In almost every respect, Joe Montana is not typical.
Typical men aren't deified in their own lifetimes
. Typical men don't have four Super Bowl rings
. Typical men don't talk about going upstairs to masturbate in a pantheon-level Saturday Night Live-sketch
But, in moving back to the city with a wad of cash and an empty nest
, Montana is, in many ways, just another typical San Franciscan now. "Not only is he sort of typical, but he's typical of part of the population that's wealthy enough to move back," said professor Bill Watkins
of California Lutheran University. "You need a fair amount of net worth to move into San Francisco these days."
Watkins is executive director of Cal Lutheran's Center for Economic
Forecasting and an associate professor of economics. He highlighted San Francisco's demographic trends in our December cover story, "The Worst-Run Big City in the U.S."
In that story, we noted Watkins' decade of work charting who, exactly, is a San Franciscan:
San Francisco is shedding its middle-class population at double the
state rate. The city, however, is not losing low-income people at nearly
the state's pace -- and is gaining wealthy residents at far more than
California's overall rate. In short, we are replacing our middle class
with a rich elite and a burgeoning underclass. Watkins' research also
reveals that San Francisco is going gray. The number of city residents
between ages 45 and 64 has climbed, while the count of those aged 20 to
44 has dropped. The city, it seems, has become a target destination for
the wealthy and retirees. These are not the people who want to make
sacrifices now to shore up the city's future.
While most wealthy retirees won't have Montana's fame or capital, they'll have a fair amount of the latter. A typical one would be "an executive, perhaps mid-level, who has lived in the burbs and then becomes an empty-nester," says Watkins. He or she "is coming back for only a while, probably. When you get too many problems or too old to really enjoy what the city offers, then you go." The next stop, some years down the road, is likely a facility near family "with a combination of good medical care and family support."
This is how things are going not only in San Francisco but all along coastal California. And it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Wealthy retirees' incomes are completely untied to the fortunes of the city -- "it looks like an export industry; the check comes from someplace else every month," points out Watkins. They're active. They're involved. They spend money. These are good things.
But they also aren't thrilled with the notion of investing in the city's future. "These people are intent on consumption," says the professor. "I think of the long-run vigor of a place needs investment. In general, these people want to keep things the way they are. They're not big on change because they love it the way it is."
Actually, San Franciscans probably love things the way they were
. You know, back when Montana was under center and the Niners were winning Super Bowls. Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF