I moved to the northern edge of the Tenderloin in April 2008. While gentrification was definitely underway in San Francisco, especially in the Mission, it hadn’t quite reached the Tenderloin yet. You couldn’t escape the omens; young tech elite would often visit Tenderloin bars, obviously slumming and soaking in poverty porn before returning to their ivory wombs. But it was still a neighborhood where most people at least knew of each other. “Don’t do anything in this neighborhood you don’t want people to find out about,” an elder bartender told me when I first moved here. “Everybody knows everyone and your name will be mud in no time.”
I spent most of my time in the Ha-Ra and 800 Larkin my first few years here, with 800 Larkin almost becoming my second home. Though the diversity of the bar’s regulars lulled me into thinking the rest of San Francisco would be just as diverse, it did introduce me to most every type of person I’d encounter in my time here and gave me a head start on distrusting techies. So there was that.
Within a year, regulars were beginning to move away:
“Lost my job and moving back to SoCal for a while. It’s way cheaper there, anyway.”
“Got evicted today, man. Landlord ain’t been cashing rent checks for months, so I knew something was up. Not like I can afford anything else around here right now, so I guess I’ll be moving back to Brooklyn and restarting again there.”
“Yeah, I got a job offer in Seattle and I’m getting out while I can. It’s just…I’ve had enough here.”
On and on and on. Friendly faces disappeared one by one, to be replaced by techies and other young privileged people. And the rest of the neighborhood followed suit. Corner bodegas, dive bars and other gathering spots were priced out and the spaces left vacant for years, ready for instant sale just in case the right buyer came along. Gentrification cafes, boutiques and bars spread throughout the neighborhood, serving techies that were moving to the neighborhood in droves. And those techies only hung out with those like themselves, which meant existing businesses whose customer base was being displaced by gentrifying techies were now being starved of new business because techies flocked to new places that catered specifically to their privilege. Over and over, block after block, never ceasing until everything is remade to best serve them.