I never thought I’d be quoting advice from Willie Brown, former Speaker of the California State Assembly and ex-SF mayor, who once praised Peoples Temple cult leader Jim Jones and then feared that he might be assassinated when Jones went rogue, and whose response to having the Bay Bridge named after him is “aw shucks.” The man has an ego that can’t be contained by his city of residence, yet this cautionary bit from his regular SF Chronicle column (11-23-13) is worth repeating. Under the title “Techies must nip growing scorn in bud:”
Every day in every way, from rising rents to rising prices at restaurants to its private buses, the tech world is becoming an object of scorn. It’s only a matter of time before the techies’ youthful lustre fades, and they’re seen as just another extension of Wall Street.
And when that happens, tenant advocates, community activists, labor unions and Occupy types are going to start asking why we’re giving away the city to all these white-male-dominated businesses that don’t even hire locals.
At which point, the politicians will do what they always do – count votes. And by my last count, for all of their hype and money, tech types were still a decidedly small part of the vote. If they even vote at all.
What the tech world needs to do is nip this thorny plant in the bud. They need to come off their high cloud efforts to save Africa or wherever they take adventure vacations and start making things better for folks right here.
They need to start helping in Hunters Point and in Chinatown.
Most of all, they need to start hiring locals.
Otherwise, the next time it comes to a tax measure or a vote at the Planning Commission, they could find themselves getting skinned.
The tech industry’s utter lack of empathy for the city that has become its “home away from home,” indeed, its willingness to befoul its own nest so to speak, not only is unsound in an ecological sense, it speaks to the monumental hubris of what SF Chronicle business writer Andrew S. Ross calls “new money.” In his article “Old money winning face-off over Presidio museum,” (11-23-13) Ross opines: “Here’s what Lucas’ supporters need to get, not to mention Lucas himself. It’s what one critic called “an aroma of hubris” surrounding the project. Or what others have more generally described as Silicon Valley “arrogance,” which Conway’s letter smacked of.”
Whether specifically in the battle between George Lucas versus old San Francisco money over what will become of San Francisco’s Presidio, or more generally in the battle between tech interests versus the rest of San Francisco over the reshaping of this city, the arrogance and hubris of “new money” or the tech industry or what have you is stunning. You can see it in the techies and hipsters who wander about the Mission, oblivious to their surroundings as their influx raises rents and gentrifies the neighborhood. Its time for the rebels to strike back.