Culture wars in San Francisco neighborhoods

Summary:Is it hipster versus hipster?

An endless parade of Google and other corporate buses picking up and dropping off workers in San Francisco is the most visible element of the cause of friction evident in some neighborhoods — especially in the Mission Street area.

In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate, columnist James Temple attempts a "defense of San Francisco's techies."

Last month, a group of gentrification protesters unleashed their rage on a piñata of a Google Bus ... If we blame the wrong things for real problems — like unaffordable housing and gentrification — it's much harder to arrive at the right solutions.

He points out that San Francisco tech companies create only 7.5 percent of the city's jobs. But that's a poorly chosen statistic, because so many tech workers commute to Google and other tech companies 40 miles away — these aren't SF tech companies. The numbers of tech workers putting pressure on rents and other resources is much higher than that number suggests.

The poor choice of statistics leads Mr Temple to conclude that "techies" aren't the problem, and that it's more about "Hipster-on-hipster hatred. Middle-class humanities majors grumbling about middle-class computer science majors."

The problem is not hipster versus hipster. It's that the city has within it a large population of people who never become part of it, they aren't that interested in its events, culture, or history. They aren't integrated or show much interest in being integrated.

It's as if they live in a parallel world with no interaction with the world around them.

They sweep in in large numbers when there is a boom, and they leave just as quickly when there is a bust. I've been here since 1985 and have seen this cycle repeat many times.

It's best summed up by "Rodo" in one of the comments:

The gays and hippies (as mentioned in another comment) did not come to SF to make money. And they did not displace tens of thousands of people by unleashing a wave of legal and illegal evictions. And they enhanced the culture, created culture, made the city a more interesting place.

I hate to generalize, but I meet tech people every day on my job, and there are certain commonalities. The average ones seem to have been here for two months, have ADD, have no curiosity about the culture of their adoptive city, are completely humorless, dismissive of others not of their kind, have their face buried in a device, are poorly read, and demonstrate no political awareness other than a knee-jerk libertarianism bestowed upon them by their corporation.

The "hipster" tag is just silly. There's nothing hip about a corporate gig or rabid money seeking. Recently, a Zynga employee talked my ear off about the "artistry" of the "creatives" at her firm. These were mass-produced computer games she was referring to. Puh-leeze! And buying high-priced tickets to Burning Man so you can go wild once a year does not make you hip.

And "goliver5" wrote:

Many of the new residents are social media workers, and many of them appear to embrace the culture of their respective companies instead of the culture of San Francisco. When most of us are away from our offices/work, we pursue with zeal all that San Francisco has to offer, and we more or less meld to the prevailing cultural norms. I don't see this among social media workers. Maybe it is because their corporate culture is so great. But it appears to be harmful to the city in that we don't need another "class" of people that are insular.

Working in "social media" is not the same as being "social".

Possibly the problem is that these young workers don't know how to integrate into any community. Their employers try very hard to keep them within their corporate culture from dawn to dusk. They are cocooned in corporate silk from their waking moments: Traveling in company buses (with "free" Wi-Fi), they eat for free in company cafeterias, they never leave the corporate campus except to sleep.

Their lives are designed that way for a reason, to keep them from forming connections outside of work that might distract them, or take them away from the embrace of their employer.

When the inevitable bust cycle hits and their jobs go away, they go away too, because they never had the time to make relationships outside of work, they built no support networks in the city they lived in.

It's the ascent of corporate culture versus city culture that's creating divisions in San Francisco, rather than any "hipster-on-hipster hatred".

Topics: Google

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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