San Francisco Embraces Gentrification

Unlike the 1970s and 80s, when a building boom created a vocal backlash, S.F.'s current surge in development hasn't galvanized a concerted no-build movement. If gentrification is driven by demand 'from the bottom up,' does that mean it's desirable?

Columnist C.W. Nevius examines why San Francisco's current building boom is happening "with surprisingly little grumbling.

Gentrification, he explains, became a dirty word during the "Manhattanization" of the city in the 1970s and 80s. "The difference this time is that the push is coming from the bottom up," he contends. "Rather than fat-cat developers promoting ugly skyscrapers, the demand is coming from young techies who work here or in the Silicon Valley and want to preserve the feel of unique neighborhoods. Their presence is being felt not only in the Mission, where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg now has a home, also in areas that were once considered downtrodden."

"This boom has its share of concerned activists," says Nevius, "but we have yet to see the stop-any-kind-of-development movement we saw in the '80s."

Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, is one such 'concerned' voice. "I am hearing from people who are feeling like survivors in isolated pockets," she said. "Don't be fooled. There are still big-money real estate developers creating that market."

"But," counters Nevius, "those changes are largely happening in neighborhoods that have made the progression from urban blight to uber-hot."

Or, perhaps after several decades of trendy restaurant openings and "[r]unaway rental and housing rates," there's just not many people left to displace.

Full Story: Gentrification no longer a dirty word

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