Keep the focus on real estate

Shift gentrification-blame from the hipsters to City Hall


OPINION Let's stop blaming the hipsters. The Google bus, that annoying icon of yuppie invasion and transit privatization, is not the lead driver of gentrification's reckless stampede reshaping our city (though it does play a role). The upscale restaurants dominating commercial strips may be economically and aesthetically offensive to many, but they are the natural byproducts of gentrification's much-ignored elephant in the room: the real estate industry.

While headlines, comment threads, and café chatter fixate on the tech industry and yuppies with fistfuls of dollars, it's the profit-gobbling real estate companies and speculators who are jacking up rents and evicting so many small businesses and renters—and they are surely happy to stay out of the spotlight.

Gentrification is a many-layered beast nurtured by cultural and economic trends, regional and local labor and housing factors, and public policies (or lack thereof). Beneath the surface-level aesthetics, it is about displacement of people who don't fit the dominant economic growth plan—radical market-driven upheavals of communities often abetted by government policies and inaction.

The stats are familiar but bear repeating as they are so destructive: average apartment rentals exceeding $2,700 a month, requiring someone making $70,000 a year to pay half of his or her salary in rent. Literally thousands of no-fault evictions in the past decade, according to the Rent Board.

Despite rampant displacement of thousands of San Franciscans, there has been little response from City Hall: no hearings, no proactive legislation, not even bully-pulpit style leadership. We must demand more.

Where is the leadership demanding the city do everything in its albeit limited power to halt further displacement of residents and small businesses? The toxic combo of tenant evictions and home foreclosures by the thousands — driven principally by major banks and real estate companies — is destroying lives and communities.

Some of this is beyond City Hall's jurisdiction: state laws like the Ellis Act and Costa-Hawkins enable no-fault evictions and prevent vitally needed commercial rent control. Still, beyond their valiant opposition to the Wiener-Farrell condo conversion threat, city leaders have been largely silent about this latest wave of gentrification that's eviscerating communities, driving out small businesses, and squeezing renters to the bone.

What can we do? We won't defeat gentrification with city hearings or loud protests or online screeds and petitions — but we need all those things, along with serious public education, to shine a bright hot spotlight on the companies and individuals defining who lives and votes here.

We need a new era of citywide awareness, unity, and action to literally save San Francisco — a bold unapologetic vision that puts affordability and diversity at the forefront of what our city is about. We can't have diversity without affordability; it's that simple.

Renters are gearing up to fight back. An 'Eviction Free Summer' is being planned — an innovative campaign to counter the rash of evictions that are generating both displacement and skyrocketing rent prices. The idea of 'Eviction Free Summer' is to put evictions and evictors in the spotlight, to put would-be evictors on notice and capture the attention of city officials who have so far done little to stem their tide.

We must demand accountability and action by City Hall and state legislators to rein in the real estate industry and put the brakes on evictions and other displacement. People's lives, neighborhoods and communities, and the very fabric and identity of our city are at stake.


When you price all the poor people, the artists, the welfaros, the dissidents, minority people who have called SF home for generations, the working class, the service sector, the radicals, the refugees, the idealists, etc and replace them with wealthy people you effectively kill the soul of the city. You make it just another boring and well policed expensive and bland suburb. It seems like the new wave of over-privileged corporate sycophants and trust funded yupsters do not know, respect or care about the vibrant history of culture and resistance our town has. Ask some of these characters about the significance of the general strike or the labor movement and they generally lose interest. I have been living here since the 80s and the direction this town is going breaks my heart. That said, I am a homeowner (below market rate condo) and I will stay here to fight the millionaires and support the underclass until I am dead in the ground.

Posted by Guest on May. 30, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

Homeless people pissing in the street, or

Talentless artists who try and disguise their lack of ability by calling their art "experimental"

Activists and dissidents seeking disruption and non-democratic solutions

Criminals, panhandlers, vagrants, drunks and drug addicts.

That's not what makes SF interesting. It's what holds back SF.

I haven't lived in SF for as long as you, but it has been 20 years, and the city is far better than back when it was a hippie town.

Posted by Guest on May. 30, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

SF is a dirty toilet, the streets smell like piss and shit, the sooner the losers are removed from the city , the better it will get.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:08 am

I've been trying to convince my "artist", "dissident", and "idealist" friends to find a way to buy Below Market Rate condos like you have. Usually they don't believe they can do it.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 9:50 am

The only poor people have soul argument…. what BS, not much different than the only white people have morals argument of the early part of the last century.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 9:06 am

Oh, I was going to Ellis your cheapskate ass but there's a rabble of SFTU types out on the sidewalk

So instead I'll continue running a business at a loss when I could make a substantial six figure sum by Ellis'ing and at the same time both improve the housing stock of the city AND improve the human stock of the city as well.

I'll check the rent board stats in the Fall to see how successful this was.

Posted by Guest on May. 30, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

The sooner renters are Ellis acted, the faster we will have a owner based city and the faster this rent control jihad nonsense can be overturned by reasonable voters.If you own rent control buildings ELLIS ACT THEM and save San francisco from the nut case freeloaders!

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:05 am

best deal on rent for the longest time. These same people drive up rents for new arrivals by hoarding apartments.

So Ellis'ing is not only profitable - it helps enact social justice.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:18 am

Rent control is unjust enrichment, pure and simple.....

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

More than human residents are being driven from habitat. The aggressive cutting of trees (I sadly had to cut one down, but followed procedure) for real estate development is displacing many animals and birds.

Take the development at 1700 Diamond St. where four luxury homes likely on the market at three million apiece, cut a mini forest on their property and joined with Rec & Park to cross the street into Noe Valley's park and cut a couple of more pines to improve the developer's view.

The Willie Brown of today, living in a highrise, is not the Willie Brown of yesterday living in Upper Haight. There are no bully pulpit leaders. They all belong to real estate interests. We demand mitigation.

Posted by GuestSFreptile on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 12:04 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

As an aged hippie, hipsterstyle suits me fine. Trees, wind and weather go hand in hand. One doesn't know how important parks are until you try and raise a kid in this City. Every square inch of this 49 square mile plot is up for sale. There is no urban forest czar. Mount Davidson, Mount Sutro, cut at will. GGP? Disneyland.

I'm not for regional control. But, yes, I'm a tree hugger in a concrete landscape. Our problems must be solved by the City and County of San Francisco alone. We are creating a divided City.

So, for example, West side gets to drink a recycled mix of water and East side (and Daly City) gets to drink Hetch Hetchy water? WTH? This isn't just about Ellis Act, but City planning and some fairness for all. What happened to all those work-live constructions South of Market? Now, half-million dollar condos?

Posted by SFreptile on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

Plenty of them there.

Half million is cheap for a SF condo - better snap one up while you still can.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

Its all about density and housing. Build more housing. If there were 10,000 more housing units rents drop. Just supply and demand.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 7:47 am

High-rise, high-density towers in the SE of the city could create 100,000 units and that really would lower the marginal cost of housing.

But the same people who claim to want affordable housing also claim to want to preserve views for the rich.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 9:39 am

Financial planners recommend that you spend 1/3 of your income on rent. The fact is that if we allow rents to keep rising, we won't have anyone left to staff our retail establishments, teach our kids, serve our food, watch our kids, or do other lower paying jobs. We don't have a lot of teenagers and kids anymore, SF has one of the lowest rates of children in the U.S. because young families can't afford to raise kids here. With the high cost of gas, traffic, and the fact that good public transportation doesn't extend out to where home prices are actually affordable, we're going to lose a lot of our labor force. I'm a Special Ed teacher, and I will never be able to afford even a condo here. Sure, I can move, but what will happen when everyone who can't afford to live here moves? What will this city look like?
I know it's easy and fun to get nasty on these forums, but please remember that we're talking about people's lives, and most people aren't out to jack the system. I love the Bay Area and work very hard doing an important job 60 or so hours a week, and it sucks that that's not enough to get to stay.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

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Posted by LareGrieriWiz on Jun. 18, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

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Posted by LareGrieriWiz on Jun. 18, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

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Posted by LareGrieriWiz on Jun. 18, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

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