As students of The University of “The Best City Ever”, we’re surrounded by some of the most expensive stores in the country, but we’re also living in one of the best cities for thrift shopping. All it takes to be a successful thrift shopper is an attention to detail, plenty of energy to look through seemingly countless racks, and knowing where the best stores are. Continue reading Save While You Shop: San Francisco’s Trendiest Thrift Stores→
Growing up, there was only one item I would faith- fully order from my grandfather’s Greek restaurant – a lamb gyro (pronounced yee-ro in Greek) with extra feta cheese and a side of french fries. Earlier this summer I discovered the newest addition to Hayes Valley. While walking down Hayes Street one day, I spotted two little olive trees surrounding the door frame luring me in with the scent of oregano and thyme. Looking up to the sign “Souvla”, I immediately knew San Francisco has welcomed its latest Greek addition. Continue reading FOOD REVIEW: A GREEK TRIES SOUVLA→
Cyrus Gill is a junior hospitality management and entrepreneurship and innovation double major.
College students rejoice, San Francisco believes its minimum-wage workers deserve a raise. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018. The measure will appear on the November ballot and aims to boost wages in various stages. The minimum wage would be raised to $12.25 next May and gradually increase to $15 by July 2018. Yet again, San Francisco has become a leader in the fight for income equality. The measure is surely not a scenario in which both business owner and employee can be completely satisfied; however, it seems the social benefits greatly outweigh the potential monetary loss.
Shaw San Liu, an organizer for the Coalition for a Fair Economy, voices that more than 100,000 minimum-wage earning San Franciscans would receive an annual increase of $9,000 once wages hit $15 an hour. While I see the increase as an exercise in workers’ rights, others believe the measure may drive more jobs out of San Francisco. According to a report published by the Office of Economic Analysis, by 2009 15,270 jobs may be lost due to the wage increase, roughly translating to a 2% increase in unemployment. I would be concerned if I lived in Detroit, which has a staggering 23% unemployment rate, but this is San Francisco, which has one of the most competitive job markets in America. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, San Francisco’s unemployment rate has shrunk to 4.4%, which is considerably lower than the state average of 7.3%. It is apparent to me that minimum-wage earners are being driven out of the city due to the ever-increasing cost of living, and not because San Francisco lacks a demand for labor.
We must also keep in mind the possible business advantages to paying employees a higher wage. In the book, “When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level”, just published in January, several UC Berkeley economists explain that increasing wages allowed companies to actually save money due to reduced employee turnover. San Francisco International Airport saw turnover decrease 60% between 2004 and 2011 primarily because they paid their workers a higher minimum wage than the average. If minimum-wage earners can afford to live in San Francisco, they will spend in San Francisco, expand our economy, and create more jobs.
The politicians and lobbyists have the packet and have weighed the options, but I desperately hope that voters are able to remove themselves from the notion that higher pay means higher prices. The San Francisco Center for Economic Development reported that San Francisco captured 40% of all Bay Area venture capital last year. 2013 also welcomed 16.5 million visitors on our city streets. I cannot imagine a pay increase halting the hordes of hungry tourists or crushing the dreams of the next Steve Jobs. Yes, the market is fickle; some employers may stumble. But business is booming and there is no better time to reward those who desperately need a raise. I would much rather live in a city known for its progressive labor practices than its CEOs, tech buses, and growing income disparity.
A quick look at real estate listings in San Francisco is enough to send most people running for the hills (or away from them in this case, and often to the increasingly gentrified East Bay). An average rent of $1,463/month is considered pricey to most, unbearable to many, and is in fact the highest average of any city in the nation.
The influx of the tech industry to San Francisco bears a lot of responsibility for the rapid and dramatic rent increases that have evicted many low-income individuals and infuriated countless San Francisco natives. The divide between housing activists and tech workers has deepened in recent weeks when attempts to work together — including meetups at Mission District bars between housing activists and members of the tech community — have turned into heated debate infused with accusation.
At one such meeting, activist Alicia Garza stated that those responsible for the “flavor” in San Francisco are “the folks who were living here before.” Another woman recently interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle said that all of the tenants of an apartment complex ignored their new neighbor, a tech worker, after she moved into the apartment that had belonged to an elderly woman before she was evicted.
And so should we evict the tech? No. TIME published an article entitled “8 Solutions to the Housing Problem in San Francisco” and not a single suggestion proposed kicking out the tech industry that has recently branched into the city from its roots in Silicon Valley. Just a few of the solutions proposed by TIME and currently in the works with San Francisco government officials include building the promised 30,000 new units (1/3 “permanently affordable”) by 2020, legitimizing the tens of thousands of in-law suites in the city as housing stock, and eliminating the buy-out program currently in place that allows developers to pay a fee to opt out of the city’s requirement that 12% of units new builds with 10+ units must be priced below market rate.
And are the tech critics and housing activists just ignoring all of the headlines boasting the large and charitable donations these tech companies are giving to our beloved San Francisco? Twitter recently promised $388,000 to Tenderloin schools and charities, the founder of Salesforce.com donated $100 million to children’s hospitals, while Google coughed up $6.8 million to provide MUNI passes for low and middle-income youths ages 5-17 for two years.
That is just the beginning of Google’s philanthropic efforts in the city. There was the transformation of the formerly afflicted 6-block Mid-Market corridor that had suffered for years and finally saw improvements as tech giants like Twitter moved in and started investing in the area.
In the city famous for welcoming those scorned elsewhere, our focus should not be on forcing these newcomers out, but collaborating with them and with lawmakers to assure that housing costs are brought down so that San Francisco’s Golden Gate can continue to welcome and provide safe haven for members of the LGBTQ community, hippies, activists, and tech workers alike.
I am leaving San Francisco when I graduate in 2014; by doing so, I acknowledge that I am giving up. I am giving up on a city mutated into a playground for the privileged and frankly boring, with no room for the weird or the sidewalk chess tables. No room for the poor either, considering that according to Al Jazeera, housing prices increased 26 percent in 2013 and the average rent is now over $1900 per month.
I am no longer comfortable here, as I am uncomfortable with luxury gourmet, “artisanal” organic consumer pap (give me dirty basements and ratty clothes; there is honesty in them). And I am not comfortable with a city government that is desperate for the handshakes of the wealthy and affluent and has no connection to its people (not that government ever has much of one), that is desperately trying to sweep its poor, its homeless, its oddities under the rug in favor of luxury merchant shops (“small business!”), techie capitalists, and Whole Foods.
Mayor Ed Lee claimed in a Time Magazine interview that people have got to go “beyond the blame game” in dealing with gentrification. This is because Lee is a sweating politician who does not care much about the residents of the city he supposedly serves save the tech company executives who have slightly bigger wallets than everybody else. The man continues to spew his devotion to the people of the city even after sending riot cops to trash their tents in Justin Herman Plaza in 2012 over and over and over.
The worst aspect of it is that the startup employees (some of whom I have personally met) are not evil monsters, but are often naïve about their impact on others and deeply sheltered (not coincidentally, the vast majority of tech workers and venture capitalists are white and male, according to recent New Yorker statistics) and have no concept of why their residency would be negative; the city has changed so massively that it has become a bubble of hip, decadent consumerism, built specifically for their pleasures – no wonder the CEO of AngelFire rants about the homeless. How can one even see people with dirty fingers, inside the clean windowless convenience of the Google Bus?
Google is moving into the Mission. Mark Zuckerberg has a home there. The sidewalk chess boards on Market Street by the Warfield have left. So will the punks, so will the anarchists, so will the writers and artists – they will decamp to Oakland (already undergoing gentrification in and of itself) and to the East Bay or, following former San Francisco musicians Ty Segall and John Dwyer, to Los Angeles. Personally, I head back to New England, feeling like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, exhausted by excess and the search for a good time. And either San Francisco will continue to be overrun with Dolores Park hollow men while bohemians hide in the Excelsior for the next decade or so, or the dot-com boom will bust, just as it did in the 1990s, and the new structures built by the city will seem curiously abandoned, a ghost town of Trader Joe’s and thrift stores.
I hope to find somewhere like the San Francisco promised to USF students. A place diverse and eclectic, a city on a hill where bohemia was possible. Where I saw chess boards on the sidewalk and felt routine pleasures in their lack of regulation. A city for exiled people, a city for anyone. A city that was free. This is not that city anymore —“free enterprise” made sure of that. And it will make San Francisco into a warning, not a promise, for anyone looking for something beyond bland, terrifying comfort.