San Francisco's loss

Heading East: San Francisco is losing much of its diversity, cultural edge, and working class to the East Bay -- can anything be done?

"I must say that Oakland is more fun," says City Council member Rebecca Kaplan of her city.

San Francisco is increasingly losing its working and creative classes to the East Bay and other jurisdictions — and with them, much of the city's diversity — largely because of policy decisions that favor expensive, market-rate housing over the city's own affordable housing goals.

"It's definitely changing the character of the city," said James Tracy, an activist with Community Housing Partnership. "It drains a big part of the creative energy of the city, which is why folks came here in the first place."

>>Is Oakland cooler than San Francisco? Oaklanders respond.

Now, as San Francisco officials consider creating an affordable housing trust fund and other legislative changes, it's fair to ask: Does City Hall have the political will to reverse the trend?

Census data tells a big part of the story. In 2000, the median owner-occupied home in San Francisco cost $369,400, and by 2010 it had more than doubled to $785,200. Census figures also show median rents have gone from $928 in 2000 up to $1,385 in 2010 — and even a cursory glance at apartment listings show that rents have been steadily rising since then.

Tracy and other affordable housing activists testified at an April 9 hearing before the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee on a new study by the Budget and Legislative Analyst, commissioned last July by Sup. David Campos, entitled "Performance Audit of San Francisco's Affordable Housing Policies and Programs."

"There's a hearing right now at City Hall about our housing stock and how it's been skewing upward toward those with higher incomes," Board President David Chiu told us, noting that it is sounding an alarm that, "Creative individuals that make this place so special are being driven out of the city."

Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan said that San Francisco's loss has been a gain for Oakland and other East Bay cities, which are enjoying a new cultural vibrancy that has so far been largely free of the gentrifying impacts that can hurt a city's diversity.

"You can add more people without getting rid of anybody if you do it right. Most of development is looking at places that are now completely empty like the Lake Merritt BART station parking lot, empty land around the Coliseum, and the West Oakland BART station," Kaplan told us. "We have to commit to revitalization without displacement."

Yet the fear among some San Franciscans is that we'll have just the opposite: displacement that actually hinders the city's attempts at economic revitalization. "What's at stake is the economic recovery of the city," Tracy said. "You can't have such a large portion of the workforce commuting into the city."


A big part of the problem is that San Francisco is building plenty of market-rate (read: really expensive) housing, but not nearly enough affordable housing. The report Campos commissioned looked at how well the city did at meeting various housing construction goals it set for itself from 1999 to 2006 in its state-mandated Housing Element, which requires cities to plan for the housing needs of its population and absorb a fair share of the state's affordable housing needs.

The plan called for 7,363 market-rate units, or 36 percent of the total housing construction, with the balance being housing for those with moderate, low, or very low incomes. Developers built 11,293 market rate units during that time, 154 percent of what was needed and 65 percent of the total housing construction. There were only 725 units built for those with moderate incomes (just 13 percent the goal) and just over half the number of low-income units needed and 83 percent of the very low-income goal met.


Absolutely!! Native San Franciscan here ...and like many other natives that weren't able to keep up with the quadrupling of house prices in the mid 90's we ended up here in the East Bay. Yes, the boom really did ruin the place. I honestly thought I'd dread it out here, but I'm happier here than I could have imagined!

It's more socioeconomically and racially diverse than the "new" San Francisco and there are actually children/families/singles/seniors...a great mix of all kinds here. Love it..don't even care to visit the City anymore since Oakland/Berkeley have everything I need and w/o the snarky attitude from all the blow-ins and carpetbaggers.

Posted by LB on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 9:07 am

I remember when there was freedom fun in SF! I grew up in SF when there were warehouse parties south of market and no police! We would go to the Castro for Halloween. New Years would be in Union Square with no organization people just knew to go there. I went to the Love fest the last two years it was in SF and when the Height St. fair stopped people from drinking in the street it seemed SF was loosing its fun(gentrification). After the Giants won there first ring I moved to Los Angeles. I felt I had done it all. I didn't want to move to Oakland I don't like the bridge. (6$ for ? I heard its going up to 10$) I have a way bigger place in LA the art scene is very strong and I actually enjoyed independent outdoor concerts/shows and events in downtown last summer with not one cop or security! It reminded me of how SF was years ago. I was living in the TL before I left and noticed the gentrification happening in front of my eyes. Polk street now is a place to party for people with trust funds and tech jobs.

The bottom line is if you own or run a business if you can charge more for your service/product you will. Rich people are willing to pay high prices to live in SF. I remember when it was fun and easy to live in SF and not have a trust fund or a great paying job but those days are gone.

PS When I become rich I'm not going to move back.
The mission still has very faint heart beat, but most of the artists etc there still have trust funds and are rich they just hide it. I have nothing against rich people I'm working on being wealthy. There something called being ripped off and it happens to all people just don't let it be you... Cheers

Posted by I'll Pass on Oakland 10$ toll in next few years on Apr. 11, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

Every city has a brand. It's what comes to mind when people think of a city. San Francisco's image as a diverse , gay friendly, artist centric , progressive city is rapidly fading. We have become a destination for soulless , money driven , boring people. The same mentality that commercializes yoga, eats "the Marina girl" salad while driving a Land Rover. IMHO.

Posted by SF-Resident on Apr. 11, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

What a time for this article to be family and I finally gave up our search in San Francisco and are now renting a large, affordable, beautiful apartment right near lovely Lake Merritt in Oakland. What an amazing city filled with creative, diverse, and loving people!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

I see nothing wrong with sharing our cultural edge and diversity with our poor stepsister across the Bay.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 6:50 am

The answer is not to make more low income housing. We need artist housing , which is done in other parts of the country. Low income housing has never equated to vibrancy and creativity. Its needed for a different reason, to house people who can not afford to live in high market areas and shouldn't be displaced, but it is NOT here to bring us vibrancy and creativity.... From someone who lived and saw a LOT of low income housing in her neighborhood in chicago.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 7:36 am

Artist housing... calls to mind how in SF, Louise Renne as supervisor in the 1980s sponsored the "Live/Work" legislation that forced scores of artists out of industrial spaces and replaced them with yuppies in trendy "yuppy dorms."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 7:58 am

Eastern Europe style tower blocks discriminated by occupation. Oh, how you dream!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

Not sure what it is you are referring to, but I suppose someone with less of an ossified point of view might use the word "allocated" as opposed to "discriminated" -- or do you hold that in our society we "discriminate" against those with less money?

I'm thinking about how Paris once had its vibrant artistic presence based on six-story buildings with no elevators: the wealthy lived on the ground floors with progressively poorer people on the floors above, and starving artists up in the garrets.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 5:43 am

There is some argument for something like a hospital providing accomodation for doctors who are on-call and other, similar voactional needs.

But the idea that we have separate buildings for artists, nurses, teachers, accountants etc. is ridiculous.

Moreover, if anything SF has way too MANY artists. SF is virtually the world capital of bad (sorry, "alternative") art on the planet. Surely we don't need to do anything more to attract artists who can't sell their work?

By definition, being poor is a sign that there are too many people doing what you do already. If you wanna paint, then do it in your spare time.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 8:15 am

Good for Oakland?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 9:50 am

Shhhhhhhh! Don't say that outloud. All the hipsters will move over to the East Bay.

Posted by Elizabeth on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 10:28 am

There's no there, there.

Posted by Gertrude Stein on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 10:30 am

The original trustafarian.

Posted by Jack London on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 10:49 am

Noticed you blew off Oaktown for Sonoma.

Posted by Gertrude Stein on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:46 am

and it isn't what you think. Look it up.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

What are the odds that the same trend in housing will continue in Oakland?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 10:58 am

At least until SF provides better transit through BVHP and VisiValley, or the kids figure out that the outer Mission offers better living than the inner Mission (aka Marina South).

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:06 am

We see so many angry comments about how once great SF neighborhoods are now gentrified, but this is precisely what many of the new Oakland residents are doing to these neighborhoods.

I don't say this as criticism - it's a natural market process: move to a cheaper neighborhood and improve it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:39 am

Does it matter that I am a hipster Black woman who thinks that San Francisco remains cooler than Oakland for one gigantic reason...the hordes of fatherless Oaktown youth who dropped out of school and are jailbirds...those guys have a job-robbing and mugging.

There, I said it. That's why I prefer living here, where the air is fresh and the breeze is cool. A small, walkable city, whereas Oakland is big like LA.

And the Cali Phony liberals live in Oaktown and resent all the crime but pretend that everythings fine.

No thank you, I'll stay in my Civic Center condo, walking distance to great museums, with the sounds of pigeons and the smell of Vietenemese food wafting.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:00 am

Hipster black woman,you don't know this Black Woman's Oakland, a city of neighborhoods. Every neighborhood has a flavor, walkability, a micro-climate, and a personality. And BTW, the Civic Center is not all there is to San Francisco; run out by 3rd street, you'll see where Bagdad by the Bay hides it's fatherless youths, dropouts and jailbirds.

There isn't a city in this country without its dark side, sister.

Having lived on both sides of the Bay, I'm so sorry to see the either/or nature of this conversation, and to smell the defensiveness emanating from both sets of defenders. I wonder if either side of the non-controversy has spent much time trying to appreciate the other side.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

Crime has barely been mentioned here. I've lived in SF (in the Mission) for 23 years and have barely heard of anyone I know being a victim of street crime. But I have 3 friends in Oakland (all male, in their 30's) who have been victims of street crime in the last 5 months: 1 mugged near Ashby BART around 8:30 PM; 1 mugged near MacArthur BART around 7PM; 1 fag-bashed near downtown around 9:30 PM.

I walk around SF day and night and feel pretty safe. I know there's crime in SF too (the 24th St. rapist was in my neighborhood), but anecdotally it seems far more prevalent on the East Bay side. I considered moving to Oakland before I found my latest apartment, and this is my biggest fear about making such a move.

I worry that this subject is being given short shrift in this discussion, I would like to hear others' comments on this subject, especially from those who made the move from SF to Oakland.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:12 am

1. Self-identifies as a hipster
2. A transplant
3. Thinks SF Vietnamese food is better than Oakland's

Posted by Jack London on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:23 am

What a bunch of artsy snots (with the exception of a few honest commenters who know who they are). The only way Oakland is cooler than SF is if guns, murder, and crime are cooler than safe, residential neighborhoods. I live in the Uptown/Northgate area (Oaktown) and you really don't know who you're going to meet up with walking from the BART. I agree SF is too expensive. But if I had the income I'd move back there in a heartbeat.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:23 am

I have friends who travel to Oakland all the time for art events but unanimously think Oakland is Hell and would never live there if given any choice.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 11:38 am

I live in Oakland but I'm trying to move into the city......I find Oakland kind of boring, with not much to do but go to restaurants, and the monthly art murmur.....not a lot of music options either....the Fox has a few shows a month but thats it.

Oakland is good if you want to settle down and start making babies but it's kind of dull, which is fine....just not my cup of tea.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

It's true Oakland has better weather, the housing is cheaper as are cost of living. The big down side - violence, guns, and the folks in public office.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

How many of SFBG staff are white males, I wonder?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

He's waiting for you on the other side of the bridge! And at all of the Oakland BART station exits! Your fear of bridges is well founded. Stay west bay!
Don't let your artist friends or Oakland city councilwomen trick you into moving or even visiting Oakland. Nothing to see! Its all crime over there. Come to think of it, Oakland is home to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Four very, very cracked out horsemen.

All joking aside, both cities have higher crime areas. Who hangs out in Hunters Point at night? Know your surroundings, just like everywhere else. And if you're that concerned about crime, there are plenty of great neighborhoods in Pleasanton or Blackhawk.
Both cities have great restaurants. Granted, SF has a LOT more nightlife, but that's what BART is for. And if I stay out past BART closing time, the $50-70 taxi ride is waaaaay cheaper than SF rent. Living in Oakland (IMHO) is the best of both worlds. I can get to downtown SF quicker than my friends that live in the Sunset. The city and regional parks in the Oakland hills seem limitless. Plus there are wide streets you can ride your bike on without having to worry about getting killed by a muni driver or tourist, and plenty of street parking.
While I like the hustle and bustle of SF and the people watching opportunities, there's also a certain amount of anxiety being around that concentration of people, all of the time. I think all San Franciscans feel it. Oakland is just more spread out.
Plus, Oakland has those 'Only in Oakland' bizarre characters who are just waiting to do something completely random and typically hilarious (normally while j-walking in front of you).
Plus, I own a large dog. Need I say more?

Posted by A Ellis on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

Thank you for saying something nice about Oakland, Bay Guardian. It really means a lot :')

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

Oakland, California. You're just one drive by away from heaven (literally)

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

It's funny because all of the residents of the east bay, south bay, north bay, Sacramento, Fresno, Reno... all come to SF to party and have a good time, not Oakland.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

And piss all over the place

Posted by A Ellis on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

Recently working in Oakland after over 10 years of working in the city. I got to say no, it was much better working in SF. Yea, so it might be cheaper but I think its far sketchier than most parts of SF. More than a couple of times I have had to come to a complete stop in a active street to let the homeless guy with 3 shopping carts do a U-turn in front of me as he glares and mumbles under his breath. Temescal is cute and sort of fun but an island surrounded by ghetto. Why is easy parking looked at as a plus, in SF I didn't need a car, definitely need one in Oakland. From my office I can hear guys doing donuts in the middle of the street or the Cutlass with spinners whose bass is rattling off its bodywork. I'm relieved when I'm back on that $6 buck bridge heading home

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

Supply and demand.

There's a reason it's cheap.

Why stop there- Stockton's even cheaper!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

San Francisco's biggest problem is accessibility. This is a transit problem.

Regional transit provides an outlet for the CBD (which is how SF functions in many ways for the region, ala Manhattan). The sheer inconvenience of GETTING TO SAN FRANCISCO is the real issue that prevents the relief valve of the East Bay from working.

The solution to San Francisco's big issue is transit access to the East Bay. Build new tunnels for rail, build it now. Expand mass transit within the city of Oakland to make it less car-dependent. If someone can live in East Oakland and get to downtown San Francisco via train in 20 minutes, then you will have accomplished your goal. As for now BART is not serving this function and AC Transit, while useful, needs to be expanded significantly, particularly with fixed rail, subways/surface, whatever.

If San Francisco doesn't do this it will continue to lose it's place as the center of the region as has been happening for decades. The Bay Area needs to be better connected and more transit-oriented to thrive in the future. The ease of getting around say New York City is absolutely miles beyond what the Bay Area offers and that system is aging and incredibly expensive to expand.

Rail infrastructure in Oakland combined with a new and better tunnel connecting to San Francisco will dramatically change the landscape. Combine that with intelligent construction and the entire region will improve.

As for housing - density. There are parts of the city that need to be designated for dense growth. Those rickety two-story houses built on top of garages in transit-accessible locales need to go, replaced with six-story, dense developments by the dozen. Balboa Park is a great area to consider. Geary corridor is another, but the merchants/residents out there don't want it to happen and so they oppose mass transit infrastructure. You simply MUST designate parts of the city for increased density and create policies that encourage that. Yes, the character of the neighborhood will change. That's how it works, all things are not meant to be preserved forever because somebody who lives there now likes it how it is.

Much of the city can't handle increased density, but a lot of it can. Focus needs to be on identifying those areas and then targeting development, major, massive development, there. Also, transit again.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

Where in the Constitution does it say that everyone gets to live anywhere they wish without regard to a means to do so? If I want to live in La Jolla, Carmel or Beverly Hills why does someone else have to pay for that? If middle and lower middle class people cannot afford to live in SF then they will live someplace else and contribute culturally and economically to that place. Eventually, when SF companies cannot hire enough of those people, they will be forced to increase wages in order to attract them back to the city. That is how capitalism and free market work and it is much smarter than the fools on the Board of Supervisors in SF or the clowns on the Oakland city council.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

Where in the Constitution does it say we're required to live under a capitalist system, let alone the sort of irresponsible free market capitalism that you're advocating? It doesn't, anywhere. If our elected officials choose to convert to socialism, we wouldn't even need to change the Constitution. I really wish those who reference the Constitution would read the damn thing.
But, since you asked, the Preamble to the Constitution states that its purpose is to "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..." So should the 1 percent of the population who exploited this country's natural and human resources for their personal gain be allowed to simply seize the best cities for themselves? Since when do we equate the "Blessings of Liberty" with the spoils of exploitation? Our Constitution didn't create a Plutocracy, it created a democratic republic on the basis of all people being created equal and having equal access to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." So I don't think our Founding Fathers would have objected to affordable housing programs aimed at promoting "the general Welfare," do you?

Posted by steven on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

There was far more inequality back when the Constitution was written so there is no basis to believe that equality of outcomes was in their minds.

You have an equal chance of seeking wealth but not of achieveing wealth - the latter depends on your smarts, hard word and ambition. Most people are content with mediocrity and so that is what they achieve.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 6:35 am

The problem is that this article isn't really about Oakland, it's using Oakland as a stick to beat San Francisco with. I largely agree with the Guardian's positions about San Francisco housing. But it creates a San Francisco-centric view of Oakland. Certainly Oakland is benefitting from San Francisco "refugees." But there are many more sources of Oakland's development as a community--indigenous Oaklanders themselves, UC Berkeley graduates who stay in the East Bay, people who come directly to Oakland from other parts of the country or the world. Oakland is a lot more than San Francisco's overflow basin.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

I love East Oakland but we need some supermarkets and banks over here, or how about even a nice mall. Supervisor Kaplan please think about the Oakland Coliseum, its great that you can watch a game for $2 however its a real dump over there (an I know because I live down the street). Three sports teams play there but all want to leave; really can we put in a nice mall and make it like Staples Center in LA where people want to go?? It's a diamond in the rough!! Don't focus on housing, focus on jobs so people can afford their homes and teens can stay way from crime.

Posted by krink on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

significant business or anything approaching self-confidence. The city teeters from crisis to crisis while having more murders per year than Sf which has twice the population.

If you can't afford to be in San Francisco then move out of the Bay Area. Oakland is like Detroit but with better weather.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

Sounds like a lofty commentary on Oakland from someone who hasn't spent much time here. Sounds like you're too busy being defensive for paying the big bucks to live in a slum closet with a view.

I've lived in both Oakland and San Francisco, and affordability matters to people. It means a person gets to work to live rather than live to work. I shop, I eat well, I live in a lovely house in a bucolic neighborhood where I know my neighbors, I earn a living, and I enjoy great weather. I travel internationally because my mortgage isn't eating me alive. I can get to any number of interesting diversions here in Oakland, or across the Bay in San Francisco if I'm so inclined, and if I need a university, there is one in my backyard called University of California Berkeley;there is Holy Names College, Mills College and a clutch of community colleges right here in Oakland.

The problem with this conversation is the either/or nature of it, which probably sells more newspapers or garners more hits than a both/and conversation would. Having lived on both sides of the Bay, I will always vote for affordability, since it permits more living. Isn't living what life is about?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 9:38 pm

one of them.

Dude, I get that you don't have the fiscal power to be where the real action is. And that you therefore need to make a virtue out of necessity. But one only has to drive through Oakland (preferably with the doors locked) to see that it's a grubby wasteland compared to your bucolic neighbor.

So sure, if you're a low earner then you have no choice. But then might you not be happier outside of the Bay Area? Not everyone can afford to live in the most desirable places - we get that. But there's a reason that Oakland is cheap.

Actually, several.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 18, 2012 @ 5:51 am

The whole Bay Area has become Cooler in weather that's for sure....

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

After getting out of a long term relationship, I started dating on OkCupid, and it seems like the more artsy, musical, talented, and interested women live in the East bay. I have been living in SF for 14 years, and I really like hanging out in Oakland, and the East bay with these dates, and I have been saying that I think SF has lost something, this article reinforces these ideas.

Posted by okcupid dude on Apr. 12, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

This article proves that 90% of douc#enozzles who concern themselves with whether or not the place they live is "cool" prefer oakland.

the rest of us keep on living our lives in the places we choose to live - without spending massive amounts of time worrying about our street cred with the "artist" community.

I hope you all saw the south park lampoon of San Francisco a few years back (yeah, I know you dont have a TV) because you all seem to be the living embodiment.

Posted by greg on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 6:52 am

No mention of the current dot com 2.0 boom going on in SF and Silicon Valley and how that has effected so many San Franciscans' ability to afford housing - especially renters. I think it's really important to remind everyone that while tax breaks are given dot coms to stay in SF, renters are they ones who pay the price.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 10:03 am

I referenced it briefly in the lede to my "Artists in flux" sidebar, and we did a whole issue on it two months ago:
Yes, you're absolutely correct that the new dot-com bubble and the tax breaks given to support it are a big part of what's making San Francisco less affordable.

Posted by steven on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

tax breaks to some entities and people is because they bring in investment and success? Which in turn fund all the programs that you claim to support but of course don't want to personally pay for?

San Francisco and Oakland both have their place. SF is a world-class city for those who flourish, prosper and succeed. Oakland is a cheap and gritty place for those whom the successful employ in a variety of service sectors.

Without SF's rich, whom you hate, there wouldn't be all those jobs for those whom you apparently love, like bad artists getting by on minimum wage service jobs. It's a symbiosis.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

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