Gentrification's simple math


Chuck Nevius is big into gentrification these days. He thinks it's a dandy thing and "no longer a dirty word," says the even longtime residents of the Mission love it, and has a nice photo of a person walking in Dogpatch, where two really cool dive bars just shut down -- thanks to the gentrication that's such a great thing.

Nevius quotes Randy Shaw, who has a bizarre statement:

In the '70s and '80s there was massive displacement of residents in the Haight, Noe Valley and the Castro," says Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. "But now you are seeing a massive influx of upper-income people into previously unoccupied areas."

What? "Previously unoccupied?" Like the Mission and Soma and Dogpatch? Unoccupied by the wealthy, maybe, but there are people living in almost every square inch of San Francisco, and in some parts of town, they are low-income people, and richer people force them out. That's happening on the same scale today that it did in the 1980s, except worse: In the 80s, if you werer priced out of the Haight or Noe Valley or the Castro you could move to the Western Addition or the Mission or Soma. Now prices are so high everywhere in town that your only move is out of San Francisco altogether.

And while ol' Chuck does admit there are downsides, he seems to think that somehow you can move wealthier people and more upscale establishments into existing lower-income areas without anything bad happening, as long as you respect "the delicate balancing act."

But it isn't a balancing act at all -- it's a zero-sum game. There's finite space in this city, and when when something or someone comes in, something or someone has to leave. (Yes, you could build a lot more housing, but nobody's building housing for working-class people.) But you can't build more storefronts on Valencia or Mission; force out the existing community serving businesses and they have noplace else to go.

San Francisco has failed spectacularly at the fundamental challenge facing a city under this kind of pressure. First, before you allow more development, more upscaling, more of what C.W. Nevius loves, you have to protect existing vulnerable populations. That's not a balancing act; that's a mandate. If you don't do it, you lose the character of the city and San Francisco becomes another sterile, corporate community.

Jesus. Why is this so hard to understand? I've lived through it several times, these booms that people like Mayor Lee and Nevius always celebrate, and every time, the pattern has been the same, the city has been damaged, and community institutions have been lost. I'm not one of those preservationists opposed to all change, but again: First protect existing vulnerable populations.




of people in SF, and that mix just happens to be exactly whatever it was when you came here, presumably at the tail-end of the whole hippie thing.

But why? And in fact aren't there whole neighborhoods of SF like, say, the Mission, that used to be Italian, Irish and German middle-class people and, in that case, the area was taken over by POORER people. Is that somehow OK? And it's only when a 'hood becomes richer that it matters? Again, why?

Why bother with any of these rationalizations and contradictions, Tim? Why not just say that you think poor people are better than rich people for no reason other than that you personally prefer them, for some reason that is lost in the mists of time?

Or could tkat reason be that if the demographics change some more, there will not be a critical mass of readers for your ever-dwindling rag, without which it is really hard to see how you would secure gainful employment?

"Willing employee available. 30 years experience of class warfare and the politics of envy. No tired cliche goes unpunished. Inquire within"

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

Because when the earthquake comes and you need first responders and/or sanitation workers, you won't be able to fly them in from San Diego or Oregon. Which, incidentally, is where a # of SFFD actually live.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

Cops and Fire guys are well paid and, while they do not live in SF, they live in neighboring Counties. Good enough.

Lower pay folks can live in Oakland or Daly City. If you think of the Bay Area as just one big city, what's the difference?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

The bay area is just one big city, right? So you don't care where you live. Fine, I'll even help you move, Guest. One less elitist a**hole would certainly help to make SF more livable.

Posted by Adios Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

You'll be the one moving to Stockton.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 7:09 am

Dim wit, of course poor people are better then rich people. It takes way more resourcefulness to survive as a poor person. Especially in a pricey joint like Frisco. Duh!

Darwin rules!

Posted by pete moss on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

And in the sense that being resourceful implies ending up with, er, less resources?

Oh, wait . .

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

This article (among many) takes the position that San Francisco's housing costs are driving people out of the City. That's undoubtedly true to an extent. But the articles never discuss that there are lower cost parts of the City, like the Bayview, Excelsior, outer Parkside, etc. The focus always seems to be on so-called "hip" neighborhoods like parts of the Mission, Haight, etc. and so-called "tony" neighborhoods like Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow, Noe Valley, Russian Hill, etc.

The unwritten premise seems to be that many people can't afford to live in desirable neighborhoods, and therefore San Francisco is unaffordable. Seems to me that's only half the story. Some people would probably rather live outside the City than in other, less desirable -- though more affordable -- parts of the City.

Posted by The Commish on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

deconstructed into these:

1) Anyone who wants to should be able to relocate from some boring part of the US and, not only live in SF, but live in one of those "oh so desirable" northern zip codes. It's the 11th part of the Bill of Rights that never got written: Congress shall pass no Act restricting the right of anyone and everyone to live in a hip zip code".

2) San Francisco Exceptionalism. SF isn't just "downtown Bay Area". It's a completely different and unique city with no relationship or compatibility with it's suburbs. Nobody should have to live anywhere else because, dammit, SF is just so damned cute. Oakland might as well be 1,000 miles away even though it is 10 minutes away and half the price.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

Before the 2nd world warthe were no suburbs and everyone lived in the city.
In the 80s it got worse because living in cities was for loosers etc. The tenants took advantage andwon key rent control election in 1979 and another big one in 1994. Now it it time ti fight back and kill rent control on the city. Once Rc is abolished rentswill go down like it happen in
Boston when they abolished rent control 3 years ago. The will bee more development for the low income. Right now it is a war and nobody is winning.

Posted by before 2nd war on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

people forgethow speek english and spek like the poster above. The will bee no Rc beecaus ti willbe after the apocaplyspe. The will be no subirbs only cities change with time. There will be war an d the richwill find ti ti time to fight back, and capitalists will like it because the strongwill get whatever they want and cahrge what teyh want for rent.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

That just breaks my heart. His animus towards our Asian brothers and sisters is becoming more pronounced - it's quite sad to see the degeneration on display here, day after day after day.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

The really sad thing... as moronic as this poster is, this was probably the most interesting comment on the thread. The rest of you trolls are posting the same tired old tripe.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

"The rest of you trolls are posting the same tired old tripe."

Well the "that just breaks my heart part" is new. One has to have a heart before it can be broken. I didn't know they had one. You'd never know it from the vile and hateful stuff they write on here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 2:41 am

It was 1994. Not 3 years ago. Rents jumped. Rents didn't go down.

"In 1994, Massachusetts residents voted 51 percent to 49 percent to do away with rent control in Boston, Cambridge and Brookline. Rents jumped, driving tenants to cheaper digs, but so did housing quality, as landlords were able to make capital improvements with the higher rents in hand. Now, with rents going nowhere but up Hub-wide (even micro-apartments will cost ya), we ask the question:"

Time to Bring Rent Control Back to Boston, Cambridge?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

Housing quality did not increase in Boston and Cambridge in the 1990s. Landlords started gouging renters. And that is all.

Posted by pdquick on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 1:20 am

I ask for a rent and you only pay it if you can afford it and you agree to it.

If i ask too much rent, the place stays vacant. So if it is let then, by definition, it is not "too" expensive.

Posted by anon on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 6:59 am

Jan 12, 2012: Boston’s apartment vacancy rate at 1 percent and rising rents add up to one thing for Hamilton Co. CEO Harold Brown: the prospect of a return to rent control. The 86-year-old real estate legend, who bought his first building on Commonwealth Avenue in 1954, said the fear of rent control is never far from his thoughts. “Landlords are starting to increase rents, but be careful, careful, careful, if you raise rents too high you’re going have a backlash that wants rent control to come back,” warned Brown, who spoke to a packed crowd this morning at Boston Multifamily Summit sponsored by BisNow, an online real estate newsletter. “Tenants just aren’t going to pay it. They will go back to their families houses or double up and all these new luxury building which are under construction won’t rent up. There’s just a limited amount of rich people around.”


Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 9:02 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 7:11 am

Because the local wage base cannot support higher rents.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 7:30 am

are ENOUGH people who can afford those rents. It is not necessary for everyone to be able to afford them, as long as at the margin there are enough people who can afford the asking rents of the homes that are vacant.

The exact same thing applies to home prices. The average SF home is ten times the average SF family income. In theory, that means that home prices are "too high", because the average SF'er cannot afford the average home. But in practice, eveny home that comes onto the market sells for that "too high" price, so it is clearly not "too high" at all. Just too high for many aspirants.

You see the same phenomenon in any desirable location, where home prices and rents are at very high multiples of earnings. In fact, where I used to live, the average home was 20 times the average income. And yet, every home for sale quickly sold.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 7:56 am

If people who are productive in the local economy swoop down with economic advantage over those who had been productive in the local economy and price them out, then that suffocates the local economy over time just as an interest rate hike would.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 8:11 am

Those with an "economic advantage" are simply those who society deems as being "more productive" and therefore values them more through higher incomes.

So if a poor person becomes displaced by a more affluent person, that is generally deemed to be a good thing for the economy.

It also inevitably happens where a city goes from a low-wage economy to a high-wage economy, which is exactly what has happened in the Bay Area, where industry and farming has given away to knowledge work.

The change in demographics is nothing to be feared - it merely reflects the advances in the local economy. different jobs here require different types of people here to be housed.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 8:25 am

Key words: in the local economy.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 8:40 am

or at least anywhere reasonably commutible.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 8:48 am

Because people are raiding their savings and credit to keep a roof over their heads. It's great for the landlords. Everybody else, not so much.

Posted by pdquick on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 1:22 am

affleunt for your financial standing. You are free to move somewhere more suited to your pocket.

Posted by anon on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 6:59 am

get a pass for being an untrammeled, establishmentarian sock pupi? We need to stuff a rag into the little pupi's mouth, and throw it in the Pacific ocean.

bet he sinks...

Posted by anti SF establishment on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

Speaking of gentrification...

I thought someone here might know the answer to this. Over the past months especially in the Castro, I’ve noticed young, (what I would call) model-type females in the neighborhood often holding hands with a guy. These straight females almost look cookie-cutter in that they look the same. Usually 5'10 - 6', and look as if they weight about 25 lbs (twenty-five pounds literally) with long blond or long brown hair. They look like they don't eat anything. I’m now seeing more of this type of female with long blond hair when I’m out and about. I first thought that maybe a modeling agency had relocated here, but I’ve not heard that. I’ve lived here a long time and have not seen anything quite like this phenomenon. What is with all of these tallish, long blond or brown hair, anorexic-looking females often in tight running pants that I'm seeing around the Castro? (Sometimes they are pushing a baby stroller). And they're nearly always white. I'm used to seeing and appreciating ethnic diversity and that is why I’ve noticed these cookie-cutter white females and they seem to be on the increase in the Castro. My neighbor brought it too and asked me about it. She asked: are they from the Marina district? I said I didn't know who they were or where they were from. Are these the tech people? I don’t recall seeing this type of ultra-thin straight female getting off the corporate tech shuttles. I think Marcos made passing mention to them in one of his posts awhile back. I think he used the word anorexic. Yeah, that’ll work. They definitely don’t look like the typical overweight USan that’s for sure.

If anyone know who they are—as I said, there's a run on them—I’d appreciate hearing who they are. Idiot trolls need not respond, even though I know you will.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

Those are trannies.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

Isn't it common knowledge that renting a home for an indefinite period is inherently risky? Hence the American dream of owning one's own home?

Isn't that why people who could be renting a big place in a hip neighborhood suddenly move to a smaller place further out so that they can own it? They save their pennies and cut luxuries so that they make a down payment.

And why do they do this?

Because they DON'T want to live in their home at the whim of their landlord. Knowing that he/she isn't their friend but rather a businessperson who wants to maximize the value of an asset -- the place that they call home.

So yeah...gentrification sucks if you have been renting a home in that neighborhood. Tell us something that we haven't known our entire lives.

Posted by Troll on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

Too many SF politicians and journalists mislead people into believing there is security in renting.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 9:13 am

always turnover with rentals. It's now 20 years since I bought my Mission multi-unit and, not only have all the original tenants long gone, but the oens that replaced them have gone.

Moreover the identical multi-unit next door has gone condo, and the 2-unit across the street was TIC'ed. Throw in the 12-unit condo/loft building that was built on a parking lot, and the two "bodega style" cafe's that are now gourmet restaurants, and the block has gone from a blighted home for pimps, pushers and prostitutes to 21st century haven for knowledge workers and high-value producers.

Job done.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 9:30 am

The sooner you come to terms with that, Tim, the happier you will be. This is not longer the city you came to all those years ago - you can't reverse time.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

"Now prices are so high everywhere in town that your only move is out of San Francisco altogether."

It's A Human Rights Violation To Make Someone Move To Daly City!

They Live Like Animals There!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

vacancies, indicating that those prices are being paid and afforded, therefore they cannot be "too high".

That you really mean is that SF prices are too high FOR YOU. to which I respond that not everyone can afford to live in an affluent town.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 7:05 am

The hypocrisy of the right-wing/conservatives (posing as trolls) is interesting to watch. When the City is going in the direction they want it to go in per their agenda (meaning to the right), their motto is (think syrupy), "Things change. You must accept change. Cities don't stay the same," and other such manure.

If San Francisco were moving to the Left, these same hypocrites would be screaming about it as they did for decades with their trite snarky troll remarks (when the City was known as a "progressive city").

But now that San Francisco is going in the direction they want (meaning conservative) and becoming bland, boring, mainstream, dull, corporatist and elitist with the haves living right next to the have-nots in some cases, now their modus operandi is "You must accept change. It's good. You're stuck in the past. You're stuck in the days of Harvey Milk. Come meet the future. It's good that San Francisco is changing (translation: the way I want it to), and it's not the same city you moved to... " and other such corporatist marketing bull shit.

Clearly, they're too dense to detect their own hypocrisy.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

Adding to that...

Change is not always positive, as in this case.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

1) Much better economy, with clean, well-aid jobs
2) Better transit e.g. BART to the airports
3) Gleaming modern architecture in place of grungey old homes
4) Less crime and blight
5) Better food and bars
6) Less filthy hippies

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

question to ask if why you would even want to live here?

And if you do not want to live here, why do you care what it is like?

Some of us think SF is a lot better than it was 20 years ago.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 7:07 am

"Some of us think SF is a lot better than it was 20 years ago."...
Someone who was not here 20 years ago! Either that or someone who was a total shut in because 20 years ago the city ROCKED!! It was a truly beautiful time in the early-mid 90's. If i am going to lose my beloved bohemia to these agressive blindsided buttoned up corporate mouthpieces, at least i can remember what it used to be. You "gentrifiers" can not steal that at least! (although i bet some would try if they could. They just have to take everything that ever was good out of the hands of those that made it good.... Where is your ability to create your own utopia newbies? Lets see if you really have all of that money and style and go show us that you too can create a beautiful cultured city... on your own... not on the backs or should i say the bones of an already great place!)

Posted by bluepearlgirl on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

Many of the SF area's that I was in 20 years ago, like Hayes Valley, SOMA and the Mission, were crime-infested dumps 20 years ago. Now they are gleaming testaments to 21st century living.

I'm sure you had some fun in your youth, but that doesn't pay the bills. The city has grown up and it looks like you have not, living some Peter Pan existence and gazing wistfully thru your rose-tinted glasses at a past that wasn't nearly as good as you remember it, and never was.

Nobody owes you a bohemia, either here or anywhere else. Your delusions are not our responsibility. Grow up.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

I definitely enjoyed SF 20 years ago... and I enjoy it today. It's a remarkable city with a constantly changing plot and cast.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

Instead, theyw ant SF frozen in time so they can pretend their party years never ended, and that real life can be eternally deferred.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 7:12 am

Why is this issue treated with such a black-and-white approach? Obviously, an influx of money coincides with a reduction in crime and then a subsequent "cleaning up" of the neighborhood (I mean cosmetically); but crime and cleanliness is not the only issue at hand. There are lifestyles at stake. I cannot understand those comments that repeatedly use the argument that people with more money deserve to use that money to transform a neighborhood in their image. Why shouldn't the existing community, or even admirers of the community, be resistant to this type of change? Money is not the final answer to every argument. In fact, some people don't gauge their success on the value of their homes, and might be putting money that would otherwise be spent on rent into other aspects of their lives; their educations, support of their family, their businesses, their hobbies (e.g. art supplies, auto parts, and so on). Do people with different priorities mo longer deserve to live in San Francisco? Do people with more money deserve to tell those with less where they can and can't live?

Posted by RDJ on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 8:46 am

benchmark for assessing options for SF's future growth.

Ultimately lifestyle is something you take with you wherever you go. You can have your lifestyle elsewhere.

But the city needs successful busnesses and jobs to flourish. f your lifestyle does not support that, then how does your rpesence in Sf benefit me, and why should I vote for you to be subsidized so you can stay here for no reason other than some vague 2lifestyle2 notion.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2013 @ 10:59 am

If people like C.W. Nevius get there way, there will be no place in San Francisco for anybody who makes the city even remotely interesting. Over the past few months, I've noticed an exodus of friends of mine from the city - most of them moving to Oakland, just like people on here suggest. But guess what? It costs $6.30 round trip to go from Oakland to SF on Bart. AC-Transit is, somehow, less efficient then MUNI. It has more food deserts than San Francisco. It has fewer resources for people with disabilities, people with HIV, and the LGBT population in general....

I'm lucky enough to be a student with a guaranteed financial aid income right now, but I have no idea what will happen when I eventually graduate. And I'm smart, productive, etc, but I'm not a tech-industry worker. And I'm LGBT, with cerebral palsy and HIV. Should people like me be forced to move to Oakland so that people like C.W. Nevius can move more of their friends into trendy neighborhoods?

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

That's why it's cheaper. Duh.

But the point is that you can live much cheaper just a few miles and minutes away. And BART and ACTransit are cheaper than Muni on a per-mile basis.

Oh, and when did a poor person become more "interesting" than an internet entrepreneur and or whizz hedge fund manager?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

I'd argue that low-income people generally have better social skills. In public places, we aren't generally so distracted by iPhones or laptops that we're unable to communicate with other people. We also engage with our community on a daily basis when we WALK to work or school or take the bus. Furthermore, low-income people give a higher percentage of our income to charities and are more likely to volunteer. So in short, we ARE more interesting than "hedge fund managers" or "internet entrepreneurs" who are afraid to even set foot in the Tenderloin and ride a private shuttle bus back and forth between SF and Palo Alto.

And in my experience, low-income people don't generally troll on the Guardian's webpage by using the name "Guest" for every post instead of using a unique identifier, for the purposes of making it look like there are more right-wing reactionaries in San Francisco then there actually are.

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

places like you find in the TL or the Mish precisely because you get to rub shoulders with scary looking losers. It's a turn-on, if you're rich and fabulous - it's like "hey, look at me, a million bucks but I drinks with hobo's".

So, in a sense, yeah, we need a few little people like you as a backdrop for the amusement of the affluent. The hoi polloi represent a viable "amusement anthisesis".

But, in all seriousness, do you not aspire to be more than a dependent plaything subject to the whims of fashion?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 3:34 pm