A quick look at real estate listings in San Francisco is enough to send most people running for the hills (or away from them in this case, and often to the increasingly gentrified East Bay). An average rent of $1,463/month is considered pricey to most, unbearable to many, and is in fact the highest average of any city in the nation.
The influx of the tech industry to San Francisco bears a lot of responsibility for the rapid and dramatic rent increases that have evicted many low-income individuals and infuriated countless San Francisco natives. The divide between housing activists and tech workers has deepened in recent weeks when attempts to work together — including meetups at Mission District bars between housing activists and members of the tech community — have turned into heated debate infused with accusation.
At one such meeting, activist Alicia Garza stated that those responsible for the “flavor” in San Francisco are “the folks who were living here before.” Another woman recently interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle said that all of the tenants of an apartment complex ignored their new neighbor, a tech worker, after she moved into the apartment that had belonged to an elderly woman before she was evicted.
And so should we evict the tech? No. TIME published an article entitled “8 Solutions to the Housing Problem in San Francisco” and not a single suggestion proposed kicking out the tech industry that has recently branched into the city from its roots in Silicon Valley. Just a few of the solutions proposed by TIME and currently in the works with San Francisco government officials include building the promised 30,000 new units (1/3 “permanently affordable”) by 2020, legitimizing the tens of thousands of in-law suites in the city as housing stock, and eliminating the buy-out program currently in place that allows developers to pay a fee to opt out of the city’s requirement that 12% of units new builds with 10+ units must be priced below market rate.
And are the tech critics and housing activists just ignoring all of the headlines boasting the large and charitable donations these tech companies are giving to our beloved San Francisco? Twitter recently promised $388,000 to Tenderloin schools and charities, the founder of Salesforce.com donated $100 million to children’s hospitals, while Google coughed up $6.8 million to provide MUNI passes for low and middle-income youths ages 5-17 for two years.
That is just the beginning of Google’s philanthropic efforts in the city. There was the transformation of the formerly afflicted 6-block Mid-Market corridor that had suffered for years and finally saw improvements as tech giants like Twitter moved in and started investing in the area.
In the city famous for welcoming those scorned elsewhere, our focus should not be on forcing these newcomers out, but collaborating with them and with lawmakers to assure that housing costs are brought down so that San Francisco’s Golden Gate can continue to welcome and provide safe haven for members of the LGBTQ community, hippies, activists, and tech workers alike.