San Francisco, where “Eviction = Death”

It was out of boredom, and a touch of morbid curiosity, that I clicked on the link a friend shared for a two bedroom $895,000 condo in San Francisco’s Castro district.

Just when it seemed that SF real estate speculators couldn’t get any more surreal, this one actually left me clutching my pearls.

For longtime residents, San Francisco is a city in crisis. Speculators have exploited the Ellis Act, and tens of thousands have been evicted in recent years. (More than a couple have committed suicide as a result.) And in my opinion, this real estate announcement deserves special recognition for the amount of nerve it took to come up this feel-good whitewashing of the current state of affairs

This is how the ad describes the Castro and its ongoing “transition”:

“Eureka Valley includes the world-renowned Castro district, and has a wonderfully rich history as the epicenter of the gay rights movement. Today, the neighborhood is undergoing another transition as the long-standing gay community welcomes young families to the increasingly diverse neighborhood. On the eastern end, coveted Liberty Hill offers tremendous views and one-of-a-kind residences. Located centrally with downtown access via Muni streetcar and freeway access just off of Market Street, the hard-to-resist neighborhood is also graced with a wide variety of architectural styles and property types — including many pre-Quake Victorians. Bustling Castro Street is home to some of the city’s most beloved landmarks, including Harvey Milk’s store front and the historic Castro Theatre, as well as great restaurants and bars, clubs and pubs serving all your nightlife needs. A celebratory attitude often reigns, as each year the streets come alive during the Castro Street Fair and Pride Week. Venture up the hills and you’ll find quieter streets lined with charming, well-kept homes. Locals love to take advantage of many hidden mini-parks like Kite Hill, and the Seward Street slides.”

Wow, talk about warm fuzzies. The longstanding gay community got together and decided to give up their rent controlled apartments in droves to welcome the new, and mind you, “diverse,” new residents. The old displaced queers are just as jolly as a smiling pig on a BBQ sign.

I took the liberty of inserting a few points. Here’s my rewrite:

Eureka Valley includes the world-renowned Castro district, and has a wonderfully rich history as the epicenter of the gay rights movement (locals refer to it lovingly as the Disneyland of Gays Gone Bye). Today, the neighborhood is undergoing another transition (Thanks Ellis Act loopholes!) as the long-standing gay community welcomes young families (not unlike how Native Americans welcomed European settlers).

The San Francisco fog rolls in, courtesy of the wonderful short film "Adrift."

The San Francisco fog rolls in, courtesy of the wonderful short film “Adrift.

On the eastern end, coveted Liberty Hill offers tremendous views and one-of-a-kind residences. Located centrally with downtown access via Muni streetcar and freeway access (because, of course, you’re driving your BMW fifty miles to Mountain View) just off of Market Street, the hard-to-resist (hard to resist displacing thousands through evictions) neighborhood is also graced with a wide variety of architectural styles and property types — including many pre-Quake Victorians. Bustling Castro Street (Now with no public nudity and tamer window displays, for your comfort) is home to some of the city’s most beloved landmarks, including Harvey Milk’s store front and the historic Castro Theatre (all powered by the green energy of Harvey Milk spinning in his grave), as well as great restaurants and bars, clubs and pubs serving all your nightlife needs. (That “your” makes me nervous. But with each gay displaced from the Castro they paint another rainbow) A celebratory attitude often reigns (aren’t gays fun?! — we ship them in from the East Bay), as each year the streets come alive during the Castro Street Fair and Pride Week (aka your friends will think you’re interesting). Venture up the hills and you’ll find quieter streets (i.e., a nice break from those gays) lined with charming, well-kept homes. Locals (in San Francisco that means anyone who receives mail there) love to take advantage of many hidden mini-parks like Kite Hill, and the Seward Street slides.”

Behind the feel good veneer are real stories, like that of Jonathan Klein, a well-known and beloved owner of a local travel agency. He had recently been evicted when he made his way to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and took his life.

In the wake of the suicide, civic leaders and the local media, always struggling to shield the new, monied residents from discomfort, went to great lengths to downplay the eviction as a factor, instead highlighting the general issue of “depression.” Those closest to him, however, made their feelings known. A temporary memorial was placed outside of Klein’s travel agency including a prominent sign reading: “Eviction = Death” — a play on the famous AIDS logo of the late 1980s and early 1990s, “Silence = Death.”

Friend Cleve Jones posted the following on his Facebook page:

“Everyone in San Francisco talks about the skyrocketing rent and the increasing evictions. It hits older and disabled people the hardest. Many of my friends have lost their homes, people like Peter Greene and Jonathan Klein, who operated the Now Voyager travel agency on 18th Street since 1984. Peter and Jonathan have been despondent. The politicians talk but do nothing to protect us. Today I learned that Jonathan has taken his life and I am overwhelmed with sorrow.”

One of the most offensive parts of the mass displacement in San Francisco is the feel good spin the speculators and city officials insist on selling, and all the hand wringing about anything that might make the tech workers uncomfortable. It would be better if they’d just man up, kept it real, and replace Kumbaya with a more fitting theme song.

Chris Andoe
Chris Andoe is an author and seasoned activist. After meeting John Aravosis at a Chicago “StopDrLaura.com” protest in 2000, Chris was inspired to organize his own major demonstrations in St. Louis, which drew national attention. Since then, his activism has revolved around LGBT, affordable housing, and mass transit issues. In 2011 Andoe made headlines taking on the amorphous hacker group Anonymous for publishing nude photos of a Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesperson, saying “Puritanical shame-based tactics have no place in the capital of sexual liberation”, and he extensively covered San Francisco's jarring gentrification, from mass evictions to the nudity ban. Andoe was on the ground in Ferguson at the height of the unrest, recording events as they unfolded. Always in the fray, Andoe’s been interviewed by NPR, CBS, and has been quoted from CNN to The St. Louis Post Dispatch.

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  • vetipie

    Exactly

  • vetipie

    And your Ignorant comment is exactly why San Francisco is dying and being taken over by tech companies.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    I’m certain we all sympathize with your loss of a friend. However, why shouldn’t his story be discussed? Of course, it’s not a current story. This blog is not a news blog. This blog discusses political situations. There is a problem in San Francisco. Jonathan’s suicide was caused by this problem. Don’t let his death be in vain. It needs to be discussed.

  • Dan Perdios

    This suicide happened over a year ago. It isn’t s a current situation. You should not have used Jonathan’s suicide for your story. He was my friend and I knew him for thirty years and Peter too.

  • SF Sunset Guy

    City gov can barely operate MUNI.

    Try harder? To do what? Lee is running unopposed just like Gavin before him. With a well-funded war chest.

  • pantherblue

    Sigh. The Castro is no longer the Castro. It has “icon” status but in my opinion very little meat or meaning for a gay culture or lifestyle. The Castro Theatre is still great and yes on nice days there will still be plenty of boys out on the street you can cruise but the shopping, the nightlife, and the music in the clubs is crap and the ‘hood has taken on the feel of a second-rate theme park. It’s embarrassing when I take out-of-town visitors there (upon their insistence) and you get that “Is that all there is” reaction. The most interesting and creative gays live over in the East Bay and the most interesting nightlife (and sex life) takes place in scattered locations all over the Bay Area. The “community” now is defined by social media and on-line contacts and the very nature of a physical location as focus is becoming obsolete. Sad but true. And I’m living through this a second time, after having witnessed Manhattan becoming another urban theme park.

  • robotsrule

    But not those of us in rent controlled buildings. But I’m not particularly adverse to new building. Let them build all that shit down in the Mission Bay and SOMA and let the rich pay more to rent those. As long as they stay out of the Avenues it’s fine with me.

  • JaneSmith100

    Maybe think about being in “independent voter”? IDK. What kind of biz are you in..just curious, and good that it’s doing well.

  • JaneSmith100

    lol you’re right, and loved what you wrote but I admit I am one of the righty/libertarians. However, you write like a diamond. You are great.

  • JaneSmith100

    Totally. And I am a libertarian/righty but SF is the most uptight greedy fucking city ever. And racist to the core.

  • JaneSmith100

    Once upon a time Eureka Valley had loads of Irish & Swedish people that BUILT THOSE HOMES and grew up and knew each other and got displaced too. But don’t let me stop your fantasy.

  • Ryan

    Not everything is about money, but money isn’t irrelevant. There’s a lot of people who would prefer to live in San Francisco but don’t want to pay $10,000 or $20,000 a year to do so. For a lot of people renting a place with enough space for their family costs more than they can afford with what they earn from the jobs that they can get.

  • Ryan

    The new buildings aren’t for poor people because part of being poor is not being able to afford to buy things new. For many durable goods, the richest people buy them new and sell their old ones to people on the tier below them. This continues until it is in the hands of the poorest who use it until its condition is such that no one else wants it. The production of new goods means that people at the end of that process either have to settle for worse goods or go without entirely.

    The rich are going to buy their second homes no matter what you do. Trying to stop them is just going to force them to pay a little more while the teachers, artists, and garbage collectors will be forced to live in crappy apartments or even move someplace else.

  • JaneSmith100

    lol my opinion exactly!! lol

  • JaneSmith100

    So the answer to being evicted is jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge? WTF, no you move to where you can afford. Sorry the suicidal people sound like dramaqueens to me. And I absolutely love that the person writing this was from ST. LOUIS!!! NOT SF! LOL. Hey if the suicide jumper moved to St. Louis he’d have cheaper rent!

  • Ryan

    People have to live somewhere, and it is better that they live in environmentally friendly cities with thriving economic opportunities than elsewhere. There are limits to how many people can live in San Francisco, but we are there. We’ll know we are there when developers don’t build new buildings because building is too expensive compared to what people are willing to pay.

    Restricting building won’t keep the tech people out. They’ll be able to afford the rents. It’s everyone else who will be forced out by high rents.

  • Ryan

    If more people want to move into a neighborhood than there are houses, the neighborhood is going to be disrupted. The richest people will find a way to work the system to make sure that they are the ones moving in/staying while the poorest will be the ones moving out/being kept out.

    I also don’t see the moral difference between a landlord choosing tenants based on who pays more and me choosing a job based on who pays more.

  • robotsrule

    I think you’re missing the fundamental point that people that have chosen to live in San Francisco are not the same kind of people who would ever be willing to live in a place like Houston. Not everything is about money for people. Some people choose to live places even if they’re unaffordable because they have something more important to offer.

  • robotsrule

    What’s being built isn’t for people making less than 100k a year. It’s not being filled with residents, it’s being bought as second homes for rich people from the Peninsula, China, corporate executive suites and the rest of the world of international financiers and oligarchs. There are 54 cranes over San Francisco right now and none of them are buildings designated for teachers, artists, or garbage collectors.

  • robotsrule

    All the people that want to live there? That number may as well be 6 billion. Millions of people would live here if they could so building more housing is like drilling for more oil. It will ease short term pains but it won’t solve the problem of San Francisco’s finite geography. Furthermore, you can’t maintain what makes San Francisco great by adding tons of new residents. The city is barely livable with all the people that are here now. Adding more will not help. People are flocking here to get rich on the tech money. They’ll be just as happy doing it in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino because they don’t care about this city as much as they care about their 401k.

  • Brent

    It is sad that people are losing their homes, but this article really approaches the subject in a cynical way. “Tech workers” as you generalize them, don’t have anything against gay people – maybe they just want to live in/near the Castro because it is a nice place, and they can afford it. If you are upset you can’t afford to live here go get jobs that pay well enough like the people that can afford it, and move in.

  • Peeps might be interested in my book Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World—because before we can change the system, we have to thoroughly understand it. It’s available as a gift.
    http://www.unitism.com

  • Michael Occhipinti

    Ugh, I loathe uppity breeders who think the world revolves around their spawn. Those are the assholes that bring screaming babies into museums and fine restaurants.

  • Michael Occhipinti

    Its because the concept of ‘market rates’ is BULLSHIT.. a phantom, a feint, a glamour to distract from the ridiculous greed exhibited by so many developers and landlords.. They are not satisfied with a tidy profit, too many want the moon, too many have no scruples and zip for compassion. Thus the net result, destruction of neighborhoods, lives, social fabrics. Once we get rid of the whole ‘market rate’ joke concept then maybe housing will cost what it costs, not what they can get.

  • Ryan

    I don’t understand. If there isn’t enough housing for people to live in, how is the rate of building ridiculous?

  • Sofakingsweet

    They are building a ridiculous amount of buildings the problems is what they are building is 4k plus a month and you have an ever increasing service population.. where are those people suppose to live?

  • Sofakingsweet

    I live in the bay and he’s not wrong…

  • Jon Emerson

    Thank you for your St. Louis-based opinions on this important subject.

  • StealthVoter

    Speaking of Silence=Death, why has AmericaBlog been utterly silent on this:

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/01/24/obama-gets-pass-describing-gay-lifestyle-choice/

    Obama’s words are not helpful, to say the least!

  • Ryan

    Pretty much every city in California should make it easier to build more housing. It’s a great state with a lot of additional potential but with rents that are too high.

  • GarySFBCN

    Why advocate for more housing in San Francisco when the jobs in in the Silicon Valley? Why not instead work to get the no-growth peninsula cities to allow new housing, public transit, etc? If you are concerned about the environmental impact, move the housing where the jobs are, not a hour away makes more sense.

    San Francisco is about 49 miles square. Everyone who wants to live here isn’t going to be able to do so.

  • future_man

    There was a time in places like the Castro Village in S.F. when people knew each other and were interested in creating a community together. Like barn building in the pioneer days, the community supplied refuge from a hostile world…a chance to remake your life, redefine and recreate yourself free from influences that marginalized, ostracized, diminished you.

    Within emerging communities came the prospects of a good place to live, an interesting job and a chance for fun, for creativity, fellowship and entertainment. That was the main function of it…what people were doing collectively. They helped each other make it happen with less regard for market economics and more in the spirit of mutual support. With greater acceptance the need for that sort of refuge is less. It’s a new era.

  • Ryan

    The entire system of restrictions on building in San Francisco leads to people living in places like Houston. The logic is straightforward: Over the past decade, there has been a net migration from cities in California like San Francisco to cities in Texas like Houston. This migration has not been driven by taxes as Rick Perry would have people believe but by differences in housing affordability. Housing costs in San Francisco are high because demand for housing outstrips housing supply. The housing supply is not increasing to meet demand because the system of restrictions make it difficult or impossible to replace existing housing with buildings that can house more people on the same plot of land. Therefore, these restrictions on building are a major contributor to the migration to Texas.

    The effect of this is that more people live in an area that requires energy to be spent on cooling, where energy is more likely to come from fossil fuels than renewable sources, and where it is more necessary to drive rather than walk, bike, or use mass transit. The result of people living in Houston rather than San Francisco is that the carbon footprint of the United States is higher than it otherwise could have been.

  • GarySFBCN

    Note: Voting to keep existing height limits is not a vote against housing. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of units developed on the waterfront in modern times within the height limits and they have been very profitable for developers.

    Also note, you really sound like a fascist nutcase. Seriously a vote to prevent high rises on the waterfront is responsible for people in Houston? Get a grip.

  • Ryan

    If people of San Francisco want to restrict changes in their architectural landscape, that is their choice. However, if they do so, the rich will displace the poor. Only people with high paying jobs will be able to move in, and natives without a high paying job or access to a rent controlled apartment will have to move away. Those who opposed building more housing will have no moral right to complain about evictions of the poor or the loss of the aspects of the city’s character that depended on the existence of marginal classes (such as artist communities). They will also bear responsibility for the environmental impact of all the people who are living in sprawling, car- and AC-dependent cities like Houston rather than in dense, temperate San Francisco.

  • GarySFBCN

    OK, let me try again. There are restrictions almost everywhere, but there are not height restrictions in Manhattan like we have in San Francisco. Bottom line is that more housing does not ensure that rents and/or purchase prices will go down.

    And if you are in a snit over 1% of the land in SF being protected by voters, multiple times, then you don’t like democracy.

    The housing crunch is directly linked to an unsustainable economic bubble.
    “Overbuilt” means a lot of things. But instead of discussing that, let me put this out there: What we have now are episodic variances granted because of the crisis. I’d prefer that a group analyze what the ideal, sustainable population could be for San Francisco without compromising quality of life or sacrificing the city’s character. I’m guessing that population would be about 1.5 million people. Once that can be agreed upon, a 20 year master plan could be created that moves us toward that goal in a highly ordered very deliberate manner, beefing-up the infrastructure a few months ahead of development.

    And those improved infrasture costs should be passed to the developers.

    But don’t ask me to support ‘the wild west’ version of development we have now. Yes, I know there are neighbor plans and a master plan. But they are tragically inadequate.

  • Ryan

    I don’t see what’s so evil about someone not wanting to rent their property at below market rates.

  • Ryan

    NYC city has restrictions. In fact, it was the first to implement restrictions when it passed the 1916 Zoning Ordinance.

    Prop B made it harder to bypass the existing limits and is just an example of people voting to exacerbate the housing problem rather than solving it.

    What does overbuilt mean? Isn’t a city that is suffering from a chronic housing crunch underbuilt?

  • GarySFBCN

    There are no restrictions on building in NYC on Manhattan and there are no cheap rents nor are there cheap units to buy, so your reasoning fails.

    Also, Prop B reinforced EXISTING height limits on about 1% of San Francisco’s land mass.

    See the map in this article:

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Prop-B-consequences-for-S-F-development-outlined-5458712.php

    As the rest of the city is being overbuilt and neighborhoods are being destroyed, more than 60% of those who voted decided to reinforce the height limits on the northern waterfront.

  • future_man

    And assimilation pits us against each other in the bidding wars. Quite unlike the bygone era in which SF born-and-raised families moved to the burbs and made a few extra dollars renting out granny’s sprawling Victorian to those creative, fun loving college educated gay boys and girls who arrived in VW buses…sometime around The Summer of Love.

  • Ryan

    The city can still build up. It wouldn’t need height limits if it couldn’t.

  • It’s not a question of “let” but “can.” The SF Bay area is already one of the most densely populated regions in America and there are geographic limits to how far the city can sprawl. The peninsula on which it is situated has been built up from end to end and beyond.

  • Well, duh.

  • gearbox123

    “There’s not much new housing because there is no physical space left to build it. ”

    Well then, that’s called “supply and demand”, so live with it or move to Fresno.

  • future_man

    People are nuts….I got evicted once by a landlord who said she needed my room for her daughter when she really wanted me out because she got a new boyfriend and didn’t want him to hear anything from me about another guy she had been more interested in….I spoke with the daughter and she said she had no intention of moving in and never did.

  • Ryan

    The core of San Francisco’s housing problems is that the city won’t let people build enough housing to accommodate all of the people who want to live there. Trying to fit 400,000 households into 350,000 housing units means that the 50,000 households who are outbid by the rest either have to move elsewhere or be homeless. Things like last year’s Proposition B that create another veto on new building will make things even worse.

  • AnitaMann

    Los Angeles has the dubious distinction of being the least affordable city in the country (based on rents to income – incomes are lower than SF or NY generally).
    http://projects.scpr.org/longreads/high-rent-few-options/

    I’m finding that almost nobody under 35 lives alone. Most of them, if they have parents in the area, live with their parents. If they move out, it’s because they get married, or get a sig other. It’s becoming like Italy. Fifteen years or so ago, it was NOT like this.

  • AnitaMann

    Yep. All of this. I hate the expense and how urban CA is glutted with people. And I don’t HAVE to stay here. But I think, where would I go that is cheap to live in and isn’t retro (in a bad way)? Austin? Nice, but surrounded by TX. Boulder, CO? Exorbitant for a small city. Portland? Maybe, but the cost of living is also starting to creep up beyond what incomes will bear.

  • jamesobostonN

    You are so full of shit.

  • jamesobostonN

    Sure. My landlord is one of them. A closeted homo who has been trying to kick me out for 2 1/2 years so he can rent the place to anyone with more cash.

  • future_man

    San Francisco is a diverse city so you have to wonder how many of the “evil” landlords are gay men and/or lesbians themselves? As for the men, if you bought in the 70’s, got AIDs in the 80s, survived until the ’90s and are now retired and on meds you may want some extra money in case something else goes wrong. And gay men like that are not to blame for the tech busts and booms.

    Can’t speak for the women but there were many lesbians who bought Victorian homes in Noe Valley back in the day. A few years ago we used to consider wealth in the hands of such women to be something that benefits our movement.

    Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like the idea of wealthy older gay men or lesbians exploiting or evicting any members of the tribe for fun and profit….that’s not the way it was when I came up….just the reverse….those where the days when the aunties provided shelter from the storm, maybe even introduced you to your first real boyfriend.

  • Jafafa Hots

    New Jersey.

  • Jafafa Hots

    Not just that, but the Google types want to live somewhere “cool” so they’d rather pay much more to live in San Francisco, (and it’s even getting to Oakland now), than to live in Mountain View or San Jose.

    So it’s not just too many people for the amount of space… it’s people rich enough to want a longer commute to live “trendy” – AND corporations willing to start their own luxury bus lines to take their workers back and forth from their new home.

  • 2karmanot

    Yep I was part of the scary.

  • Jafafa Hots

    The last 50 years of history of San Francisco is the history of running out the undesirables.
    At least they aren’t tearing down the homes in the Castro as they drive people out to the east bay the way they demolished African-American neighborhoods to drive them to Oakland as “urban renewal” back in the 60s etc.

  • Jafafa Hots

    Conservatives talk about “San Francisco values” but as a person who has lived here and seen the changes just since the mid 90s, I don’t understand.

    San Francisco values are conservative values. Elitism, worship of wealth, snobbery, “get those homeless people out of my sight,” etc.

    San Francisco is city for wealthy people who want their Barney’s of New York etc., their multi-million-dollar home, their bubble to live in, without having to admit that they have a lot in common with Bill O’Reilly.

  • emjayay

    Daly City. Unlike NYC, where the same subways and buses go for miles into the farthest reaches of Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx for the same fare, SF Muni stops at the edge of the 7 mile square San Francisco. Only expensive Bart, with one line and few stops, extends out.

  • emjayay

    It’s also not really “rent control”. It’s rent stabilization, so rent rises some percentage every year, and when someone moves out it can be then rented at whatever the landlord can get. Obviously this makes for a lot of pressure from landlords figuring out ways to get longer term renters – and that can mean just a few years with rapid general rent increases – out, and replaced with new market rate ones. Also, if a rent is really unrealistic given current market rents, the rent board can allow a big increase for a long term renter.

    NYC has little of the old 40’s style actual rent control left. It’s mostly like the SF program, and doesn’t apply to buildings with less than six units either, like mine.

    What a lot of people might imagine with urban “rent control” is not the actual situation.

  • 2karmanot

    Those 70’s era dingy gay sex clubs were heaven on earth until AIDS.

  • GarySFBCN

    Not only. One landlord sent all of his tenants a letter stating that if they didn’t make $100k, they were going to get evicted! As that would have been illegal, he quickly sent out another letter, saying to ignore the first letter.

    http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2014/05/05/s-f-landlord-make-100k-or-get-out/

    There are hundreds of horror stories each year.

  • nicho

    When SOMA went to “not scary,” it was the beginning of the end.

  • Butch1

    They call this “progress.” (to hell with those that they have to step on to move them out.)
    These people have no souls and can sleep soundly at night. Sociopaths, all of them.

  • 2karmanot

    Folks have been pushed into South City and Daily City and even then the rents are staggering. Seniors who own their own home have to struggle with rapidly rising taxes and maintenance bills.

  • nicho

    That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Landlords demand that tenants earn three times the monthly rent. So, do the math. $7,000 x 12 x 3 = $252,000 a year just to rent that apartment.

  • 2karmanot

    Not to mention the Bureau of Redundancy Department which handles such problems in Sacramento.

  • 2karmanot

    When South of Market went posh all was lost.

  • 2karmanot

    That’s right. North Beach is gone, the North Beach we all knew and loved.

  • 2karmanot

    In the mid nineties I rented a two bedroom two bath apartment on Twin Peaks with a panoramic view of the city for $700.00 a month. It was not rent controlled and we were forced out along with 60% of the other renters when our rent sky rocketed to $2500.00 a month during the first Tech boom.

  • 2karmanot

    Nicho is right, our current Governor Jerry Brown is a Walpurgisnacht combination of Pete Wilson and Bill Clinton. The Tech’s have driven all the artists, bohemians, artists, and local color out of San Francisco. The city has become like Paris—-poor folks can clean houses and sweep streets, nanny work, wait tables or primp manicured lawns but have to live outside the city. Sidewalks are congested with strollers the size of Volkswagens.

  • 2karmanot

    I’ve lived in CA since the 60’s and quite frankly Ms Scarlet, am glad that you and your attitude didn’t move here.

  • nicho

    California is not as “woo” as you think — and it’s not as liberal as some people think. Those are caricatures. You’ll find both prevalent in some areas, but it’s not really as widespread as people are led to believe. It’s a pretty big state with a wide range of ideas. The anti-vax movement is, unfortunately, nationwide.

    My suggestion is that each school district designate one school exclusively for the unvaccinated, who will not be allowed to mingle with the vaccinated children of intelligent people. They could call it “Pest House Elementary.”

  • I still don’t know who can afford this. I mean a few people yes – but how many people can possibly be making enough to afford $7k in rent a month? I guess more than I thought.

  • GarySFBCN

    Disclosure – I am an unabashed California native and I admit my bias.

    To answer your question why the Silicon Valley doesn’t move operations to another location: First, there are other locations around the country: Austin, , Research Triangle, etc.

    But Silicon Valley is the center. It is near both Stanford and UC Berkeley. Also, California is a liberal, forward-thinking state. In 2004, when Bush was opposing “stem-cell” research, we voted 60% in favor of prop 71, to invest $3 billion into creating a center for biomedical research in California.

    California is an ‘idea factory’ and about 50% of our ideas are just nutty and fail.

    But the rest of the ideas, take hold:

    First state to have statewide smoking bans
    First state to implement unleaded gasoline (now a global standard)
    First state to ban plastic bags
    First state to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships
    First state to ban ex-gay therapy

    There are many other ‘firsts’, too many to list here. We are the state that everyone loves and that everyone loves to hate. We are the world’s 8th largest economy. Bottom line is that many people really want to live here. It’s not paradise nor is it suited to all. But its no wonder that innovative industries clamour to be here.

  • Aunt NaNa Miller

    Excellent article, so sad that the bottom line once again forges ahead as people suffer.

  • Same thing happened to Chicago’s Boys’ Town, although it wasn’t that extreme, and it had nothing to do with rent control: I remember the neighborhood years ago, when it was pretty sketchy. Then gays moved in, started fixing up the buildings, businesses moved in, and it became a nice, thriving, vital neighborhood. And once it was fashionable — well, I remember sitting with friends in front of our favorite coffee house one May afternoon, and there were all these baby strollers on the street, and we’re like “WTF? — where did those come from?” (And they were rude — the attitude was “Make way, make way! We spawned.”) It all seemed to happen overnight. And of course, rents skyrocketed and gays moved farther north, but in the meantime we had things like the woman who complained to the alderman about all the gays in the neighborhood, because it would damage her property values (!), or the couple who bought a condo next to a dance club and wanted it closed down because of the noise.

    And Lakeview, which is where Boys’ Town is located, has become one of the most expensive parts of town — a crappy studio apartment will go for $1,000 and up, which by Chicago standards is, shall I say “high”?

    Although Halsted Street is still the core of the bar scene, the irony is that the last Mayor Daley had pylons with rainbows put up along Halsted to designate the neighborhood. I guess it’s still the “gay neighborhood,” if only officially.

    Same thing happened in Andersonville, the other gay neighborhood. I lived in a house there that was recently sold — half of one of the double houses that dot the neighborhood, in crappy condition, went for nearly $700,000. There are houses on that block that would easily fetch a million.

    And this, they tell us, is “progress.”

  • It’s a positive feedback loop. Tech is there, so people move there to work on tech, then whether or not there’s tech work available, there’s people with tech backgrounds, so it attracts more tech and pretty soon there’s a huge pool of people with the experience one needs. And it just snowballs.

    The one thing that can upset that particular pattern, at least a little, is the fact of people like myself: I can work anywhere, virtually. Right now, most of my clients are in and around Silicon Valley, even though I live in New Mexico. Which means their nickle and diming my rates doesn’t matter nearly as much as if I was still trying to live near them.

    I can’t get quite as many gigs this way, since some still try for on-site presence, but for now it’s enough.

  • chris10858

    Living on the East Coast here in Miami, I always wonder why do so many of the big tech companies want to have their operations in Silicon Valley? Wouldn’t it make more sense to locate your company in a bigger city that is more affordable for your employees, even if they are making big bucks? I’m sure even the highly paid tech workers would prefer to live in a big McMansion with a nice property lot versus a teeny 2-bedroom condo.

  • Same… every time I think, “Maybe we should’ve just stayed put and not sold the house” — I remember two things. One was that living abroad like that was the adventure of a lifetime. And the other was to look at the Bay Area economy and what it was increasingly like in terms of finding good paying work, and I honestly wonder if we’d have been forced to move anyway.

  • We’ve already just about decided that if we have any reason to want to move again — as in New Mexico not being tenable for us for whatever reason — we’ll probably bail on the U.S. altogether and try to find something in British Columbia.

    But right now, $200k-450k can buy a whole lot of house and property in NM, provided you’re willing to live away from certain rich-peoples’ enclaves. The property market here has been just about flat since the crash, only modest increases and definite ‘excess inventory’ as the real estate folks call it remaining in some areas.

  • GarySFBCN

    Yeah, I won’t buy anywhere in a ‘hot market.’ Plus, I don’t mind buying a condo and paying a higher HOA, which often means that there are a lot more to choose from. Since it will be a part-time home that I won’t be renting out, one of those secure places appeals to me. But truthfully, if I can ever leave California, I’d really like to live in Mexico.

  • For the first couple of years after I left NYC I was in grad school in the midwest. Friends kept asking me when I was moving back. “When someone offers me a job for $200k a year or more.” That’s not gonna happen. I’m never going to be able to move back to the city. I miss it. I’m glad I got there when I did when jobs were plentiful and rents were relatively affordable. The 90s were awesome! I should have left a couple of years earlier to be honest. I was in denial thinking that things would rebound somehow. That still hasn’t happened, at least not in the way I needed it to.

  • nicho

    Sorry, but prices in Palm Springs are on an upward swing — very sharply. There’s no mid-market right now. Your choice is between $1 million and up — or crap. Mid-market stuff rarely comes on and disappears almost instantly. And prices there are going up by leaps and bounds.

  • nicho

    “libertarian bullshit” — now there’s a redundancy.

  • nicho

    I was watching a hockey game on the Internet and was watching the Washington (DC) feed. That’s when I switched to the Columbus feed.

  • nicho

    Yeah. You’re right. We were in SF last week. One thing I noticed since our last visit was that the tech buses are more prevalent. They come along every couple of minutes. Went down to Dogpatch and they’re infesting that area too. No hope for people who make less than $150K a year.

  • GarySFBCN

    I have two ‘homes’. The entire cost of the place place in Barcelona wouldn’t cover the 20% down payment of a crappy unit here in San Francisco. In SF I am in a rent-controlled unit but I have an agreement with the landlord. We have a good relationship – I’ve been to his ranch and I expect him and his wife to visit us in Barcelona. I’ve known the family for 34 years.

    What is really irritating about the ‘abolish rent control because it is unfair to newcomers’ crowd is that they are fine with our Prop 13 property tax limit, which can be seen as ‘tax control.’ I remember that Gordon Getty, heir of the JP Getty oil fortune was paying something like 1/20th the property taxes of his next door neighbor in a similar mansion. In the eyes of libertarians, that inequity that robs the public of tax revenue is OK but rent control that clearly benefits the poor and middle class is bad.

    My solution: Extend rent control to all rental units in San Francisco.

    Also, another issue is that landlords have found that they can make more money renting their units (illegally) on AirBnB to tourists then to residents. So there are a lot of people who have been evicted for this very reason.

    If I do have to leave SF, if I don’t buy something in Palm Springs, NM will probably be where I end up. Or someplace in ‘old Mexico.’

  • I really, really miss the Santa Cruz mountains. Really I do. The last time I visited and smelled the redwoods again, I nearly broke down in tears. We can’t afford to live there now though — not even when business has been good for me, as it has the last two years — so that’s that.

    But aye… I’ve let myself get dragged into some of the anti-vaxxer nonsense over the last few weeks, due to all the stories being posted and blogged about the Disneyland measles outbreak. The sheer amount of utter bullshit they assert and insist upon, coupled with a near pathological lack of empathy or sense of social responsibility (for example, one asshole who claimed to be a climate-change activist actually called vaccines ‘barbaric’), damages my equanimity every time.

  • And at what point do they give up and move somewhere else.

    For us, it was 2009. ;-) And the point I outlined above. You raise another good point about jobs paying less and less. I’ve tried to raise my hourly rates as an independent contractor, but I can’t. Nobody will pay even a few dollars more than the hourly rate I was charging in the year 2000. Inflation alone means I am literally earning 1/3 less now, in terms of inflation-adjusted buying power.

    Hence I should not have been at all surprised that had we moved back to the Bay Area in 2009, we would have had to significantly downgrade our standard of living, and in five more years since then, it’s only gotten worse.

    I don’t know though, Houndentenor, what happens when the folks who do the grunt work and who work at those restaurants and shops and so on can no longer get to these jobs. Maybe this is why the 0.01% is so bloody determined to keep unemployment high and make it a total buyer’s market when it comes to hiring people. People are still desperate for work.

    Eventually though, you’re right: It will hit a tipping point.

  • Earlier today I saw a twitter post with a map of California with dots showing the pre-schools and kindergartens where the vaccination rate is less than 50%. Chilling. I’ll admit that Tales of the City made me want to live in SF, but other than that I’ve never had any desire to live in CA. It’s the mecca of “woo”. No thanks. Dealing with the right wing crazy is bad enough. Trying to have rational conversations with people who think that vaccines are worse than the diseases they prevent would send me over the edge.

  • And at what point do they give up and move somewhere else. I’m not the only one who was leaving NYC when I did. My rent kept going up. My jobs kept paying less. It just wasn’t doable. At some point the young people stop coming and the middle and lower income people leave and then your society collapses as there is no one left to do the actual work. That’s what rent control was supposed to prevent, but if the cities aren’t going to enforce the rules, there’s no point in that. SF was about at this point in the late 90s when the dot.com bust happened so we don’t know what the natural correction would have been or what the result of the lack of affordable housing would have done to the city, but it’s not hard to envision a situation in which neither the city nor private business can find anyone to do the work necessary for the elite to live the way they do. What happens when there are no sanitation workers or maintenance crews?

  • Now, you can’t walk 10 feet without being in danger of being run over by a baby stroller containing an unvaccinated child.

    Yeah, well, at the risk of going off-topic, they’re packing themselves in there so tightly and sending all their unvaccinated pampered babies to exclusive members-only private pre-schools and grade schools, it should bring on the fatal epidemics of preventable diseases all the faster. Criminally tragic for the innocent kids, but we’re now at the point where these unvaccinated adults are coming down with measles and chicken pox — and ending up in hospitals with lethal complications.

  • Hell, there’s a reason why my wife and I decided not to return to the Bay Area after living in India for those years we spent there. Previously, we had a nice but modest house in the Santa Cruz mountains. Selling it near the peak of the real estate bubble was what financed our time abroad. Then came the crash and suddenly our pile of money was much, much smaller and we both felt it was time to return to America anyway. Still, we had significant savings remaining, but neither of us had held down a job for those three years — which meant no one would write a mortgage for us, not until I revived our business.

    So I started looking at rentals, and throughout the entire Bay Area they were insane. And despite the crash, we looked at property prices and realized we’d have to trade down to a much smaller rental than the house we’d had before AND it’d be a decade or more before we could afford to buy again.

    Or, we could move somewhere else…say, New Mexico. We’d still have to rent, but we could get a comfortable rental for about what our old mortgage was. Then after there was enough income history again, we ended up buying a place that was bigger and nicer than our old Santa Cruz mountains property.

    Anyway, Gary and Nicho are right: Gearbox123 is full of shit and assigning an effect to a completely unrelated cause with no logic whatsoever. He’s also totally ignoring one of the major points Chris was making: Which is that landlords have been exploiting the loopholes that make it legal to evict rent-controlled tenants. Condo-izing. Claiming a desire to do major renovations. Pretending to move in, since a landlord can take a rental off the market if they claim they’re going to live there instead.

    As to answer your question, that one is pretty easy: What is happening is the rich people get to live in these gentrified neighborhoods and enjoy 10-15 minute commutes to work and proximity to all the shops and restaurants they like so much, whereas the poor and middle class are shoved further and further away. So you’ll see these unfortunate folks sitting on trains at 5am, trying to get from South San Jose all the way to San Francisco or carpooling in from Oakland. Or, as I often did, risking their lives on crazy narrow mountain roads to get from the hills around Santa Cruz over Bear Creek Road and Highways 9 and 17, through increasingly expensive and affluent neighborhoods on a 60-90 minute commute into Silicon Valley.

  • I haven’t seen that one, but then my only tv is what I get on hulu or netflix so my ads are’t as typical. I did see one that reminded me of the old Archer Daniels Midland one that was about how great fracking is. Since I just voted for a fracking ban in Novemeber I found that one interesting. I didn’t recognize the person doing it. I hadn’t seem the one with Daddy Bush and Bubba, but it doesn’t surprise me that either has whored themselves out this way. Bill showed us clearly that he’ll throw anyone under the bus to get what he wants. I’m not sure what he gets out of this except setting up his wife to lose the sure thing nomination again in 2016. I’m still looking for an alternative.

  • GarySFBCN

    I think it is worse here. Large groups of people are being displaced. A crappy 2 bedroom on my block (North Beach) just rented for $7,000/month and it was snapped-up in about 10 minutes.

  • GarySFBCN

    Libertarian bullshit. No unit built after June 13, 1979 in San Francisco is covered by rent control – they are all free market apartments.

    Here’s a link to some of the rules:

    http://www.sftu.org/rentcontrol.html

  • nicho

    Bullshit.

  • nicho

    And by “actors” I suppose you mean politicians. I just saw a very glitzy TV ad glorifying the Keystone pipeline, featuring GW Bush and Bubba Clinton in a brotherly embrace pushing the pipeline.

  • nicho

    It’s the same everywhere. It’s just that The Castro is more iconic. I remember when Chelsea in NYC was gay pioneer territory (a “pioneer” is the guy with all the arrows in his ass). Now, it’s Yuppieville on steroids. I remember when the gays upgraded the grungy South End in Boston. Guys who lived across the street from us said they knew the area was coming back when they went a whole year without being mugged. Now, you can’t walk 10 feet without being in danger of being run over by a baby stroller containing an unvaccinated child. The Meat Packing District in NYC was a scary, scary place where a lot of the ’70s-era dingy gay sex clubs were. Now, it’s five-star hotels, multi-million-dollar condos and chic restaurants serving $45 pasta in the same exact spot that was depicted in the movie “Cruising.”

  • paaat

    Well, I might point out that should we like city government to do something about it, there is a Mayoral election later this year. Although, in the last mayoral election (2011), only 32% of eligible voters came out. We need to try harder.

  • Indigo

    It’s morbidly fascinating to watch. As Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

  • NYC has rent control and rent stabilization and there’s construction everywhere. The rents keep going up. The real question is, where to middle income people live now? Not poor people. People making say $60k a year. Where are they able to find an apartment?

  • Rent control only affects units that are for rent. It has no effect on condos and co-ops, which is what most new construction is. The lie that the reason rents are so high is rent control is an old one. Is there any city where they got rid of rent control and had rents DECREASE? When the average rent in a city far exceeds the amount affordable by someone at the median income, you have a problem. You can address that or find yourself with no one to do any jobs that pay less than $200k a year, which is where SF is headed. I’m surprised anyone is willing to live there except millionaires and since I know those buildings are cleaning themselves I’m curious about the people who actually do the real work in that city these days. Any reporters willing to take up this subject?

  • I saw that. Don’t mention that once rare earthquakes are now common in places where fracking is now commonplace. And the chemicals keep being found in the drinking water. I wonder how much actors get paid to whore themselves out in those ads. A lot I hope.

  • Indigo

    That sounds much like the BS spewed by the Pants Suit Lady on the television in advertisements for the benefits of fracking to produce natural gas. Maybe the same advertising company is writing those scripts.

  • 2karmanot

    “the long-standing gay community welcomes young families to the increasingly diverse neighborhood.” What utter BS! No how, no way, not ever. Tech carpet baggers are destroying the City, and helping them is none other than gay supervisor Scott Wiener.

  • It’s not the rent control, Gearbox. I don’t know if you’ve been to the Bay Area or into San Francisco, but there’s no shortage of desire to build housing because the prices are so crazy-inflated. There’s not much new housing because there is no physical space left to build it. That statement of yours doesn’t even make the least sense. Rent control provisions only kick in after you’ve rented a place to someone. If you’ve just built the place and it makes more financial sense to sell it immediately, why would you rent at all?

    And even that wouldn’t matter because I don’t know if you’ve looked at real estate prices throughout the entire Bay Area, but they’re insane everywhere, even where it’s possible to build more housing. Do you even understand how ‘gentrification’ works?

    Rent control isn’t causing sales prices of all those teeny houses and condos to skyrocket, it’s all the money sloshing around the entire region due to the continued tech and financial boom for the 1%. The gating factor as ever is “Is the property within commuting distance?”

    That $895k two bedroom condo goes for that much because there are too many people with that much money who want to live in that particular location and so they bid the crap out of these properties.

  • arcadesproject

    Thank you for publishing this. I will raise my glass tonight to Jonathan Klein. His death is a tragedy.

  • gearbox123

    Yes, the Bay Area has rent control, which is why nobody will build any more housing there. That’s why it costs $895K for a two bedroom condo that should go for $200K in a sane city. And who’s for the rent control that paralyzes the housing market? Look in the mirror.

  • UncleBucky

    SOYLENT GREEN… IS PEOPLE!!!!!!!!

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