I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 30 years, and I'm convinced that tech companies have ruined it

Business Insider
Bay AreaJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesTech companies have taken over the Bay Area.
  • The Bay Area is saturated with tech companies like Twitter and DropBox, but it wasn’t always that way.
  • The inclusive San Francisco was once home to an eclectic group of dreamers, unconventionals, and creatives.
  • But in the last two decades, tech companies have taken over, diminishing the rich culture and causing Bay Area real estate prices to soar.
  • Here’s how tech companies are ruining the Bay Area.

When I moved to San Francisco in 1987, the inclusive City by the Bay was home to artists, dreamers, queers, and weirdos. I made friends, got a job, and learned never to call the city “Frisco.” In San Francisco, the unconventional fit in. I felt right at home.

A little more than a decade later, my Bay Area home started to change. Tech companies and their employees began to run roughshod over San Francisco and the East Bay. Real estate prices soared, and the eclectic Bay Area culture that I love started todisappear.

Poets and revolutionaries have been pushed to the margins while tech companies turn the Bay Area from a magnet for all types of creative thinkers into a mecca for just one thing: tech. Here’s how tech companies are ruining San Francisco.


1. Tech crashed San Francisco’s party and won’t leave

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesCity Lights Bookstore in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco, California.

I did a very informal survey of friends and neighbours, including people who work in tech, on the industry’s role in the Bay Area. The first thing everyone mentioned was housing prices.

Amyriad of factorshave pushed up the price of Bay Area real estate, and aStarbucks salarycan’t compete with atech paycheckin a when it comes to the competitive rental market. And forget about buying a home: the median San Francisco home price is $US1.61 million, according toCurbed.

A friend of mine once commented that San Francisco is a city of rich people with no one to pour their lattes. Many people, including me, have decamped to the cheaper East Bay or places further afield.

Even lovely, funky, spirited Oakland is not immune to the housing crunch. As San Francisco has grown more crowded and unaffordable, a flood of tech workers has broughthigh pricesto Oakland buyers and renters as well, according to Zillow.

The Bay Area is no longer a place where a young person can live a bohemian life rich in ideas but short on cash. If this housing trend keeps up, young poets will no longer congregate atCity Lights Booksor split a tiramisu atCaffe Greco. And that’s a loss for the Bay Area.


2. Life in a petri dish

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesA man riding a Bird scooter in San Francisco.

Mark Zuckerbergstarted Facebook with the motto, “Move fast and break things.” Many tech startups take this as their guiding premise, asking forgiveness rather than permission. But when the thing they break by moving fast is the physical infrastructure – the streets where we all live – it’s not funny anymore.

With increasing frequency, Bay Area residents find ourselves subjected to yet another startup ready to make our lives better, whether we like it or not. One of the latest uninvited tech innovation to hit Bay Area streets is scooter sharing.

Startups likeLimeandBirdthink they’re solving the problem of getting commuters the last mile between their public transit stops and their destinations. But Bay Area residents and governments don’t appreciate the scooters that suddenly are littering their footpaths.

On a recent day in San Francisco, protesters blockedtech buseswith piles of electric scooters, as Business Insider previously reported. San Francisco has sentcease and desist lettersto the scooter companies, but the behemoth of tech seems likely to roll over residents once again. And they wonder why we don’t like them.


3. The ill-advised building boom

Mike Windle/Getty ImagesThe Bay Area is prone to earthquakes, so skyscrapers may not be a great idea.

You may have heard that the Bay Area is prone toearthquakes. Apparently, this news hasn’t reached the geniuses transforming the San Francisco skyline with skyscrapers like theSalesforce Tower, now the tallest building in the city. As the New York Times recentlyreported, these giants present a big risk in a city with a history of hard shakes.

Adding to the danger is the fact that much of downtown San Francisco was built on a landfill (mapping the locations of theabandoned Gold Rush shipsthat were paved over in the process is a favourite SF pastime).

I have to admit a certain amount of schadenfreude when I heard that the ritzy Millennium Tower, with its condos that sold for millions, started tosink and tip sidewaysin the 10 years after it was built.


4. Welcome to the new crash, same as the old crash

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesMillennium Tower in San Francisco, California appears to be tilting and sinking.

In recent years, a buzz about another tech bubble has gained traction. It’s a reminder that the tech invasion likely won’t last forever.

We could have an earthquake. While the Millennium Tower is currently deemed seismically safe, it may not be that way forever. The Salesforce Tower might be the herald of the next economic crash.

Whatever happens, chances are that techies will flee and leave the rest of us to clean up the mess. No worries – we got this. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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