There's been a lot of talk lately about tech bus routes disrupting San Francisco streets, housing activists and tech worker battles, and all the tax breaks the City is giving to tech businesses to try to keep them firmly rooted in SF, meanwhile displacing residents that have been in SF for generations and made the City what it is. "What's happening to our City?" some hipster whines into their $5 single-drip, locally sourced, organic cup of coffee.
I was born in SF, raised in the Bay Area, and very proudly have called myself a Bay Arean long before the tech tourists arrived, or E-40 gave us our official unofficial anthem. I remember the first wave of dot-comers, and how in the 90s the same woeful cries arose out of the artsy fartsy depths of the City. Have we sold out? Where is the true essence of SF? And then, BOOM! The bubble exploded, and everyone went back to their lives.
But, those dot-comers would come back full force in the form of, what I call, tech tourists. People that have hopped off of planes and busses from Iowa or India, with nothing but a laptop and a dream...much like those starry eyed future waitresses or strippers hop off the busses at Union Station in LA. They came to the city after the social media boom, and have come in search of building an app or a website, just to sell it off to the highest bidder. They hunt VCs like that starry eyed girl hunts famous actors or directors, hoping for a shot at the big time. I can go on and on with stereotypes, and if you want to add some more, feel free to leave them in the comments. The tech tourists are plagued with the same gripe as every other tourist in the country- thanks for the economic and employment boom, but you suck for the traffic, attitude, and trash you leave behind.
Is it the tech companies that are responsible for gentrifying neighborhoods, and displacing the generations-old families who helped to make the City great? Somewhat. (Pssst...it's also the City who has long since fought any form of development.) Is it hypocritical for transient hipsters to proclaim their love for "The Mish", when they don't know its history as a punk haven and gang territory? Sorta. Is it so bad that a new sub-culture of people have found their home in SF? I'm not so sure. SF has been home to prostitutes, speakeasies, gold miners, labor protesters (hell, protesters of all types), beatniks, hippies, communists, homosexuals, musicians, and any other sub-culture that couldn't fit neatly into mainstream America.
Yes, the tech tourists fit neatly into mainstream America (in fact, they're creating mainstream America, for the better or worse, you decide). However, you cannot applaud innovation, and then turn your back on it once it interrupts your bus schedule, or adds an insane amount of traffic to your commute. You cannot be an app addict, not even talking to the person sitting across from you at lunch, and applaud the influx of employment then, get mad when those employees are using a greener means of transportation. Let me be clear, I'm very against kicking people out whose families have lived in SF, and built the City to what it is, due to high rents and in favor of people that will tear down a mom and pop shop so that they can have their daily half-caf, light Vanilla "Macchiato".
So, it's the age old question, what came first? The tech tourists or the almost total overhaul of what makes SF The City? I dragged my husband up here from that self-involved wasteland of LA, with promises of a "much cooler and nicer" SF, only to find that the SF I remember has long since moved on....possibly to Seattle or Portland. I remember SF, much like you remember your first love, with rosy lenses, and I remember a city full of compassion, consciousness, political awareness (heck, awareness in general), polite manners, and warmth. Now, I've found a City full of self-involved douchebags claiming to be cool and innovative; without any thought to those around them as they walk, totally absorbed in their own lives and cell phones; without so much as a smile when someone says "hello"; with restaurant tables FULL of people not engaging with each other, but with their cell phones, and with just the very slightest glimpse of what it used to be. Our City, the one we love, is still there. We just have to dig a little deeper than we have in the past.
The reality is that I don't think this dialogue is limited to SF, I think that worldwide there are people that have forgotten what it's like to be a community and to engage with friends offline, as opposed to online. But, that's another piece all together...