Lately, I’ve been reading about a very interesting phenomenon occurring in San Francisco. Namely, this phenomenon can be summed up as: The Techie Invasion.
Simply put, this phenomenon consists of young, relatively rich, technologically advanced individuals that work in Silicon Valley moving to San Francisco and driving up the prices of almost everything. So much so that the once iconic diversity of the City’s population is being destroyed and replaced with techies.
The Price of Rent:
Due to this increased demand in almost every single neighborhood of San Francisco, the price of rent has skyrocketed. The average monthly asking price for rent in San Francisco is $2,700 compared to roughly 1478$ in San Diego. Wow. Just that figure alone excludes people earning minimum wage from living in San Francisco. With the entry level salary of a police officer in San Francisco being about $72,000 a year, this sort of rent would make it extremely difficult for him to live in actual San Francisco. In fact, he would spend almost 50% of his salary on rent alone. This begs the question of what happens when there’s an earthquake and the police officers or firemen of San Francisco live on the other side of the Bay Bridge in the much more rent friendly city of Oakland, California?
Perhaps buying a house is the solution you say? Wrong. The median home price in San Francisco just recently surpassed $1 Million. That means that 50% of homeowners own a home that is valued at more than $1 million. That is quite honestly jaw-dropping.
Regardless of how you look at it, that is a lot of money to spend on a place that you would barely spend any time in considering the amount of work hours needed to fund such an expense. Granted, you could maybe find yourself a roommate but even then, prices are out of control and they show no signs of slowing down as more tech companies develop in the Bay Area and more of their employees.
Another interesting aspect of this Techie Invasion is the opening of a new market of luxury goods that are not necessarily superior in quality. Let’s look at the coffee sector in San Francisco. Blue Bottle Coffee is a coffee shop that has recently planted its roots in San Francisco (as well as New York City) and claims to offer vastly superior coffee at a pretty penny. Granted, this coffee may be superior to Starbucks for example but is it worth the asking price of 4-7$ a cup? Many people in San Francisco think so. However, it seems that stores like this focus more on presentation rather than the quality of their actual and frankly its easy to do when you’re dealing with a market that has an unusually high amount of disposable income and does not necessarily know the difference between great and decent coffee. As such, these customers will assume that the more expensive coffee is better even though they honestly cannot tell the difference.
Blue Bottle is merely an example among many. One writer wrote about going to The Mill and pay $6 for toast and a cup of black coffee. All the basic aspects of consumerism are experiencing huge price increases in San Francisco: Rent, bread and coffee? What next, bottled water? Oh wait….
The Exclusion of Diversity:
Unfortunately, this techie invasion is sucking the soul out of San Francisco’s population and creating a huge divide between the rich and the poor. In fact, an inhabitant described the private transit system created by companies such as Google as “spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us”. Many of the musicians, artists and intellectuals that have for so long characterized San Francisco’s population are forced to leave.
The city is rapidly changing. Will San Francisco hold onto its eclectic personality or will the Techie Invasion transform the city as we know it? Will the housing bubble pop or will prices continue to skyrocket?
Unfortunately, the situation has not gotten any better. As it turns out, Google and Apple buses have become increasingly symbolic over the past few months and it has culminated in a showdown between protesters and the buses. Last week, protesters surrounded these iconic buses in Oakland and in some parts of San Francisco and even broke a window and slashed the tires of one bus. Thankfully, no one was injured, but this definitely shows us that the situation has not gotten better and tensions seem to be increasing to potentially dangerous levels.
What do you think will happen to San Francisco in the next ten years? Is this dotcom shift good or bad for the city? Join the discussion here. Also be sure to check out this week’s edition of Trivia Tuesday!