- 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 to disappear.
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
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.
A myriad of factors have pushed up the price of Bay Area real estate, and a Starbucks salary can’t compete with a tech paycheck in 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 to Curbed.
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 brought high prices to 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 at City Lights Books or split a tiramisu at Caffe Greco. And that’s a loss for the Bay Area.
2. Life in a petri dish
Mark Zuckerberg started 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 like Lime and Bird think 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 blocked tech buses with piles of electric scooters, as Business Insider previously reported. San Francisco has sent cease and desist letters to 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
You may have heard that the Bay Area is prone to earthquakes. Apparently, this news hasn’t reached the geniuses transforming the San Francisco skyline with skyscrapers like the Salesforce Tower, now the tallest building in the city. As the New York Times recently reported, 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 the abandoned Gold Rush ships that 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 to sink and tip sideways in the 10 years after it was built.
4. Welcome to the new crash, same as the old crash
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.
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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