Here in San Francisco there’s disconcerting news, ie that the epicenter of America’s income inequality debate has shifted from Wall Street to Market Street, more specifically the Bay Area, where new dot-com moneybags are renting and buying. And pushing up prices. Add to that its excellent jobless figures – 4.6 per cent (according to preliminary data from California’s Employment Development Department) compared to New York City’s 8 per cent or thereabouts.
Is anyone rejoicing at San Francisco’s great good fortune? Bloomberg reports a philosophical acceptance, at best, of changing times. Consider the words of John Elberling, executive vice president of Todco, who’s based in San Francisco and builds affordable housing: “All booms have their winners and losers. Even if you have a good job, it’s very likely you can’t afford to buy a place in the city.”
But not everyone is so sanguine. Protesters have targeted Twitter’s new San Francisco headquarters and the buses Google uses to ferry employees to and from work.
Is the problem a profound fear of the future? Or is it about protecting the future? Some residents say their city would lose its progressive edge by selling out to wealthy nerds and anoraks.
That would be a roll call of the great and the good, including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who became one the world’s youngest female billionaires last week and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.
Some might say San Francisco’s pique is a tad illogical, considering its mayor Edwin Lee exempt Twitter from a city tax based on the size of its payroll so long as it moved to an area plagued by crime and drugs.
San Francisco, like other cities, is finding it tricky to balance growth with justice and the freedom to wear some flowers in your hair.