Considering that where I live in the San Francisco Mission district is ground zero for this conflict, I have written very little about the sense we have these days of being engulfed by a tidal wave of folks with a lot more money than the current population. Their arrival is radically changing the neighborhood. I have written about several eviction protests, but I haven't felt ready to summarize what I think about the implications of these developments.
This week the estimable community organization Causa Justa/Just Cause published Development without Displacement. This study provides some data:
That is, Black and brown people are being pushed out of what was once their 'hood by affluent, mostly white, mostly very young newcomers, many of them beneficiaries of the current tech boom. Tech workers are currently 6 percent of employed San Franciscans, but their impact is larger. At the essential San Francisco site, 48 Hills, Sara Shortt, director of the Housing Rights Committee explains what is happening very cogently:
That last is a reference to the enormous "Google buses" that use the city streets and bus zones, essentially for free. As reported in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office reports
The city fathers have just got around to asking for $1 for each use of a city bus stop by these behemoths -- somehow I doubt that is going to cover the cost of repaving streets.
In addition to working politically to get the city to attend to the interests of its long time residents, I find myself focused on what we can do to encourage the people who are moving in to preserve the city they find so attractive. It's not as if the city has not accommodated influxes that changed our culture before. In the over 40 years I've been here, I've seen the city assimilate migrants from the Chinese mainland, hippies, queers, Central Americans, and the ascendancy of a progressive labor movement that was before its time in incorporating all these different groups. The intersections were not always comfortable; far from it. I remember when Mission Latinos picketed a new lesbian bar right out of business -- today they'd probably be protesting together.
The city can (perhaps) reduce real estate speculation and slow the current dislocation. But we have only begun to consider what being a bedroom community for people who spend their working lives somewhere else means to our politics. This will probably take a while to work out; a great many of the new tech workers are under thirty, hence not particularly likely voters. Few of them have children, so they are not likely to get involved with the city schools, a frequent entry point for citizen activism. Mainly using the Google buses to get to work and Uber and its competitors to get around the city, I don't imagine they'll be into transit activism, except perhaps to defend their private buses. The tech workers are more white and much better paid than many long term residents. They are probably socially liberal or libertarian -- that seems the norm for their generation. But can they imagine that a community needs considerable collective provision of services to be a good place. Have they ever even used a public library?
There's some political science literature on the political behavior of people who live in bedroom communities. Years back, when I was trying to gin up electoral activity in southern California suburbs, I remember reading that people who worked in jurisdictions where they didn't live tended to be more aware of issues in the place where they worked than in where they slept. I know when I've been trying to get out the vote in far exurban bedroom communities (such as Tracy, CA), the reality that adults spend long hours commuting in traffic as well as working greatly reduced their inclination to get involved. But I haven't found much written about the situation in which we are now living, where the city is the bedroom and the periphery is the workplace. I guess we are going to find out.