Downtown San Francisco is in trouble. Urban welfare indicators go in the wrong direction: office capacity, number of passengers BART And retail traffic descending, like that of the city population. Every week there is news about another prominent exit: Recent closures include a pure food leading, and Nordstrom, have announced the end of 35 years of operation on Market Street due to changes in “The driving force” of the city center. First Republic Bank, another San Francisco success story, went bankrupt after it failed to retain its wealthy clients and was sold to JPMorgan Chase. The future of its branches, the familiar green and yellow presence in the city center, is uncertain.
Now hardly a day goes by without the San Francisco Chronicle or another publication mentioning “doom loop” in the city. There is a lot of criticism, but no agreement on how to address real problems, including the growing homeless crisis, the unsustainable cost of living. or property crime rate consistently higher than in similar urban areas. If you see people smiling downtown, they’re probably tourists on a double-decker bus — and even that could be a scam. Hotel occupancy rate still significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels.
Like most people who have been successful for a long time, San Francisco didn’t see it coming. I understand why. When I moved here from Boston in 2003, I was unconditionally in love with the sprawling city that looked like a cross between JRR Tolkien’s Gondor and America’s hill city: an immigrant’s dream. Even then, San Francisco isn’t really affordable. We ended up buying a house in the East Bay, and it was still twice as expensive as we were supposed to pay East. But that’s the Bay Area, our real estate agent explains: “Things are just going up here.”
It makes sense. San Francisco was the closest metro area to the gold rush – Silicon Valley – in the early 2000s, and its job market remained stable even during the recession (I got a within four months of caring for a newborn), with the high-paying industries and seemingly limitless upside potential offered by stock options. Google just went public, and so did Salesforce and many other companies. The city is flooded with employees buying multimillion-dollar apartments near the football field, joining the nation’s “one percent”.
Tech assets grow exponentially, with the IPOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Uber generating billions of dollars. Along with that wealth are Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end malls packed with young tech entrepreneurs in their perennial white-soled shoes. To cater to that millennial demographic, First Republic Bank, which has the “privilege” of serving the city’s elite, hired me as a contract writer in 2018. Unlike older customers, young tech millionaires prefer online banking, seven-balance electronic management. I wrote the words to help them do that.
In the 18 months I worked at One Front, what we call the headquarters of the bank, downtown San Francisco seemed like the biggest metropolis. European and domestic coffee shops compete with juice shops that charge up to $10 a cup without blinking and still draw long lines. The Ferry Building’s waterfront pubs and cafes are always crowded at lunchtime, although the owners often serve high-quality free or subsidized food. Inside, one can buy lavender chocolates and Argentine empanadas, Spanish ham, and cheese from the locally famous Cowgirl Creamery. Sometimes, after work, I pick up a new loaf of sourdough before forcing myself down the escalator at the Embarcadero BART station, where the entrance is periodically closed to manage the flow of riders.
Other times, I’m in no hurry to go home, waiting for the madness to subside in the light-filled atrium of the nearby Palace Hotel, another San Francisco landmark. I will meet my husband there and we will go to the San Francisco Ballet. The four blocks between Twitter headquarters on 5th Street and the War Memorial Opera House are dangerous, so you have to walk fast. But when you get there, all you can see is the genius of the city’s artists, many of whom are transplants, like the legendary Yuan Yuan Tan, born in Shanghai, born in San Francisco. At our breaks, standing on the mezzanine balcony and shivering in the wind, we would watch the magnificent Neoclassical Town Hall lit up in the evening and bless the good fortune that brought us there. Here, to the last stop on the dream train Going West.
My last pre-pandemic memory of downtown is poetic: Keanu Reeves is filming the new “Matrix” at One Front. I still have a picture of him on my iPhone as I walk through the lobby of the bank. Four weeks later, on March 7, 2020, the First Republic sent us home with our laptops and some remaining bottles of hand sanitizer. One month into working remotely, I was laid off along with other contractors. During the pandemic, I often referred to “Firbie” as my lost paradise. When it’s over, I hope, I can find my way back there.
But the bank seemed as lonely as its city was no more. Technology, the force that brought San Francisco to the top, also carries the seeds of its doom. At the start of the pandemic, tech stocks were boosted by remote working tools. But when the closures finally ended, they plummeted, dragging everything else along – just as the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank helped trigger a death spiral that shook confidence and ultimately knocked it down. First Republic.
As the seemingly endless tsunami of IPO cash recedes, it reveals the city’s less obvious realities that accumulate during the tech boom: homelessness, addiction, public service lack. The office workers who fuel the city’s finances have moved to the suburbs – or they are lay off. San Francisco’s once vibrant downtown is now like a graveyard, where abandoned skyscrapers overlook lifeless streets, packed storefronts and “for rent” signs. .
Meanwhile, buses continue to arrive and depart in the epic city Salesforce Shipping Center, costs the city $2.2 billion and is frequently vacant. It seems that San Francisco has simply passed on its “fat years,” failing to develop any lasting attachments to its “sea of talent,” much of which has left the cities. other affordability quote and quality of life concerns.
San Francisco leaders denied the bad news and said the city would bounce back. However, no one seems to know what that looks like, or what the way forward is. The “loop of doom” concern does not affect all San Francisco residents in the same way. While the city center was visibly affected, things were fine in the affluent neighborhoods of Sea Cliff and Russian Hill. The rich got out of the bank’s predicament and didn’t have to worry about fewer jobs, canceled work visas, or closed malls. San Francisco has the third highest income unequal distance in the country, despite its progressive tendencies.
The pandemic has not helped. However, it doesn’t cause the city’s current predicament – it just accelerates existing problems. Now that the tech bubble has burst, the rest of us are bearing the brunt of the cost.
Anastasia Edel is a San Francisco Bay Area writer. @AEdelWriter