Why Downtown SF’s Decline Feels Like Karma
It’s not a secret that San Francisco sacrificed nearly everything for tech. There were tax breaks for companies like Twitter in an attempt to “revitalize” the Tenderloin/Mid-Market area, but there was little local intervention when landlords increased rent prices to levels even six figure earners couldn’t afford in historically low income neighborhoods. Market Street was filled with self proclaimed “geniuses” flush with venture capital cash to fund the next idea that would allegedly “change the world.”
While all of this was happening, life for normal people in and around the City was getting exponentially harder. Apartments in San Francisco that used to be $1,000 suddenly cost upwards of $3,000. People were renting rooms for close to $2,000 and seemingly overnight, the anti establishment ethos of San Francisco was snuffed out for the city to become the per capita billionaire capital of the world.
While all of this was happening, life for normal people in and around the City was getting exponentially harder.
As this was occurring, the nightly news would run stories on the human cost of our region’s seemingly endless prosperity. We watched as people were evicted, as homeless encampments popped up in places where homelessness wasn’t historically a problem and those of us who weren’t homeless had nothing left over once our bills were paid.
Despite San Francisco’s many sacrifices to lure tech workers from the Silicon Valley suburbs into the City, when the pandemic happened and shit started to get hard for tech companies in San Francisco, they left and all took all of their money to Austin, Texas. Which, ironically, is experiencing the same exact issues that plagued San Francisco.
The question for those of us who were largely on the outside of the tech boom is: should we even care? Should we care that the Salesforce Tower – once a symbol of tech’s dominant position in the City, is now largely empty? Does it matter that nearly 150,000 tech workers have left?
The answer, like everything in San Francisco, is complicated.
I don’t want Downtown San Francisco to suffer. But when San Francisco was thriving, and a lot of our lives got worse, we were told to “suck it up and adapt.” We took multiple jobs, stuffed more people into already cramped apartments and hoped shit would get better, but it always seemed to be getting worse.
I’ve spent my entire life idolizing San Francisco. I can’t even begin to tell you why. I remember when I was 4 years old and my aunt took me to Chinatown and I felt something magical. I remember spending time in the Mission and looking at all the cool art when I should’ve been in school. I remember standing on the roof of my apartment building in Oakland and looking at the buildings across the bay and being completely mesmerized by them.
I don’t want San Francisco to “collapse” as the Chronicle recently warned. I just want it to be what it says it is. I want it to be a place where people can reinvent themselves and lead whatever life they want.
But until that happens, we should say to San Francisco what it said to us in so many words…
Suck it up and adapt.