I was reminded of some of the history of Newark, N.J.'s decline through the '50s and '60s and fearful for the same occurring here as I read of the back-room maneuvers of the local demagogues.
(For the record, I do consider myself a conscientious liberal, but have no patience for the implausible, dystopian, impersonal, market force-ignorant social engineering schemes that the organized left has degenerated into.)
Apparently, Ali, We Didn't Hit You Hard Enough
I was shocked by Matt Smith's unabashed pro-dot-com slant in "Make Room for Dot-Coms." From start to finish, developers and their supporters were hard workers, advocates were untrustworthy types.
Witness the juxtaposed photos of developer Brian Bock, shot from below in a crisp modern exterior to make him appear tall and imposing, in comparison to that of Proposition M author Sue Hestor, whose close-up shows the unglamorous sweat of a public meeting bead off her while she is caught mouth agape. While Bock's photo cutline innocuously states that his building will change use, Hestor's cutline calls her a "foe ... who has turned her sights on curbing multimedia offices." You think you could hit your readers a little harder with that hammer?
Business newbies to S.F. are the willing prey of those eager to make the biggest buck in a booming real estate market. Increasing office spaces will speed up the trend towards jacked-up prices that arts, culture, and social service organizations are already suffering from. And where there's ignorance, there's also arrogance. Many new office owners want those prices to skyrocket, so that "complementary" businesses (read: ones as bland and shortsighted as they) will move in around them.
Another story-crafting blunder for Mr. Smith is his tying the proliferation of dot-com office space outside the city to public transit becoming "increasingly unfeasible." Are these businesses that want to locate in S.F. stepping up to contribute to an improved public transportation system? Are they even building carshares? We wouldn't know from this piece.
Shouldn't dot-coms be expected to give back what they take from the city? Whether they build anew and jack up the price structure of a neighborhood, or buy existing buildings to gut and then evict community services en masse such as nonprofits, classroom space, advocacy groups, community event space, and day care programs, shouldn't they be expected to at least restore the balance by paying fees that would go towards affordable housing for the city? Or perhaps leaving S.F.'s cultural life dead save only the most superficial and pricey remnants is the kind of change Mr. Smith looks forward to.
Excellent and thoughtful article about the current changes in SOMA ("Make Room for Dot-Coms"). Much more balanced and well-reasoned than I am used to seeing in SF Weekly. I live in SOMA, am not employed in technology or multimedia, and have a household income less than the average for San Francisco.
With that said: Arguments based on the assumed moral superiority of groups of people simply because they have less money than others have long since grown tired. No one pretends that any given social system is completely adequate for caring for all of its members. By the same token, simply taking on the role of victim does not obligate the rest of society to provide for all one's wishes and hopes. Attempting to curtail business development politically, based on the groundless notion that this will somehow create more housing for people who cannot afford to live here, is nothing short of bizarre.
Invasion of the Dot-Com Parasites
Kudos to Matt Smith for writing an informative and anti-knee-jerk piece about the dot-commers ("Make Room for Dot-Coms"). Smith goes out of his way to show that sycophants come in more varieties than simply realtors and landlords (Sue Hestor ... my interpretation). Smith also demonstrates that San Francisco's latest fiasco can be interpreted through a mind-set and policies that have existed in the past.
As a New Yorker who has lived in this area for quite a while, I can't help feeling that Frisco is getting some just desserts. San Francisco, somewhat pretentiously, always wanted consideration as a major metropolis. Well kiddies guess what? You want the glory? Deal with the problems: major housing problems, a new population jacking up the price of everything, and urban congestion. Want to know the future of San Francisco? Just look at what the '80s stock brokers did to housing, transportation, and the surrounding areas of New York City. Look at what the '80s recession did to the housing situation in New York City.
Smith's analysis, from a strictly urban planning view, is right on, with the following caveats: First, though Smith could not have considered this given the scope of his article, dot-commers are neither particularly well educated, nor a philanthropically well-endowed group. Many dot-commers are not even college educated; many more, while indoctrinated into a technical field in college, hardly have the humanistic resources to handle real wealth responsibly. San Francisco is being invaded by a group of people who have virtually (pardon the pun) nothing, other than money, to contribute to our cultural mecca and couldn't give a shit about the homeless. Again, look at New York City: Bohemian neighborhoods were raped and pillaged by an economically advantaged, undereducated, transient population. Now, if you're lucky, you can convince yourself that living in Queens is quaint (yeah right!) and you might find a hot dog vendor for a cheap lunch.