San Francisco is a city known for its diverse community and culture. Historically, neighborhoods of San Francisco have represented different ethnic/racial cultures: Mission District and the Latino, Chinatown and the Chinese, North Beach and the Italian, Bayview and the African-American, amongst others. Those ethnic neighborhoods were once comprised by lower to middle-class working families. However, fast-forward to today: it is obvious that these neighborhoods aren’t as ethnic and culturally diverse as they once were. Many neighborhoods have been gentrified or are in process of being transformed.
For instance, consider the Mission District – once the Latino epicenter located in the heart of San Francisco. Years ago, you would walk down the street and see Mexican groceries stores filled with authentic goodies, spices, and foods. There were stores specifically for Quinceañeras and other traditional Latin celebrations. Many churches and religious hubs could easily be found, celebrating the Catholic Church. Cheap taquerias where tacos could be purchased for fewer than three dollars ran rampant. Ultimately, the Mission District was an authentic Latin community where Latinos and Latinas were the unquestioned majority.
Now, taking a stroll through the Mission District is almost like being in a different world. There are gourmet fusion restaurants that mix foods from other cultures. Expensive and newly renovated condominiums sport a modern and high-tech look and have replaced the modest apartment-style homes. Popular cafés and Internet hotspots are filled with “techies”, entrepreneurs, and other white-collar workers. Fashionable boutiques that display the latest clothing trends have contributed to San Francisco’s fashion industry. Hispanics are no longer the dominant ethnicity, but rather a complement to the White majority – as a result, the culture of the neighborhood has shifted away from its Latin origins.
Who is to blame? Ask a random individual on the street and many will likely cite the “techies” as cause for the demographic shift. With the recent boom in startups and the tech industry came an increase in middle to upper-class white-collar individuals who found new homes in the Mission. As a result, many neighborhood natives, who have lived in the Mission District for years, have been forced to give up their homes and close their businesses. Global Site Plans has stated, “While [Mission District] energy is still present, it is steadily being muted by the invasion of San Francisco’s love and woe: the “techie”” (San Francisco’s Mission District: The Controversial Gentrification, 2014). This represents a common perspective of many natives from the neighborhood. Looking at the shift in demographic and the booming tech industry, it is clear to see why techies are the easy scapegoat for the issue of gentrification.
However, to point the finger at techies is oversimplifying the gentrification phenomenon. Although non-Hispanics and techies have benefitted from gentrification by finding housing and changing the neighborhood makeup, they may not be the ones to blame. To truly understand the causes behind gentrification, it is important to explore the role of the real estate industry and local politics that have allowed for such a change to happen. Local government is allowing reconstruction and renovations to happen with new laws and regulations, thus shifting property prices and the real estate industry. What has manifested is an overall increase in prices, ultimately forcing out the blue-collar, working-class, and lower-income families. Although techies from Google, Twitter, AirBnB, etc. are coming into the Mission District, local government and the real estate industry should take the brunt of responsibility for gentrification and the dislocation of neighborhood natives.
San Francisco’s Mission District: The Controversial Gentrification. (2014, August 27). Retrieved August 3, 2015.