These days the words San Francisco and bubble are usually followed by blunt phrases like, “I hope it bursts soon,” or the more heartfelt, “If it doesn’t burst, I’ll have to leave my home.”
Such perspectives hint at larger issues underlying the economic boom that began in the Silicon Valley years ago with the globally recognized, Apple, Google, and Facebook, and has expanded into San Francisco. As the city grew into the center of the newish technological boom so did the resentment between two cultures: the old San Francisco and the new one.
Many liken these young and affluent techies to pirates robbing the city of the very attributes that made it a famous bohemian refuge: progressive attitudes, diversity, and it’s outside of the box way of life. For the residents who still cling to the San Francisco they view as deteriorating, anticipation of the tech bubble bursting is held with as much anticipation as the second coming of Christ is among devout Christians.
Never accused of being downright cheap, San Francisco was considered a more relatable city than its New York City and Los Angeles counterparts, where Birkenstocks and Chuck Taylor’s were more common than Prada, and that as expensive as it was, a person with an average income could make it there.
With the cultivation of such juggernauts as Drop Box and Twitter, San Francisco is now a landing pad for risk taking entrepreneurs and their deep-pocketed investors. These young professionals, in black hoodies or yoga pants, stroll to their offices in the South of Market district,(SOMA), where forty year olds are deemed ancient, gluten free chefs are on the payroll, and work discussions might revolve around the development of an app that links together humans with their perfect dog mates. Even the lingo has shifted. Instead of the over used hella by the Mission’s hipsters, these young professionals say hash tag before they say nearly anything else. “Hash tag, I’m paying a fortune for rent but I don’t care because I make a fortune.”
Still though, as desperate as people are about the state of affairs in the city, this is not the first time San Francisco has gone through this type of radical social and cultural change and lived to tell about it. In the early 2000’s, before the Silicon Valley bubble burst, there were similar complaints about gentrification and homogenization.
Like today, the city’s residents feared that a population saturated by the wealthy would eventually lead to a city where the poor couldn’t survive. In this scenario, the poor aren’t just considered the disenfranchised and underserved residents of the Tenderloin or the Bayview-Hunters Point. The poor also include the social justice activists who earn next to nothing in San Francisco’s community mental health and social service agencies, teachers, and the colorful and eccentric artists who came to the city for the inspiration to create.
Although there is much truth to this type of trepidation, San Francisco residents might also remember times of other great social change that occurred in the city. It was in San Francisco where the hippie’s cried for peace and the gays demanded acceptance. These cultural shifts, originating in San Francisco, began as tiny fires that eventually flamed through the nation and then on through the world. They not only make up the great history of San Francisco, but are the very movements that make it legendary.
The essence of which is at least partly responsible for the oversaturation of start-ups and this generation’s radical thinkers who run them. Where else in the world can a person witness the worlds biggest leather event, a Transgendered March, and one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World?
Instead of fearing what change might happen, perhaps the city moves toward accepting that change is the new frontier, a frontier that is the very foundation of its legacy. Most things in this world cannot stay the same. Nor would we want them to. But some things do. Some things may never change. Young people still want to move to San Francisco because it’s cool. And this type of cool, even with the most advanced technology, can’t be touched.
By JP Mongagle