Photo by Mabu2
Well this argument doesn't seem to be going away any time soon: all these tech people who are moving into/living in San Francisco, are they doing good here by increasing innovation and putting SF's stamp on the world as a creative hub of forward-thinking ideas, or are they nothing but a bunch of spoiled commuters raising our rents and forcing the old school locals out of the city? As the discussion rages on, a new log was thrown on the fire this week by Farhad Manjoo, who posits that "San Francisco Can Become a World Capitol: First It Needs to Get Over Itself."
His general point here seems to be that instead of hating on the tech crowd for making housing impossible, we should build more housing in SF, going skyscraper style like in NY or Tokyo.
"San Francisco can’t deal with its good fortune. Every positive turn, here, is met with fresh angst: People worry about that renewed success will ruin the environment, exacerbate class divisions, push out old-timers, and make it harder for everyone to find parking. Mostly, they worry that San Francisco will change, that newcomers will alter the quaint, strange sensibilities that have long defined the city."
He goes on to suggest we shouldn't slam the new breed populating the city, since they're helping boost the economy, not destroy it.
"Don’t look good fortune in the mouth. Yes, growth will bring some problems. But they’re not nearly as bad as the problems you’ll find in decline (ask Detroit). Instead of complaining or blocking growth, San Francisco’s old-guard would do better to propose ways to ease the city’s transition into its digital future. This doesn’t mean opposing newcomers. It means recognizing a new reality, that San Francisco needs to become much larger and more accommodating place than it is. And it means adopting polices that will make that reality a pretty good one."
And then his solution – build taller buildings.
The article presents one viewpoint, but you can see some great, very passionate opinions in the comments section, which is just as entertaining a read as the article itself.
I'm not sure how I feel about the "building up" concept, as a bunch of tall lofts (like we have in the China Basin area) are pretty ugly aesthetically and make the streets around them feel more like a wasteland then a neighborhood. At the same time, I get tired of hearing about how the tech community is somehow to blame for a rash of other issues, like eroding our cultural fabric or taking over neighborhood haunts. Who gives a crap where someone works, really, so long as they're not an asshole? How can you tell if someone supports music or the arts or social issues just because they work at Twitter or some app company?
The issues of housing and high rents I get and agree with. The insane inflation on that front needs a solution I can't come up with. But the whining that this means the tech culture in general is some evil empire is ridiculous. Tech people come in all stripes, same as musicians and artist and the rest.
Anyway, I'm curious to see how this discussion of how tech culture impacts the way SF sees itself continues into 2013, and to see what Bold Italic readers – many of whom I know are invested in neighborhoods and the creative life of a community – think of Farhad's piece.