We recently showed you a set of maps showing how the tech sector in Silicon Valley is distorting the real estate market around it, all the way into San Francisco. The richest people live around Palo Alto, near the big tech company headquarter campuses, but the highest per-square-foot prices for real estate are in San Francisco.
What appears to be happening is that tech workers whose corporate campuses are in Silicon Valley are choosing to live in the city and commute to work, often by private company shuttle bus. Their demand for housing in San Francisco is pushing up prices there.
But are the bus shuttles themselves to blame for the gentrification, which protesters say is marginalizing lower-paid, non-tech workers? Their protests have stopped buses on the roads in the city, and at least one window has been smashed.
The theory is that if the shuttles didn’t exist, tech workers would live closer to Palo Alto, and price pressure on San Francisco real estate would lessen.
Chris Walker, a data journalist, has created a set of maps that indicate the protesters may have a point: There appears to be a correlation between gentrification and shuttle bus stops. That’s not surprising on its own — shuttle stops are likely to be in areas of high-population density, and high density often leads to higher market demand.
What is surprising is that this gentrification is arguably driven by younger workers without children, because Walker’s maps show that the shuttle stops are near streets with a lot of restaurants in areas where property has appreciated by 70% or more. What they are not near is streets that have childcare facilities on them.
This map shows shuttle stops in San Francisco (grey markers) vs. areas where property values have gone up more than 70%.
Clearly, the shuttles are located in neighborhoods with fast-appreciating property values.
This map shows how shuttle stops correlate with restaurants:
Again, the co-location of shuttles and restaurants isn’t too surprising, given that both services only function where people already live. So it appears as if population density is driving the location of shuttle stops … until you see this next map …
This map shows that childcare facilities are not nearly as densely co-located as shuttle stops and restaurants:
Walker says, “I would say that the shuttle stops are a function of where the population of tech sector workers tend to live (not necessarily a function of overall population density). In San Francisco it happens to be the case that many high-quality and quickly gentrifying neighborhoods are also the most dense.”
“Tech sector workers choose to live in the high-quality neighborhoods of San Francisco, and the tech companies respond to where the workers are by placing shuttles near them, but in flocking to those areas in high numbers, the tech workers exacerbate inequality,” he says.
It’s a feedback loop, he adds, in the sense that the location of shuttle stops on its own isn’t creating the gentrification that is causing so much conflict in San Francisco. The two go hand in hand. If the shuttles didn’t exist, San Francisco would be a less attractive place for them to commute from.
But the fact that childcare services in San Francisco are obviously not a factor suggests that young, single tech workers — not families — are also a major factor in gentrification.