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San Francisco Scapegoated for Silicon Valley’s Civic Blind Spot

Here in the Bay Area, not a day goes by without news of the discontent between San Francisco’s ascendant tech population, and those who are feeling pushed out, marginalized, and left behind. It’s genuinely troubling — forget the working class, with astronomical property costs astronomically, San Francisco is in danger of losing its middle class. The backbone of the city, the folks who work there, whether in civic roles, education, service, etc. increasingly have to live elsewhere.

And while San Francisco undoubtedly could do more from a development standpoint, it does have a very real constraint — geography. It’s 49 square miles, and already pretty dense. Growth can only go so far.

I think the real issue, oddly not at all addressed in anything I’ve read, is that cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties (where Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. are all based), have done absolutely nothing to address the need for housing, particularly around creating environments that are appealing to the recent college grads upon whose labor these companies rely. The Google Bus wouldn’t be such an icon of gentrification and displacement if the folks who rode it could happily live in Mountain View or Sunnyvale.

Over the last 40 years (since the dawn of Apple and Intel), more wealth has poured into Silicon Valley than probably any other region in human history. And yet from a civic and municipal standpoint, there’s very little to show for it. And so the Peninsula remains an unappealing place to live, leading folks to reside in San Francisco, where there’s restaurants, bars, stores, entertainment, and the ease of walkability.

And it’s pretty clear that the cities on Silicon Valley are not going to do anything to address this. I think they think that small is beautiful, and to hell with how our bad planning causes trouble elsewhere. And so I suspect the only way this gets addressed is if the companies that fund those buses begin to spend their money local to their campuses in an effort to improve the nearby quality of life. These companies ought to embrace their civic and municipal responsibilities.

  1. “San Francisco, where there’s restaurants, bars, stores, entertainment, and the ease of walkability.”

    Basically, your plea is for entrepreneurs. Since 1950, I have watched L.A. become totally encircled by communities newly offering the amenities you describe. Where is Rick Caruso when Silicon Valley needs him?

    Money talks – or else it walks.

  2. I’m a Palo Altan. Undeniably, the gold rush mentality has reduced the net amount of soul in Palo Alto but the diminution of soul in San Francisco is mind boggling. Neighborhoods are now either full of poser joints offering $8-$10 well drinks (like the refurbished Hayes Valley) or they are ghetto-ized like North Beach’s weekend disco scene on Broadway.

    I’m looking to leave the entire Bay Area because it’s becoming a mecca for a pretentious geek crowd and not a city housing a broad array of personality types melding together. The arty types in SF have mostly gone broke and moved to Oakland or the suburbs or they’re dilettantes who do tech by day and dabble in art as a hobby. From a civic, social, and spiritual perspective the Bay Area is now a hellhole with fabulous weather and rents designed to make ordinary people live in dicey neighborhoods of Hayward, Fremont, or other dull bedroom communities.

    Cry the beloved country!!

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