For the most part, I've stayed kind of neutral in the Great Tech Wars so far. At some points, I thought the anger directed at the new techie types in SF was misguided and that it was just part of the natural evolution of the city; I even wrote a satirical piece making fun of Change Hysteria. At the same time, I had no problem making fun of the boorish, awful demeanor of some of the tech people.
But this article is the last straw. I'm not sure I can see the POV of an industry with people like this as its leaders any more.
To be fair, it wasn't just Bryan Goldberg's hamfisted, deeply unfunny, dripping-with-condescension, hateful piece that did it. There's one of those every week! Fuck, Bryan Goldberg writes one almost every week! That's more the culmination than the only reason.
So let me back up for a minute. I am not against tech companies, per se. And I am not against tech companies establishing themselves in San Francisco. I am not against tech workers. What I am concerned about is the frightening pace at which San Francisco is giving itself over to a narrow slice of the economy; what I am against is the massively entitled, almost sociopathic lack of empathy shown by the new residents, typified by Goldberg's piece.
To some extent, I'm a hypocrite. I wasn't born here. I moved here in 1990, so maybe I displaced someone, although I doubt it. Rents were high by the standards of the day, but nothing like today. And I doubt that I kept some worthy long-time resident from getting the very low-paying job at a bookstore I got. But I'm just saying.
I'm gonna sound like a total tool now, but here goes. San Francisco was a much different place in the early-to-mid 90's. There was a sort of wild feeling, like anything could happen. You could take over an abandoned building (I know, right?) and throw a party. I went to see a one-off play in a building where AT&T Park now sits. Everyone was up to something creative, it seemed like. Like I said, rents were higher than, say, Chicago, but you could split a 3-bedroom flat with 2 other people on what you'd make at a restaurant or cafe and have most of your time free to paint or, God forbid, play in a thrash funk band. I don't think that's possible any more, and that kind of makes me sad.
(I know, I know, lawn, kids, etc. Old-timer wishes things wouldn't change is the hoariest cliche of all. I am at least self-aware enough to know what I'm doing.)
What I guess I'm really afraid of is the city becoming boring. A monoculture is boring, and if everyone works in tech, because they forced everyone else out, the net result is going to be a more boring city. That's what I'm afraid of.
(Of course I don't believe that ALL 850,000 RESIDENTS will eventually work in tech. But if enough tech people move here and force out the people who were doing [admittedly, subjectively] Cool Things, same diff?)
So what's the solution? Build more housing, at least, and see if that helps. Personally, I have no problem with the Google busses; I imagine they probably do a net good by keeping cars off the road, but they should probably pay for using the Muni stops. Build more housing. BUILD MORE HOUSING.
The biggest part of the solution is something you can't legislate or regulate: Attitude. Admittedly, I don't spend a whole lot of time around tech workers, but anecdotally I am informed that they are only loosely connected to the city, in the sense that they live here and maybe go out to restaurants here, but connection to a city means the city becomes important to you. You join groups, you give back in some way. Maybe it's volunteering, maybe it's just joining a band or putting on an art show or forming a neighborhood group. There are a thousand ways to do it.
So when I say I'm no longer neutral, I don't mean I'm going to throw bricks at Google busses or that I even dislike tech people personally. I mean that I've changed my mind. I no longer think it's just the city naturally progressing. Now I think there's something actively worrying going on here, and we need to do something about it. I'm not going to pretend that I know all the answers, but hopefully we figure something out.
WHEW. That was heavy. Back to jokes. The Bachelor is starting soon!
[UPDATE: ONE OTHER THING I just remembered Jesus why am I yelling. Um. I was just talking about this to someone. I remember seeing a little piece in SF Weekly written by someone who was fed up with SF's high rents and how boring and bland it was getting and so was moving to Fayetteville, Arkansas, which apparently has a vibrant arts scene or something. This was in 1991 or 1992. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.]