San Francisco has seen a 16.6% increase in voter registration since November 2014; by comparison, California voter registration increased by 9% over the same time. The current San Francisco tech boom has been in peak form during that same time. Construction cranes seem to have taken permanent residence throughout the San Francisco sky as new luxury condo towers rise anywhere and everywhere. With those luxury towers come more and more tech employees. The newest in a long line of settlers moving west to join others like them in a new world, violently uprooting and casting aside anyone who dares delay their manifest destiny.
This hasn’t been natural, all-of-a-sudden growth as most local politicians claim. It’s a planned turnover of the electorate designed to create a utopia in tech’s image. SOMA, where most San Francisco tech companies now reside, and the Mission were the first to experience this turnover. Many of the city’s most vulnerable residents lived in SOMA and were powerless to stop one building owner after another from evicting them with little or no notice and converting the building to office space and/or luxury housing. The Mission was a mostly Latinx neighborhood until techies decided it was the hot neighborhood at the beginning of this wave of tech gentrification. Block after block of Latinx grocery stores, restaurants, salons, clothing stores and more were evicted to be replaced with trendy cafes, organic grocery stores and micro boutiques.
By removing the existing population of both neighborhoods and replacing them with affluent, privileged young tech workers, City Hall and its tech allies removed two voting blocs unsympathetic to the desires of rich white tech CEOs and replaced them with loyal young tech workers who would vote for whomever as long as it allowed them to keep their stratospheric salaries and move unhindered throughout San Francisco. This effectively neutered what passed for a progressive left at City Hall. Not only did this fracture and often disintegrate politicians’ base constituencies, it presented them with new constituencies that would only be appeased if they appeased tech.
Vulnerable politicians like Jane Kim and David Campos became easy targets for a power broker like Rose Pak, and she wasted no time in gobbling up City Hall’s roster of progressive darlings, with the possible exception of Avalos. Rose Pak and tech often clashed, because Rose represented the old-school corruption that tech wanted to supplant. Just because they were rivals didn’t mean they weren’t often on the same page, though. Both completely supported law enforcement, cronyism, pay to play and development in general. And whatever Rose was for, her stable of progressives were for, as well. She’d let them stray here and there on low-priority issues, but for, say, Greg Suhr, they made no waves and did as they were told.
With City Hall’s progressives reduced to hiring themselves out as mercenaries to survive politically, City Hall and tech moved forward with one less obstacle in their way. Once SOMA and the Mission were turned over, tech turned its attention to the Fillmore, Potrero Hill, the Tenderloin, Bayview, Dogpatch, on and on and on. All neighborhoods of Black and Latinx people who were forced out to make way for more luxury construction and an ever-growing population of proxy votes for tech CEOs. And since tech now outspends Wall Street 2-1 in lobbying, they’re able to craft legislation that suits them and then have their loyal employees approve it at the ballot box.
Yet the general population remains unconcerned by tech’s rapidly growing influence in all levels of government. The same lack of concern that allowed tech to conquer San Francisco in the first place.