This is a guest post by author Bob Calhoun. Last week, Yishan Wong resigned as Reddit CEO because he wanted to move the company's office from the hip SOMA district in San Francisco to Daly City, a fog-enshrouded stretch of suburbia on the city's southern border.
Reddit's board and employees rebelled at this idea. Wong even cited "the office location issue" in a Quora post about why he left. Slate tried to explain why a simple dispute would cause a management coup under the headline "What is Daly City and Why Didn't Reddit Want to Move There?" In the article, senior technology writer Will Oremus described Daly City "the Bay Area's equivalent of purgatory."
To be fair to Oremus, he does call this "an unfair characterization in many ways," and his critique is framed from the perspective of techies who work at well-funded startups (like Reddit) and their opinion of San Francisco's closest neighbor. Oremus' straw-geeks see Daly City as "drive-through country" lacking "a quaint town center with restaurants and coffee shops."
As a resident of Daly City who also used to live on the same block of Third Street in San Francisco that Reddit now occupies, I was moved to write this piece not as a rebuttal to Oremus, but more as a, "Yeah, so…"
Daly City IS the dumping ground for things banned, or at least greatly curtailed, within San Francisco's rarefied borders. Big box stores, used car lots and every fast-food chain you can think of will meet you in Daly City as you cross the San Mateo county line going southbound on Mission Street. Daly City boasts not just one Home Depot, but two Home Depots. And if that isn't enough, there are also two Targets (if you count the one in nearby Colma)—one on either side of Highway 280. How's that for convenience?
Now you can look at all of this seeming suburban blight and call my town a pit, but let me tell you about the tree in front of my single-family home. Every so often, a city truck towing a water tank drives up to that tree and waters it. Sometimes the city workers prune the tree as well. And you know why Daly City can afford to take such good care of these trees that line the sidewalks in front of her "ticky-tacky" houses (as Malvina Reynolds put it in the snobbiest folk hit of all time)? Because people from San Francisco take their Ubers and Zipcars up here and buy crap at our big box stores. That's why. And we also have some pretty good libraries, parks and rec centers as a result of this exodus of sales tax revenue out of San Francisco.
Oremus mentions the Cow Palace, saying it "plays periodic host to rodeos and gun shows." While this is true, he forgets to mention that the Moo House is also the place where Evel Knievel punched out some Hells Angels before jumping over a row of muscle cars, and The Who had to pull some guy out of the audience to play drums because Keith Moon had passed out. While the monster truck pulls and the annual Dickens Faire may only echo Daly City's former glory, you can bet that nothing this cool will ever happen again in San Francisco. All you're going to get there are yacht races, Oracle World, and several other monuments to Larry Ellison's sad male ego that have a way of wasting tax payer money and tying up traffic.
Daly City has Val's, a steakhouse and lounge with a menu and décor that has been unchanged at least since the Johnson Administration. The bar has the region's prerequisite shrine to the San Francisco 49ers offset with oil paintings of topless women with bouffant hairdos. Val's main competitor for Daly City's fine family dining dollars, Joe's of Westlake, bears the distinction of being the place where Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, liked to chow down on a steak served with a mess of greasy raviolis. Sadly, Joe's of Westlake is currently undergoing renovations, but hopefully the new owners will have the sense to not change things too much.
Admittedly, the rumor that a proposed move to Daly City caused dissent among Reddit's ranks is met with a sense of relief around here where there's reason to fear that all those nearby gobs of money will ooze out of San Francisco and Atherton and engulf Val's, Joe's and our twin Targets like ravenous blob fueled by Bitcoin and fully-vested stock options. One can only wonder what the line at the Fil-Am BBQ would be like if so much douchiness was transplanted here. And what of the nurses, firemen, and auto mechanics that can actually afford to live here, close to the big city where they work? None of them are losing sleep over Daly City's lack of "rock star butchers" or world-class mixologists. Believe me.
Oremus writes Daly City is a "limbo between being able to afford to move to San Francisco or one of the tonier Peninsula suburbs and being priced out of the metro area altogether." And again, I say, "Yeah, so?" We get it. Daly City is deeply uncool, but being uncool is what's saving us. Those of us who choose to live here like me still get to be less than a mile from San Francisco without the hassle of living there. Daly City ain't Austin or Portland. We don't need to keep it weird, but it's okay that techies think it sucks. Keep Daly City uncool. Please.
Bob Calhoun was born in San Francisco, grew up in Menlo Park and currently calls Daly City home. For his book, "Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor" (Obscuria Press, 2013), he spent a lot of time at the Cow Palace going to, yes, gun shows and hemp expos. You can follow him on Twitter @bob_calhoun.
[Image by Calhoun]