I Feel Bad for SF Tech Workers
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:
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.