Ruining San Francisco

Who gets to talk about what is ruining San Francisco? People who were born and raised here. Who gets to be quiet on the matter? Everyone else.

As someone from the former group, I will say that I disagree with Chris Tacy who denounces tech workers in his blog [link below]. He’s a tech worker that’s better than all the douchebag tech workers he describes because (and you will love this) he moved into the Mission in 1992 before it was cool! What he liked about San Francisco?

 I found a city made up of wildly different people – of all types – spread across a huge range of little tribal neighborhoods. It was a massive melting pot of values, ethnicities, world views, ages and economic classes.

Let’s add some emphasis: a huge range of little tribal neighborhoods. Makes us natives sound animals here for the amusement of the outsiders doesn’t it? Oh, let us try the quaint tribal delicacies of the Mission! Ah, the local flavor! And this guy wants to call other people douchebags because of how they dress or what they talk about on the bus? The working class families in that neighborhood are people. Not flavor. Not decoration. Not an accessory to give your chosen residential area some authenticity. And this experimentation and reinvention that he waxes poetic about — does anyone really believe that is something that the working poor are responsible for? Does a minimum wage worker at McDonalds really reinvent more than an entitled tech worker? Forget it, Tacy doesn’t have a point. Next.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Greg Gopman, who made some blunt Facebook comments about the more colorful characters on Market Street and subsequently apologized for them [link below]. He summarizes his own point well, saying

Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue.

That is an excellent question. I will henceforth refer to the set mentioned above as them or they, italicized. There may be outrage in response to his comments, but there are some things we can all agree on. Nobody* walks down Market street, sees them loitering on the sidewalk, and thinks, “How ideal for them. My heart is warmed by this lovely image of people living their ultimate fulfilled, happy lives.” If we can all agree that sleeping on the streets and doing/selling drugs is not a good place for anyone, then we should do something about it! I don’t have the answer, but I know what doesn’t work: ignoring it, whatever we’re currently doing, and being angry at tech CEOs who point it out in a blunt way. Having all the pity and empathy in the world doesn’t work either. At least what Gopman did got people talking and thinking about the issue. It’s better than pretending we don’t have a problem.

Since he was honest, I’ll be honest too. San Francisco natives don’t like them either. The crazy/homeless/drug dealers/dropouts have, at some point, sexually harassed us, followed us, demanded money from us, yelled at us, tried to sell drugs to us, mugged our friends, urinated on our buildings, stolen our radios, spit at us, or tried to break into our homes. And since we natives are usually poorer than tech workers, we face these issues with them more frequently.

We’re proud of our city, of its beauty, of all the truly delicious things to eat, of the fog rolling in over the Golden Gate, of the way we’re generally happy to live and let live. But it’s embarrassing to have out of town guests visit and to explain why they are just everywhere. Gopman is right that there is no utility in them being interspersed amongst the rest of the citizenry.

As someone who was born and raised here (and not at all, might I add, to a wealthy family) I don’t think tech workers are ruining the city. Sure, they’re funny creatures with their ironic facial hair and their skinny jeans, and yeah, I roll my eyes at them for some of the self-aggrandizing things they say, but in the end, they’re doing great things here. If I could trade each drug dealer for a software engineer and each homeless person for a data scientist, I would in a heartbeat. Even the most entitled tech worker isn’t likely to cause me any physical harm. On the contrary, where they settle, the magic wand of gentrification makes everything cleaner, brighter and generally more appealing. Courting their high expectations forces businesses to innovate and try to dazzle. Their tax dollars pour in with each sushi & sake night and each Apple store shopping spree.

Why should a world class city like San Francisco let itself languish and fester? We’ve done a good job encouraging the type we want to move in, so now let’s work on figuring out how to get the sorts we could do without to leave.

* If I am wrong in this assumption, feel free to correct me

Douchebags Like You Are Ruining San Francisco – by Chris Tacy
San Francisco Techie Says “Lower Part of Society” Should Be Segregated

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