Gentrification Is Not Our Fault

This ValleyWag article, which talked about how douchebag tech entrepreneurs were ruining SF really bothered me. It’s one in a long line of articles lamenting how “middle-upper class yuppie douchebags” have moved into “my city” and driven up rents, driven out artists and the truly creative and the locals by driving up prices. How Google was evil for [colonizing SF](http://techcrunch.com/2013/05/06/protesters-smash-google-bus-pinata/) by busing their employees back and forth, and they should “give back.”

Even our own tech publications seem to accept this argument, with Techcrunch’s Josh Constine asserting that “Unfortunately, I’ve haven’t seen the tech giants who’ve colonized the neighborhood do much to give back. Funding some local education or beautification initiatives could go a long way to reducing the gentrification backlash.”

These arguments and rants are based in resentment, not fact, and we should be rejecting the entire basis of the argument for several reasons.

**1) What gives you the right to live here and not me?**

I moved here straight after I graduated UC Berkeley 3 years ago. I’m an entrepreneur who occasionally mentions a “funding party” I went to in passing, or how much stock we gave up when we raised our round. I’ll admit I was raised in a privileged family, and am hustling to become more privileged, yes. I commuted down to Palo Alto for 10 months for my first and only job.

I resent this attitude that you and your friends deserve to live in SF because you view yourself as the epitome of “SF Culture,” the unique weirdness that defines SF.

How presumptuous.

SF means something different to everyone. Perhaps it has lost some of what it meant to you, but you have no right to define what “SF” represents.

**2) You’re being hypocritical**

Why aren’t you complaining about people who are underwater on their homes in markets where rent is low?

Landlords are cast as the villain because of high rents.

Those same people flock to low-rent areas and benefit from rents as low as possible, with not a thought of who low rents are effecting. Who cares if the owner is underwater on their mortgage and can’t even make the house payments?! I’m only paying $300! Supply and demand!

After the housing crisis, and still in much of the country, it was smart to be a renter and not an owner: in some cities the owner can’t even find a renter who is willing to pay enough rent to cover the mortgage the owner has on the house!

How many anti-gentrification protesters would go write articles calling renters evil, because they aren’t even paying enough to allow the mortgage owner to break even. No one.

You don’t have to be an Ayn Rand/Paul Ryan Libertarian enthusiast to understand simple supply and demand. Markets go up and down, but people seem to only protest in one direction.

**3) I’m sick and tired of being blamed for your high rent.**

More people want to live where you want to live, therefore prices go up. I am not individually to blame for this, anymore than you are to blame for my high rent. Trashing those “overprivileged upperclass tech yuppies” who are driving up rents is hypocritical. Again, what makes you deserve to live here instead of me?

**4) We don’t owe you anything.**

Josh Constine’s assertion that Google and/or the tech industry somehow owes something to San Francisco and its residents for “colonizing” the city is bogus.

We do give back, it’s called “paying our taxes.” And an “over-privileged yuppie” that gets 100k in salary a year is paying a higher percentage in taxes to the city than a starving artist. We are the ones who fill the coffers of the city so they can afford to renovate parks, employ a police force and build a stadium.

I think it’s a perfectly reasonable argument to make that we should be paying more taxes, but that is a decision for society to make.

Saying that “we haven’t done anything to prevent gentrification backlash” assumes that it is our responsibility to somehow assuage the concerns of the other people for doing things like moving into their neighborhood, eating at their restaurants and overall just living.

It is not our responsibility to make you feel better because I want to move into your neighborhood.

**5) Rent Control & Prop 13 are the real problems**

Rent Control is a failure of a policy: it removes any incentives for people with rent controlled apartments to vote for new housing. Why ruin the feeling of the neighborhood to lower rents for other people?

Prop 13 is even worse: the wealthy no longer have to worry about paying higher property taxes, so they are not incentivized to advocate for more housing that might remove their ocean views.

In short, those two policies have removed the down-side for most residents of advocating against new housing developments: they don’t suffer the high rent or the high property taxes when there is a lack of housing. Everyone else does.

You have a right to be disappointed, sad and even frustrated that you can no longer afford to live in SF, or that the culture is changing because of the influx of tech workers. I can understand a discussion on the ramifications to the cultural fabric of a city that has become extremely wealthy. Whenever a particular type of person becomes dominant in any city, diversity loses, and it’s certainly something that is worth contemplating.

But you don’t have a right to be angry at us. Anger implies that we have committed some injustice. We came here for the same reason you did: we love SF.

It’s unfortunate our presence is changing your life, but frankly, I have just as much a right to live here as you do, and I shouldn’t have to defend it.

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