A number of Silicon Valley workers live in San Francisco and a number of the biggest tech companies offer private shuttle buses for employees. This has led to changes in a number of San Francisco neighborhoods:
Take the public transportation provided by corporate shuttle buses from the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook, and others. It’s not news that these shuttles, and the big digital tech companies that run them, are changing the fabric of San Francisco as we’ve known it. What feels new is that it’s not enough to say that change is coming soon. It’s already, very much here…
On one hand, some have called the shuttles “a vivid emblem of the tech boom’s stratifying effect in the Bay Area” because they allow the “techy progeny” of Silicon Valley to be “launched into SF proper.” That the shuttles are “alienating everyone who isn’t in technology” — or that there’s simply too much tech for one city to take.
Others are of the mind that it’s simply time to get over it and recognize a new reality; cities change, neighborhoods rise and fall. That in fact a paradox of Silicon Valley is in its “distributing meaningful equity” to ordinary people who wouldn’t otherwise access such wealth. (And then there’s the logic that wonders whether public transportation is yet another bit of infrastructure that should be upended by the Valley’s “meritocratic“ spirit.)…
What we’re talking about isn’t simply the replacement of presumably authentic recent immigrants by their presumably younger, whiter, or better educated new neighbors. What we’re talking about is the replacement of an entire system of urban inter-relationships, built up over generations and stratified in ways that make sense within an urban context — now short-circuited by the inexorable demands of the (suburban) digital technology landscape.
This is a reminder of a few things:
1. The arrival of “the creative class” is not just a positive occurrence. This is a group many big cities would love to have for their wealth (think of the tax money!) as well as their innovative and creative spirits. Yet, as the term gentrification describes, this group can at the least change the character of places and more problematically push out existing residents.
2. This hints at the interdependence within metropolitan regions. Tech workers may like their jobs in Silicon Valley but San Francisco offers a more exciting, urban, and cultured place to live. And, San Francisco benefits from its business connections to Silicon Valley. It would also be interesting to consider the role of San Jose which offers a bigger city closer to Silicon Valley but one that has less of a reputation for social life.
With these changes, it puts officials in San Francisco in an interesting position. Existing urban residents tend to resist major changes to their neighborhoods. But, as noted above, cities have a hard time turning down new money.