Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

NYT: Backlash by the Bay: Tech Riches Alter a City


Recommended Posts

Backlash by the Bay: Tech Riches Alter a City


SAN FRANCISCO — If there was a tipping point, a moment that crystallized the anger building here toward the so-called technorati for driving up housing prices and threatening the city’s bohemian identity, it came in response to a diatribe posted online in August by a young Internet entrepreneur.


The author, a start-up founder named Peter Shih, listed 10 things he hated about San Francisco. Homeless people, for example. And the “constantly PMSing” weather. And “girls who are obviously 4s and behave like they’re 9s.”


The backlash was immediate. Fliers appeared on telephone poles calling Mr. Shih a “woman hatin’ nerd toucher.” CheapAir offered him a free ticket back to New York. Readers responded that what they hated about San Francisco were “entitled” technology workers like him.


Mr. Shih, who said he received death threats after the post, deleted it and apologized.


But a nerve had been struck. As the center of the technology industry has moved north from Silicon Valley to San Francisco and the largess from tech companies has flowed into the city — Twitter’s stock offering unleashed an estimated 1,600 new millionaires — income disparities have widened sharply, housing prices have soared and orange construction cranes dot the skyline. The tech workers have, rightly or wrongly, received the blame.


Resentment simmers, at the fleets of Google buses that ferry workers to the company’s headquarters in Mountain View and back; the code jockeys who crowd elite coffeehouses, heads buried in their laptops; and the sleek black Uber cars that whisk hipsters from bar to bar. Late last month, two tech millionaires opened the Battery, an invitation-only, $2,400-a-year club in an old factory in the financial district, cars lining up for valet parking.


For critics, such sights are symbols of a city in danger of losing its diversity — one that artists, families and middle-class workers can no longer afford. On the day of Twitter’s public offering this month, 150 demonstrators protested outside the company with signs reading “People not profit” and “We’re the public, what are you offering?”


More and more longtime residents are being forced out as landlords and speculators race to capitalize on the money stream.


Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a retired accountant, is fighting eviction from the rent-controlled apartment where she has lived for almost half a century. If her new landlords have their way, she will have to move in April, shortly after her 98th birthday, because they want to sell the units.


Her neighborhood has given way around her. The car dealership across the street is now a luxury apartment complex, complete with rooftop herb garden, a butterfly habitat and a Whole Foods.


“I can understand it from an investment standpoint,” she said of her landlords’ actions. “But I don’t think I’d ever be that coldblooded about this.”


While the technology boom has bred hostility, it has also brought San Francisco undeniable benefits. Mayor Edwin M. Lee credits the technology sector with helping to pull the city out of the recession, creating jobs and nourishing a thriving economy that is the envy of cash-starved cities across the country.


The industry is “not so much taking over but complementing the job creation we want in the city,” Mr. Lee said while giving a tour of middle Market Street to show off its “renaissance” from a seedy skid row to a tech district where Twitter, Square and other companies have made their home.


Yet city officials must grapple with the arithmetic of squeezing more people into the limited space afforded by San Francisco’s 49 square miles. And it is the housing shortage that underlies much of the sniping about tech workers.


Click on the link for the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There really is no incentive to sell houses in California (especially high demand areas like the Bay Area). So you sell your house that you bought 20+ years ago (say you bought it it for 1/2 of the price it's worth now)..where are you going to move to in the Bay Area?  You'll pay what you just sold your house for (or worse, even more). And unless you are retired, you probably aren't moving out of the Bay Area that you called home for the last 20+ years.


Deflated "taxed property values" (thanks to Prop 13) keeps most housing in the hands of the people who bought those properties years ago. And since there is little area left to build out there, that means supply is severely diminished in the Bay.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Popularity among those with lots of money + limited space to build + Prop 13 disincentives to sell = ridiculous housing prices.


There is a lot of housing being built right now, so it may ease up a little.   But not much.  Those people who like to think there is a way to stop time and keep the Mission District from gentrifying are kidding themselves.  It didn't work in Manhattan and it isn't going to work here either.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...