I watched with great interest, the documentary San Francisco 2.0 by the Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, regarding the ever-widening wealth gap in the city of San Francisco. As a former resident of the metropolitan San Francisco area, I can attest to the truths this documentary highlighted. San Francisco has undergone a major transformation. Tech companies have flooded the downtown area, and while that brings much-needed revenue, it also has the affect of potentially displacing a great number of lifelong residents. Housing prices have skyrocketed.
No. Really. Skyrocketed. The median home price in San Francisco now lies at $1.225 MILLION DOLLARS. Yes. You read that right. That’s the AVERAGE price. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds fucking ridiculous. Granted, I grew up in the Midwest in the state of Michigan where $1.225 million dollars got you a virtual compound with major acreage and a home the size of a small Costco. That might be why I can’t stomach this price tag.
But, I’m not alone in this disbelief. San Franciscans are being displaced in greater and greater numbers. Lifelong residents are being squeezed out by new tech startups and while their revenue brings cash to the city, it also brings higher and higher home prices as people play this bidding war to attain their ‘dream home’. Many once-vibrant cultural areas of the city, like the Mission District are suffering a major blow.
Well, in this tech boom, one class of people has become virtually extinct. The middle class. It would seem in San Francisco, there are two classes of people: the ultra wealthy and the working poor. Gone are the vibrant middle classes of the city. If you want to be able to afford a home in San Francisco, you need to earn UPWARDS of $200,000 per year.
I don’t. I didn’t. We didn’t.
We left. And I couldn’t be happier.
I love San Francisco. I lived there for almost five years, and our daughter was born there. It hurts to see this city once known for its forward thinking and historical counter-culture turn into a homogenous, boring, bland, city with no diversity that caters to those who have no interest in retaining San Francisco’s wonderful history. The sharing economy has residents desperate to stay in their homes, therefore, people literally share rooms in their homes to earn income. Enter AirBnB. Need a car for a few hours? You can rent YOURS to earn a few extra bucks. Need someone to run an errand for you? No problem. TaskRabbit has someone available RIGHT NOW to pick up your Kombucha from Whole Foods.
The Ellis Act has virtually evicted thousands upon thousands of people with an eviction rate in one year of 115%. The Ellis Act allows landlords to abruptly sever lease agreements to take their property ‘out of business’, to then turn around and make it available to places like AirBnB for a large profit. Lifelong residents of San Francisco are finding themselves homeless for the first time. And gone are the days of long-term residency, as many renters find themselves stuck with exorbitant rent increases.
Before you ask, let me just tell you. The AVERAGE rent in the city of San Francisco just reached an all-time high this year of $4,225 per month. Yes. That’s right. That’s not a typo.
Sad. Really fucking sad.
So, as you walk by the homeless person on Market Street, remember this: he just might have been displaced by the very wealth that tech start-ups brought to San Francisco.
Oh, and be sure to throw him a twenty. That organic, fair-trade, small batch, hand-picked, cold-brewed cup of coffee from the corner barista will cost at least $10, which leaves him enough for an organic donut.
Some days I miss San Francisco, but in light of what’s going on there now, I’m perfectly content to blog about it from the comfort of my home on the outskirts of Saint Louis, Missouri in my four-bedroom, two and a half bathroom 2,100 square foot home for which we pay a fraction of what some renters in San Francisco pay for a studio apartment.
My fingers are crossed that San Francisco can find its way and retain its individuality. Maybe a start-up company can make an app for that.