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I Feel Bad for SF Tech Workers

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photo by MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER

This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column in the SF Examiner.

I feel bad for the tech workers. I’m not talking about the ones like Jack Halprin, the Google lawyer who tried to evict seven units, comprised mostly of teachers, so that he could have his own mansion. And I’m not talking about the venture capitalists using their money and influence to try and create a San Francisco in their own image. Those people are wankers.

I feel bad for the thousands of people who have been lucky enough to get a job that pays them to move to one of the most wonderful cities in the world. These are not the millionaire CEOs of tech giants, these are the people who work for them. And most of them have gotten in far too late to be part of that big “getting acquired/going public” pay day. Or they’ve come to San Francisco with an idea they really think might change the world. Who says no to an opportunity like that?

So, why do I feel bad for them? Because they’ve never been given the chance to be San Franciscans … and most of them don’t even know it.

It must be a hell of a thing to move somewhere for a job and be told that you are the cause of most of that city’s problems. What somehow gets lost in all the finger-pointing and hand-wringing is that the bad guys in this housing crisis aren’t the people looking for a place to live. The real villains are the rapacious real estate developers, landlords*, brokers and speculators making monumental fortunes, and the politicians who are in their pockets. The smartest thing these devils ever did was allow the general public to blame The City’s newest transplants for the mess their greed fed upon. It’s easy to blame your new neighbor for moving in when you can’t see the landlord who evicted your previous one.

But that’s not the only reason tech workers haven’t been given the chance to be San Franciscans. The entire startup culture has knowingly or unknowingly created an insular society apart. We live in the streets in San Francisco. We don’t sit in our cars all day commuting to work, we bike or walk or take mass transit. We explore local restaurants and get to know neighborhood shop owners. We become part of this city by drowning ourselves in it.

That all changes when you take private transportation to work, where they feed you so you don’t have to leave, and they clothe you so you can be their billboards. And then after working ridiculous hours the culture justifies pithily as #StartUpLife, it’s easy to opt out of San Francisco once again by just using an app to order anything else not provided for you.

So I want to get this message out there to all the “techies:” It’s time to become San Franciscans. If you’re gonna be here, BE here. I’m tired of all this you/we bullshit that I just did in the previous two paragraphs. What I’m inviting “you” to do, is to become part of the “we.”

San Francisco is on the precipice of losing its soul, and if you’re tired of being blamed as the problem, come be part of the solution. There’s a movement fulminating right now that’s centered around issues like ending evictions, building affordable housing, tackling homelessness, and keeping the arts in The City. And I’m asking you to be part of it.

Register to vote, get involved in progressive politics, and start caring about San Francisco, not just the tech scene in San Francisco. If you truly want to be here, then we want you here too. Here are a few things you can do to help:

1. Check out this article I wrote a few months about about how to be a “good San Franciscan”

2. Follow 48 Hills. They are a nonprofit, alternative media source that is all about saving the City.

3. Join this FB group. It’s a great place to keep a tab on all things Progressive and Social Justice related in SF

4. Join a Democratic Club or at least follow some on FB. That way you can can stay informed on all the issues and share things with your friends. Here are some really great clubs doing excellent work for the progressive causes in SF:

Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club

Causa Justa

Plaza 16 Coalition

Chinese Progressive Association

Calle 24

Movements need 3 things: your time, your money, and your sharing of information. So please, get involved, donate and spread the word. Let’s keep this city weird and wonderful.

*Please note: when I talk about landlords in this article I’m not talking about ALL landlords. I’m talking about the ones who are doing all they can to get rid of their long term tenants.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".

15 Comments

  1. Tgp Tgp
    September 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Stuart, this piece is so condescending. Who are you to assume that “techies” aren’t already part of the community? Who are you to step down and offer to bring them up? I’ve been a techie in this town for twenty years, thanks much, for forgive me if I take this personally. I’m a part of some of the city’s oldest institutions. I can walk to five different bars and five different restaurants from my apartment and be known and welcomed. And I’m not alone. There are lots of people in this town who type for a living, who are a part of the community.

    So many people are convinced that “techies” think they’re “better than”, and all this article does is change the polarity of the condescension. Which is fine, but don’t pretend that this is an olive branch. It’s a pat on the head.

    (Yes, there are tons of “techie” people who are jackwads, and I fully believe the tech busses are fucking up the city because of the way they change the balance of work/commute. And yes, landlords are often the bad guys.)

  2. lindenksv
    September 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    48 Hills is nothing but a shill for rich homeowners who will say and do anything to protect their property values and their penthouse views. They oppose every drop of housing anyone proposes to build in SF, even though we know our population is swelling, causing unaffordability, overcrowding and homelessness. You say tech isn’t to blame for what’s happening and they’re not – it’s people like the ones at 48 Hills who support and elect a city government which prioritizes the views of rich homeowners over the needs of low income people. Everything they write is a NIMBY screed.

  3. JTK
    September 2, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Stuart, this is where I stop following you, this is really condescending. I’ve been a “techie” living and working in San Francisco for about 10 years, and I am very much a part of my community and the City. Also, I, as well as my “techie” colleagues have very hard though education and experience to get to where we are today, and I’m proud of my hard work and success. These types of articles are very insulting and alienating to a big part of our City. Yes, there is a problem with real estate, the buses suck, and there are the annoying “tech bros”, but to call out the workers as “Non-San Franciscan” is bull. Anyhow, it’s the beginning of the weekend and time for me to go out and enjoy the City, my home. Also, don’t feel bad for me, my life in SF rocks.

  4. whateversville
    September 2, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    “We live in the streets in San Francisco. We don’t sit in our cars all day commuting to work, we bike or walk or take mass transit.”

    Are you sure? About half of San Franciscan’s drive by themselves to work. Even as a bunch of ‘techies’ move in, the number of people commuting by public transit is increasing, so it seems like “techies” don’t sit in their cars very much.

    “We explore local restaurants and get to know neighborhood shop owners. We become part of this city by drowning ourselves in it.”

    Yeah, tech workers eat at restaurants and shop locally, too. It’s bizarre to imply otherwise. You must not be exploring that many local restaurants, if you think tech workers don’t go out.

    “That all changes when you take private transportation to work,”

    Commuter shuttles are annoyingly overenthusiastic carpools.

    “where they feed you so you don’t have to leave”

    Ever wonder where that food comes from? Bigger companies have kitchens full of restaurant industry veterans who enjoy working 9-5 hours. Smaller companies get catered food, often from local spots.

    “and they clothe you so you can be their billboards.”

    Yeah if it weren’t for this free t-shirt I only wear at the gym, I don’t know what I’d do. Where do clothes come from? Help me, Stu.

    “it’s easy to opt out of San Francisco once again by just using an app to order anything else not provided for you.”

    There used to be an app called “the telephone” that people could use to order food, and another app called “the Sears catalog” to order random shit. Totally ruined the city.

    “So I want to get this message out there to all the “techies:” It’s time to become San Franciscans. If you’re gonna be here, BE here. […] come be part of the solution […] start caring about San Francisco”

    Ugh. Fuck off.

  5. September 2, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    The guy with the website shakes fist at techies. Classic.

    • nathanbarley
      September 3, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      I have a bank account. Therefore I am 100% in favor of all banking activities. Classic…in its stupidity.

  6. William Ogle
    September 3, 2016 at 11:05 am

    You think it is the developers and land Lords causing the problem?! The very first principal in any market is supply and demand. The housing tax protectionism established in the seventies and the anti density stance of the city has cramped housing supply vs demand. High housing prices means high rents. There is no such thing as affordable housing except the 8%below market rate for large developments (which most of us will not get). If you want real change for the middle class you have to increase density/supply in order to meet demand and bring prices down. Not feel good politics, unless your politics are to pressure the planning department to increase density/supply that is.

    • Johnny Kat
      September 3, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      What good is adding housing stock to the bay area when the freeways and local streets can’t handle it? And hell, if lack of housing IS the issue, why aren’t we all running AirBnB out of town? This is a complex issue that just adding housing will not solve. We’re f*cked in the meantime while we wrangle over crap that makes no damn difference now.

      • William Ogle
        September 3, 2016 at 5:51 pm

        Increased housing stock brings increased tax revenue via property taxes. Time to upgrade infrastructure; let’s face it that it is long overdue especially in the past 5 years. London, Manhattan and Shanghai have small streets however twice the density. You cannot stop the fact that people want to live in the bay. It is a nuanced issue however at the heart of this is a structural issue about lack of supply vs demand. Why do you think prices have gone up disproportionately to the rest of the world? No amount of BMR will relieve pricing preasure for the middle class. Rent control only limits supply further as people are not willing to move thus lowering supply further. Again feel good politics will not work here for a small percentage of affordable units.

      • Johnny Kat
        September 3, 2016 at 6:52 pm

        In the short 27 years I’ve lived in SF, I’ve never seen a building boom like the one we’re living through now. And what’s happening to many of these new units? They’re being bought by offshore investors who choose to park their money in real estate. Nice! You might not like rent control because it doesn’t benefit you personally but there are upsides to not letting the whole city turn into Monaco. If you’ve been here long enough, you know that our local government can’t seem to do anything in a reasonable amount of time. I’d wager that you and I could have the same conversation in 10 years and not much would be different. Like I said, we’re f*cked no matter which one of us is right (I think we’re both right) because nothing will change fast enough to make a positive difference but isn’t this a nice way to waste a few minutes?

      • William Ogle
        September 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm

        All good points John and I myself have only witnessed the last 11 years. I agree that we are commenting on different sides of the same coin. I will say though that those investors that you mentioned have the same opportunity to invest in any city globally however they especially do so in areas that have fundamentals of limited supply and high demand. San Francisco wears the crown of all cities globally in this regard. It’s a matter of exacerbating the aforementioned fundamentals. We don’t see this issue in Phoenix for example 🙂 You have made great points and do not disagree. With that I will take my opinion off the air.

  7. Chewbacca1066
    September 3, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    As the Beatniks replaced in the Italians in North Beach in the 50’s, and the hippies replaced working-class people in the Haight in 60’s and the gay replaced the Irish in 70’s and Hispanics changed the Mission, this city has forever been changing.

    I’m looking forward to the day when uber-hipsters (like Stuart) are replaced by tech workers.

    Stuart, your time here is over, and don;t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

    “Make San Francisco Great Again”

  8. WinstonGalt
    September 5, 2016 at 10:21 am

    This is perfect. The ultimate articulation of the self important, arrogant, candy-ass and ignorant “progressive” point of view. “If you don’t fall in line with my own greedy (because I demand something that I don’t own and I didn’t work for) demands then you are scum and must leave immediately. Because I’m a sharing, “inclusive” individual – provided of course that you provide me with something to share”.

    This is the same line of absurd thinking that led to protests against cleaning up the cesspool of People’s Park in Berkeley because it would defile the memories of the Free Speech Movement protests. If some techie does well, moves into your neighborhood, and cleans up a slummy building good for him. If some other techie is inspired, and does the same, good for her. If they turn a ragged, decrepit block into a “gentrified” neighborhood that raises property values then good for them all.

    If you spend your time writing stupid blogs about how mean “they” are and how “they” can’t be part of “we” unless they kowtow to your rigid belief system, eventually finding that you can no longer afford the rent in someone else’s private property, then too bad for you. Go find some other cesspool to whine from.

  9. George Davis
    September 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Technology is not the largest or most disruptive industry in San Francisco. Forget Business and Finance, Tourism and Conventions, or government. The largest industry is Medical and Biotech. Just look at the hospital expansions. Employees and managers make well above average earnings. Yet, it’s an established field. We don’t blink at doctors making $200-400,000 per year, but don’t understand someone who designs the Pokeman App and makes a comparable earning with more economic productivity. . . . Yes, doctors and medical managers are bidding on rentals, homes and condos too.

  10. FacheuxIsMyHoe15Dollars
    September 13, 2016 at 11:09 am

    These comments. ugh.