My Mea Culpa: I know that it’s people like me that started this shit show in SF. I moved to The Mission back in the early 90s. I was part of the gentrification that started the whole trend of startups being centered in this neighborhood.
I sold a company at the height of the dot-com boom and I did my part to turn SF into the playground for the rich and educated that it’s become. I accept my portion of the blame - and am now trying to do what I can to stop things from getting worse and perhaps even get just a little bit better.
I moved to San Francisco in 1992. I was looking for a job - but I was also looking for a new life and a place that had hope and excitement and which provided a bigger, wider and more diverse world to play in. I found a city made up of wildly different people - of all types - spread across a huge range of little tribal neighborhoods. It was a massive melting pot of values, ethnicities, world views, ages and economic classes.
I fell in love with the city immediately. It was a place for experimentation and reinvention.
During the dot-com boom, the city started to lose some of its soul. Greed started to rule, and the city started to become more and more expensive. The weird craziness started to slip away. Experimentation and reinvention began to vanish as the cost of living in the city became prohibitive for artists and dreamers and anyone who didn’t work in tech.
After the crash, the city recovered a little. We started seeing diversity return. People began to experiment again. Maybe there was no more Red Man, but at least we had Bum Jovi.
And it wasn’t just about the money - for a while.
But now... Now it’s worse than it was in 2000. Now it’s only about the money. Now the only diversity we have left is ethnic diversity. Everyone is rich and privileged and entitled or hustling as hard as they can to become rich and privileged and entitled. A city once defined by people wanting to change the world is now defined by people who just want to be among the world’s richest. A culture that once understood history and tried to create it now has a memory that’s about 2 fiscal quarters long - and a vision that goes as far out as their funding allows.
San Francisco used to be weird. And we were proud of that. Now it's shockingly vanilla and suburban and conformist. It once felt like a city. Now it feels like a suburb.
And that's sad.
Some examples of what it’s like here now:
- if you make $70k a year you’re likely spending half your income on rent.
- you walk down the street and overhear someone saying, “my father had some tax thing so he bought a unit in the top of the Millenium Tower. It’s super cool because this way I don’t need to get a job and can focus on my Google Glass app.”
- you see a standard 2 bedroom, 2nd floor Edwardian flat in the Mission listed for $7500 a month - and then find out that some entrepreneur offered the landlord $8000 a month sight unseen.
- you’re on MUNI and watch a 20 something guy reluctantly give up his seat to an elderly woman and then say loudly to his friends, “I don’t know why old people ride MUNI. If I were old I’d just take Uber.”
- at least 10 times a day you want to murder random people in public because of the fucking stupid shit they say or the horrible ways they act.
And you know... I really wouldn’t mind so much if this was happening in NYC. There is a cultural norm in NYC that supports this kind of douchebaggery. But this is San Francisco. And San Francisco is a special place.
And you’re fucking ruining it.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in The Mission.
When I moved to this neighborhood 20 years ago, I chose it because it was cheap, convenient for someone without a car, and because it wasn’t one of the three neighborhoods I knew I didn’t want to live in. I’d looked around the city and realized that I didn’t want to live in North Beach (drunken frat boys), or the Marina (drunken frat boys and drunken sorority girls) or Noe Valley (stroller brigade). I couldn’t afford to live up in Pacific Heights (and couldn’t cope with the snobbery).
So in the end, The Mission was the answer.
And I found I loved it!
It was an entirely different culture for me - and one that was strong, vibrant and had a deep history and set of values. It was fun and funky and foreign and incredibly cool.
I learned about the history. I learned about the different ethnicities and nationalities that had made up the waves of immigration to the neighborhood. I learned passable menu Spanish. I discovered the hidden history of streets like Bartlett and Capp and Shotwell.
I didn’t want to live anywhere else in the city and thought I’d live here as long as I stayed in San Francisco.
But now? Now I’m moving out.
The Mission these days is over-run with the exact same frat boys and sorority girls and mommy bloggers and snobbish rich kids that I moved here to avoid. More than that, however, The Mission is now infested with startup douchebags. You can’t go a fucking block without hearing about someone’s “funding party” or someone else’s “vesting schedule” or overhear a fucking verbal vomit love letter to Pando Daily.
The Mission is now more expensive than Cole Valley.
Last month my new neighbors (4 sorority girls who apparently all work in social media marketing) threw a Cinco de Mayo party complete with straw sombreros, blender margaritas and a lot of shouting of “yo quiero taco bell.” Fucking seriously.
So here is my request to all of you internet, startup, tech folks living in The Mission or thinking of moving to The Mission.
Don’t. Be. Fucking. Douchebags!
It’s really that simple.
Be considerate. That little old Hispanic lady at the bus stop? Help her onto the bus instead of loudly bitching about how she’s going to make you late to your meeting at The Creamery.
Be respectful. This neighborhood was here before you and will be here after you leave. It’s not your trashcan, your toilet or your playground. Understand the history and the culture and the people and act in a manner that isn’t stupidly offensive.
Be sensitive. The traditional residents of this neighborhood are not rich and never will be. Flaunting your wealth and your opportunities is a douche move.
Just try to be a decent human being. Is that so much to ask?
As it is, I’ve had to start working hard to dress, look and act like I do not work in tech or startups when I’m out and about in the ‘hood. This way people still smile at me in the bodega, I still get to exchange jokes with folks waiting in line. I get to be treated like a human - not a fucking asshole.
So please... stop ruining it for the rest of us.
Because I love San Francisco. And I love The Mission. And as much as I’m starting to hate you all now - that will be nothing compared to how much I will fucking hate you if you ruin this.