On Monday, I was interviewed by someone from BBC Mundo, the Spanish-language arm of the BBC. The main question the reporter had was, “Do you think many people in San Francisco would rather have a less successful tech industry in exchange for having a more affordable city?”
The reporter neglected to lump the real estate speculation industry into the question, but my answer was still, “Yes, without a doubt, indubitably, 100 percent. Please, God, make it happen now.” Or something along those lines.
Of course, there are plenty of people who would disagree with me — those who think a booming economy can only bring good things. But those people are assholes.
Now, I’m not saying they can’t be nice people. But this is America, where it’s perfectly acceptable to screw someone over if it’s in the name of making money. Our unofficial national slogan is, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.” In fact, those words should replace “E Pluribus Unum” on the one-dollar bill.
A booming economy can be just as detrimental to a city as a faltering one, and those who say “change is inevitable” and laud the free market are the ones making the most money from it. They aren’t the ones getting evicted from their homes or losing the leases on their businesses. So if you’re one of the those who care more about the success of the tech and real estate industries than you do for the well-being of San Francisco and her people, you, my friend, are an asshole.
Please, don’t take that personally. It’s just business, and I’m in the business of calling bullshit.
The economy-by-any-means-necessary camp shouldn’t get a say in this at all, because they won’t even be here in a few years. They’ll be in Seattle or Austin or wherever the next Gold Rush town is. Or they’ll be living someplace else off the money they bring in from Airbnbing their condo.
A friend of mine who started a successful tech company here in San Francisco shared a story that illustrates this perfectly:
“I was hanging with some other startup founders when I told them I was sick of the tech scene and am selling my company. Their first question was, ‘Will you still live here then?’ I didn’t understand the question. Then I quickly realized that that’s pretty much all they knew about San Francisco and all of the value they saw in The City.”
The unfortunate truth is this: While these folks don’t plan on being in San Francisco for very long — and often don’t even vote here — they have a major say in San Francisco’s future. The titans of the tech and real estate industries funnel oodles of money into supporting candidates and legislation that only aims to make The City more hospitable for these industries, while making themselves richer. Why do you think San Francisco has such a hard time getting any regulations passed on things like Uber or AirBnb? Why do you think the companies on mid-Market got special tax breaks?
I told all this to the reporter from BBC Mundo. Hopefully, enough of it makes it into his article. It’s important the publication’s readers know that San Francisco still has plenty of folks who value people over profit. We just have a lot of assholes, too.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.