They Just Don’t Know the Impact They’re Having

The New York Times ran an article earlier this week on the gentrification of San Francisco’s mixed income neighborhoods with infusion of many new highly paid high tech workers.

There’s a brief follow up in a tech column in today’s paper (where more typically, I’d expect to find reviews of holiday gifts for geeks).  This quote caught my eye:

“They come to San Francisco,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations, referring to workers in the industry, “they’re paid a premium for whatever they do, they don’t know the impact they’re having.”

Over a year ago, I was in the Mission for a few days for a workshop.  As a visitor focused mainly on my computer screen for those days, I saw the anti-gentrification signs all over the neighborhood.  I heard about the resentment over the private vans and busses that picked up tech commuters were picking people up at  regular bus stops and delaying the city busses.  Over a year ago, as a visitor there for only a few days, I was very aware of growing tensions and the real impact on people in places like the Mission where housing costs were soaring.

I’m making no claims to particular social sensitivities or righteousness.

I am saying that if these many wealthy tech workers don’t know the impact they’re having, it’s because they’re willfully oblivious.

A faculty member at the University of San Francisco weighs in:

“They’re sort of a new proletariat,” she said. “They are working tremendous hours. They want to live in San Francisco because it’s San Francisco — for the cultural experience that’s changing because of their presence. But I think it’s a mistake to blame them individually, personally. They are part of this larger structural process that’s happening.”

People who are able to pay so much for housing that the elderly are being evicted from a city are not a new proletariat.

And this structural process is not just “happening”.

People are making conscious decisions based on the huge amount of money now available to only a small segment of population of the city.

And that segment responds by touting their new charities.

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