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Sunday, January 29, 2023

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Home News + Politics This is how gentrification works

This is how gentrification works

Following a pattern in the Mission

Labor is joining Mission activists in a protest against a 16th and Mission developer

Mission Local did some excellent fieldwork last week, looking at which businesses in the Mission are doing well and which are having trouble. The piece was straightforward reporting, but the implications are clear:

Businesses doing poorly seemed to be narrowly focused on serving a low-income clientele and had yet to attract newcomers. Some even talked about following their Latino clientele elsewhere, but figuring out exactly where that would be is not easy, because Latinos have moved to the East Bay, the Excelsior and beyond.

Sure, push out the customers with rent hikes and a community’s small businesses they patronized will close.

The 16th and Mission development is a major target of Mission activists

This is how gentrification works.

-The next phase is the highly visible vacancies and building decay you see now from 15th to 18th Streets.

– That’s followed by ‘investor’ speculation in those properties as future new development sites.

– Which is followed by some kind of excuse-rationalized up-zoning, like Weiner’s housing bonus State laws for “transit oriented development” or just old-fashioned “economic revitalization.”

– Followed by dramatically bigger-new-scale proposals like Maximus’ “Monster on Mission Street” that will complete this “transformation” cycle.

This is how the conquest and make-over of Brown communities into “smart growth” neighborhoods for the White New Gentry works.


  1. Crazy. It almost sounds like maybe a social grassroots movement to incentivize or demand these companies build their business’ in areas where growth is needed, like these depressing places you speak of.

  2. This type of migration isn’t sudden. There tends to be causal effects for such a rapid influx of newcomers. Why is it that there is now some sudden cool factor with The Bay Area where there was none before…

    Capitalist shills only see the problems instead of their causes. Throw money at it to make it go away; In this case, housing. Make developers rich, make tech companies who need workers rich, and keep the privilege from ever having to question the impacts of such privilege.

    Cities like Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Los Altos, etc. have seemed to mitigate the impacts of this tech bubble just fine. I wonder why…. Maybe is it because they were trying to preserve their cities and their citizens way of life and contentment? Putting that first before $$$$$$$$ just for the sake of more $$$$$ –

    We need a planning department who sees the writing on the wall and stops inviting every tom, dick and harry with a business idea into a city that is thriving just fine and always has. San Francisco has never been an ailing city. SF and Bay Area cities need to put their foot down and partner with other cities within California, or near by who need growth badly like the Central Valley.

  3. What was so monstrous about redeveloping that spot at 16th & Mission where the Walgreens is? Let’s build more housing and make a high percentage of the units affordable! Advocates for affordable housing and disadvantaged communities need to go from the defensive to the offensive – not just preserving the limited remaining stock of affordable and public housing units, but increasing it!

  4. Tim Redmond complaining about regulations around employment is a sight to behold. Like a work of art…in a mirror.

  5. Tim Redmond says:

    “I used to help run a company that paid payroll tax”… referring to the “San Francisco Bay Guardian”.

    It went out of business.

  6. We’ve got Kitava now downstairs from my office at 16th and Mission. It’s much better than the McDonald’s that was there before.

  7. Historic means a lot of different things to different people. If it’s historic to you then that’s cool. I don’t see how a housing development adjacent to it jeopardizes the palm trees or it being a gathering spot. If anything, the abandoned Burger King detracts from it at the moment.

    And I do like the Mission. That Vida building you talk about hasn’t fucked anything. It’s like 100 units. Houses, what, 300 people? The Mission has over 40k people if I recall correctly. It takes about 30 seconds to walk past and about 0 seconds to ignore. I don’t particularly like it but blaming it for anything is stupid considering how small and insignificant it is.

  8. What is so historic about the plaza?

    It’s a defining corner of our city. It’s looked the same since it’s opened. The bricks are the same as market and old EMB (tons of skateboard history .. clickety-clack). The palm trees are awesome. It’s a gathering spot with good sun. I just love it.

    Do you like Mission St between 16th and Cesar Chavez? Do you like the new condo building next to the theater at 22nd? Can you see how that building fucked the historical integrity of that block?

    It’s sounds like you hate the area.

  9. I’m sorry, but what is so historic about the 16th and Mission BART plaza? If there’s any history there, then why did we let a Burger King and Walgreens post up there? The BK is now closed. Maybe we should put a Jimmy Johns and a Pottery Barn there instead of housing for people. If we let them sit there for 100 years they too will become historic eventually!

  10. Not talking about any previously imposed payroll tax. I’m talking about instituting a payroll tax with the intention of combating the “demand” side of the equation that is so often looked at as the main problem, as Rosh is asking about. Putting forth any tax to harm businesses with the intention of curbing their hiring rates would be detrimental to the economy. There’s no way to play around with the demand without risking the people that are already here’s livelihood. The demand is people, a lot of people live here for work, and the local legislature fucking with people/businesses income to try to get them to leave is a dangerous and roundabout way of skirting around building more housing.

  11. Kinda harsh, but I guess I had it coming.

    My Dad used to give me/send me the constitution booklets. Even though I didn’t read them at the time, I kept all of them.

    I have the same print pamphlet the Ammon (sp?) Bundy son had in his front pocket when he was arrested in Oregon. Ill have to check the publication date on that one.

  12. I’ve never claimed to be a progressive, that’s a label you’ve given me. I have several copies of the constitution – would you care to back up your claim with a constitutional citation?

  13. American ethos is matter of opinion, but I think you’d be hard pressed to prove your unconstitutional claim — it rings hollow.

  14. It’s one of the coolest areas in town. I love that stretch of Mission .. so vibrant and colorful.

    If we keep dropping condo turds all over are historic corridors, we will regret it later.

  15. Ooh, you added the word pernicious .. makes all the difference Kraus.

    You know someone is trying to spin something when they use non-sensical phrases to divert and minimize. “Pervasive pernicious nativism” is a classic.

    Ps. Which shell is the ‘affordability’ definition under today? And is it true SFBARF is a front company?

  16. It’s only $600. And if you have 1,000 employees it’s only…

    Thing is that it all adds up and it all figures in when you make your decision as to where to locate jobs.

    And no, not everyone thinks that it is a major victory for the city when jobs go leave to go somewhere else.

  17. That is what happened when the planning commission allowed unfettered illegal in law units throughout the West side of S.F.
    Residential properties become commercial properties, and only developers can afford single family homes.

  18. I used to help run a company that paid payroll tax. This is a completely ridiculous issue. Suppose you decide to hire a new worker for $50,000 a year. Okay, as my CFO would tell me, you have to add 7.5 percent for social security, so that’s 53,750. Now you are going to pay (thanks the the messed up US health care system) at least $5,000 a year for health insurance, so the price is now 58,750. You going to offer vacation time? You’re getting closer to 60K. What about training? What about the ergonomic desk and chair and the computer you are buying for the new worker? Can we afford that? (Oh, and jeez — the payroll tax! That’s $600 a year! Better not create that job!) Please. Nobody was “disincentivized” by SF’s 1.5 percent payroll tax. The Twitter Tax break was all about stock options being taxed, which the city never collected anyway.

  19. Hahaha, you won’t touch the word ‘gentrification’ with a ten foot pole! Of course you want to bail. See ya.

  20. I do understand it. My hometown of Peoria, IL will no longer be the headquarters for Caterpillar – they are moving headquarters to Chicago. Also, my father was a notorious environmentalist – ‘job loss’ was an attack he was constantly up against.

    But I don’t view it like you. Money and jobs don’t trump all. Your position is based in fear and scarcity.

  21. Funny how enriching property owners is a concern now, but isn’t as rents soar. The Mission Moratorium was terrible because it wasn’t paired with any sort of upzoning of other places. And new market rate housing decreases displacement. The Monster on the Mission would be new working class housing, if it was ever built.

  22. Whoa, Rosh. Let me try to explain the disconnect here. To people who actually read (instead of assuming that they already know more than anybody else) “upward mobility” and “gentrification” are two different things.

    Upward mobility refers to individuals. It refers to the movement of an individual, social group, or class to a position of increased status or power.

    Gentrification refers to geography, not people. “a process by which middle-class people take up residence in a traditionally working-class area of a city, changing the character of the area“.

    Hope that helps. Probably won’t.

  23. You have family from Detroit but have no understanding of the fear of job loss / unemployment? Or that having “too many jobs” is a good problem to have?

  24. Fine. It was in the book “Everybody Lies” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, which was an Economist Book of the Year.

    If it would be too upsetting to read a Harvard PhD presenting evidence that works against the progressive narrative you can try reading about San Jose and San Francisco being upwardly mobile here: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/want-the-american-dream-move-to-these-10-cities-2014-01-30

    And Rosh, you don’t seem to understand what upward mobility is. It commonly refers to the likelihood that a person can move from the bottom 20% to the top 20%. You seem to feel that it indicates that a neighborhood is getting richer.

  25. Funny you should mention the US Census. It says that the Latino % of SF in 2010 was 14.3%. By 2016 that percentage grew, not shrunk, to 15.1%. So perhaps Latinos chose not to live in the Mission but there certainly are distinct differences between the official progressive narrative and the US Census.

  26. Oh cool, I like Detroit (full disclosure I skipped to the last paragraph of your comment).

    My Dad was born in Flint. For a time, my Grandpa was the athletic director for the Detroit police department. My grandma always drank perfect Manhattans.

    Did you know UAW is the biggest union in the world?

  27. This commenter must be right. Upward mobility is mucho more smart term than gentrification. Gentrification has near zero chance of being understood .. way to facetable.

    I hope in the end we can make mission and 16th cool. Sight Glass. Blue Bottle, Starbelly, Berrettas underling that cool Brooklyn Maximas style. It’ll only help those Latinos that bought in the 90’s…

  28. You can’t have affordable housing without market rate housing.

    What law would keep a neighborhood low income? The goal of most poor people is not to live around other poor people.

  29. Accordingly, In the context of the “Monster in the Mission”, the “gentrification arguments” of opponents are really just a smokescreen to conceal the true underlying driver which is a pervasive “nativism”.

  30. Ok, so limiting office space seems like a good way to limit white collar jobs and capital flowing into the city, but you end up with the same problem as with housing. The demand for office space will cannibalize other types of buildings and jobs, just like it did in Soma, and west Berkeley and Emeryville. I personally know 5 engineering firms that are in low quality industrial space because office space is too expensive. Those spaces would have been artist space, or wood shops, or metal fabrication shops in the past.

  31. A payroll tax would incentivize companies to recruit elsewhere, hurting job opportunities for the area. Any policy that would result in a loss of jobs is bad for the community, period. I would be against it because a business would be more likely to say “We’re moving our headquarters to Albuquerque” and local people would lose their jobs. Trying it just isn’t worth the risk. If you think landlords are heartless when they evict people, you haven’t seen what happens to a community when over a thousand jobs get cut by a CEO one Tuesday afternoon.

    Jobs get cut, people get laid off, and companies move naturally, of course. It’s not like government is the only cause of this. But the government should do everything they can to prevent such lay offs from happening because it absolutely destroys people in dizzyingly large numbers very quickly.

    So like anything else, it’s risk versus reward. Do we “try” to futz with the demand and incentivize jobs to leave or stop coming and hope that housing prices lower as a result? Or do we just build more to help satiate the supply and create construction jobs in the process?

    If we were to do both then we exacerbate the risk. If we build too much, *and* companies start leaving and population actually decreases, then we have a ton of people who purchased homes completely underwater on their loans as property values decrease and homes become vacant. Look at the history of Detroit. Detroit’s problems were caused by a globalized economy, but the results would be similar if taxes and barriers to commerce triggered a downturn in the job market.

  32. You’re saying that your fear is a collapse of the SF job market. But what if we try the payroll tax you mention, and it helps?

    It seems you’re portraying SF economy in a more isolated manner then it is. The idea of a ‘halt’ seems unlikely.

    What if we prioritized housing and implemented a payroll tax? Would you go for that?

  33. Quite simply: if you toy around with the job market to reduce demand, and jobs start to become hard to find, most normal working people suffer. Wages get cut, people get laid off. Companies relocate and people either have to move with them or lose their job. We can’t just say “we have enough jobs now” and shut off the faucet and everyone just stays at their current job forever and then housing production can catch up.

    The fear is that if a city like SF were to impose something like a Payroll Tax and a bunch of companies decide to leave, or stop hiring in the city and open branches elsewhere, etc. then the job market would come to a halt. Eventually, if you want a job, or want to leave your current job, you can’t or have to migrate elsewhere. Read more about unemployment and how it begins, and what it’s effects are. It’s not even worth the risk when building housing has little tangible drawbacks.

  34. We *could* accomplish a reduction in work demand by imposing things like payroll taxes, capping commercial real estate, etc. but the risk associated with that is very high. When jobs leave it is very difficult to attract them to come back. Inducing some kind of localized recession in order to help stabilize things would hurt working people. Like that woman said in that link that NIMBY guy posted: anyone who’s been laid off and isn’t sure where their next paycheck will be coming from knows there’s no such thing as “too many jobs”.

    After the 2008 crash many communities struggled. San Francisco and similar cities bounced back to new heights very quickly, so the damage isn’t felt as hard and isn’t as engrained in the culture. Other parts of the country are still not fully recovered, many had given up years ago and just live off SSI, work odd jobs, and are generally just very depressed. That’s why so many poorer cities are/were clamoring for companies like Amazon to move in. That’s also why so many people moved to cities like SF between 2010-2013. It’s not all just programmers looking to make the next stupid app.

    You could argue that we should pump the brakes on commercial development if cities aren’t building housing, and that makes sense. But housing shouldn’t be the stopping block since housing can be built quickly and bodies can be found to fill them very fast. It’s a balance, and right now the balance is terribly off. Not because of too much economic growth, but because of too little housing growth historically. There are too many barriers to build housing. Doesn’t mean there should be an equal amount of barriers to build commerce. Means there should be less barriers for housing.

  35. In other words we don’t want to discriminate against a certain sector. That makes sense.

    What if we made it more expensive to add office space without singling out a sector?

  36. Reducing work demand is playing with people’s livelihood. From the top to the bottom. There are plenty of cities in the US that have the opposite problem SF does: super low rent, tons of vacancy, but no jobs. They are significantly more depressed places to be than the Bay, and they all have poor employment numbers and low wages.

    So, if reducing demand is risky, but producing homes is easy (and creates jobs; the “highly paid developers” are not the ones hammering in nails) which of the two should we do?

  37. But affordable housing cannot exist in a vacuum, market rate housing has to subsidize it somewhere. So the Mission wants all the affordable housing and all the convenient transit (oh, and the sunniest weather), all to itself and the rest of the city will have to just pay more in rent and commute into the Mission if they want to make it to BART.

  38. I don’t want to discuss how many gentrified people fit on the head of a pin. If a group becomes increasingly affluent it is more likely to live near organic cappuccino cafes as opposed to check cashing storefronts. Not sure if that is gentrification or not.

    This article makes a big deal about the shrinking Latino percentage in the Mission. Meanwhile, the Latino population citywide was 14.7% in 2010 and 15.3% in 2016.

    You can’t force people to live in the Mission if they don’t want to.If they’ve improved their economic lot and want to try somewhere else they are within their rights to do so.

  39. Great link, surprising I haven’t read any articles about it picking it apart. Excellent point about the demolition of existing buildings, as that would obviously lead to displacement. Disagree on the “without giveback to the community” thing… they’re homes in which people in the community will live in. Many of which would be affordable places that people can move to to stay in SF. What more do they need to give back? Does buying bread only enrich bakery owners, or does it also provide caloric energy?

    Regardless, it does seem like drastic upzoning for the entire city. I’m picturing taller buildings along Judah and Taraval, not every single building being 8 stories tall. I’m sure there will be some kind of compromise in the bill, or if it passes, everything instantly going up 4+ stories will be a slow and organic process.

    Those in the SF Planning Commission, as per your link, seem to agree that it will lead to a significant boon to the affordable housing stock overall. Not sure how you see that as a negative?

    Regarding the Mission: There’s a difference between preserving working class housing and encasing an entire neighborhood in amber because the current residents don’t want new neighbors, or the homeowners don’t want the competition. The “Monster” is the best example of this. Fighting tooth and nail to make sure this building never gets built, yet there’s nothing there now. The argument is weak.

  40. I see, so whoever can best afford them will probably get the available units in the Mission. What about building more homes and reducing the work demand simultaneously, would that be ideal?

  41. Right. Latinos who purchased a home in the Mission during the 90’s could get a lot bigger bang for the buck if they decide to relocate. It’s probably also important to consider their cash flow into the move. It could be affected by leaving.

    Regardless, we need to consider renters, and owners that want to stay. I’m not sure what percentage of Latinos in the mission are property owners, but certainly it’s a minority.

    I don’t understand how you can argue it’s not gentrification.

  42. I stand corrected: There will always be some opposition to just about anything, but even the author of this article cautioned against painting Mission locals with a broad brush and noted there were no protests.

    Having a moratorium on luxury development preserves space to build affordable housing. Unless low income neighborhoods are protected by the law, it will always be much easier for developers to exploit those areas than the wealthy areas.

  43. The exact same thing, only faster. If you don’t build enough housing, the finance bros get everything that ends up on the free market and the service workers have to crowd in or commute from the valley.

    If we have a moratorium on building in the Mission and rent

  44. Yup. One of the things I’ve been reading is that upward mobility is positively correlated with income inequality. In other words it is good to have rich neighbors.

    Apparently the two most upwardly mobile cities in the country are San Jose and San Francisco.

  45. Even the Planning Commission, hardly a progressive organization, has some concerns about the effects of SB827. Among these is there is no protection against demolition of existing buildings. Another is that it enriches property owners without giveback to the community.


    And since there is a fairly good chance that you or others here will latch onto an optimistic prediction that this could increase the number of affordable units in the long term, there is no guarantee of this, and it even says that it could lead to a decrease percentage-wise, as it would take away the incentive to increase affordability percentages in exchange for greater height allowances.

    And what is wrong with giving the Mission a break and asking wealthy neighborhoods to share the burden? (Even the YIMBYs claim to be all for this.) This is a neighborhood that has had more than its fair share of displacement. What is wrong with preserving working class housing? Is this going to be a city of only wealthy people?

  46. More to the point – every home bought by white folk entails a home being *sold to* white folk, and those doing the selling are not all evil investors. Some of them are ordinary middle-class folks who see an opportunity to make a killing in SF’s absurd real-estate market and are seizing it enthusiastically.

    Nothing wrong with that.

  47. ‘throttle new job growth and the appeal of San Francisco as a place for newcomers to work or live”

    Since we’re politically unable to add supply, the only way to bring housing prices down is to reduce demand. But it’ll take a lot more than a few Google bus windows getting shot out with BBs to make the techies stop coming.

  48. You seem to have a really good grip on the numbers. Is your scenario affected by how many jobs we add? What happens if we add 100,000 tech jobs — would this influence gentrification at all?

  49. Good point. The official progressive narrative says that for every 100 Latinos who leave the Mission 100 were forced out, having their homes bought out by rich white folk.

    But historically, people living in immigrant enclaves do move out when they can afford to do so. Certainly the Latinos who bought a home in the 1990s now have a lot better options for their kids than the Mission.

  50. Isn’t Weiner’s proposals about “transit oriented” and less concerned about whether or not the neighborhood is working class? 16th and Mission is one of the most transit rich areas I can think of. Two BART stations are in the Mission. Blocking housing development (remember, literally every single market rate unit is considered luxury by price only) in that area just because the residents want it preserved in amber isn’t fair to the rest of the city and region that have to shoulder the burden of housing people.

  51. ” I don’t think you will find opposition there to housing affordable to service workers.”

    Well, you’re wrong, see here:


    Everything in the mission is luxury, not just new housing. It’s the demand for housing that has created those prices, not the new buildings. Having a moratorium on construction doesn’t solve anything.

    SB827 doesn’t discriminate based on the socioeconomic status of a neighborhood, it targets everything that is served by transit. All those neighborhoods you list would see a big rise in long term growth, and that takes pressure off of traditionally poorer areas.

  52. There’s nothing above that Walgreens and (now closed) Burger King. It’s thin air. No humans living up there. I’m not sure how many BMR units would result in the “Monster” being built, but it’s better than the zero that are being built now.

    Instead, the gentry fights for apartments that are available in the area, which is very few, and drives up prices. They end up getting them anyway, as we’ve seen. Add more places to live and there won’t be as much pressure, and those new buildings will have BMR units for people to live in too.

    I’ve yet to see anyone prove that building new homes like this displaces people when the site they’re trying to build on has no existing residents. It just doesn’t make sense.

  53. People like this writer, John Eberling, identify themselves as Progressives, but their solutions for displacement of poorer residents is to put the brakes on just about any new housing. That way they hope to throttle new job growth and the appeal of San Francisco as a place for newcomers to work or live. Sure, Progressives like Eberling or Supervisor Peskin blandly promise to support 100% Below Market Rate developments, but these are not how most of the market works. To add insult to injury, even 100% BMR developments,like the one at Broadway and the Embarcadero, get slowed down by Progressives who claim worries over traffic, parking, neighborhood character, etc. Progressives in SF largely should be ignored when it comes to creating new housing.

  54. “how many left to find a better place to live and raise kids”

    … and how many decided to cash in their $2 million family homes in the Mission and decamp for Contra Costa County.

  55. … and then white people who already live in the Mission loudly bemoan the influx of *other* white people into the Mission. (see: Ronen, Hillary.)

  56. If the YIMBYs and Scott Wiener set their sights on the Marina, Pac. Heights, Sea Cliff, Laurel Heights, West of Twin Peaks, Forest Hills, and any other high-income area I’m forgetting, for “finance bro” housing, and left the Mission and other working class areas alone, then maybe they would have some credibility.

    But they are against the Mission Moratorium, which is not anti-development but anti-“luxury”-development. I don’t think you will find opposition there to housing affordable to service workers.

    For some reason, Wiener repeatedly fails to write protections for areas over-burdened by gentrification into the laws he is pushing.

  57. We don’t know. But Latino’s with steady employment have been increasing in the West of Twin Peaks single-family neighborhoods, which accounts for some of it. People do advance. The goal of most poor people who live in a improvised neighborhood is to get out.

    Most of it is replacement. When a lower socioeconomic person moves out a higher socioeconomic move in. Without a steady supply of fresh blood, all ethnic enclaves eventually disappear, assimilated into the general population. However, maybe 10% is “displacement,” one or two percent evictions and around eight percent that move for cheaper rent.

  58. Here’s another way gentrification actually works:

    A developer comes up with a plan to build ~200 market rate and ~100 below market rate apartments on one of the most filthy and crime ridden corners of the Mission, displacing 0 existing residents since the land was previously a burger king and a walgreens. In every other city in the country, this would be seen as a huge win. In SF, the 48Hills crowd dubs this the monster in the mission and spends years fighting it and as of yet, nothing gets built.

    The service workers who would have moved into the 100 BMR homes are forced to move to lower cost apartments out of the city. The finance bros who would have moved into the 200 market rate apartments instead “settle” for bidding up the prices on 200 older units in the Mission.

    Meanwhile, 48Hills holds up their blocking the monster in the mission as some sort of “success” in their fight against gentrification.

  59. Yeah, I think you are right on. But I also think the progressive platform is that the 1000 finance bros should not have been allowed to move here, US Constitution notwithstanding.

    There is a “if you don’t build it then they won’t come” sentiment. The finance bros would have been happy to live in the Monster in the Mission instead of competing for existing stock.

    What I’m wondering about is how many of the Latinos who left the Mission were forced out and how many left to find a better place to live and raise kids. I don’t think we really know.

    If you read the Mission Local article you’ll see that it presents a very different picture from what Eberling writes. Yes, it’s changing, just like all neighborhoods always have but those who embrace change are doing just fine.

  60. This is not how gentrification works.

    A little crude modeling makes the process clear:

    Imagine there are only 2 neighborhoods in the whole Bay Area: the Marina, which is 100% finance bros, and the Mission, which is 100% service workers. What happens if we add 1000 service workers and 1000 finance bros and we don’t add any housing? The finance bros can either double up in the marina, or they can go to the mission and out bid service workers for housing. The service workers can only double up, become homeless, or move to the central valley and commute. As more residents move in we see more finance bros moving to the mission and more service workers crowding and moving away. Eventually the mission will be 100% finance bros.

    In this model the cause of gentrification is lack of new construction in the Marina. It’s 100% predictable. Yes, you can blame the finance bros for moving here, but It’s a free country and we can’t control them. Adding new housing the Marina is something we do have control over and can prevent gentrification in the Mission.

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