I’m in DC taking a break at the hotel with a sleeping baby in my arms and found this blog post that I’ve apparently never published. It’s about what we’ve experienced happen to San Francisco in our nearly five years living there. There’s so much good we’re leaving behind, but there’s also a good bunch of bad, which is a relief to leave: how crazy expensive the city has become and how the city fails to deal with the homeless situation and helping those who are being pushed out of the city to make room for the techies. San Francisco Chronicle pretty much nails “reasons not to move to San Francisco” here.
This is a picture of my morning commute on Castro Street, you can see a total of five big tech buses, known as Google buses. For me theses buses symbol the changes I’ve witnessed.
Companies such as Google, Ebay, Apple, Genentech, and Yahoo shuttle their employees from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. Besides slowing down public muni transportation, for many people these buses represent the skyrocketing rent prices in San Francisco — now the highest in the nation. Along with the surge of buses, I have witnessed new coffee spots, restaurants, and shops catering to young techies pop up. Former unpopular neighbourhoods are now getting a makeover. I love “techie places”, I love that former unsafe neighborhoods now feel safe, but I resent what the changes entail: higher housing prices that people with a “normal income” can’t afford and long time residents being pushed out of their rentals to make place for those who can.
If you are a newcomer to San Francisco, the rent market may seem inaccessible. Our friends rent out their three bedroom, one bath apartment to three techies in their 30s, each with more than a $100.000 yearly income. Yet they share the appartment, which says it all! They take the commute shuttles to work. Families and non tech people, who haven’t been lucky to own a home and thus benefit from this housing boom, flee the city. Long time San Francisco homeowners on the other hand talk and dream about early retiring financed by subletting their home — which they could, but it would entail relocating to a different state :)
I would be beyond stressed if we had to find a rental now. Our landlord is an old Irish guy who adores my husband, and he has been kind enough to keep our rent down. When we leave, he’ll sell it or charge three times our rent amount.
The good thing about those tech buses is that they help ease the congested highways by lowering the number of cars. Also I know plenty of people who use them, the buses have aircon and wi-fi, so instead of spending their up to two-hour stressful commute behind wheels, they are spending it working or relaxing. Families that would otherwise move out of the city stay because their commute is comfortable. Experts claim that buses or no buses, San Francisco would still have to welcome new residents from the tech boom, because cities such as Mountain View and Palo Alto have a no growth policy and therefore no vacant rentals.
My take on this is that I can’t believe how bad the public commute from San Francisco to Silicon Valley is! Why not invest in Caltrain, get faster and more trains to Silicon Valley and in that way get even more traffic off the congested highways. Today either you have a flexible schedule (i.e. don’t have to pick up kids) and you can take Caltrain, or you need to drive yourself, or be fortunate enough to take a Google bus. Finally there should be more legislation to protect people from being evicted from their homes. There’s also talk about legislation favoring renting to teachers and policemen, which sadly right now seems to be the only way San Francisco can welcome these needed workers. If you are planning to move here, Craigslist is your best bet to find a a reasonably priced home. Here is an article about how much you need to make to live in the city (school and childcare costs not included).