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.


I'm moving Monday.

Posted by pistol stamen on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

One thing that isn't moving east anymore is the hard copy of the Bay Guardian. People must be reading this article online. Racks in Berkeley have been removed but the few remaining racks in north Oakland's which are in affluent Rockridge go unfilled week after week with an exception once in awhile. I've left messages with the circulation manager withno response.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

I certainly support the construction of some subsidized housing for low-income individuals being built in SF and I am happy to pay taxes to support it, but do not find it problematic that Oakland is growing as an alternative address in the Bay Area for artists and the rest of the "creative class." Neither all the low and moderate priced housing, nor all the restaurants, nor all the "cool places" in the Bay Area need to be within SF's city borders.

It is a good thing that Oakland is benefiting from being a relatively affordable "borough" of Greater San Francisco. Living in Oakland one can often get to downtown much faster than living in the outer parts of the city proper, so it is not as if living in Oakland is like living in some far-flung ex-burb. If Oakland provide some of the needed affordable housing, then let's protect and encourage the development of it in Oakland. With all the struggles Oakland has had over the years (and continues to have), it is good that it is witnessing a resurgence as a desirable place to live.

This is not to say there is no need to build more affordable housing within SF proper, but a regional approach needs to be taken to constructing affordable housing in the Bay Area. Also, there needs to be general acceptance that SF does not to fulfill all the needs of the whole Bay Area for housing, culture, entertainment, or "coolness."

SF is the city is now and the city it will become. It will never be the city it was 60 years ago or 20 years ago, never. It is time to accept things as they are and for the city to learn to play to its strengths, rather than constantly dwelling on short-comings.

Posted by Chris on Apr. 13, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

Maybe this comment is a little off subject, and ranty but I'll try to rein it in and stay on point. In a city that is supposedly so cosmopolitan and so diverse (it's not anymore and I see it everyday and night) you cannot get a drink after 2AM or earlier.

I'm not an alcoholic I'm just saying that people who work in the service industry just get shafted. You can't make the money the tech people make (or the trust-fund art students/artists/musicians/whatever take from their parents) but yet the city doesn't open up the opportunity to you to make more money in tips as a server, bar-back, dj, coat-check person, valet etc.

No, we'll close everything down at 2:00AM so the boring peole can get some sleep. It's always been this way here and the licensing laws are statewide, but I see it really clearly now, SF is becoming a really boring, conservative and provincial little bourgeois enclave. It is becoming a suburb. The TL and Mission are full of trustafarians, tech workers (granted they work) and frat-boys. Valencia street is like a suburban street, strollers and bloody dogs (forget the surrogate, have a child).

Please, go back to the Silicon Valley or Connecticut suburb from whence you came, and breed. You're boring us to tears and the city pols etc. are too busy cashing in on an "all eggs in one basket" approach like they did with the dotcom.

Twitter and Facebook, "Making billions from turning people into social retards."

Rant over.

Posted by Guest Snodgrass McVirtue on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

Snodgrass, alcohol serving hours are dictated by the State of California. SF has no power to set later alcohol serving hours. All of California (as well as many Western states) has a 2:00 AM closing time. So, if SF is provincial, then LA is, too.

Also, I am not sure a city is judge on how cosmopolitan it is just based on how late the bars stay open, until mid-2005, bars in London generally had to stop serving at 11:30 PM! (Many bars can now serve 24 hours with a special license). Yet, most people would consider London a very cosmopolitan city. Moreover, places like Birmingham, Mississippi allows some bars to operate 24 hours, yet I do not think most people would consider Birmingham more cosmopolitan than San Francisco.

Posted by Chris on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

Prolific breeding and a tacit open door policy on migration are adding to our already non-sustainable numbers and will always stifle creativity and drive the arts to philistine levels. Technology is only too happy to supply the demand for distraction.

Oakland, like San Francisco, will follow the same mindless growth and continue to work diligently on minutia that is merely an exercise in distraction. It’s all about acceptance and riding this gravy train at full speed ahead.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

There are almost no large successful businesses there and the biggest one, Clorox, is moving it's staff out to Pleasanton for safety reasons.

Yeah, yeah, there's Pandora but, overall, Oakland is an economic basketcase, which is why many of it's homes have fallen 50% in price, while in Sf, the fall has barely been a blip. And Oakland's property tax base is imploding, causing structural deficits as far as the eye can see.

The pro sports teams are eyeing the south bay, there's precious little retail, and an eroding tax base is undermining Oakland. In SFBG terms, a few starving artists moving there constitutes success and "coolness" but, sadly, they don't pay the bills.

Oakland is much closer to what Tim and Steven really want - a city with "cool" people with no money, and no rich folks or business. The problem is - you can't run a city that way, except into the ground.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

I mentioned that licensing laws were statewide. Maybe you shouldn't be on Farmville while leaving comments here. The huge difference between London (where I've also lived, and for a quite a while) is that London is a city, SF is a large town where rich kids come to hang out.

And that's about it. Other than that I don't really care because I intend to be out of this overpriced retirement facility by the fall, yay! SF's problems are like America's problems period, too much wealth in the hands of too few. And cities rarely get more interesting when they're populated by nothing but rich people and workaholics.

With new money comes bourgeois attitudes and a ton of corniness, which SF is awash in at the moment. This city is corny, full of people trying way to hard to fit in. SF used to be a city for outsiders, now it's for the herd. A herd with money, but a herd nonetheless. Baaaaaaaaa baaaaaaaa.

Posted by Guest Snodgrass McVirtue on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

You often find them in bars, funnily enough.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 8:17 am

I originally left San Francisco in 1978 because I could get more bang for my rent buck, and it mattered to me: I was a single woman raising a child in a one-bedroom apartment that I could barely afford. For all the fancy analysis, point and counterpointing going on, it seems that nothing much has changed.

After I stopped hyperventilating at the prospect of being able to afford rent and food while still being able to affordably commute to my San Francisco-based job, I looked around and found the East Bay more culturally and racially diverse than my San Francisco experience. I would wager that hasn't changed much, either. I do love a trip to the City for shopping, theater and other distractions, but I hella love Oakland, warts and all. Even the parking is more affordable.

When it was time to buy real estate, Oakland offered me options that I couldn't get in San Francisco, once again. San Francisco will never stop being beautiful to look at, but Oakland's star continues to rise, as hipsters, all kinds of configurations of families and the brave find reasons to light here. We've even found reasons to eat locally, right here in Oakland, as more and more foodies find our side of the Bay welcome.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

I am also a San Francisco native but moved where my father could find work. I was too young then- so grew up in another coastal California city. I considered moving back in the '90s but that and housing boom kept me from moving. Time went on; a homeless "barn" was built here, then an artists colony apartment complex was built nearby, explosions of low income housing popped up all over town, and San Francisco was so nice to send hordes of "sit and lie on the sidewalk". I have just about "had it" and again considered moving back to S.F. I am so glad I read this article and discussion. Thanks for the "been there" experiences. I now know that I could not tolerate standards of living, the 'eue de toilette', or rising finances in S.F.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 26, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

I'm sure the working class of the bay area loves their 45 minute anti-action packed snail paced commute paying $6 plus gas to get to and from work every day making just enough to pay their rent.

Posted by Stanley on Jun. 05, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

Are you a bunch of daffy people? Oakland is a joke. Shootings every half hour with a deplorable economics. What a bunch of written rubbish.

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