Tensions Build In San Francisco Amid Tech Boom
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
As San Francisco experiences a historic economic boom, partly fueled by an influx of tech workers and companies, some activists say that not all city residents are reaping the benefits.
Google bus protests are becoming an increasingly regular occurrence in San Francisco, with activists targeting the bus that takes Google workers from San Francisco to Silicon Valley.
There was another protest on Friday, where protesters held signs with the name of a Google executive who is also a landlord. Activists say he’s unfairly evicting tenants.
It’s an example of the tensions over an influx of tech workers and companies and a rise in city rents.
Erin McElroy of the group Eviction Free San Francisco and Greg Gretsch, managing director at the tech venture capital firm Sigma West, join Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss what’s happening.
- Anti-Eviction Mapping Project: The Ellis Act
Erin McElroy on what’s going on in San Francisco
“I have a problem with the eviction epidemic that is ongoing in San Francisco currently, and across the Bay Area for that matter. What we’re seeing is a lot of longtime residents being displaced and a political economy into which a lot of people are moving here to work in the tech industry, driving up rents and leading to a situation in which speculators and Realtors can evict tenants, flip buildings and create housing that people who are more upwardly mobile can afford to live in.”
Greg Gretsch on how he sees the issue
“The economy in San Francisco right now is benefiting absolutely from a tremendous economic boom. Just looking at 2013, there were almost 27,000 new jobs created in San Francisco, and only 8,000 of those were tech jobs. San Francisco doesn’t have a tech problem; San Francisco has a housing problem. And San Francisco has long had a housing problem. It’s a desirable place to live. But San Francisco is geographically limited. We have water on three sides, so San Francisco can’t build out. But San Francisco should build up. For generations, San Francisco has fought building up. And our issue now is just a lack of housing stock, and that can only be fixed over the long term by adding more housing stock.”
McElroy on how the prosperity isn’t ‘trickling down’
“You know, I would be pro the economy growing, and I am of course pro the economy growing if, in fact, trickle-down economics worked, and we had evidence of it working. I can tell you that on the ground, nobody is seeing it actually manifest in any sort of working nature. Basically, people who have longtime businesses are being kicked out of their homes, are unable to continue working in their businesses. People are also not having their businesses frequented by people who are moving into the city now to work in tech. There are less laundromats in the Mission, for instance, than ever before. People who owned laundromats for a very long time are losing their jobs because folks in tech are able to have their laundry washed by the companies that they work for.”
Gretsch on how the prosperity is boosting the whole city
“You can’t help feeling empathy for the people who are feeling this dislocation. But when you look at the aggregate statistics for San Francisco and the economy in San Francisco, it has been a rising tide that has lifted pretty much all boats. Inflation in the city between 2010 and 2012 was 2.6 percent, while wages increased by 4.5 percent. Through the rest of the country you talk about wage increases not keeping up with the rate of inflation, and here in San Francisco we’re seeing the exact opposite: where wages are increasing greater than the rate of inflation. … One of the nice things about the economic boom is that it fills the city coffers. For a lot of the people that are dislocated through this, their only source of help is going to be through government programs in the city. In 2008, the city was suffering with a $500 million budget deficit. This year, the budget grew 10 percent from last year and there’s no budget deficit at all. The city is booming on many levels, and the extra resources that the city has as a result of this economic boom are being used to try and help solve some of the issues that are caused by it.
- Erin McElroy founder and director of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. She also organizes with Eviction Free San Francisco and the Heart of the City Collective.
- Greg Gretsch, managing director at the tech venture capital firm Sigma West.