting. The city is eating itself, it’s true. It’s what it does. Let’s see if the new incarnation will still be the best place in the world. Seeing that somehow Target has crept it’s way in already I have my doubts. When I get evicted from my rent controlled apartment I will take my kindness, genoristy, art, and hard work ethic somewhere else. Thanks SF for being there for me and kicking me out of never never land so I can do something about my peterpan syndrome.

  2. kidhack says:

    i’m glad you wrote this.

    i work for a startup and not one of the giants, but if you look at housing trends from the 80s, it average trajectory has always been up. sure there we’re hiccups with the 80s recession and bubble and the last recession, but it’s one a very clear path of up.

    most of the largest companies based in SF bay area aren’t tech:
    People don’t seem to be complaining about Wells Fargo, Levi, Gap, Kaiser Permanente, PG&E, Chevron, Visa, Charles Schwab, Bank of the West, William Sanoma, and Robert Half International international for how many people they employ.

    new york housing rates and cost of living goes up at the same rate and you don’t hear grumblings about finance companies or Google, who employs over 500 people there. people in SF need to face the fact that population dense cities like SF, NYC, Paris, etc aren’t easy to live in nor cheap. It’s a hustle.

    • Arkadiy Kukarkin says:

      There’s actually quite a vocal (and I think justified) opposition movement to the massive construction projects in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The groups on the other end are less homogenous than in this case, but then again the SF hyper-gentrification is strongly self-selected by participating in these busing programs.

    • JC says:

      I work for a company who employs a ton of people in SF, more than most if not all tech companies. I think the difference is that I ride & fund MUNI. My company pays SF payroll taxes. My company pays into Healthy SF, provides paid sick time, etc… So, sure, there is a little bit of resentment of the firms who leverage SF to attract employees but then don’t contribute as much to the upkeep of the City. Only employees who own homes and pay property taxes do. (There is always sales tax too.) Whether that resentment is healthy or productive is a different story.

      And, trust me, there has been tension between these SF-based companies and SF going back decades. Google “SF payroll tax challenge” and read away.

      There has always been complaining about gentrification in SF or NY, the difference is only that this decade’s version of it in SF is easier to target and explain using the buses as metaphor. Private shuttles in NY aren’t (at least as far as I know) as common?

      • Andy Hilal says:

        So you’re objecting to SF being used as a bedroom community for people who have jobs elsehwere.

        Hm… isn’t San Francisco inflicting exactly that on every other city in the Bay Area? Don’t hundreds of thousands of people commute into San Francisco daily to pay SF payroll taxes without even taking up any residential space there? Should those people be villified by their neighbors in Oakland, San Leandro, and Pacifica for not finding a job right there in their hometown so they can benefit the tax base?

        I have to laugh… you’d think SF was on the losing end of this to hear you tell it. SF is on the winning end many hundreds of times over. Don’t cry because some people are finally living in SF but working outside it.

        • JC says:

          Not sure you’re responding to me but I’m not certainly objecting to that. I’m just pointing out that these buses act as a very accessible metaphor for gentrification in a way which doesn’t have an analogy in NY or other places.

          And who is blaming the employees? A lot of people are blaming the companies (wrongly in my view) who are enabling the commute. The most that a lot of these SF firms do is enable tax subsidies so employees can more easily use the infrastructure which gets them there from Oakland. Which makes sense to me.

          I don’t think SF is on the losing (or winning) end of anything.

          • Stephen says:

            Plenty of people are blaming the employees. I’ve already been approached a number of times while waiting for our bus by people waiting to unload on us that we are ruining san francisco.

        • Phoenix says:

          As someone who lives in Pacifica, I have to commute further down the Peninsula for a job. There isn’t much work to be had in Pacifica. I do work in San Mateo County.

          I’ve also lived in many other parts of the Bay Area, and they have plenty of people who work in their respective cities and counties. People go where the jobs are and where they can get paid well for their skill set. In some cases that means San Francisco, but in many cases that means generally in the same county or a neighboring county.

      • Bob says:

        > Private shuttles in NY aren’t (at least as far as I know) as common?

        Yeah, because NYC has a real, working subway, unlike SF’s poor excuse for public transit.

        • JC says:

          Completely agree. Just trying to point out why the issue is highlighted by the buses here. SF transit needs to be more robust. Which means it means more money. Circumventing it obviously doesn’t help.

          That said, reading about the protests at 8th and Market today has pretty much been the tipping point for me.

          If you look at the demands, they pretty much all add up to: we want rents and property values to fall. Which has never been supported by any municipal government anywhere in the US.

          • marcos says:

            Yet Another SWE here who chooses to live and work in the City and who has gone without work from time to time to avoid the commute. Gotta wonder who was unable to find a place in the low $400K range 14 years ago. We got a nice Mission condo flat within spitting distance of BART around that time for about that much and our housing expense is 60% of what it was when we got our foot in the door.

            The Bay Area’s transit system is designed to ferry workers from elsewhere to SF for work and then back. The startup I’m working for has 60% commuters and 40% max San Franciscans. The idea of SF as a bedroom community for a monoculture of big firm employees changes that dynamic.

            Giving a cheap pass to some commuters to circumvent public transit diminishes the base of political support for the kind of investment in transit that we need. That means that many more times commuters will take private autos due to crap transit than trips are saved via private shuttles.

            Unfortunately for those of us who want to see our beautiful city protected from the ravages of the speculative venture capital market, the housing activists are wholly incompetent at reaching out beyond their small circle. For lefties who claim to speak for “the people,” they hate much more than 50% of the population and that translates into lotsa lost elections and policy failure.

            One would think that those on the left could distinguish between capitalists and highly paid workers. But anyone who makes more money than the activist is by their definition rich and the enemy.

            Programming is not art, there is nothing artsy about a instantiating a mathematical and logical model. It can be elegant, but don’t fool yourself that implemented algorithms meet the definition of art. The work can be at times boring as hell and at other times very stimulating. It all depends on the application, environment and tools you’re using.

        • DCB says:

          NYC doesn’t have shuttles? You’ve never seen the GW at rush hour.

          • al says:

            LOL what if fox news or something started shuttling employees into midtown from brooklyn for free… imagine the scandal.

        • Edward says:

          Usually, I’d take offense to this comment and defend Muni but after one visit to NY I damn near cried when I had to take Muni again. Not only is the NY metro more efficient, it runs 24/7 and it can take you into the burrows. Muni metro lines basically service downtown and sunset areas for the most part. Nothing goes into Richmond, Marina, Chinatown, Pac heights, etc. There are buses but they’re no where near as frequent nor as efficient. Aside from the lack of availability, lines also run ABOVE ground on the street, which makes no sense because now the line has to account for foot and car traffic. Personally, I think the problem with Muni is the people of SF. I bet Muni has always wanted to expand and be more efficient but the people raise hell if a new line goes into their neighborhood and it means months of construction. Extending the hours means more noise and people can’t get their beauty sleep. Even though in the long run it helps them. Many SF’ers want the benefits of the suburbs along with the benefits of a metropolitan area which simply won’t happen.

          I still take Muni everyday and everywhere and it gets pretty ugly to say the least.

          • Mike Bee says:

            Cute try, but simply Googling articles on the MUNI from the SFBG or SF Weekly from the past 15 years will show you that years of mismanagement and frankly dumb decision making is why MUNI is where it is. But blaming San Franciscans is always high on you techies’ scapegoat list, right?

          • PF says:

            Where are these burrows you speak of?

          • Gandydancer says:

            @PF – Perhaps The Shire is one of the boroughs.

      • Hazel says:

        Responding your point that you/your company is different because you ‘ride and fund muni’, I want to point out that the silicon valley company that my partner works for pays for all of its employees to have a muni pass, so they are also funding muni. Since moving to SF and taking the shuttle, we’ve sold our car, and because I am no longer using the car to commute to Daly City I take muni every day. So this is just a personal example, but since moving to SF, we are funding muni with 2 monthly muni passes that we didn’t use to have, and we’ve taken one car off the road. Don’t assume that the shuttles mean people use public transit less.

  3. Fantastic Post, Alex – Thanks for explaining both sides of this with love and compassion.

  4. William Pietri says:

    I like where you started and where you’re going, but I think you unfairly shift the burden onto existing San Francisco residents. The large companies and the people riding the busses are the ones changing the situation, so they should be aware of and own the effects.

    In particular, Google, et al, are basically importing valley housing price inflation into San Francisco. My understanding is that the buses have wifi, and time with your laptop open on the bus counts as work time. That’s a very strong incentive to commute long distances; I know people who would never live in the city (or never work for a South Bay company) except for the buses.

    In my view, then, SF should be charging sufficiently to balance out those incentives, such that the housing price inflation pressure from this is either sharply limited or they can afford programs to counteract it.

    That my felow techies don’t see themselves as here to change the neighborhood is irrelevant. If they don’t see their role in that, then they are being entitled and oblivious. What they decide to do about it after that point is up to them. But I am thoroughly sick of the ignorance and denial. And its fancy equivalents, like talking about market forces as if they were natural forces.

    • Meow Meowers says:

      Excuse me? The SF residents (homeowners in particular) benefit from all this shit, the people who move to the city get pretty fucked because it’s too expensive to buy anything to begin with so they only rent and become transient… how about you fucking people learn how to build up and not keep everything three stories?

      • Brian Slesinsky says:

        Hi William,

        I think it remains to be explained why buses are different from other benefits. If a company (techie or not) decides to expand its workforce in San Francisco, aren’t they equally to blame? After all, a short commute is quite an incentive and makes living in San Francisco considerably more attractive than taking even the nicest bus. The logical conclusion is that companies are terrible for paying some San Francisco residents well, and they should stop that.

        I agree that incentives are important, but I’m having trouble thinking up anything workable. Maybe some kind of tax on people who move to San Francisco (though I doubt that’s legal) and payment to people who move away.

        – Brian

      • Stephen Spencer says:

        Wow. I don’t even live there and can answer your question:


        “Yeah, but when was the last Big One?” you might ask.

        That’s actually kind of the problem. Tectonic pressure doesn’t cease building just because it isn’t be released; like unburned forest, the greater the temporal distance between events, the more energy is released.

        I’m also unfamiliar with the geology of the area. A valid point might be made that design/construction technology has advanced to where SF could conceivably update their codes to allow for somewhat taller buildings. It might also be the case where the dirt under SF proper isn’t stable enough to support taller, modern structures.

        Regardless, the building codes that restrict the height of buildings is in response to past, powerful, devastating earthquakes. If you’ve got brilliant ideas on how to remedy the problem, perhaps you should start the Next Big Company in the ‘Bay area and start submitting some proposals.

        • Anonymousse says:

          All I’ll say is there are certainly metropolises in high earthquake risk zones (e.g. Tokyo) that have very large buildings. While the geology / soil issue may be of genuine concern in SF, the technology certain exists to make taller buildings possible.

        • AimeeC says:

          Earthquakes have very little to do with building two-rise buildings. Look at Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong.

          It has more to do with anti-development sentiment from the 60s. The western neighborhoods did not want BART or high-rise developments there.

          It has more to do with NIMY-ism — people are fine with high-rises, so long as they aren’t directly facing them or having their sun blocked by them.

          It has more to do with land use laws, maximum zoning heights, and minimum parking requirements.

          Earthquakes have very little to do with it.

          • Chad says:

            San Francisco is literally built on land that is floating. It used to be a huge marsh. There are certain laws in CA forbidding that buildings be built past a certain height. Comparing a California Bay City to China and Japan is completely irrelevant, it’s Asia this is California we have totally different guidelines. If they weren’t worried they wouldn’t have replaced the Bay Bridge…so yeah earthquakes are a concern.

        • Brian Vowell says:

          I’m guessing that you’re not old enough to remember the 80’s under the rule of Dianne Feinstein when she was the Mayor of San Francisco.

          The height restrictions have NOTHING to do with geology and everything to do with the NIMBY mentality that existed in SF during the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s. In November of 1986, the City passed Measure M, which put an annual limit on new high rise construction of all types.

          There’s a great posting on SPUR’s website detailing the history of this issue.

          • Carlson says:

            Measure (Propopsition) M only applies to commercial office development, not ‘new high rise construction of all types.’

      • Barbara says:

        Often ignored – rent control tenants right now are also “hoarding wealth.” I know people who are living in other states and making profit from other people’s property. They, too, are benefiting from high demand and lucky timing. I have much more issue with that than with a person who happens to have a high-paying job.

      • marcos says:

        Because we live in San Francisco because it is a big city that remains at human scale. Up the urban scale to monumental and there will be so many people here that nobody wants to live here anymore. The former director of City Planning for New York City confesses that she was wrong, that building more higher housing does nothing to push down price or arrest their increase. But please don’t let me stop you from trying to shoehorn reality into your economic theory.

    • Barbara says:

      I think part of his point is that it is irrational to expect people to take responsibility for not “preserving” the idyllic twenty-five-years-ago lifestyle of a city one moves into.

    • Andy Hilal says:

      I live in Walnut Creek and work in San Francisco.

      Should WC be charging SF for the high wages I’m offered to work here? Should WC be charging SF for raising East Bay housing prices by offering good paying jobs?

    • Joe Decker says:

      “In particular, Google, et al, are basically importing valley housing price inflation into San Francisco.”

      Less than SF-based companies are importing SF housing price inflation into the rest of the Bay Area.

      You can tell which way this works, by looking at traffic. By highway, by road, by bus, by car, by train, by BART, Muni and Ferry, the answer is always the same. More people commute from homes outside of SF to jobs inside of it than the other way around.

    • Shannon W. says:

      I agree that many SF-based techies (of which I am a member) haven’t gotten to Step 1: admit that you have a problem. Most people are not going to admit responsibility as long as they feel attacked; they’ll be too busy defending themselves – it’s just a natural instinct, right? Can people not understand this reaction?

      Not that people shouldn’t be upset; this is an existential threat to current San Francisco culture, and more importantly to home and livelihood. The arguments that SF has always been in transit and that this is how capitalism works are dismissive and invalidate feelings about personal identity, attachment to one’s home, and frankly a completely justified fear of being put out on the street. Moving is expensive and extremely stressful, and the job market for non-tech jobs is crappy. Moving for a lot of people may be something they do only when there is literally no other option. It’s wildly inappropriate and insensitive to respond to people who are upset about losing their home by essentially telling them to get over it.

      I also think it’s a BS call to throw your hands up and say oh well, that’s how it is for artists and musicians and other “creatives,” you have to move as neighborhoods wax and wane. First of all creatives aren’t the majority of non-tech people. The people in my old apartment building in the Tenderloin weren’t artists, they were minimum wage ordinary schmucks hanging onto their rent controlled apartments for dear life. Secondly that majority of non-tech folk, as the author points out, it behooves a city to support their being able to live here – people shouldn’t be forced to commute long distances to a job. Cities need unskilled workers and trade workers, and they need to be local so those people can afford to take those jobs instead of similar ones elsewhere. I also would strongly prefer police officers and firefighters and other emergency responders that can afford to live here, because then it’s THEIR city and THEIR neighbors they’re working for.

      It’s easy to focus on the tech industry because it’s highly visible in the city and in the media, it pays well, and it’s the latest wave of crap helping to make things worse. It’s just not the only cause.

      This city simply has too few housing units. It has some terrible, terrible city planning, and SF is out of room. There is nowhere to go but up. We need THOUSANDS more housing units to relieve the pressure on the market, not multi-million dollar condos on landfilled waterfront. The $650k condos on Market are stupid, but at least it’s more housing, and some fools will be buying that rather than evicting renters. It’s nowhere near enough though. We have some tough choices to make and we’d better get control over the situation. Change happens whether you like it or not, and it can get like a runaway horse – you can grab the reins and try to calm and control it or it will run away with you and who knows where or when it stops running, but it’s probably not where you want to end up.

  5. Also Anonymous says:

    If you think the engineers are the best-paid people, you don’t hang out with enough sales people. The good ones aren’t even in the same ballpark as we are.

    My wife and I used to live in the city and commute to the South Bay and Peninsula for a variety of companies, before the buses were a big thing, although some of the big ones had Caltrain shuttles. We moved out to the Peninsula in 2006 — I was tired of commuting, and we’d been priced out of the size of apartment we’d want to raise a kid in; prices now are even worse, of course.

    There are a log of reasons for skyrocketing prices, and demand from tech is only a part of it. Allowing the construction of new affordable housing, and a lot of it, would be the easiest fix. Getting rid of the busses would just make the parking situation an traffic worse, and do very little to reduce demand for housing.

  6. Mahlen Morris says:

    Alex, were you in S.F. during the 1989 quake? If you were, you may recall how the further away you were, the worse the earthquake appeared to be, because news coverage only showed the Marina on fire and the fallen freeway and led you to infer that S.F. was basically a smoldering ruin.

    The same thing is happening here; the media is amplifying the visible dissent to the exclusion of all else. So it’s not quite as crazy as it may appear from New York. As one of those supposedly annoying Googlers (albeit one that has lived in S.F. since 1989), I’ve never met the kind of resentment that is being portrayed (although I live out by the ocean, so maybe it’s a micro-climate of resentment in the Mission).

    That said, your piece reminded me of this quote, which I wish I had learned much earlier in life: “…there was that law of life so cruel and yet so just that one must grow or else pay more to remain the same.” — Norman Mailer


    • Chloe says:

      I totally agree. I live in SF right now and have since 2010 as a student and now as a post-undergrad searching for work. These “protests” that the media has played up have always been only a handful of people. The “anger” that the media portrays is even less sentient than the so-called “active protests.” It’s really not as bad as it seems. We all get it. It fucking sucks that housing prices are skyrocketing. It fucking sucks that only the affluent can afford to live here anymore. But it’s supply and demand, and people make do. What are we going to do, block off the 280 like the author satirically suggested? No. We survive, and eventually things will work themselves out. The only thing that will destroy SF culture is this exclusionary attitude to begin with.

  7. Joe Blfstyk says:

    A small correction – selling a residential apartment building does not cancel rent control. The new owner cannot “reset” the price of the unit and rent control continues on merrily until the unit is vacated by the tenant. Then the rent can go to market rates. That’s rent control 101, I’m surprised you got it so wrong.

    As for the rest, as a long-time SF resident, I’ve seen many changes and several waves come and go. We’ll absorb the newbies like we have before. However, the trend for years has been to turn SF into a playground for childless yuppies and tourists. That is what will continue and what is sad.

    • Arkadiy Kukarkin says:

      Is this really the case? My understanding is that the Ellis Act allows landlords to fairly easily evict tenants by going through a de jure bankruptcy:

      There appears to be quite a bustling micro-industry of real estate lawyers specializing in easy SF evictions, at least judging by Google ads (heh) on searches related to real estate in the Bay Area.

      • ryan says:

        Ellis act isnt an escape clause for landlords to somehow kick everyone out during bankruptcy and then re-rent at market rate. This is a fact, how do I know? My building in SF went thru bankruptcy and ended up owned by a new owner. Since you can’t condo-convert older buildings in SF, there was no ellis act potential here, and my rental situation has remained unchanged.

        There are guys in my building who have lived here literally, LITERALLY, since the moon landing.

        Renters in SF in larger buildings are just as stable and secure as any owner of property.

      • Inside scoop says:

        That might be your understanding, Arkadiy, but if you know anything about SF tenants and rights, you’ll know that the city is the most tenant friendly. Joe has it correct, but you cannot evict someone even if they’ve been squatting in your apartment for six months. You pretty much have to pay someone $10k a head to kick them out, even if they’re living in your place rent-free. This is the short of it.

        This is fact. You think it’s ridiculous, but I know firsthand. I’d lay out more details, but I’m afraid I’d be giving too many tips for people on what to do to “screw landlords,” which, you’re really just raising the rent for everybody else, if you really think about it.

        There are a lot of laws that protect tenants, but if your landlord finds out that you’re AirBnb-ing your place, they can increase your rent, as SF doesn’t allow you to sublet or profit off your rental, which is off-topic, I apologize.

        • oldfart says:

          You can evict a tenet for several reasons (besides not paying rent or being a nuisance etc)

          1. if the owner wants to live in the unit, or someone in his family
          2. for renovations – in this case the old tenet must be offered first rights, but of course the rent can be doubled if the landlord wants. but again in that case the landlord must pay moving expenses.

          this is what I was told when I was threatened with eviction from my apartment in SF – in 1995 – the law may have changed. (we left voluntarily because the place was a shithole and the landlord was a fucking dick)

      • Shannon W. says:

        I suspect “easy Ellis Act eviction” businesses are a scam. When I was shopping for real estate last year, my agents told me what it takes to do an Ellis Act eviction legally. For one thing, it’s typically tens of thousands of dollars for a buyout, and sometimes you just can’t, if there is a protected tenant. You’re also legally blocked from offering more money in certain cases. If a tenant knows his or her rights, it’s possible to live rent free for nearly a year, just using the laws and courts to one’s advantage. I strongly suspect many of these so-called Ellis Act evictions were in name only, or not legal in one aspect or another, and the tenants either didn’t know their rights or simply didn’t have the time/money/energy to fight back. There is a large financial incentive in this market for rich buyers to exploit people, to be unethical or flout the law.

  8. Jeffrey says:

    Excellent post. Where did you move to after SF?

  9. EB says:

    Thank you for this piece. I’ve been really dismayed in how some SF residents are reacting to the techies who are coming in. Obviously, no one wants to be an asshole, but the elitist nature of “stay out because we were here first” really bugs me. Isn’t SF about being inclusive? Does a tech person moving in become a bad person because they want to live in SF, like everyone else? Do busses which are helping fight traffic congestion really deserve so much ire? It’s just so sad to see people treat other people this way. The US vs. THEM attitude is something I never wanted to see in SF.

    • piny says:

      It’s not “stay out because we were here first.” It’s, “Stay out because our livelihood depends on living here and yours very clearly does not.” People who work for google work forty miles away; they make ridiculous money; they have a free commute. They could easily live in a suburb just outside the city and come hang on the weekends. Most SF residents can’t do that, especially the local ones whose jobs keep the city running. A google employee has an enormous amount of leverage and freedom; a schoolteacher doesn’t.

      It is really annoying to see this discussion set up between prior rich yuppies and current rich yuppies. A lot of the people being priced out are not wealthy or free. They can’t just pick up stakes and move to some other city. This is not their romantic twenties.

      Here’s a question: google has a lot of money, and it’s already shown its willingness to reshape the city economy, and it has a history of building massive you could call it infrastructure for its employees. Why is its best innovation here to bus its rich employees into a housing market that was overpriced and overcrowded before they showed up? Why not build google compounds to house them in the city – in the SOMA area, or in a suburb just south – so that they’re competing with developers and landlords instead of tenants and workers? They’d probably be a lot nicer than the local option, and it isn’t as though any part of the city is inconvenient to the city center. I really, really doubt that the city government wouldn’t do everything in its power to facilitate a solution like that.

      • A "techie" says:

        I can appreciate the goal behind your suggestion, but “Google compounds” in SOMA would not work. If you spent 8-12 hours a day working at a compound of sorts in Mountain View, would you want to come home at night to another compound in the city or suburbs? I doubt it.

        Tech employees want to live and breathe San Francisco. That’s why we’re here. There is no innovation to be made here that does not involve thousands of Google employees interspersed throughout the city.

      • mh says:

        It’s funny that you say a school teacher doesn’t have the same leverage and freedom. My roommate does the exact same commute to teach at de anza as I do to get to my Cupertino tech job (not at the fruit company).

      • Michael Grey says:

        Indeed. Ive lived in this city for 14 years and Ive seen the progression of things…its not good. The people that make this city possible are actually being priced out of SF and surrounding areas. “Fair Market Value” is a joke when landlords only want to rent to people who work for tech firms and the real estate market is really a joke. In SF, you dont pay for quality, it’s strictly location. That location unfortunately has lost much of its luster. I see more abandoned buildings and unsuccessful businesses than any real degree of prosperity. The mentally ill, drug addicted and idiot thugs from places like Hunters Point, Bayview, Oakland, Richmond etc just cause too many problems; crime in the downtown/midmarket/tenderloin area will continue to be a large issue as financial inequity and racial animosity (along with poor or no education and just downright ignorance) will fuel robberies and violent altercations. Even more than now, which is quite a bit. And yes, most of these people really do come off as elitist douchebags. I work in an industry where I mingle with these people socially and Im not impressed. Take for instance: recently at a bar in the mission I was standing on the side of the street waiting for a cab. My guy pulls up ( I called for him. Thats my cab driver, for ten years.) and just as Im opening the door to get in this guy tries to brush me aside to get in. Mind you, I had been listening to this loser for about 5 minutes before this. He (douchebag mustache, skinny jeans, trying hard to look like an extra from boardwalk empire with some vest suspenders thing going on) was talking to dimwit girl (vacant look, stupid black beanie that said post on it, mom jeans doubling as a girdle to hold that muffin top in) about how, because of his job at twitter his time was so heavily monetized, call your boy and lets get some molly, etc. So this guy tries to step in front of me and just get in…I could have let it go but because this guy was just such a total piece of sh1t, I punched him in the kidney as hard as I could. Im not a violent person by nature but Id just had enough. This guy is unfortunately a prime example of most of these people: self important, goofy looking assholes that have no manners, couth or respect. I have no regrets at all about the incident however…truthfully, it was quite satisfying. I sincerely hope mr douchstache learned some manners.

        I personally am worth close to half a million, and thats liquid. Cash. I dont feel entitled. I dont talk about my money to impress people and I certainly dont disrespect people because I feel they have less than me. Unfortunately, newfound wealth often brings that attitude to the fore and thats what we are seeing alot of in SF. Smug dbags with a little bit of money and no class, talking loudly about nerdcore coding bs the same way young black youth walk down the street repeating whatever garbage lil wayne is pumping out this week. Its too bad Google, Apple, Twitter etc dont provide uptraining to employees on manners and common sense.

        These new additions to the city dont add anything to SF but money. All the artistic flare that used to make our City what it is has fled to other parts of the Bay, Los Angeles, Chicago. The service in the city has gone down significantly in quality, possibly due to the fact that those working in these industries hate their customers (one of my favorite waitresses dislikes the younger tech crowd, says they are cheap).

        All of these things are making for a perfect storm on shaky ground (literally). Its a caste system thats been put in play and its no good for anyone. Its old vs new, its those with vs those without. And while SF has always had issues like this, the wealth disparity is so great that it cannot lead to good things at all.

  10. J says:

    Okay. So what is the real solution? What is the real pain point which needs to be addressed?

    • M says:

      I think he’s saying we should all accept change and gentrification in this gold rush town and remember to be nicer to each other.

      In response to the discussion about tenant evictions, some buildings are bought to be destroyed and replaced, in which cases tenants take a modest payout and go look for something in Oakland… where rents have risen by something like 76% as well due to the influx of new workers and others defecting from SF.

    • Rodrigo Mendoza says:

      He’s saying that we native San Franciscans should shut the fuck up, move out of our home town, and we should remember to kiss the asses of the techies as we leave.

      Alex can go to hell, as far as I’m concerned, and so can all of these goddamned techies who feel no loyalty to The City in the first place and will leave within 5 years for another job, or as soon as there is another bubble burst.

      I can’t wait for these bastards to all get laid off and feel what it’s like to have the rug pulled out from under you.

      • Barbara says:

        Being a “native” of a place doesn’t give a person a right to land there! I am completely down with a radical argument against capitalism as a whole. Have it it. What’s weird is the expectation that capitalism can roll on, but people who grew up in San Francisco should have a special exemption, which entitles them – if they have cool occupations like “artist” – not to be subject to the same harsh realities as everybody else on the planet.

        That’s what I find so bizarre about some of the discussions I hear. Heck – I was born in New York City. Where’s my title to a studio in Greenwich Village? Or maybe a nice Harlem brownstone?

      • Nunya says:

        So, oh wise native San Franciscan, exactly how do us techies “show our loyalty” to “The City” to make you accept us specifically? Do we have to just fork over our entire salary to you so we fit in? You do realize that even if you’re making 100K a year, having a $4K rent isn’t exactly peachy keen, right? And let’s not forget the roughly 36 – 38% you’re paying in income tax to be in that bracket. You do the math partner…still wanna stick to this “us vs. them” thing?

        • piny says:

          I can do the math; it works out to a six-figure salary being a lot more lucrative than thirty-five thousand dollars a year, higher income taxes notwithstanding. If it were otherwise, you’d teach kindergarten.

          There is nothing more entitled than complaining about being upper-middle class, okay? You have the wherewithal to live in San Francisco indefinitely; your presence in the city is warping the economy such that a lot of people (not artists, for chrissake – bus drivers, cleaners) can no longer afford their own homes.

          And you are not living in San Francisco because it’s the most convenient option! It isn’t! You’re living there because it’s pretty. That’s offensive to people who have lived their for decades – not because they were “here first,” but because their lives are already rooted and cannot be pulled up.

          You wouldn’t suffer much if you chose to put down roots a few miles away – and there are plenty of local communities where the real-estate market is much more amenable to yuppies, places where the residential market was built around their needs, places that are about an hour away from the city by car. San Jose isn’t exactly a crappy place to live; none of the suburbs are. And Google provides its employees with free transportation, which all by itself is an enormous economic privilege.

          You are not struggling. They are. Your situation is better than theirs. If you can’t recognize that as a simple fact, and acknowledge that they have problems you just plain do not, then you are an entitled jerk.

          And if I have to hear one more childless thirty-year-old with a tech job telling middle-aged paralegals that they will just “have to leave eventually,” as though this is feasible, I swear to God.

          • Shane says:

            So decades of poor city planning and decision making push the economy and housing market right to the brink of exhaustion.

            Then economic success happens (yay!) and new jobs are created and people move to the city. And THIS is the tipping point, the straw that breaks the back.

            And it’s our fault?

            This city as an electorate has made poor decisions for 50 years now relating to housing and density. Mostly by people, it seems to me, who meant well. All they wanted to do is keep things the same as they were.

            Those on your side of this argument are like the guy who constantly makes bad financial decisions, He lives check to check and has many opportunities to get ahead and save a few bucks, but instead he squanders and spends and stretches himself further. And then he gets unlucky. Maybe he’s sick. Maybe his car broke down. And he gets behind on rent. And maybe gets evicted. And bitches to everybody about what bad luck, he got sick and lost everything. False. He was setting himself up for failure for years.

            Successful tech companies are not the problem. You’re lashing out at the wrong thing.

        • Michael Grey says:

          That right there is the problem. Your attitude. You have no sympathy with someone who (maybe, its the interwebs so who knows) has lived here all his life, grew up here, has roots here. Your tax bracket isnt his problem, its yours. It entitles you to nothing. I pay taxes too, get over it.

      • A "techie" says:

        Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

        In all seriousness, if you’re so quick to label all SF residents who work in the tech industry “bastards” just for wanting to live in an awesome place, then you strike me as a rather judgemental, unpleasant person, and I can’t help but wonder if this city wouldn’t be better off without you.

        I’m sure that’s not very fair of me, but at least I’m only making assumptions about a single person based on limited information, instead of writing off an entire demographic (multiple demographics in fact).

        Capitalism dictates that people are free to live wherever their money will take them. If that’s a problem for you, then you should either (a) buy SF property ten or twenty years ago, or (b) begin asking whether this city isn’t the right place for you. There are many other places you can live in the U.S. that are far more affordable.

        As for us “bastards”… well who am I to speak for the rest of us? As for me, I think the day may soon be coming when I too will be priced out of this market. What will I do then? I’ll leave quietly without putting up a fuss.

        – A soon-to-be-priced-out-of-SF “techie”

        • piny says:

          Why are people acting like google employees can’t live about twenty minutes away, as though the choice is between San Francisco and Houston? The Bay Area is two cities linked by a giant field of suburbs. Why would it be inconvenient to live in one of them, where there are condos and rentals galore? Especially since commuting is free? Why do you have to live on Valencia and 24th, instead of in Belmont? What am I missing?

          • A "techie" says:

            Sorry, it seems like you didn’t read my whole post, so I’ll repeat the last bit for you:

            “.. I think the day may soon be coming when I too will be priced out of this market. What will I do then? I’ll leave quietly without putting up a fuss.”

            As you can see, I don’t feel like I “can’t live about twenty minutes away”.

            What you’re missing in your assessment is that it isn’t my responsibility (or anyone else’s for that matter) to factor the convenience of strangers into my living choices. No, I’m sorry. It really isn’t.

            As I said, in this country people can and will live wherever they’re money will take them, and it’s not your business or anyone else’s to dictate otherwise. It’s called freedom of choice. And the people who are already rooted in SF? They have freedom of choice too. What they *don’t* have is freedom to not be bound by the consequences of their past choices, like choosing to be an artist instead of a software engineer, not buying real estate in San Francisco at a more opportune time, or whatever. Sorry, to get what you want out of life you have to plan ahead.

            Now, before you tell me how callous I’m being, let me clarify that I’m not claiming we “techies” don’t have any social responsibility to the community. Just like the people who are already rooted here, Google and Facebook employees and the like should certainly engage with their communities by going to town hall meetings, doing volunteer service, and being well-informed voters and responsible citizens in general.

            But is it our moral obligation to *not* live in one of the most beautiful, iconic cities on the west coast, just because it would be inconvenient to the people who already live here?

            Absolutely not.

      • Oracle Newspaper not Platform says:

        I’ve been following this situation in San Francisco for many years with great sadness. I think one of the things that bothers me the most about the comments I’m seeing in response to Mr. Mendoza is the utter lack of understanding with regard to sense of place, sense of HOME. He called it loyalty and it is kind of like that but deeper. I think there’s also a very real generational disconnect involved.

        Many of these “techies” as they’re referred to here, are young, in their 20’s, apparently few with children and families. They don’t seem to have quite put down roots yet, certainly not for generations. In San Francisco there were whole neighborhoods in which people grew up, married, raised their kids, got old, died and the houses were passed on to the children, and the children’s children. It wasn’t about real estate values or the next big thing. It was home. And for many people, place does matter.

        Something else I have not seen addressed at all by the younger set is displacement of those who definitely feel as though their home, their family history, has been like a “rug pulled out” from under them. Not a mention of the displacement of the poor, who one day found that the home they lived in was suddenly desirable and some kid was saying, “Do what we do, move to Oakland.” Many of those same folks are now hearing, “If you can’t afford Oakland, move.”

        (BTW, I could say the same thing about folks in Brooklyn.)

        After Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans, there were several books written about place as home. Place AS home. It most assuredly wasn’t defined simply as an apartment, house or structure. I think some of the dismissivness regarding a “native San Franciscan” is a shame. For Mr. Mendoza, that place is home. Many of you come from other parts of the country, I’m betting. Many of you “go home” for Christmas, or avoid going home for Christmas as the case may be. Odds are many of your “hometowns” are still exactly where you left them, your childhood home is probably right where you left it, with the leaf for the table in the same closet it’s been in since you first left the kid’s table for the grown up one. If some of your hometowns suddenly gentrified you might understand what this guy feels.

        Or maybe not, because what I don’t see in these discussions, neither the articles nor the comments, is compassion for loss of home, loss of place in this world, loss of the familiar, the comfortable, the place where one felt a sense of community that could get through even the bad times. What I see often is comments like “if you can’t afford it move.” I see what appears to be a market driven meanness, numbers instead of feelings. That worries me, because I think Mr. Mendoza is absolutely right about one thing: You would leave for a better offer somewhere else, and I’m not at all sure you’d cry on your way out as Mr. Castle did.

        One day you might though, it’ll take time and experience and wisdom and empathy, but you might. When you’re reaching for that kleenex as the skyline goes out of view remember all those people, some unbelievably poor, some working class, some elderly, who called it home and wouldn’t have left it for that higher paycheck because it WAS home. Then try to imagine what it felt like for them to be forced out and then dismissed for their genuine sorrow, even if it’s expressed as anger.

        • A "techie" says:

          Well said. I agree that there is a lack of empathy here.

          But perhaps some of the people responding to Mr. Mendoza would be more sympathetic to his plight if he had no chosen to address countless people whom he does not even know in such a rude manner.

        • Joe says:

          You can have that sense of permanence in the place you call home if you live in someplace that has static economic incentives surrounding it. Not if you make your home in the middle of one of America’s most important and dynamic cities. It sucks to lose it, sure, but it’s like losing a sandcastle to the tide; That’s not being mean, that’s just reality.

  11. Beth says:

    One correction: San Francisco can’t charge Google more to use the bus stops because doing so would constitute a tax, and taxes can only be approved by voters in a ballot initiative. Doing otherwise would be illegal.

    • Carlson says:

      If I park in a bus stop, I’m subject to a $271 fine. Why shouldn’t Google, et al. be assessed the same? Isn’t the city practicing selective enforcement?

      • Josh says:

        If you stop at a bus stop nothing will happen. You’re acting like the bus driver gets out, grabs a coffee, and leaves 15 minutes later. There’s a difference between parking and stopping.

  12. Entitled, elitist asshole says:

    “Boring” job? WTF are you talking about? From the opinions raised above this was the worst one.

  13. Patrick Corcoran says:

    First off, well written. All the points you make are cogent. And in the end I agree with each of your conclusions. Sort of. But not in toto.

    I find fault with your willingness to speak authoritatively for the city you once knew, as if it were similar enough to today’s city as to make no difference in your argument. Speaking as someone who has lived in this area in a similar tech lifestyle as your own, through more of the era that is assumed to be essential to your story, and having retreated myself to the nearer Brooklyn of Oakland for the past 10 years, I can honestly say….

    I have no idea whether your post is in any way representative of today’s SF. And I say this as someone who spent a decade getting to know the city on foot, dive bar by coffee shop by record store, making no more than a living hourly wage. I visit the city 10 miles from my house as often as is convenient for me, of course. But what does that really say for my opinions on the true impact of non-public buses?

    I support all the nice things you have to say about all the supposed individuals who are purportedly doing the best they can for themselves, with no obvious ill intent to others. That’s positive stuff. And I hope you’re correct. I just wish your facts were as informed as your opinions. Because then I might actually find them credible.

  14. geoduck says:

    This is a very reasonable and eloquent post, but also one-sided and obviously bias. I work in tech and have lived in SF for the last 10 years, and I think if you had been here to witness the change that has ocurred–vs observing it from the opposite coast–your reaction would be a little bit more informed.

  15. Mike Cohen says:

    Any other city would be glad to have our problems.

  16. oldfart says:

    Without the buses these people would all buy BWM’s and jam up the already crowded freeways. Chiding people for taking mass transportation? Yea, this DEFINITELY isn’t the inclusive culture of SF I lived in and loved for so many years (1988-1995). It wasn’t cheap then and it never will be. You want to live and work in tech in the Bay Area and be able to afford to buy a house? Do what I did, move to the suburbs. It will happen eventually, we all get older, have kids, etc.. the City life is fun… in your 20s.

  17. I hate how much people love to fight.

  18. Ruby says:

    Thank you Alex. It is always good to bring forth information -especially when the conversation is happening and no one is addressing it directly. Courageous step. That said- I have had the good fortune to live here in SF since 1985. We now live in one of the last rent controlled houses still standing in the city, but do not in any way expect it to last forever. Our eyes are open. I do however feel for the people who grew up here and call this home. They are being displaced in not so kindly ways. But, targeting one population does not seem to be the answer. Everyone is entitled to enjoy this city in the same ways that we have. I will say that I am already missing the small businesses and neighborhood cafes that used to thrive. My native husband misses the Haight St. that he lived on in the late 90’s. The small bookstores have disappeared (except for the Sci Fi ‘Borderlands’ on Valencia! Go go go!) I do not want this magnificent city to be filled with Starbucks, Trader Joes’ and Targets alone. Our diversity would vanish. I do not have the definitive answers. Perhaps, as one correspondent stated. more affordable housing would help. In closing- there is one thing that does bother me greatly when it comes to housing. How much $ is enough for land owners? I heard a story just last night about a tech woman who had to move since her 6 month lease was up and the landlord had increased her rent by not $100 but $1000. That is excessive and greed filled from where I sit. Not sure how people sleep at night with those goals in mind. Thank you again Alex~ is much easier to reply and rant at an article that takes time and much thought than to write your own!

  19. Loretta says:

    it really breaks my heart. I moved away from San Francisco 2 years ago for my boyfriend to go to grad school in Chicago and now we’re struggling so hard to get back in (and we’re bringing a dog back with us!).. San Francisco is so much a part of me and my dna.. I’m not done with it yet. I can’t give it up. But between the prices skyrocketing, and the huge increase of spam posts on craigslist, it makes finding something from out of state and signing a lease with “site unseen” an impossible task.

  20. Classgoddess says:

    $1400 for a 2 br in Glen Park? Ouch. I lived in The City for nearly 10 years, sadly moving away in 1989. (The best deal I ever had was $500 for an in-law in the Castro. What’s sad is we thought THAT was extreme back THEN! Imagine….) You can’t fault anyone for wanting to live in SF: it is an awesome city. But what made it a great place to live faces extinction: neighborhood people. Can the barista at Pete’s afford to live in the City, or the guy who’s frying burgers at Mary’s, or the cashier at Green Apple Books? These are the people who put the flavour in the town. Where do the artists and bands live now? It sounds as if SF’s losing its local color, and that’s incredibly sad.

  21. Daen de Leon says:

    The problem is your unspoken assumption that mega-corporations like Google somehow have the same rights and responsibilities to society as individual citizens. That’s clearly wrong: Google’s sole responsibility is to its shareholders. Likewise Apple and Twitter and so on. Being a citizen in a capitalist society is like sharing a room with some 400lb psychopaths — they’ll ignore you until they want something, and then they will take it, until someone tells them to give it back. And poor you, if it happened to be something you wanted to keep or treasured. Unfortunately, the law treats these corporations more and more as normalized members of society, and individual citizens less and less so. The role of government — at all levels — should be about finding a balance between economic growth and societal well-being, and only liars, the ignorant, or the willfully stupid could claim that balance exists today. The anger and sense of displacement is therefore emotionally directed towards those who are employed by the corporations (unfairly, I agree) because it’s easier to rail against someone physically present than to fire missives into the black hole of Google’s or Twitter’s vapid PR departments. If Larry Page or Tim Cook had any balls, they’d chair a public meeting in the city to hear people air their grievances.

  22. Jordan Hubbard says:

    Great post, Alex.

    I read this from the perspective of a San Francisco native. Most folks “from S.F.” are actually from somewhere else – I was fortunate enough to grow up and live there for the first 25 years of my life. Does that make me special? No. It just means that I understand S.F. about as well as anyone possibly can.

    “My San Francisco” was the San Francisco of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. I was there for the “summer of love” and remember the Haight-Ashbury of Jerry Garcia and Carlos Santana, not as the place it is now. It changed then, and guess what, it’s changing now! You put your finger right on the button when you said that S.F. has been and always will be a gold rush town, constantly remaking itself and becoming something those who live there (at any given time) soon do not recognize. That’s just the way it is. You can either mourn that and rail against change, as many did “back in my day”, believe me, or you can just accept that no one “owns” S.F. or the experience of living there, they can simply accept that they had their time with it, it was glorious, and move on!

    I moved on, and I discovered some very great places *other* than S.F. to live by not clinging to it. Munich. Dublin. Berlin. Amsterdam. All great cities, all places I had the privilege of living or spending substantial amounts of time in, and I never looked back. I had my time with S.F. and now she’s with someone else – hopefully they are enjoying her as much as I did!

    Today, I live in the mountains north of Santa Cruz and I can’t imagine living anywhere else – I certainly couldn’t go back to living in a city. I have absolutely nothing against cities and had some of the best times of my life living in them, but now I have trees and views of the mountains and enough property to share with any number of wild and domesticated animals – a privilege I could not have in any of the cities I lived in because there simply wasn’t enough space to do so.

    Rather than waste a lot of time with finger pointing, invective and trying to preserve the fundamentally un-preservable, I wish people could realize instead that there are many other “worthy” places to live, some within easy driving distance of S.F. at that. We all only get one life, and I for one think it’s better to spend it trying to accumulate the widest number of experiences, not simply trying to preserve a single experience in amber!

  23. pascal says:

    Part of the problem is how they price discriminate so much in San Francisco. They charge normal people increased rent to pay for subsidized housing for pot smokers. And now all you smell walking up and down the street is pot smoke everywhere.

    • oldfart says:

      so I can get a cheap apartment just for smoking weed? where do I sign up for this?

      I have to say though, SF has had a long term relationship with pot since at least the 1960’s,

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. I’m scared to post with my name, since I’m one of the hated shuttle riders. I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1997 (before Google was founded), my spouse works in San Francisco, and we’re active in the community. I volunteered for years helping underprivileged children until I became a parent and too busy. Now my husband and I participate in the community in other ways, such as working at the school our child attends. I used to drive to Google, because doing so is significantly faster than taking the shuttle, but I felt I’d be a better citizen by taking my car off the road. Instead, I’m vilified.

    One more thing: shuttle riders are not “hipsters”, as some opponents claim. We’re the nerds who were bullied at school, or at least the engineers (who are the best paid and therefore the most hated) are. Some of us stayed in school until we were 30, some of us worked for startups that failed and left us with nothing, some of us worked our way up from other companies, and some of us lucked out with a great first job out of college. Which of our critics wouldn’t take a great job if they were offered it?

  25. Artist At Play says:

    I suppose it would be problematic for most to know the money used to buy over 50% of the houses with cash in San Francisco is coming directly from China. I was told this by a realtor recently. I feel the wrath directed at the corporations is not completely unfounded, but blame should be dealt to those where due. We are feeding this other problem and the tension you feel toward the successful people from Google, et al is in fact, also real albeit a completely different problem. The public attitude of passerby’s in the city is occasionally on the hostile side. The feeding of tension is getting a little worse. Rock throwing at a bus here and there by a homeless person isn’t a real reason to get upset. The city, flush with cash will not entertain a solution that will dampen its incessant need for more money. Shouldn’t the Mayor stand up and reassure us, his citizens, he is working hard to harmonize the tension? I don’t think he cares. Money and creativity fuel the city. Be creative and start making more money. Social Darwinism will play itself out, the bubble will pop eventually, hipsters will always be annoying themselves and the rest of us.

    Want to solve the problem? Go buy a $6 cup of coffee and say hello to your neighbors. The businesses in the city aren’t upset about your problems. They are happy to have people who will pay their rising prices. Most of the people complaining are those who aren’t feeling any advantage from the success of the city. Most people in the city aren’t upset at all over most of this. We know it is getting more expensive to live here and we feel the pinch occasionally, but we also know we don’t have a solution.

    Want to start a war. Keep fueling the fire by being completely detached from reality. Yes, one of the luxuries of living in SF. Detachment. Now your immunity is wearing thin and you can actually feel the problems of the world. Hopefully enough to get you pissed off so you have to actually to do something.

  26. Secret says:

    I thought this was an interesting post but there are so many other factors beyond the growing tech companies. I work for a tech company, (not in the spotlight) and although I earn a living I can barely dream of buying a tiny shack here let alone paying market rate rent. It is depressing to say the least, I always thought if I worked hard someday I could buy a home but it doesn’t seem likely now. I think, and this is just an opinion, that non-local investment is a huge factor to the exponentially rising prices in SF. I hear of people buying buildings as investments with all CASH. Then the new owners can dictate the price of rent at the willingness to pay. This raises prices across the board. Tenants have to pay more to live and companies have to pay their employees more so that they can live here. Most people that actually live in SF are being held hostage by high rents because of investors. It is sad that most of the profits from the rent probably leaves the community, rather than fueling the local economy. Sure there is a healthy bunch of people that made a bunch of money from these tech companies, probably enough to effect the market, but focus on this correlation is somewhat short sited.

  27. Kay O. Sweaver says:

    I moved to SF just over two years ago to be with my girlfriend, not for any particular love of the city. While I understand that San Francisco was an open, welcoming place full of local character, art and excitement I find those traits rather rare in today’s SF. I have no attachment to it because as far as I’m concerned its heyday has long since passed. People I know who have lived here longer are the ones who are most upset and trying to hold on to something that’s quickly slipping away.

    All that being said I do think that there should be some kind of incumbency for long time residents, not just of SF but anywhere. If you grew up somewhere, built a life there, and want to raise your children there, I believe you do have some right to that. People invest in communities and work to build and enhance them. When someone from outside of that community comes in and displaces those who built it there’s something of an injustice. That said nothing remains static and new blood is important to keeping a city vibrant.

    New housing is a big piece of the puzzle for SF. NIMBYism is indeed rampant in The City, but people need to look at the big picture. A few high rises or heck, six story apartments wouldn’t hurt.

  28. UpMark says:

    The misdirected anger towards techies is really a distraction of who is really to blame: our civic government–soon up for re-election. Our mayor and supervisors are the ones responsible for fixing Muni, enacting rent-control and developing more affordable housing. (not tech companies)

    Many articles seem to forget that a union leader went so far as posing as a google employee (google: Max Alpers). This “protest” had more cameras and reporters then actual protestors–call it a PR event instead.

    Drum up a campaign to “Blame Tech” and you can have the public behind. You try to (politically extort) tech companies the amount of money you’re charging them to charge them a fee to “regulate” (or make it legal) for them to continue a program that’s been running for years now. And come out looking like Robin Hood against the big tech companies–yeah blame them.

    But why aren’t our buses running on time? Why does muni break down so much? why can’t the city streamline development and affordable housing? Why can’t they enact better rent control?

    BLAME TECH. Vote for me in the Upcoming Re-Election.

  29. SF Native 94110 says:

    I was born and raised in SF and still live in the city and the author doesn’t. Granted the city has changed recently but the same thing happened in the late 60’s and early 70s…remember the summer of love? Old timers at the time said the same thing that the city was going to lose it’s character, charm, it will drive down the price of real estate…blah, blah, blah. All that happened was that the city improved over the past 4 decades and made it the most desirable city to live in the nation.

  30. Duff says:

    We can’t deny that in the America we currently live in, that Capitalism is the law of the land. Money unfortunately wins every time these days, around every corner, as every common denominator.
    So the city is not immune to this. As the self entitled creatives that make up the city are becoming extinct (myself included), we will say goodbye to the City we love and let the wide eyed innocent corporately employed kids take it over. They get SF physically, but lose out on all the cool peeps that make it what it is known for. They don’t even realize how uncool the place is becoming. So let em. We’ll be continuing to make the new cool place elsewhere (I live in Uptown Oakland now, and it’s off the chain! Actually it really sux; don’t come.).

  31. Nathanael says:

    Only ways to deal with this are:
    (1) Build more housing.
    (2) Build more public transportation, by which I mean rail with (at the very least) its own lanes.
    (3) Merge with neighboring counties to remove the perverse incentives which are locating work far away from jobs — the “send the poor over there”, “send the housing over there”, “send the industry to the other guy” incentives. The other counties have to build more housing and more public transportation too, by the way.

  32. TomW says:

    Kay O. Sweave said: “I do think that there should be some kind of incumbency for long time residents”

    That is exactly what article exists with some of the strongest rent control laws around for renters and Prop 13 for owners. While not everyone falls into that bucket, I think it’s fair to say the law is strongly biased toward incumbency, but the forces of supply and demand are strong enough in this very constrained market can overwhelm them often enough. Given all that’s in place to provide incumbency, it seems most remaining alternatives to protect longer term residence from ever having to move or having to pay high rents would be incredibly Draconian.

    What specific pro-incumbency changes would you make? Further restricting Ellis act evictions might protect 50-100 units that might have otherwise been evicted, but wouldn’t do much to the overall market.

  33. Betty says:

    Totally agree with author. I moved to SF in 1989 and left in 2010. Though it was a doable city for a college-age artist to live back when I moved there, by the time I left it was impossible. And I don’t miss it that much – it really had lost most of what I loved about it, which was a great mix of really interesting people. Many of my friends had moved away before I did, though there are a few holdouts, and I miss them. With all the pressure on housing the author of this post does so well to describe, it is just inevitable that only wealthier people can afford it now. That’s how we do it this country – the market rules. And I don’t think there is much to do about it, in terms of San Francisco as an individual city, much as I hate to admit it.
    That being said, the luxury busses are just crass. That’s just insult to injury and these companies should know better. There’s a limit to flaunting your wealth. And for young techies moving in – you may be able to afford it and it’s not your fault, but don’t expect everyone to welcome you with open arms. People are being displaced from their longtime homes because of your industry. Have a little class and show some compassion. That rant from that kid about the homeless around downtown was really beyond lame.

    • Happy_Code_Monkey says:

      I don’t ride those buses since I work in the city but I can guarantee that some of those passengers work on the bus. Programming on a smooth coach is a lot different than trying to type on a rickety bus. If you had to spend two hours or whatever a day commuting (i.e. wasting your life) would you not want to have an environment in which to do something productive during that time?

  34. Dan says:

    The “problem” is bigger that the latest tech Boom-ble…it’s that cities have become vastly more popular to live in since the early 90’s, when most youngsters were still taking their cues from the previous white flight generation, and moving somewhere un-urban. Personally, I blame TV shows like Friends. Rents since that time have risen disproportionately in most cities.

    That being said, the current Boom-ble is taking an enormous toll on SF, particularly the Mission (close to the freeways going to the valley, with good restaurants). The formula is overall city popularity multiplied by SF-tech dreams of lucre.

    I’ve lived in 5 artist ghettos during my adult life, in 4 different states, and have watched them all get overrun. We bohemians of a certain age are well into the period of having limited options. It’s nice to think that there’s always something better out there to worm your way into, but sometimes there isn’t. That’s where the anger comes from. Really, most folks wouldn’t have stepped foot into this neighborhood 10 years ago, and absolutely wouldn’t have for any of the previous 20 years, but now they’re forcing me out and going “Woooo”. Doesn’t seem fair.

    But, like all Gypsies, we’ll figure it out, for better or worse. I’m guessing maybe worse.

    One solution would be to get around the Costa-Hawkings Act, which forbids vacancy control in CA. It passed in mid-90s, before any of us were aware of what was to take place. Other cities have vacancy control, which limits how much you can bump the rent for a new tenant. Which vastly decreases the motive to evict. Don’t know how you do that, but it would be a nice start.

  35. As with much of industry, PURE industry (silicon valley and most other venture driven areas of business), very few people who work at any of these places (in SF and beyond) are actually taking time to look up from their laptop/mobile/oculus to ask themselves not “can we do it” but “should we?” The issue that’s plaguing SF is plaguing the entire world.. a sense of diminishing reverence for the power of community.

    My friends and I went there for Christmas.. we started spontaneous random pillow fights with strangers. There is an AIR of nervousness in San Francisco that is more worrying than other places because so much of this “programming” be it artistic or otherwise is done in the confines of an office with a one-dimensional computer screen. I am not a ludite but I was recently on a film set in Belize where we had (gasp) NO WIFI all day long, no signal in the jungle where we were filming.

    What happened the first 3 days (anger, pent up annoyance) transformed into one of the most revelatory experiences I had. TECH DOES CHANGE OUR ABILITY TO SEE EACH OTHER AND RELATE> we forget what it’s like to stay up late talking to strangers over a fire, how much more it means when someone walks over to ask you a question to your face than texting you. By week 3, NONE of us wanted wifi back… it was amazing. I’m an actress, I LIVE off my phone for auditions.. and I had never felt more pure of heart, more in touch with real people than after that experience. we need to find a new “religion” or a common playground where people can DISCONNECT TOGETHER.. and get down to finding out about each other again.

    I think SF is a perfect PETRI DISH of the demise of community because of TOO much time spent hunched over in an office. Whatever Google does internally to keep up a sense of community, it should branch out to include the entire city.. never more have I seen a greater need for a big ass hack … it’s a classic case of too many hamsters spinning on their wheels forgetting to stop and look up and around at the structure which defines their lives.

    This THIS is the symptom… the lack of compassion, love, palatable and tactile interaction. And SF is a warning.. a huge warning for the rest of the world.

  36. A says:

    WWSFD: What Would San Francisco Do? – a short illustrated story on some of the issues going on with the SF housing crisis.

  37. Random Person in Tech... Probably Biased, but whatever says:

    Short an sweet: San Francisco/the Bay Area has always been about reinventing everything. Ask anyone who has been here forever. Whether it was the gold rush, the 70s/haight street with the mass of the students arriving or the 3 other massive tech booms san francisco has always been change.

    What does, “squeezing out the locals” even mean. Who is local here? If you are worried about their well fare well, aren’t they on rent control anyways? They city has pretty much solved for that unless I’m missing something…

    If we are complaining about shit being too expensive then I agree. Wages, even for tech workers aren’t what they should be, but thats a systemic problem with the entire US. This is why occupy wall street made sense.

    Me going off the deep end: I think whats happening here is a mass brainwashing by the same people lobbying for the banks. Who better to blame/pit the working class against than the people that are “just comfortable” and create a random enemy when there is none. I suggest you guys look up higher than that… If you want real change it comes from the government not from complaining about tech workers taking over san francisco.

  38. Shayna says:

    While I appreciate the balanced nature of your post, I’m troubled by your statement that gentrification and income inequality are “inevitable”, and that San Francisco has “always” been a boomtown (I believe it did exist, albeit as Yerba Buena, before the Gold Rush). That us low-income people will just have to accept these things as “time marching on” instead of recognizing global capital and classism for what they are. I’m not demonizing any particular group of people here, but history is not an inevitable march toward some predestined $13 burger on every corner future, though development theory, which your essay smacks of, is.

  39. Mr. V says:

    I remember when this was a nice little blog, low traffic, polite comments, albeit some weirdos and freaks, but they were sorta part of the charm. Now I don’t recognize the place, what with all these elitist assholes and their fancy….verbs. This blog has gone to hell. I’m gonna go read someone who lives in Portland.

  40. John says:

    San Francisco is a lovely city and everyone should be thankful that it functions at all, what with all the traffic. It’s not the buses that contribute to the traffic congestion but the number of pick ups and drop off by many ordinary car drivers helping the employees get home after the Corporate buses have dropped them off. Anyone drive by the Glen Park Bart Station during rush hour can plainly see.
    San Francisco is not known for it’s wide boulevards and tree lined avenues. Space is limited….
    A little know fact, there are cities, towns and suburbs close enough to San Francisco for people to live and call home. Oakland has charming neighborhoods and incredible real-estate within the financial reaches of most everyone. Oakland is right across the bay and close enough to San Francisco so you can get in to visit. You just have to be willing to cross the bay which so many of the rest of have. We did..
    So everyone stop complaining and look outside the glass for once.

  41. steve says:

    I am one of those displaced artists mentioned here. SF is changing & there is nothing that can be done about it now so why cry over spilt milk? There are other places where artists can live & thrive. FYI, I moved to Sacramento a little while back & keep meeting other artists who once lived in SF. This city has a vibe similar to SF in the 80s – things are a lot cheaper, it is a pedestrian friendly city, there is a bus & light rail system, Midtown is gorgeous, lots of farmer’s market, lots of truly good local coffee, the farm to fork movement is exciting, Saturday art walks are busy & fun.

  42. Spacious says:

    I’ve lived in San Francisco since the 1980s. I’ve lost a lot of friends to gentrification, particularly during the late 1990s. That having been said, I find much of this “conflict” to be an incoherent battle between the Working Poor and the Working Less Poor.

    San Francisco has had, for as long as I can remember, a large population of the Idle Rich. No one protests the fact that their numbers have created a distorted economy here in SF, because then you would be protesting one of the foundations of the US economy. While we squabble about people working to make over $100K a year, people who do no useful work whatsoever daily crowd the restaurants and cafes — and somehow always pay the ridiculous rents we have here.

    Some of the tech workers are confused by the incoherent arguments of the Bus Stop Protestors. They should be. Let me point out a couple of things: Gentrification cost me every friend I had in the city. I had to start over again, socially, during the Oughties. Tech workers should also be conscious about what happened in the late 1990s: Business vacancies jumped from less than 0.6% to about 20%. How are the citizens of this city, and the city government, supposed to build a future, an economy and a community around a business that kicks everyone out of town and then vanishes in a puff of stock options? Many say that what is happening now is not a bubble. We’ve heard that one SO many times before and it was a lie every time.

    The most revealing thing about SF real estate: After the dot-bomb, rents and mortgages hit a plateau but did not fall. After the Econopocalypse of 07/08 that devasted housing values worldwide, rents and mortgages in SF hit a plateau but did not fall. This is a luxury economy, driven by demand from people too rich to work. Leave the techies out of this.

  43. SF Resident says:

    I’m sorry, these protestors are their own worst enemy.

    For decades, these people have blocked every initiative to build more housing. Now they’re shocked there’s a housing shortage and people with more money?

    For the love of god, LET THEM BUILD MORE HOUSING and they’ll no longer price you out of your dumpy Capp Street home. Tech isn’t going anywhere, direct them where you want them and they’ll be happy enough “on their side of the tracks”

  44. Al Dimond says:

    It’s right for people to be angry at tech companies (I work for one of the biggest, though in a considerably less dysfunctional city than the Bay Area) because this is about the Valley as much as it’s about SF.

    Many cities (especially older ones) have some nice walkable suburbs with functioning public realms that are cool enough for all but the youngest, singlest, and hipsterest members of the tech crowd to live in. Suburbs within which walking and transit are a reality, not a dream, because the land use supports it. The Bay Area, though its suburbs are largely newer, has enough money to build this whole-cloth on the peninsula, which has way more land than SF — it could house tech companies, residences, retail, and various other services all within walking distance of Caltrain stations. No matter what happens in the Valley some people will want to live in an exciting place like SF, but a lot of people would settle for a shorter commute in the Valley if only it felt a little bit like living in a civilization and not some kind of dystopian hellscape where cars fought a war against humanity and won.

    All it needs to do is forget everything it learned about zoning and land use in the mid-20th century. It needs to do is stop putting all the offices on one side of the freeway and all the housing on the other; it needs to stop legislating a free parking space for everyone everywhere they go; it needs to understand it can grow a lot more if it grows in a way that’s scalable and sustainable. The public and private sector leaders of Silicon Valley, who built the place wall-to-wall with the ugliest crowded-but-not-dense development possible, are largely responsible for the housing price crisis that faces the whole Bay Area, and they have more power to rescue the Bay Area from it than anyone else does.

  45. Tatsuya says:

    Hello there,
    I thought this article was very beautiful. I have lived in SF for 6 years myself, and left the city recently to live closer to my family back in Asia. There are many things you said have reminded me the time I had in SF. It did give me courage and tears at the same time (in a good way!)

    The example that you used were interesting: gold rush. It made me realized that many of us just react to the things that are happening in front of us, but actually not taking in consideration of the past and the future. I somewhat wish that I was still in SF to see the changes that it’s happening now involving the poor to the rich.

    Not sure what else to say, but I just want to tell you that I enjoyed your article-

    Tatsuya, T

  46. No says:

    I am glad that I left. Google busses are full of janitors. They just don’t know it yet.

  47. Julia says:

    I would have a lot more tolerance for the Googlites and Twitter Twats if they’re companies did something to give back to the city which they use to keep their talent happy. Why don’t they invest in shelters, public schools, affordable housing and other social programs to support the town they love so much? Because they don’t want to support it — they want to transform it into their own homogenized and sanitized circle jerk of culture.

    Also, how does this author compare the movement to the gold rush, and then insist that Google and Twitter are NOT bubbles a few paragraphs later. Weak sauce.

    • A "techie" says:

      The “Twitter twats” who live here support local businesses and pay taxes like everybody else, and lots of them. Whether they go beyond that by doing community service or donating money to local charities is their own affair. It’s not their employer’s responsibility to invest directly in the local community in the ways you describe.

      Go play crazy somewhere else Julia.

  48. Niero says:

    What if the buses were full of extremely well-off philanthropists, or literal angels who need great coffee to manifest physically on earth? Point being that it if the buses were full of infallible people the fact is that less competitive people are making excuses. The day doesn’t come “when you can’t afford it”. The day may come when you didn’t develop as fast as you could have to keep up. Maybe his version of “artist” is a static bohemian concept but the city continues to attract world-class musicians non-stop. That guy (and everybody being edged out) just got comfortable – end of story. Its the ultra competitive that have always made that city great, from the gold rush to the bankers that beat the depression to the gays that beat system to the programmers that won the revenge of the nerds. Deal with it. The author needs to get a second boring hobby and move back or stfu and smell the froyo.

  49. Adam McCauley says:

    Techies arent raising the rents and forcing people out of thier homes. Landlords are.

    If youre pissed that you cant afford to live in SF anymore, talk to the homeowners who decided to take advantage of the demand and raise prices.

  50. kaleohone says:

    This is happenings everywhere. I live outside of Honolulu, and please set your exoticized ideas of paradise aside, they aren’t real. You think SF real estate is expensive, try living on a landmass with definitive boundaries in the middle of the ocean where there is LOTS of money to be made by a very small amount of people. You have tech invasion, we have tourism invasion. big shots looking to turn livable/farmable land into a commodity to be sold off to the highest bidder for another high rise hotel. meanwhile we’re all scraping by being told we’re lucky to have construction jobs building those towers ans then cleaning the toilets of the wealthy that are privileged enough to afford a nights stay in that building.

  51. Alexander says:

    This is a great article. I left San Francisco in 2004 (for different reason than yours) — and I have been back at least once a year, still having many friends there.

    Stopping the busses is simply not realizing what has been going on in this city, as you have nicely pointed out, for 20 years of more.

    In the early 2000s, I was a young engineer who wanted nothing more than to live in the greatest city on earth. And I had the financial means to live in a nice apartment in Pacific Heights. I commuted to the valley by car.

    Just last year, a good, much younger, friend of mine started to work for Apple. He now lives in a surely pricy condo in San Francisco, and yes, the fact that it is close to an Apple Bus stop has raised the priced.

    Would he not live in the city and pay an insane amount of rent with out the busses? My guess is: No. He would in the city, and drive a car. And still pay insane amounts of rent.

    I have no idea how to solve this problem, but blocking Google (et al) busses will not make it go away, because the busses are a mere symptom.

  52. Ralph says:

    This article makes a good point: SF is an ever changing city. I fell in love with it in 94 and lived there for a year, wanted to move back there in 2003 – and everything had changed. Nowadays everything has changed again, I guess. I think the only way is to accept and to go with the flow. If you can’t, better leave and keep the precious memory of YOUR SF instead of staying and allowing the city to turn ugly in your perception.

    • none thanks says:

      Ralph… YOURS is the ONLY comment worth a squirt!!

      I’m part of 4 generations of a mission district family – 130 years. Let’s be PERFECTLY clear – SF is in constant state of change – People – – – YOUR SF DOES NOT EXIST… Grow the fuck up and adapt, move on, or stay and quit bitching so god damn much.

      For the record, UCSF and Acadamy of Art have had busses for WWWAAAAAYYYY longer than Google and you assholes don’t complain about those.. so it has NOTHING to do with the fucking busses… give me a break.

      If you can’t hack it – move on.
      You came to SF because people here were cool and welcoming.

  53. EB says:

    I wholeheartedly can not wait until my kid graduates high school and I can move from this rat race. The never ending growing number of inconsiderate, self absorbed, entitled a-holes doesn’t make up for what I love about this City and all it has to offer. I work in construction and we just completed a renovation on a certain high rise built in 1928. It now houses tons of new dot-comers and the offices of a certain social networking site that focuses on reviews. Most of them do not take care of the building that cost millions to renovate and make nice for them to have their ostentatious home away from homes in. They loiter around the newly laid concrete with their heads in their over sized phones, flick their ashes and put out their cigarettes on the newly restored masonry of the building. They walk in a pack generally not talking to one another taking up the whole of the already too narrow sidewalk and act as if you are in their way when you say excuse me or accidentally bump into them. Have a little common courtesy folks…This sidewalk was not built for just you, even my tech savvy, electronics loving, 16-year old daughter have the wherewithal to move out of the way, say excuse me and watch where she is going.

  54. Walter says:

    “ was a bubble. Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter are not a bubble.”

    I disagree with the statement. Anyone who understands the flow of investment capitol should grasp this. Anyone who realizes the current boom was precisely when the last bubble burst should grasp this. is e-commerce, and that model is doing fine, it is just a conservative fine. Which is to say nothing exciting, but real and not dependent on fund managers fleeing one atrocity to make another one here in the bay area.

    It won’t be Google or Apple, you are likely right. But those companies are also highly solvent and were not the ones to contribute to the job boom of the last 5 years. The Twitters, Zengas, Dropbox, Evenbrites…. companies that only make payroll because of investors who havent cashed out yet. These are highly volatile companies and there are MANY of them in SF right now. With the rise of the stock market and the fed getting closer to enacting an actual interest rate on deposits, the capitol flow won’t be as ruthless…. which may very well lead to some layoffs.

    • Carlson says: was a bubble. Today it’s anything with an app. Google and Apple are likely to survive the looming bust. Facebook and Twitter? We’ll see.

  55. Bert Macklin says:

    Great Article! my favorite line : “There’s no extra points for seniority. Artists and weirdos don’t get an exemption from the very most basic rules of capitalism because SF has traditionally been kind to artists and weirdos.” Brilliant

  56. Rich says:

    This is the most insightful perspective I’ve read on this issue–an issue which seems to be lacking of any insight or context in the sphere of local news media as you well know.

    I am a “tech worker” myself living in SOMA and working in Mountain View. Unfortunately my company isn’t big enough to justify private shuttles from the city yet so I take my bike onto Caltrain every morning, but I follow this issue closely because it isn’t being covered well. The lack of meaningful dialogue on this topic one day drove me to paint the bigger picture on my own in a piece that I wrote on Medium titled Antagonizing the Tech Worker:

    The only other solid editorial I’ve seen on the subject was written by CW Nevius:

  57. Nate Bolt says:

    Great article. Thanks for taking the time to look at these issues without going too extreme on one side of the other. It’s really not easy. One simple thing that would help the situation and isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, or ever, is that these giant tech companies should voluntarily contribute more money to SF infrastructure. Plain and simple.

    Worth mentioning that I work at Facebook and was born and raised in SF (went to high school in the sunset), so have a bit of a unique perspective, and that perspective is that bay area companies with a certain number of workers in SF profit immensely from their proximity to SF, but at the same time, SF infrastructure is really struggling. Muni, safety, etc, are the worst I’ve ever seen them in my whole life. Just a voluntary amicable recurring donation to key infrastructure that benefits the city and people of SF from FB, Google, etc, would go a long way. Could be anything – help with safety, help with Muni, public concerts – who knows – anything civic. But mostly what it will be is imaginary because the companies will never go for that.

  58. Hal says:

    Moved to SF in 1973, raised two children on Bernal. Left in 1997 as result of web 1.0 assault on rentals. I’m concerned that existing transportation modes were not seriously considered. It’s not as if there’s no commuter rail service to The Valley with 3 SF stops. Or BART to SFO where it could meet buses. Why wasn’t there more dialogue with CalTrain, BART & SamTrans about how to better serve the growing population of commuting techies? Be aware that one of the “elements” that make San Francisco “creative” and “quirky” are it’s artists, who are increasingly unable to afford to live and work there.

  59. Paula Tejeda says:

    Hi Alex:

    Great post.

    It’s interesting to see that most of the responses to your post revolve on one sentence: “programming is boring”. These responses prove the self-centered nature of the tech culture and why techies are considered self-absorbed and elitists. Who cares weather programming is boring or not? It’s the least important sentence in your post!

    I agree with you that pointing a finger at techies for answers to the present problem is merely a way to vent frustration and it does not get to the heart of the issue. However, stopping the Google buses is getting the attention from the press and politicians that this housing crisis seriously needs.


    I’ll tell you why. Because displacement of a 94 year old women from her home of over 40 years is just plain wrong. A woman that lived her entire life in what was considered a marginal, immigrant, poor neighborhood. A woman that raised her children in that home, and still cares for her grand-children so that her son can work at a local coffee shop for minimum wage. Putting Her on the street so that some millionaire developer can turn a profit–is immoral. This is what the protestors want to draw attention to, and stopping the Google buses is doing just that.

    Ironically, the Google buses are not simply the vehicles to shuttle techies back and forth from Silicon Valley to San Francisco, but also, they are the vehicles that are getting the message out that our society is uncivilized–the only thing that matters is the bottom line. That shows lack of civility.

    At the core of this issue lies the question: what have we become as a society? The protesters in San Francisco are responding to a nationwide social inadequacy that transgresses the techies, the Google buses, the neighborhood’s gentrification, and expresses the sentiments of our society at large, throughout the nation–quietly and desperately finding itself squeezed from every angle. Is anyone surprise that San Francisco is taking the lead? Not me.

    Paula Tejeda
    Chile Lindo

    • A "techie" says:

      I don’t know the story behind this particular 94-year old woman. Could you enlighten us as to the circumstances? Was it an Ellis Act eviction? If so I don’t see any actionable suggestions in your post. If you want to stop this sort of thing from happening your options are:

      (1) Repeal the Ellis Act, or make rent control more widely applicable, or change whatever policy led to the eviction.
      (2) Foster a wide-reaching media campaign against such evictions that will convince landlords not to exercise their legal right.

      Blocking the Google buses may help with (2), but that kind of aggressive behavior might push some of the people who would otherwise support you away from your cause.

      Either way, I think you’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you.

      Good luck.

  60. Paula Tejeda says:

    One more thing Alex. I heard your music. You’re a great artist. Sorry you had to leave our beloved City by the Bay!

  61. Paula Tejeda says:

    Misspelled “whether”. Wrote weather for whether. Ah!

  62. dennis says:

    This is an age old problem in SF. I moved here in 1980 from NY and I changed the face of the city. I bought a home in Oakland as that’s all I could afford. I didn’t want to by tied to a landlord. Friends who could afford it, didn’t want to give up their nice big apartment in SF. They’ve either lost their apartments over the years and are still renting. I moved back to the city after I was able to get some equity in the Oakland place and buy in SF. I realize not everyone has the ability to do that, but there’s a lot of people who could, but didn’t want to give up the fun today for security tomorrow. In my mind, they made a decision at some point in their life to lose their rent controlled apartment. We all make choices. Even people who couldn’t afford to buy, but value security should not stay in a city like SF. Keep in mind the people who are paying 90’s rents are being subsidized by the Googlers .(the landlord would have to abandon the property if everyone was paying 90’s rent). Who would stay at their job if they were making 90’s wages)

    I’m not sure who if any, has a “right” to live in SF. If you’ve moved here since the 60’s you probably helped to change a neighborhood, especially if you live in the Castro, North Beach, Mission, what used to be called Western Addition (now NOPA, lower Pac Heights, Hayes Valley, etc) you pushed out someone.

    As I child I learned that every job is noble. I don’t see an artist any more noble than a banker. Of course there are different degrees of each — artist who are solely business people and bankers who would rob their grandmother.

    The irony of all this bitching and self-righteousness that this is “my city” is that most of those people who are saying it have done litte to contribute to the city in terms of just living here. Lots of them will probably leave in the next ten years. They’ll get a job somewhere else, want a bigger house, have kids, etc and they will move. It was fun at one time in their life.

    So my question is “Who deserves to live in SF?” I’ve been here 34 years and I don’t think I have any special right. I’ve done years of volunteer service, worked on boards, run a business, shop here, own a home, etc. I’ve 60 now, and I don’t have any illusions that SF isn’t going to change, It’s done it through the Feinstein years, Agnos, Jordan Brown, Newsom, etc. Count on it and prepare for it. That’s what makes SF so great.

  63. NeverBeenToSF says:

    The author discusses an urban process taking place in San Francisco and the emotions generated by this process. I have never been to San Francisco, but I can tell you that a familiar narrative marches on today in New York. And this narrative is being spat out at high speed. I can remember a time when even the cops wouldn’t go to Alphabet City, and today, they still don’t go there (but for the opposite reason). People love to hate the hipsters and yuppies that are “gentrifying” Williamsburg, Harlem, and the Lower East Side. One almost feels a sick nostalgia for places like the South Bronx, or Bushwick (some of the last strongholds of violent crime in the 5 boroughs).

    But even with rents skyrocketing, I don’t see New York somehow losing its creative energy, or its importance as an artistic center. The thing about New York City–and based on the author’s description of San Francisco, it seems like “SFers” can learn from this–is that you can’t surprise a New Yorker. People here are so weird (and I mean real-weird, not cute-weird) that it takes nothing short of a paradigm shifting idea to get New Yorkers to so much as blink. When the environment changes–be it the Meatpacking District eventually becoming the cradle of kids in their early 20’s earning 6 or 7 figures, or tenement-dense Williamsburg becoming a playground for daddy’s-money hipsters–New Yorkers don’t throw stones at buses; they don’t have time for games like that. Instead, they adapt. What was weird or unusual 2 months ago is old hat now. Come up with something new. Find a new way to capture people’s attention. Be daring enough to devise a new brilliant entrepreneurial scheme. Do something completely nuts. Because walking down the street in a chicken suit, well, no one will look at you.

    And this frantic race to greatness drives the influx of outsiders. In my lifetime, growing up in the suburbs of New York, I have rarely met the person who was born and raised in Manhattan. They exist, they’re just not particularly common. Most people here come from elsewhere. They were the one person in whatever lame-ass town they grew up in who had the guts to move out here and give it what they had. Rich people are pricing out the artists in San Francisco? In New York, it’s the artists (I use the word “artist” loosely here) who became rich.

  64. bubba says:

    This is the dystopian future in the making. The proximity of decadent wealth and poverty can no longer be ignored. I love San Francisco, and always will. There is a more fundamental problem that needs to be solved: teach the homeless to code. There needs to be an economic re-distribution of wealth, and it’s not happening socially. What came out of the 2000 dot burst? Decadent parties that lasted all night… that’s what, while people across the bay literally murdered each other in Oakland over drug money. Wake up bay area, you darkest hour is approaching. It’s time to care about each other or perish.

  65. Jonathan Hart says:

    The SF Gentrification problem is the result of people who *didn’t* become software engineers, not the engineers themselves.

    Do you remember Economics class? Supply and Demand? Strict immigration policy and an apathetic youth have created a huge shortage of engineers with increasing demand. They’re getting paid that much because there’s not enough of them, and as such, the real estate market is responding in kind.

    Maybe if more kids gave a rat’s ass about their future, there’d be an abundance of engineers which would drive salaries down, and return the real estate prices back to normal.

  66. Asheem says:

    Thank you for an interesting read Alex. While most articles on this subject have idiotic flame wars in their comments, I am glad to see a healthy discussion here.

    I’d like to add a couple points about what I think is missing in the analysis of why the Bus commuting crowd is not great for the city and it’s residents.

    With such a large number of commuters leaving the city every day for work in other parts, it does turn the city into a bedroom community. People have objected to SF residents taking ofense to this. But here’s the thing – we are not a sleep suburb. This is a (relatively) dense, walkable city with lots of small businesses (as opposed to strip malls and mega malls). All these businesses depend on local residents. If the residents are only in the city to ‘party’, then the small businesses will be lost and replaced by bars and restaurants only. These new establishments will necessarily be high priced because they will have a short window of customer influx.

    This problem was recently pointed out in an interesting NY magazine article:

    In that article, Ms. Arieff talks about Googl’s downtown office. So it’s not just a problem that these new city residents are commuting, its a problem that they are working on these campuses that provide all the services that one might need, leaving the local businesses with fewer customers. Sure the corporations are hiring local contractors and firms for catering and on site services – but that means fewer store fronts and a less walkable city. That is the future of San francisco if this trend continues.

  67. David O'Steinberg says:

    The most hilarious part of this discussion (and the saddest) is the “programming is boring.” How odd that some people chose to focus their discussion there. How about something more important?

    I think the big issue here that is dividing SF is the same one dividing the country right now: income inequality. Five years on into the Great Recession (for me it’s not over yet), some parts of the economy are booming – like tech. Great! The millions of us who lost their jobs during the recession, we’re still out there, and no, for some of us learning programming is NOT an option. Youhave to have a certain logic-oriented aptitude and I know I don’t. I worked in the legal field for many years as a legal assistant, got laid off in late 2008 after the stock market crash…and I have yet to secure a full-time job. I’m 61 now and last choice for any employer hiring becuase who wants to reward my years of work experience and knowledge. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 35 and used to like it much more than I do now.

    Now the city seems torn apart by greed at every turn – landlord greed, real estate greed, greed of all kinds. And the glaring disparity between the soaring costs of housing and the high incomes made by many tech earners is just going to generate tension, resentment, anger. It may not be well directed rage at times, but it comes from real tensions and real divisions. But the problem is not unique to SF, it’s just painfully glaring here – new condos going up all up and down Market Street while the streets are filled with homeless people. Can the contradictions be any more painfully obvious?

    It’s naive to think you will live happily ever after in your overpriced shoebox condo when just outside your door are some down and out, mentally ill and economically disenfranchised people. And then there’s a lot more of us, just hanging on, for who knows how much longer in a city driven by heartless, merciless greed.

    We’ve all in this together. We all have a part in the problem that’s happening. I love that high tech has made Lyft possible, but getting a taxi is the least of our problems in San Francisco. I’ve love to see all that high tech know how put to other, more vital uses: solving global climate change, working on economic inequality right here, right now in the city we all live in, where many of us feel endangered by the vast economic inequality unfolding in front our eyes day by day. Google buses are part of the and a visible symbol of that – which is why they have become magnets for everyone’s resentment.

    Lack of well paying employment for everyone is a big part of the problem. If the rising tide lifts only one side of the raft, eventually the whole thing will capsize.

    Personally I’d love to see people continue this discussion with less of a Us vs. Them attitude and more of a focus on the bigger problem, at least as I see it: economic inequality, unrestrained greed, greed, greed, an unregulated economy, and an everyone for themselves mentality. To say nothing of a serious lack of truly affordable housing. I used to love San Francisco for its easy going way of life, but that’s gotten so lost in the last few years, in the shadows of the horrendous, overpriced high-rise condos. I mean – do you really want to come home from your long day in the office to a high-rise home that looks like…the office? Where’s the quality of life in that? It’s been pissed away into the greedy pockets of the real estate industry, who I think are the real enemy in San Francisco. Now what are we all going to do about. I ask ya.

  68. Stevo says:

    It’s time everyone grows up. Be an adult for a moment.

    “Techies” are not doing anything to you, your city is. San Francisco is raising the rent. You should be directing you anger towards the city. When you moved to SF it was expensive. It will always be expensive. If you truly know anything about SF then you can’t be this naive to think it wasn’t going to get even more expensive as the years went on.

    And just because you feel like you’ve lived here for some length of time doesn’t give you any more jurisdiction or ownership over anyone else. SF is not your’s, you don’t own it. You’re not owed anything from SF. It’s a city. Nobody needs your permission to enter the city, or live in it. And the reason for that is we live in a country where we are free to do as we choose.

    If you can’t afford to live in SF anymore it would be in your best interest to consider relocating. That is the unfortunate truth. No one will judge you because it’s what happens when you live in SF. And pointing your finger at the new residents who have higher paying job than you is just hateful or jealousy really. It’s time to grow up and move on. It’s just a city.

    At some point you’ll find you can still get what you want out of SF without living there. And that topic of conversation about where you live won’t be all that important to you anymore……

  69. Ian says:

    The real villains here and the ones that seemingly come under no scrutiny or attack are the greedy pig landlords that keep raising rents because they see this new cashed up population as a way to make more money. This debate would not exist if rents didnt keep increasing, so why are the rent paying population attacking each other when we should be attacking the greedy swine landlords?

    • Theryl McCoy says:

      So, you’re an artist and you make really nice paintings. Suddenly the people want your paintings and are willing to pay $20,000 which is a lot more than the $250 you were getting last year. Are you going to subsidize those people that want your art on their walls and continue to sell your work for $250? Or are you going to sell your paintings for $20,000 at the new gallery? Yeah, I thought so.

      • Richard H says:

        Freelance artist here (performer, not a painter, but the biz is similar). You can still take the high-paying gigs without telling poor people “you can’t afford this, sod off.” It’s legal to do business like an asshole, but that doesn’t mean you should.

        And I think landlords (whom we’re literally paying just because they are rich) will probably survive making $1M/year instead of $2M/year, even if they have to not evict 80-year-old grannies with the excuse of “that’s the market, try Detroit.”

  70. Dani A says:

    Such a well written article. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    My husband and I moved to San Fran 6 months ago. We love it. Yes, we are in technology, yes we have a strong desire to win AND we feel blessed we are surrounded by amazing, creative innovators who are passionate, full of experiences (i.e., amazing stories), and a love for life. Yes, I run into grumpy people too.

    Will we be able to live here forever? I hope so! Btw- $1400 in GP is adorable. 🙂

  71. flankton says:

    The rest of the world and the rest of america thinks you are all a bunch of jerks. Maybe they will wake up and realize that this west coast fantasy world will become the most violent place on earth when things start to go bad. Unless the machines get it under control, which is what they are doing. Someone will be knifing you in the back and raping your daughter, and you will be crying “but I voted for Gay Rights!” If you want to live in the most valued piece of property on earth, you have to pay. If you cant pay, welcome to reality. Its a nice place to live. Goodbye SF./ Artists should come from nowhere louisiana or bumble texas. Not posh SF.

  72. Ammy says:

    Word. I’ve always known I can’t afford to live in the city. It amazes me that it’s news to folks making half my salary.

    • Richard H says:

      Some of us are good at nosing out a reasonably-priced room instead of saying “OK” to a speculator who thinks we should pay them a professional’s salary just for sitting on the deed to an apartment. Sadly, those speculators are finding more and more ways to make sure reasonably priced rooms in SF just don’t exist.

  73. Loretta says:

    Your argument has one major flaw: you assumed that every “artist and wierdo” is a transplant. Some of us, who could be very easily priced out of our houses by people are actually FROM here, as in several generations of our family live in the city. “Getting priced out” wouldn’t only mean losing our culture, our values, spending time with our families, it also would mean a loss of history.

    I don’t have a problem with people making obscene amounts of money doing something they find interesting…but the clueless overpaid hordes of children who can’t even do something as simple as cook dinner or MAKE COOKIES really do bring down the cultural value of our city. They are carpetbaggers, and they will go away when bubble #3 bursts. In six months.

  74. sandrichka says:

    guess what: “these crazy, creative, driven individuals” that are a huge part of the appeal of San Francisco are getting evicted in droves because the techies can and will pay 4x the rent, and the speculators want to cash in.

    enjoy your monoculture when it comes.

  75. Tom Fairfax says:

    There are so many sweeping generalizations in this article (and the comments!) that my head spins. I have dozens of friends in SF, living in all kinds of places, who have normal non-tech jobs and normal incomes. SF isn’t even one of the top US counties for the highest average income! And it has the best public transportation system west of the Mississippi.

    The really ironic part is that SF is the most vibrant that I’ve ever seen it. Bakeries and coffee shops, artisan galleries and used mid-century modern furniture, parks and public concerts. Less street violence, few really dangerous areas. I’ve lived in and close to SF for over 40 years, and it’s safer and more fun to walk around than ever. I love the juice that the city has now. And it’s not worse off because (at most) 1000 out of the 650,000 inhabitants takes buses to Google.

    Please, listen to yourselves. “Monoculture”, “greedy pig landlords”. Really? These are people just like you and I who are trying to make a living. Wars erupt because we objectify real humans, and I’m watching it happen here, Alex. Polarization is the opposite of compassion, and creates negative karma.

    The ironic thing is that, 50 years ago, SF had the opposite problem with a huge number of commuters coming in each day. And folks were equally dug in and militant…about how they were coming in and sucking the life out of the City. Come to think of it, I would bet that there are still 100x more people commuting into SF than out of it. Are we really complaining about having more residents that want to spend money in our town? SF right now is the opposite of Detroit. Welcome it. If you want free rent, there are thousands of homes there that you can just move into.

    • Byron says:

      > SF right now is the opposite of Detroit. Welcome it.
      > If you want free rent, there are thousands of homes there
      > that you can just move into.

      Really? In the previous paragraph, you talk about polarization, a lack of compassion, and negative karma, then spring this “let them eat cake” crap on us?

      Pot. Kettle. Black.

  76. Carla Lyn says:


  77. Len says:

    This is a thoughtful essay that made me reflect on my own years in SF in 2003-06 and the transition to Boston, where I’ve been since then. I moved because a job brought me here.

    One thing the transition taught me is not to fetishize home ownership. The author makes this mistake. I’d be quite content to rent forever if I could live in SF. Here government can make a huge difference. Thanks to HUD, we were paying $1400 to live in a new development where most people were much wealthier (including some Giants players).

    Elected officials are always talking about the importance of home ownership, but it’s actually much easier from a policy perspective to concentrate on rental conditions if you want to alleviate the more glaring disparities of wealth. SF seems to do a decent job in this department, while Boston is more typical of the rest of the United States in that it’s very hard to make it as a renter. Moving to Boston, we found that the average rent is actually considerably higher than SF (most statistical comparisons are deceptive because they include the massive wasteland of Dorchester, where no one wants to live). Renters are basically forced into home ownership in Boston, as we were, by the fact that your monthly mortgage payment on a typical apartment will be half of what your rent would be. That’s partly because students force up rental demand.

    The author says that home ownership in SF is harder than in any other city. Well, don’t buy. SF is just going to be that city where renting is better. The rest of the country, er the rest of the country, goes the other way.

    The author is right that the rage against the buses is misdirected, though I’m comforted that people are uncomfortable about it. The same thing exists elsewhere but it scarcely invites comment. Here in Boston, we have the private Harvard buses that take their employees and students from one location to another in Harvard’s massive network of properties (they seem to own a third of this city and Cambridge and Allston and everywhere else). There’s been many a day when, waiting for a bus in 10-degree weather, I’m fuming at the fact that three Harvard buses arrive while I’m waiting for the public bus. But I never threw any rocks at them. Maybe I should.

  78. Theryl McCoy says:

    Who throws rocks at people carpooling to work?

  79. Teufel Wolf says:

    Hating yuppies is not new in SF. Kill the Yuppies, Eat the Rich, Burn the landlords has been a popular war cry in SF as for decades. Violent anti-yuppie/landlord/gentrification murals where common around the Mission District in the 70’s.
    The 1st major chain store to try and open on the Haight was firebombed (Rite-Aid I think).
    I loved the Black Bloc Anarchist movement of the 90’s.

  80. DM says:

    Spot on Alex. Thanks for the serious and thoughtful thinking. Selfish folks on all sides of the argument are leaving critical thinking at the door in favor of shouting.

    From its inception this city has narrated a story featuring people seeking fortune, change and a piece of what they see as the good life.

    Granting yourself a laundry list of “rights” that you have no way of enforcing is a recipe for resentment and long term defeat.

  81. Gandydancer says:

    “What’s striking about this debate is that no one is really wrong.”

    Nonsense. The government of San Francisco that discourages its police from arresting, jailing, and citing the a**holes who get in the way of other citizens going about their business is really wrong.

  82. Ernie McGray says:

    Really? Not the same city? Please, this city has always had haves and have nots at each other’s throats. A majority of the city hated the gays moving into the Castro, and prior, the Hippies moving into the Haight.

    Also, don’t think this is vitriol waiting to erupt into chaos. For the most part, 99% of the time people are living, dining, hanging in the park side by side with little disdain or notice.

    It is still an amazing city with amazing people. Don’t fret, don’t worry, San Francisco for all is still alive and well.

  83. Luca Candela says:

    Well, technically Google and others could pay the fines they owe to the city according to the law for illegal use of the stops. That would have made people feel like the law is the same even if you work for a powerful company or for the neighborhood store.

  84. ottilie says:

    “I loved the Black Bloc Anarchist movement of the 90′s.”

    There was no ‘black bloc’ in the 90s. That activity started at the WTO protests in November ’99 in Seattle, and then was frequently repeated in the 00s in the bay area.

    • Richard H says:

      Black Bloc tactics are considered to have started in the 80s with European protesters, and are now used all over the world – including at WTO ’99 and many more protests.

  85. Max says:

    “I feel bad for the artsy types that are getting priced out.” Artsy types? You fucking asshole. Try soul of the City on for size. How about everyday normal folks who are neither artists, musicians, nor a part of any other ‘cool’ subculture that are being driven from their homes? What about the 70 year old who can no longer live in the house they were born and raised in? OUR CULTURE IS BEING BRUTALLY AND VIOLENTLY RAPED. Of course Google, et al. have the right to do this (money talks, right?), but as humans it should be realized that this is wrong and inappropriate. When all the folks who made the City attractive to all you new jacks in the first place are gone and the City is a homogenous, beige specter of what it once was, where will you colonize next?

  86. pbt says:

    Thanks for this post. So needed and so right.

  87. Mike says:

    Great post! First time visitor here. My wife is a programmer and I’m here on her coattails. On a much much smaller scale we are experiencing these issues in Portland, ME.


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