Dialog Between Housing Rights Activists and Tech Workers Yields Little Dialog



There was a community discussion of sorts in Bernal Heights on Tuesday night.

The topic was gentrification, evictions, and technology workers — and the interrelationship between the three — and the discussion took place at Virgil’s, the tasty new(isn) bar on Mission at Precita. Our D9 Supervisor, David Campos, was there, along with several housing rights activists and some people who work in tech.

Bernalwood doesn’t recall receiving an invite (grrrrrrrr) , but thankfully Ellen Huet from the SF Chronicle was there, and she described the scene:

The Tech Workers Against Displacement Happy Hour, led by a union organizer and a tech worker, had advertised itself as a place where tech workers “sick of being blamed for S.F.’s housing crisis” could come together to find solutions. As representatives from neighborhood groups took turns at the mike in Virgil’s Sea Room, some solutions emerged: volunteer at an advocacy group, or help Supervisor David Campos, who was there gathering support for his proposed tax on landlords who evict using the Ellis Act.

When it came time for the tech workers to say their piece, hands shot up. The man who interrupted earlier said he didn’t know, beyond suggestions to build a website for nonprofits, what he could to do to help. (“You could listen!” another man shouted.)

Brian Hanlon, a 31-year-old Forest Service employee, told tech workers to leverage their companies’ resources and encourage employers to “do the right thing.”

“If your firm is having trouble finding a great new acquisition target and they have tons of money sitting around, maybe you can encourage them to donate some of that to these (housing) nonprofits as well,” he said.

Wait. What?? Mr. Hanlon’s idea is nonsensical, so maybe it was just a flight of fancy. Still, rhetorical logic aside, a shakedown proposal seems like a counter-productive way to begin a constructive dialog.

Apparently, things never really got much better:

Several tech workers said they were encouraged by the night but still weren’t quite sure how to help such a complex problem right away without measurable goals or problems to solve.

And others were discouraged by the us-versus-them attitude. Brett Welch, a 30-year-old Australian transplant who founded a video startup, said he was heckled by a woman in the crowd who accused him of not having lived in San Francisco long enough.

“I said, ‘How do you even know that?’ She goes, ‘I just do,’ ” said Welch, who has lived in San Francisco for five years. “And I’m like, ‘No, you don’t. You have no idea how long someone’s been here.’ It’s just very polarized.”

The first meeting wasn’t very productive, he said, but it could accomplish one thing.

“I really want people to see that I have a face, and I have feelings, and I love the neighborhood that I live in,” he said. “And I don’t want to see people kicked out.”

Ah well. It would appear that what the evening lacked in neighborly warmth or problem-solving substance, it no doubt made up for in tribal solidarity, high-decibel “awareness-building,” and emotional catharsis.  Knowing Virgil’s, the cocktails were probably damn good too.

On the bright side, the Chronicle says David Campos helped organize the meeting, and he used it to make a campaign stop, so at least one attendee had a productive evening.

UPDATE: San Francisco mag also did a thorough write up on the event:

There’s one thing you need to know about last night’s “Tech Against Displacement” event in the Mission: It was not organized by tech. It was, to put it politely, a clever bit of wordplay to call it “Tech Against Displacement.” For instead of members of the tech community reaching out to solve San Francisco’s affordability and eviction problems, the people who showed up were largely the standard array of activists who’ve been hectoring techies about the woes that they’ve visited on the city.

It was only when the activists ceded the mic to actual techies in the later half of the event that some progress was made: Instead of talking at your tech neighbors, how about, you know, talking to them?

PHOTOS: Brant Ward for The Chronicle

78 thoughts on “Dialog Between Housing Rights Activists and Tech Workers Yields Little Dialog

  1. Most disappointing part of the evening: when the Australian startup guy in the article asked “What can we do to encourage more housing development at all levels in SF?”, David Campos was invited up to respond, and he promptly went on to talk about … proposals to restrict the Ellis Act again.

    This seems to be the standard response of activists on the development issue: a wave of the hand and a quick “Yeah, we need more housing”, then changing the subject. Look, evictions are a serious concern. But the housing shortage is also real, even if advocating for more construction doesn’t quite carry the catharsis of bus blockades, or the emotional pull of defending 80-year-olds about to lose their apartment. The city desperately needs less activism and protest, and more people actively engaged in the nuts and bolts of policy.

    • That seems to be the standard way of answering questions from Mr. Campos. i.e. don’t answer the question, but spout some campaign drivel that he believes will appeal to the masses.

      It’s almost like instead of genuinely trying to solve the city’s legitimate problems he’s just trying to get elected to the next office.

    • In my experience, this is the fundamental disconnect that keeps happening when we try to talk about the housing crisis. Some people think the fundamental problem is a lack of housing supply and dismiss other concerns. Some people think the fundamental problem is real estate speculation and dismiss other concerns. Neither side has real proof but assumes they’re right.

      Maybe we could all work together to pass the anti-speculation real estate transfer tax AND expedite more housing construction with an emphasis on affordability?

      Or we can all just keep being snarky and dismissive on the internet.

      • Jeremy, there is ample data to demonstrate that housing supply is a fundamental problem, but here’s one place to start. This is a chart of the total number of new housing units SF has added between 1992 and 2011:Chart

      • That sort of cooperation will require a change in the conversation.

        Right now, it’s not “Housing supply vs. Speculation.” It’s “Housing supply vs. You have more money than I do,” with predictable results.

        Which makes last night even sadder as a missed opportunity. All the tech folks I know — especially the engineers — are huge fans of community and meritocracy and would support an argument limiting housing speculation as excessively benefiting an individual at the expense of the community.

      • Sure. And there are another 50,000 units in the pipeline, 40,000 of them entitled. Cranes are all over SOMA and Mission Bay building lots of them. But will all of that new market-rate housing significantly affect affordability? The City’s economist said it’s a “matter of opinion” if building 100,000 new units would “really impact prices.”

        Another point about building more housing: it’s hard to overestimate the radical changes that would be necessary to keep the City functioning if we grow by 25% (add 100,000 units). We’d have catastrophic gridlock unless we instituted Congestion Pricing. We’d need large-scale new taxes to pay for a huge build out of transit and other infrastructure and services.

        I support increasing density, but if we want to make the City more affordable we also have to figure out policies to make housing less of a commodity and more of a utility.

        If all we do is “build, baby build” we’ll have a broken, overcrowded City of millionaires.

      • contrarycomet: The Tenants Convention was the result of months of discussion and work about finding solutions. The favorite initiative was an anti-speculation real estate transfer tax, which they plan to put on the November ballot. Engaging tech folks in that campaign will be critical.

        Disclosure: I used to work in tech and probably will again at some point. Now I work in City Hall and identify more as an activist than a techie.

        I’ve found it challenging and frustrating to engage both tech workers and “smart growth” urbanists in discussions about decommidfying housing, because a lot of them only want to talk about building more housing.

        I’ll keep trying to convince my activist friends that building more housing is part of the solution if you can tell your tech friends that we have to address speculation.

      • Well, yes, Jeremy: longtime residents are anxious over eviction and want security, while more recent tech workers (and other newer residents as well) are frustrated by the extremely intense competition to find a new place here, and want accessibility. There is certainly room for mutual backscratching in there, for those willing to actively work on it. (Actually, SPUR seems to be doing exactly this, with their proposals to tighten tenants’ rights _and_ let construction loose – although they still get regarded as shills by the real estate industry for doing so, unfortunately.)

      • Jeremy, I’m intrigued by the idea of making “housing less of a commodity and more of a utility.”

        Honest question: Has that actually happened anyplace? What does it look like?

        Disclosure: First thing that pops into mind are those big housing blocks in the ex-Soviet Union, but I assume that’s not what you meant. Is there any recent US example?

      • Look how 2007 changed. Wonder why? SFUSD and CTIP maybe? That changed the mission a lot. Landlords raised prices, home went up for sale…

      • Todd: SF Community Land Trusts is a great model of partial-decommodification. They’ve been able to convert a few threatened rental buildings into limited equity co-ops with permanent resale restrictions to preserve affordability. Unfortunately they’ve never had the funding to expand the model.

        A related idea at the tenant convention was a “First Right to Purchase” for tenants when their building is sold, and possibly funding that through the Housing Trust Fund and making the buildings permanently affordable.

        This paper describes limited equity co-ops, land trusts, and a similar German model called tenement trusts:

        As far as I know, no one has done an anti-speculation tax before, but it was originally proposed by Harvey Milk and it’s being developed now for the November ballot.

        Other fun ideas are taxes on non-primary residences (pied-a-terres) or vacant units.

      • Jeremy: In the article you quote, I think that a more accurate reading of Egan’s position is that there are many opinions about what “really impact” means.

        He says that the impact on prices of building 100,000 units would be comparable to: “a down-payment subsidy that would cost several billion dollars just to cover the entire low-income — 50 to 80 percent of the area media income — population in The City.”

        That doesn’t sound like small potatoes to me. It certainly doesn’t sound like he’s dismissing the effect out of hand, which is what it seems like you’re suggesting.

      • FWIW, I read it the same way. He didn’t dismiss the idea of 100K new units; he seemed to say that there might also be other ways to achieve a similar result.

      • BP: It’s great to see SPUR and the Mayor calling for Ellis Act reform (although I wish they’d support the stronger Ammiano ban instead of Leno’s limited restriction).

        But tenant protection is different than anti-speculation policy. I’ll be more impressed with SPUR’s ability to defy their corporate funders if they support the anti-speculation real estate transfer tax.

      • Contrary/Todd: I agree, he’s not dismissing the impact of building 100,000 units. But I think the main point is that market rate housing doesn’t have a strong impact on lowering prices. In the video he goes on to point out that 100,000 units is as many as we’ve built since the 1920s!

        That gets back to my earlier point that I don’t think anyone has really thought through what it would take to grow the City by 25%, considering our population has been essentially flat since WWII.

        The League of Pissed Off Voters posted a clip of Egan’s 2012 presentation here:

      • One more interesting decommodification model: Brewster Kahle (founder of the Internet Archive) bought an apartment building in the Richmond to dedicate as permanent affordable housing for his employees and possibly other non-profit workers. A deed restriction on the property says it can’t be sold or refinanced. Knowing that there will be no future debt on the building, they can offer below-market rent to their workers: http://brewster.kahle.org/2013/09/14/purchasing-the-first-foundation-house-debt-free-housing-experiment-is-starting/

        That model is a little tricky if you’re giving preference to certain types of workers. But the deed restriction on future sale or refinancing is great.

      • BREWSTER KAHLE is my hero! I had no idea about the building. He has done so much good with his money that I stand in awe. On a side note the HQ of the Internet Archive, which he founded, has a lecture hall, and along the aisles are statues. Statues? Yes, when someone donates X amount of time to the archives project, he has a statue made of them. Why? He was always annoyed that tech only celebrates the leaders and not the worker bees. They celebrate the Steve Jobses and not all the other folks who actually put things together. This is his attempt to help celebrate them, too.

        I’m going to ask him about this housing thing. It sounds like an incredible housing model.


      • “They’ve been able to convert a few threatened rental buildings into limited equity co-ops with permanent resale restrictions to preserve affordability. Unfortunately they’ve never had the funding to expand the model.”

        They ran out of other people’s money.

  2. The 10 minute blocks of speaking(everyone ran over their time and the blocks become 20 minutes each quickly) all seems to be in line with what took place at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center Event first week of Feb. If you look closely at the details it is all organized by the SAME group who host that event:



    It was all a big ruse and what appears to be typical grandstanding:

    There’s one thing you need to know about last night’s “Tech Against Displacement” event in the Mission: It was not organized by tech. It was, to put it politely, a clever bit of wordplay to call it “Tech Against Displacement.” For instead of members of the tech community reaching out to solve San Francisco’s affordability and eviction problems, the people who showed up were largely the standard array of activists who’ve been hectoring techies about the woes that they’ve visited on the city……“If this event were put together by 50 nurses upset about displacement or a bunch of janitors no press would show,” said Sherburn-Zimmer. “Put the word tech in there, and the journalists come running.”

    Full Article here:

    I look forward to a real discussion some day, not holding my breath.

    Also why does The Mission get credit for Virgil…A couple weeks ago Ichi was cited as being in Noe. I blame gentrification, and techies…naturally

  3. Also, someone needs to school Brian Hanlon on the good some of these companies do.


    $60 million to Bay Area non-profits one of which is…wait for it….wait for it…FRIENDS OF THE URBAN FOREST. I find the irony hilarious.

    Here they are holding literally a big check:

    All of this researched in 5 minutes of google searching, people should do the same before open their mouth to demonize

      • I think it’s more likely evidence that Google is pretty smart.. They’ve got Campos grandstanding all over the city proclaiming the great evil of Google, so they throw down a couple of bucks on his pet project. Leaves him in a difficult position if he wants to keep badmouthing them.. the potential reward of funding for other pet projects, or the potential threat of no future funding for anything he puts his name to..

      • FREE MUNI for kids is a big mistake. Why? Because they’ll spend all day riding around. How do I know this? They tried it in Seattle and in Portland. It was stopped in Seattle when kids began assaulting passengers. They cut it back in Portland to just the “Fareless Square” area of downtown, which mainly benefits elderly shoppers.

        Kids should pay Muni fares for another reason: It teaches VALUE. Muni isn’t free; it costs a fortune to run. Kids have enough money for the latest sneakers and i-Products, so certainly they have enough money for Muni fares.

      • @Richard so was John Gotti, and the fictional Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano. I believe the legal term is Rackteering.

        Via wikipedia: A prototype is the protection racket, wherein a person or group(politicians) indicates that they could protect a store(in our case it is corporate buses) from potential damage(they have actually been vandalized), damage that the same person or group(the housing rights group) would otherwise inflict, while the correlation of threat and protection may be more or less deniably veiled(the housing rights protesters are not the same legal entity as political party or campaign), distinguishing it from the more direct act of extortion…I added the parentheticals of course.

  4. Not surprised how Campos always panders to the activist or how the activists only want to criticize . Seems to be another missed opportunity where something could of been agreed on and action taken. Has anyone considered that these tech workers help provide the tax base that keeps SF’s infrastructure from falling apart?

  5. Here’s what I’m thinking about today: Where’s the cutoff for “new neighbor” versus “gentrifier”? I didn’t have the good luck to inherit a house built by my great-grandparents in 1925; I doubt many of my Bernal neighbors did, either.

    I’m genuinely interested in hearing how I could have avoided feeling like I did something evil in 2005 by moving into an eyesore and making it a nice place to live (and live near). Short of inventing a time machine and building an earthquake shack on an empty lot. Short of writing a big check to an affordable housing nonprofit—which seems to be what the local activists quoted here are suggesting. I stay involved in local politics; I shop locally; I use the megaphone of my job to drive people to local businesses.

    I tried to talk about this with one of my public radio idols on Twitter, and he called me out as being part of the problem, simply based on the fact that he grew up in my Zip code and I didn’t. Wow, ok.

    But I’ve been in SF for 25 years (minus a 3-year hiatus in another city). I bought my first home here in 1997, and have lived in Bernal for almost 9. When we moved to the south slope in 2005, it was still an affordable option, relatively speaking. The height of culture was Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Wild Side West, and Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack (three places we still adore, by the way). There were no Panisse-alumni bakeries, no third-wave coffee, no artisan cocktails, no omakase sushi, no culinary incubator. Nobody moved to Bernal back then because it was trendy.

    But now it’s “the hottest real estate market in the country” and people are looking at people who look lot like me and crying foul.

    What’s the answer for a person who doesn’t want to be “part of the problem”? Am I supposed to buy in a ritzy, lily-white ‘hood—which, hey, I can’t afford—because I “have money”? Am I supposed to choose an even poorer ‘hood, and thus displace someone even needier than the person I bought my house from? (Does it matter that she sold the house for almost 4 times what she paid for it? Is she still “displaced”?)

    Am I responsible for whomever she displaced in 1993? How far back does this cycle of guilt go? Taken to its logical conclusion, the only non-gentrifier on my block is a lovely gent who was born in the house he lives in 70+ years ago. And maybe his Irish family displaced working-class Italians, back in the day; the style of his house suggests it could be older than his parents’ generation.

    I adore the diversity of my neighborhood, and I also love all of the new stuff that’s happening here. Does my mere existence really make me part of the problem?

    • Wholly concur with your frustrations….

      Does anyone else find it ironic that this smells vaguely like the national anti-immigration slant by some? (“…they’re taking away our jobs….making it un-affordable for those that were “here first”) ?

    • Couldn’t agree more. I’m not an owner, but as a renter, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of the same “you arrived here too late” anger. I’m not in tech. I don’t make six figures. I’m still villainized. Personally, I’m disheartened by the attitude of “we deserve this and you don’t.” This us versus tech community (or seemingly anyone). The recent story that broke about the woman being accosted in Molotov’s for wearing google glass was shocking to me. The majority of the coverage in this case seemed to blame her. In what way is it EVER okay to assault somebody for something they have or what they’re wearing? We’re going to blame the victim here? Really? Smells a little too much like “well, she was wearing a really short skirt sooo.” Was it naive of her? Maybe. Does anyone deserve that? No way. I don’t even care how drunk you are.

    • Excellent comments. I agree completely. I too, with my partner, moved and bought into a complete dump of a house in Noe some 28 years ago, and with tons of sweat equity and money, made it our home, planted trees, met my neighbors, and help make it a better neighborhood.

      Don’t take any of the guilt or bad vibe others may throw at you. The City keeps changing and we are part of that change, evolution and betterment.

    • The displacement argument is primarily backed by the occurrences where rental houses are sold and then the new owner evicts the prior renters so they can move in. That case seems to have been overgeneralized to *anyone* who buys property at market rates and moves in, though through a logic that I just can’t understand.

      I bought 14 years ago from a family that no longer had anyone living in the house. I displaced no one — but I did pay more than asking for the house, I have planted a tree in front of my house (with the help of FUF) and I have patronized some businesses that are probably more expensive than those with less disposable income couldn’t afford. The logic that wraps these other, gentrifying activities up with the “displacement” argument is tenuous. But that doesn’t seem to stop people. Witness the heckler who assumed she knew how long Brett Welch has lived in San Francisco.

      There is a real issue here, and that’s why the Ellis Act evictions are getting so much political play (because that part is real, causes some people some real harm). However, my opinion is that you’d have fewer people wanting to change use of a property (hence, Ellis-Act-Evict) if you had more housing supply. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it makes good political theater versus something abstract like trying to get a better match between supply and demand.

  6. JUST MAKE IT ALL GO AWAY! Comicle columnist C W Nevius warns that SF could lose its high tech workers if people keep harassing them. And now the poor tech workers feel they have to meet to commiserate their fate.

    FACT IS that San Francisco would be just fine if all the tech workers went away. We’d still be the #2 or #3 tourist destination worldwide. We’d still have artists, writers, and musicians. We’d still have our beautiful views; in fact we’d keep them longer because fewer new buildings would be put up.

    People forget that SF has a 200+ year history of being one of the most desirable places on earth to live. But what made it affordable before was that the economy wasn’t pumped up artificially with tech money.

    So, DRIVE THEM AWAY! Make it hard for Googlers and Yahoos and Microsofties to live here. Make it tough for Zinga and Twitter to run their businesses here. DRIVE THEM AWAY!

    San Francisco will do just fine without them. We always have.

    • The thing is, I don’t think San Francisco would do fine without them.

      If you use their products (for example, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple)….if you need their drugs to fight disease and survive (Genentech, Amgen, in SSF and other biotech and pharma in MIssion Bay)…then you will not do fine without them.

      Those that want the workers to leave would need to literally put their conviction behind that, and that is unlikely. And even if they collectively did, it wouldn’t put a shadow of a micro-dent on the companies.

    • David, ironic considering you make your living on the shoulders of these high tech workers. Who is producing the software you are consulting on? The hardware you are fixing? The solutions you provide?

      BTW, if you don’t consider yourself a tech worker, what do you consider yourself? Please don’t give me a lengthy list of all the volunteering and philanthropy you do, I can look in almost any other comment you’ve made on this blog for that if I need a refresher course.

      • Tech support people are everywhere, from SF to Eureka, Atlanta to Alturas. If tech companies are not located in SF they’ll go elsewhere. I have no problem with that.

        What you hipsters fail to see is that SF got along JUST FINE during the years before tech took over. You may not have been there but I WAS THERE. I was in SF in the hippie era, the disco era, during the ups and downs, and all through these times, SF continued to be an AWESOME place!

    • David, I know you know a lot about SF history, so perhaps you’d like to reconsider the statement about SF being affordable because it wasn’t pumped up “artificially with tech money.”

      The one thing that the history of Our Faire City should reveal is that this place has always always always been prone to periods of investment-fueled economic boom, which has always always always put serious strain on local real estate.

      Started with the Gold Rush, which led to the Silver Rush. Then came the massive boom of WWII (recall that many of today’s housing projects were originally built to be shipyard housing because the problem was so extreme), and the postwar infill build-out.

      If anything, the “golden years” of the counterculture — let’s call it 1967 to 1995 or Summer of Love to Netscape IPO — are anomalous because they corresponded to a rare period of deindustrialization and urban flight (The Dirty Harry Era) which made SF relatively cheap.

      You can love our booms, or you can hate our booms, but that’s the recurring pattern if really do look at 200+ years of San Francisco history rather than dwell in the nostalgia of a past remembered from a a decade or two ago. (A peril which we are all susceptible to)

      Like earthquakes, hills, and fog, investment-fueled economic booms are deeply engrained in the history of this place.

      • TODD, everything you mention about SF’s history is true. However, the booms from the Gold Rush and World War II created MONUMENTAL problems. Crime was so rampant in SF during the Gold Rush that people literally got together and started lynch mobs to control the violence. Not just once, but twice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_Committee_of_Vigilance

        World War II ended in the worst RIOT in SF history: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/SAN-FRANCISCO-The-dark-side-of-V-J-Day-The-2647870.php As they say in the story, other cities celebrated, but SF rioted. The Bay Area was the largest supplier of wartime munitions and ships of any region of the USA, where literally a ship a day was built. Why did people in SF riot? Because they were so flush with money they didn’t give a damn.

        I am glad I didn’t live during either WWII or the Gold Rush. But, bad as they were for big influxes of cash, they were different from the high tech boom of today because they were more DEMOCRATIC, meaning that the money reached people of all different economic levels. It took few skills to mine gold or to provide services for the people coming here to mine gold. During WWII the labor shortage was so great that people were literally brought here from other areas of the country to work, training included. This is how the poor Southerners came to live here. During the depths of the Depression they had no other financial choices, so they came here in droves. They got trained and made decent money.

        Of course, after the end of the war they had skills that were no longer needed, and thus they ended up on welfare. There was no “G.I. Bill” to train the civilian workers after WWII.

    • I grew up here and I understand the frustration but it’s not ok to generalize in this way. who are you to decide who gets to live somewhere and who doesn’t?

    • Oh jeez David, what are you huffing? You want everyone here who lives here to work in the tourism services industry?

      I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Detroit, but it’s scary how quickly a city can decay. Do you really want to have nothing fixed up in SF, and just let the city decay?

      PS- I don’t think writers are a good tourist attraction. And musicians tour. You think if all the musicians move to Oakland or Daly City they’ll stop playing in SF? You think artists only show in galleries near their homes?

      • DETROIT is not SF. Detroit was never a pretty city; it was never a tourist area. It was never a resort town. That said, I know many people who have moved there and/or are active there in the arts scene. In fact, John Law (of the Doggie Diner heads) told me the other night about an arts project he’s working on over there right now.

        Yeah, Detroit is in terrible financial trouble, but Detroit developed as a one-industry town. Cars, cars, and more cars. The SF region is multi-industry: tourism, restaurants, tech, universities, biotech, world respected cancer and heart treatment hospitals, shipping, etc.

    • I’m concerned about the generalizations of kicking *people* out of a place based on an arbitrary attribute of those people. I know many people who develop music and photography software by day. They pursued applying their skills to those products, as they are passionate about these arts. They’re also in bands, work on their art in their off hours, and support others pursuing those arts (friends & strangers) both within the place they live and beyond.

      We have to remember we are all talking about *people* in many of these conversations. That applies to everyone in these discussions, be it an “activist” or a “techie” or a “native” or an “artist” or an “immigrant”, etc. Each individual/family have their own unique challenges and contributions they can offer. Every person impacts those around them. Those impacts may be negative in some respects and positive in others (unintentionally or otherwise). We need to work towards solutions that create the most equitable mix we can manage for everyone and mitigate those negative impacts as much as possible.

      One final comment, artists don’t necessarily beget more artists (same goes for any profession). I’m sure at least 1 artist that calls SF home had parents that work in one of the “unwelcome” industries or income ranges of any era. A couple of the famous SF artists that create some of the referenced tourist draws were born of upper class parents (based on my 15mins of googling). Who knows, maybe a great artist of the next generation will be born to “techie” parents. I’d sure hate artists or anyone else of the next generation to look at SF in a bad light because their parents were exiled or harassed due to their choice of employment (or any other factor).

      I know the above is a bit of fluff that will undoubtedly get torn to shreds, but those are my thoughts at this moment. I’m encouraged by many comments in this thread that call for serious discussions and offer some possible solutions. I feel just a bit more educated on a spectrum of ideas (from housing as a utility to speculation taxes to [responsible/targeted/unfettered/etc] development). I may not agree with aspects of some of these solutions, but I now have a better understanding of why the proponents believe they can help. That helps me form and evolve my own opinion and give informed support/vote of any proposed policies.

  7. I think this is a very important conversation. It would be helpful to frame the discussion in a way that produces actual results. A free-for-all forum to vent might make you feel better in the moment, but does not necessarily lead to solutions. What if we come up with a few key issues and brainstorm on how to solve them? And keep the conversation focused to that? No name calling, no ostracizing. We can start by listing the aspects of this issue that directly apply to our personal situations. Maybe some of the things that come up for one person will resonate with others, and we can focus on the areas that are the most common. Here are some possible examples, based on what I’ve been hearing and reading (may or may not be my personal experiences)…

    – I love my neighborhood and my home. I have lived here 10-20 years. I work hard to keep the house and the neighborhood nice. My work is part of the reason this neighborhood is so desirable. I don’t like feeling unwelcome in this place where I have worked so hard. How can I feel welcome in this place I love when so many of my neighbors don’t want me here?

    – I love my neighborhood and my home. I have lived here since I was a child. I’m scared that my home is going to be taken away from me. How can I continue to live here?

    – I love my neighborhood and my home. I have lived here only a year and my rent is about to increase. I won’t be able to afford it. I will have to move. How can I continue to live here?

    – I am looking for a place to live. I love Bernal Heights. While I can afford to buy a home there, I am nervous about what it will mean for the family currently living in the home. What can I do to help them? I understand the sale of the house is not their decision, but I don’t want to be a landlord and I need somewhere to live, too. I feel bad, but if the house is for sale, is it really my problem? And again, what can I do to make it better for the current tenants? The house will be sold whether I buy it or someone else does.

    – I am looking for a place to live. I love Bernal Heights. I can’t afford to buy or rent there. Why isn’t there more affordable housing in that neighborhood?

    What other major view points am I missing? Just writing this out, I’ve already thought of some possible solutions or at least avenues where we can take the discussion that could lead to solutions. Like creating some kind of partnerships with our neighbors, a techie somehow working with and helping to support a family facing foreclosure. I don’t know what that help or support would look like, connections, pro bono lawyer, something along those lines maybe?… just brainstorming… It seems like we can figure this out, as a community. To get involved with each other’s lives and help each other…

    • Here’s a missing one:
      – I bought my home in the past 5 years from people who decided to sell it. There was no eviction — the sellers lived there and decided to cash in. Why am I seen as part of the problem? Why do people assume I displaced others?

  8. @ R: Sounds like both sides are getting what they want/need then, which is the art of politics after all.

    @ Brian: Your definition of racketeering could applied to any number of political outcomes (or even most of them). Winners and losers are ultimately picked by people like Campos and institutions like Google. I like watching the process at work.

  9. Maybe next time hold this type of forum in a non-alcohol location? Not saying anyone was drunk, but I can’t see booze being a good ingredient in this sort of passionate debate.

  10. These activists need to get a life instead of complaining/blame techies & other educated white collar professionals that are moving into the area for their woes. They do not realize that they are more of the problem then techies will ever be. I’ve yet to see one come up with a solution to create more housing in SF particularly for the working/middle class which is sorely needed.

    Remembering when Bernal Heights was the wild west with all the gang activity on Cortland Ave; when you did not want to walk down Valencia St in the daytime let alone at night, I for one am very happy to see the constant upgrades in District 9. If gentrification means upgrading a rundown, blighted neighborhood, bring it on! Now if only something can be done to improve the still sketchy Mission District, as well as Mission St going thru Districts 6, 9, & 11; it’s still pretty much a pit.

    As for Campos, he needs to stop complaining about the Ellis Act. Most of the Ellis Act properties have been turned into TICs/Condos bringing homeownership to someone, plus bringing added property taxes to SF, let alone all the upgrades being done to make these places livable.

    I live in Bernal Heights in a very diverse section of it; some of my neighbors have lived in their homes since they were built in the 20s; up to 4 generations live here; young, old, different ethnic groups, income levels. We pretty much all get along because we respect one another, & take pride in our little stretch of SF. There are 3 Genetech, & 2 Google neighbors on the block, all very nice, friendly, join in on neighborhood meetings, social gatherings.

    Whenever new neighbors (some born/raised in SF, some not) moved in, they have planted trees, put lawns back in paved over front yards, cleaned up the property, converted back to single family homes, help out with keeping the street clean. How can anyone complain about that?! I lost count of how many times a neighbor, who may not know my name but knows I live there, will give me a ride somewhere even if they’re not even going close to the destination.

  11. I just get so tired of these ad hominem attacks that do nothing to solve the real issues. Housing in SF has become rarified since there’s so little of it relative to demand. That’s not any individuals fault. People are simply forced to compete because of that limited supply. I’m not going to go into who has what assets or if it’s fair or not, I’m just saying that people are competing for a basic human need: housing. The solution is more housing and more importantly, good planning so that new housing enhances SF.

    If we can’t do this we’ll just see more and more people pushed out and let’s be honest, the people of SF make it what it is just as much as, if not more than the buildings.

    • Not just building more housing, but creating policy that encourages the continual creation of housing. It’s not a one-time fix.

  12. Whaaa….I am staying 5 days!!!

    Andee Wright Independent Sales Consultant Representing Geiger West Tel: 415.285.5384 | 51 Prentiss St. | San Francisco, CA | 94110


  13. Supply issues aside, there is a simple mechanism to make the competition for the limited housing farer to low-income people without vilifying specific parts of society. Institute a local progressive income/capital gains tax. This being a liberal town, it sounds pretty obvious. Prop 13 can be reformed very NARROWLY to allow municipalities to institute a local income tax for residents/workers with a 2/3 vote (just like all taxes require based on Prop 13). It could kick in on incomes above $100,000 and grow progressively. It would reduce the disposal income of the wealthy and reduce the price they are willing to pay in rent. The tax revenue can be used to build public housing or improve education and public transportation, all policies that provide more opportunities to low-income people. If the underlying problem is extreme income inequality, there is no point attacking the upper middle-class and leaving the mega-rich intact. Just tax progressively and avoid personal attacks.

  14. I find it unfortunate, as well as unproductive, to blame people who work in the tech sector for the lack of affordable housing. Not only has affordable housing not been approved or built in San Francisco at a rate that matches to the influx of workers, but there are far too many loopholes for developers to slip through and avoid building the mandated affordable units in their construction. Take, for example, the ability for developers to pay a fee to the City ($172k to $373k per unit) rather than build affordable units. Why would you build an affordable unit, when you can pay a fee and sell a luxury unit for $2,000,000?

    The fee is supposed to go into a fund for the City to then turn around and use to build affordable housing…but where is that housing? Who is managing that money? If Mr. Campos is so concerned about the lack of affordable housing, how about he investigate what affordable housing the City is building or investing it. The City has the money, but where’s the housing?

  15. Tech workers – PLEASE DONT BE FOOLED BY THE ACTIVISTS – they just want to keep their cheap rents at your expense, and at their landlords expense. Campos is pathetic -pandering for votes. Advocate for REPEAL OF RENT CONTROL! Rent control has created an entitled class for 30yrs, and it’s time for them to go and be realistic. The ‘progressives’ contribution to ‘progress’ doesn’t exist.

    And why weren’t the landlords invited? Why doesn’t anyone invite the Small Property Owners of SF who provide housing – these are the real people who have 2 jobs (most have regular day jobs, and maintain the buildings), they have worked hard and invested in San Francisco. Not all landlords are ‘evil slumlords’, but treat them like they are and the City will find less that want to offer housing in this town.

    Welcome tech workers! Many of us are very happy to share our City with you and see that you can make this a great place for the future.

  16. This all reeks of just another ring in the vicious cycle of an older generation (which I’m part now of) thinking the younger generation with their values and new way of doing things is going to hell in a hand basket. I would love that San Francisco of my younger days was still around, but it was changing when I got here and it will change after I’m gone.

    Just like the affordability issue has been around since before I was here and it will continue long after I’m gone. We should try to address it, and I’m sure we will, in ways that will work and won’t work. The key is to do something and keep moving forward.

    Bottom line is San Francisco will endure.

    • I, on the other hand much prefer the San Francisco of today. There’s a wider selection of restaurant food, groceries, live music, cultures, languages, and people’s opinions than ever before.

      I really hate it when I talk with someone stuck in 1967 who bemoans the fact that it’s no longer the hippie days. But those days were fraught with laws against dancing, crackdowns on people gathered together, raids on the homes of people suspected of smoking dope.

      Today we no longer need to go to libraries when we can find out more information than any library could possibly offer. We can hear music of lots of different cultures and dance strange dances (Ashkenaz is a great place for both of those). And we even have an all-night Indian restaurant.

      I do miss 24-hour bowling alleys, though.

      • Yea. Now when we go to the library, The Main at least, we have to put up with homeless, druggies, violent behavior, filthy and dangerous toilets.

        Welcome to 2014.

      • A couple years ago I blogged the idea that conventional public libraries were an anomaly and that cities should be spending their money on providing internet services free to their residents instead. Oh…that went viral. In fact it’s the only thing I’ve ever posted that went viral. I got over 1000 nasty comments from people (mostly librarians it turned out) about how libraries are an important thing in the community.

        I disagree. A look at any SF library today shows that people are waiting in line to go online; they’re not waiting in line to check out books as they did when I was a kid. Today, there is far more material available online than any community library could possibly hold.

        Now, I’m not saying to do away with college and research libraries because they are important repositories of original source materials and obscure stuff so esoteric that they’re not worth the expense of scanning.

        But for community libraries, just THINK of how much bandwidth the C&C of SF could provide to residents if they spent the money they spend on libraries and librarians today.

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