The dot-com invasion -- call them twerps with 'tude -- is destroying everything
that made San Francisco weird and wonderful.
By Paulina Borsook
Salon.com, Oct 28, 1999
I had the misfortune to live in Manhattan during the '80s, when all conversations turned
ineluctably to real estate and the shops and people that made New York interesting were being
wiped out by a boom economy. Then, you'd see a slightly faded kosher butcher shop replaced by
an Italian fusion restaurant, what was the rehearsal space for a dance troupe become a lawyer loft.
Now in late-'90s San Francisco, you can have all the Manhattan greed-is-good bull-economy
moments you like. Freed, Teller and Freed, the oldest coffee and tea seller in the city (established
1899, its handcrank cash register in use until the end) survived all -- earthquakes, the Depression,
Starbucks -- but it couldn't survive the Internetting of San Francisco: It closed Oct. 15, its building
to become condos. You can stand on Sixth Street smack in the middle of SOMA (where Wired
got its start) and the flow of traffic now evokes Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Parking is bad all
over the city, the gratuitous kindness from strangers and service personnel I always so pleasantly
contrasted with New York is fading fast, and it's beginning to be all too clear that people have no
slack in their lives.
Commercial real-estate prices have gone up 42 percent since 1997 in San Francisco's Mission
District, a formerly working-class, affordable, largely Latino neighborhood where in the old days
auslanders only ventured to get burritos at Taqueria La Cumbre and sex toys at Good Vibrations.
Now it's the scene of some of the most bitter class struggles in the city, the Yuppie Eradication
Project (let's key those SUVs!) vs. sleek dot-com people, who look like nothing so much as the
slickers I cowered from in the '80s, who lived on Manhattan's Upper East Side and commuted to
Wall Street. On happening Valencia Street, where druggies and minimum-wage immigrants walk
past their economic superiors, a fenced-in parking lot has appeared, where a white-coated valet
protects a phalanx of Mercedes and Lexus SUVs from the neighborhood. By 1998 two-thirds of
the people living in the Mission were new arrivals -- mostly from Wharton or MIT, not Honduras,
you may be sure.
The median price of a San Francisco condo was $410,000 in August 1999, more than a 40-percent
increase from August 1998. The median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment was $2,000.
Avalon Towers, the first high-rise apartment to go up in San Francisco in more than a decade, has
had no trouble attracting tenants who pay rents ranging from $2,400 to $4,000 a month. Eighty-
five percent of them earn more than $100,000 per year, 60 percent are under 40, and two-thirds
are new to the city. Good bet these aren't the bad poets, malcontents, and fruits and nuts looking
for a new start that the city has always attracted.
Evictions, legal or illegal, are at an all-time high -- and 70 percent of those evicted leave the city.