I recently published a polemic about Trumpcare (Rot In Piss) at the San Francisco Phoenix, DSA San Francisco’s online journal for leftist thought. It’s not an endorsed position, but it argues that the problems with the GOP’s health care plan, and the weaknesses of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, are problems with capitalism and that taking on the insurance industry head-on is the only way to provide decent care for everyone, based on human need. Give it a read (and read up on the rest of what DSA SF is up to!) at the Phoenix.
There’s a cynical aphorism floating around San Francisco’s tech and tech-adjacent circles, stating that the start-up economy, especially of late, is primarily a wealth transfer from Venture Capitalists to landlords and developers. There’s no denying that the industry’s high salaries and real-estate budgets, bankrolled by deep-pocketed venture capital firms, are a driving force behind the Bay Area’s multi-year rent boom. From the skyline down to the sidewalks, you can see the effects that booming industry, and the attendant redevelopment and displacement, have had.
All over the city, especially in the eastern neighborhoods – close to BART, Caltrain, the freeways – new modern buildings have gone up to meet the demands of professional-class renters, with high rents to match. It’s very visible in SoMa, from the skyscrapers in the east, by the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge and the ballpark, through the west, where the freeways empty out into warehouses, some converted into modern-looking offices, and an unsubtle mix of old Victorians and mid-rise metal-framed condo buildings. All this construction, according to developers and their allies in government and public dialogue, is meant to relax the stress placed on the housing market caused by the boom. But does it? One recent case study suggests otherwise.
At the corner of 8th and Harrison streets, the brand-new LSeven luxury development1.LSeven looms large over the western SoMa landscape. It’s within walking distance of BART, Muni, and a growing number of tech offices in the neighborhood – Thumbtack, Atlassian, Airbnb, and many more call the neighborhood home – as well as the similarly redeveloping mid-Market corridor, home to Twitter and Uber and Dolby. But the tenants haven’t shown up – at least not in the numbers the developer was expecting. So what is a corporate landlord to do when their units won’t rent at the exorbitant rates they’re asking? Some of the luxury developments in the neighborhood have begun to offer move-in specials as demand has cooled slightly. But L7 has opted to take a different path – by converting their unrented units into high-rent SRO housing with the help of Homeshare.
In a scheme reported by San Francisco Magazine2.SF Magazine that sounds potentially at odds with housing law, Homies are asked to provide their age, gender, and sexual orientation to Homeshare, who then aims to match them with compatible roommates with whom to move into a unit in one of the properties Homeshare contracts with (the others are 340 Fremont, in Eastern SoMa, Potrero 1010 at the foot of Potrero Hill, and Artistry and Parc on Powell in Emeryville.) Homeshare overfills these units by placing dividers up, subdividing bedrooms or common space to generate a comparable rate per square foot of space. Is this the venerated market intervening? We’re told that luxury building is necessary to meet demand. Yet when the renters never show up, the house finds a way to get its money back.
As luxury housing continues to spring up around western SoMa, redevelopment continually threatens the remaining character of the neighborhood. The historic Stud, up the block from LSeven, will almost certainly have to relocate once their business-saving agreement is up3.SFist. The Folsom street corridor has seen a spate4.Triptych, SFist of restaurant5.Citizen’s Band and Pinkie’s, SFGate closings, and others still are still on life support 6.Brainwash, SFist. Ground has finally broken on a towering micro-studio development 7.Socketsite across Dore from the Powerhouse, at the heart of the Folsom Street Fairgrounds and last half-block of SoMa’s famed Miracle Mile. What will happen if those don’t rent8.I have a suggestion? It’s impossible to tell, but it seems that for corporate landlords, capitulating on their sky-high demands and disappointing their investors is the least preferable option – and they’ll leave neighbors, renters, and housing activists in the lurch without a second thought.
Corporate landlords are changing the rules of the game and making it impossible to keep up. There’s no one quick fix that will ‘solve’ the housing problem, but letting developers such as LSeven take over whole blocks of land and use them as test tubes for experiments in late capitalism cedes ground to developers that will take monstrous effort to regain. A vision of housing in San Francisco – or anywhere – must put the needs of people before the profits of developers. We the people should not accept ‘innovation’ that manages our expectations of what homes ought to look like downward, especially not in a time and place where there is at once so much wealth and so much need. And for the people that devote their professional and personal lives to keeping the edgy, queer, kinky heart of western SoMa beating – we ought to be working to fight the sad possibility that the only pair of Jeremy Novy’s iconic bootprints left in the neighborhood might be within LSeven itself 9.Broke-Ass Stuart.
On January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump – the physical embodiment of every fucked-up instinct, insecurity, and preoccupation of the American psyche – will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America. There is widespread fear that his administration, stacked with reactionaries and far-right demagogues and backed by a unified Republican congress, will be able to reverse every federal gain made in the realm of LGBT rights in the last 8 years. There is no hope, in the immediate future, of the patchwork of employment or housing laws that protect LGBTQ people completing itself and covering the country. No chance of a federal ban on the torture of queer youth. What is more likely – not guaranteed, because we cannot know these things, only make judgments based on what has already happened and is likely to continue – is a state-by-state assault on nondiscrimination ordinances, insidious ‘bathroom bills’ that are monstrous invasions of privacy targeting trans people, and the introduction of laws that turn the notion of religious freedom into a weapon that is, unsurprisingly, usually aimed at LGBTQ people. It is not a pleasant reality to consider.
But on January 20th, as in all uncertain times of protest and social upheaval, there is opportunity. An opportunity to show the onlookers around the globe what can happen when the people who dare to dream of a better world come together. There will be moments, on January 20th, when it feels like anything is possible. When the overwhelming presence of the crowds and the chants and the signs and the slogans transport and transform us, elevate us to a plane where we see not just the people in the crowd but the forces that brought us together and the power that is so very nearly in our grasp.
LGBTQ people, by and large, do not raise one another. Our relationships are usually not like those of our parents. Our coming-of-age stories are often marked by fear, deceit, and trauma, as we realize that the bodies we were given cannot fit the mold we were raised in no matter how we might try. But we have role models and influences. People who help us on our way. Breadcrumb trails, left by strangers, to whom we feel affinity nonetheless as we discover that our ideas about ourselves were not unique or wrong or shameful. Norms change, and the way society understands gender and sexuality does as well. But so long as there are people in the world living in places where nonconformity to those norms is punishable – by restricting access to bathrooms, or housing, or employment, or healthcare; by bullying, or harassment, or ostracizing; by institutionalization, or torture, or extortion, or death – it will be the responsibility of liberated LGBTQ people to fight like hell against those injustices and pass that hope on to a stranger who needs to know there is a better world out there.
So on January 20th, in these times and places when all things are possible, it is our duty to be the most transcendently queer versions of ourselves. Not just for one another – though certainly because it is how we come to know each other. Not just because projecting our self-image and identity gives us strength, though it is an individually empowering thing to do. Not just so we can look fierce for the news, though that certainly helps spread our truth. We come as our truest selves because our identities are a rebuttal to the social structures we overcame. We do it for the people everywhere, young and old, who need inspiration and guidance on their own path of discovery. We do it for the skeptics: the ones who question if we need a space in the revolution, as well as the ones who question if we need a revolution at all. We do it because any promise of a just future is incomplete unless we overcome – and ultimately overturn – the social barriers that force us to present half-selves in certain company.
On January 20th, if you are able, put on your best wig and marching heels and clean your leathers and put glitter on every damn thing and wear the clothes that makes you feel the most like you, whatever that means, and meet your neighbors in the street, and share your dreams with one another. So long as we have hope, it isn’t too late to start making them come true.
It is an insult to the activism that took part across the country as the epidemic spread. While Ronald Reagan was refusing to act on the crisis, fury and desperation were rampant. Suggesting that their legacy is one of compassion and not complicity erases the legacy of mass movements such as ACT UP, as well as countless local community clinics and organizations that tried to help the afflicted and combat the stigma that tore apart communities, many of which continue to do so today.
- Why was she talking about AIDS at Nancy Reagan’s funeral in the first place, if not to praise her?
- This piece doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the Reagans were not only not involved in starting the conversation, they were instrumental in silencing it. I will not hold my breath waiting for a condemnation.
- It’s probably not a good look to use your own gaffe as a chance to toot your own horn.
|1.||↑||Gawker: Hillary Clinton’s Reagan AIDS Revisionism Is Shocking, Insulting, and Utterly Inexplicable|
|4.||↑||Buzzfeed: Nancy Reagan Turned Down Rock Hudson’s Plea For Help Nine Weeks Before He Died|
|5.||↑||Mic: These Horrifying White House Transcripts Show How America Used to Think About AIDS|
|6.||↑||The Atlantic: Can States Protect LGBT Rights Without Compromising Religious Freedom?|
|7.||↑||Which is not over, especially not for gay men of color, especially in the South|
Much like they recently did with the drought, the New York Times has found a West coast phenomenon to report on in their piece1.New York Times about Soylent, the protein-powder meal replacement that’s gained a dedicated following (as well as venture funding) in the tech industry, and its ilk. Soylent is fine, if you are inclined to consume what I can only imagine can be described as “tasting like nothing, but worse”. I couldn’t see myself getting on a waitlist for that kind of thing, so spare me that assumption. The focus of the piece was not on Soylent itself – they covered that last year2.New York Times – but on the trend of Silicon Valley’s army of coders and entrepreneurs forgoing traditional meals for a tall glass of protein powder, in the interest of being more productive. While I read the article, my thoughts turned to the future, because Silicon Valley is where the future happens before you really want it to, and they went a couple of ways.
I read about my peers, the coders, who view their self-sacrifice as virtuous, and where their extreme ambition, by today’s standards, could fall in line with the other tech industry norms that would have been unheard of in a pre-dot-com world. Tech workers are not a monolith, but the way that we talk about ourselves (and are talked about) has a very real impact on the way we are understood as a demographic. We are rockstars, devil-may-care wizards of our craft with a rider of Red Bull and pizza on the company dime. We work hard and play hard, and are happy to follow up a month of crunch time with a big blowout party with our colleagues. We do what we love, motivated not just by the check that we live on but the mission we live for, an immaterial compensation that the visionaries at the helm have provided to us by merely existing. What isn’t part of that lexicon is an honest account of the competition, which is not wholly unlike that of every other economy; The Internship may have been a fun3.not that it was actually much fun: AV Club look inside the office-playgrounds at Amphitheatre Parkway or Hacker Way or Infinite Loop, but there’s nothing quite so endearing about tales of attrition and alienation at Amazon4.Gawker, constant crunch in the games industry5.Kotaku, a CEO publicly rescinding an offer to a candidate who asked for career advice online6.Discussion on Quora, offending comment deleted7.Screenshot by Rod Begbie (twitter), or a wage-theft lawsuit that involved a stacked cast of heavyweight corporations in the valley8.Pando. Is this what we’re racing to the bottom for?
This says a lot about the tech landscape, but what is also telling is the way it dictates life outside the confines of the office park as well. San Francisco seems to be mired in a game of whack-a-mole with startups trying to monetize its public parking9.SFGate, and they already settled their battle against private use of their transportation infrastructure by the shuttles for an absolute pittance10.San Francisco Examiner. City councils in Santa Clara County’s transit district have voted against improving a vital bus corridor, with Sunnyvale in particular citing the self-driving future as a reason to vote nay on restructuring traffic flows along the route11.StreetsBlog SF. Struggling public school systems are in competition with charters focused on computerized learning12.Hack Education13.Salon. How does a trend like Soylent fit into this future? As a time-saver for professionals, less hungry for a decent meal than a professional record that hopefully translates to a good deal more money down the line? As sustenance for those living an augmented existence, wired into google glass and entertainment and virtual reality, with their IDE running in the background, too attentive to their stats to focus on things that don’t have a game layer? As a budgetary measure for school lunches, or an industrial foodstuff for the masses to survive on while the upper crust dine on whatever artisan fruits and vegetables and locally-sourced meats14.Jacobin haven’t been ravaged by drought? It’s impossible to know, and industry-backed schemes don’t always succeed15.SFist, but they can have a habit of sticking around more than most people would want them to.
I read about my peers, and the various ways driven workers in all professional fields prove their devotion to their careers. Long hours and shitty dinners and an urge to follow up on email on vacation are certainly not unique to software engineers. Deadlines, release dates, presentations, and the occasional panicked phone call are facts of professional life. But the tech industry stands out with respect to the reverence it pays towards them. The basic facts of life are equalizers; you and your CEO may not have much in common, but you both need to eat, sleep, and get dressed every morning. It speaks volumes about the valley that disruptions to those functions seem to warrant more discussion about specifics than debate about whether or not they’re setting a new standard for work-life penetration.
The most basic commonality to all human experience – more universal than how we eat or sleep or put on pants in the morning – is our mortality. That we will all die on our journey is a truly terrifying fact, yet it is there, staring back coldly at us as we gaze toward all points on the horizon, no matter our station. Some people cope with this by dedicating their lives to service or sloth, some by chemically altering their consciousnesses to better reason with death or ignore it altogether, some by building personal monuments to opulence and comfort that are the envy of all or disavowing all manner of wealth and possession because they can’t take it with them, some by cowering in fear of it and some by provoking it, flirting with it, taunting it, seeing how close they can get to the abyss without destroying themselves. We traverse the mortal coil navigating between these various extremes, making choices big and small, guided by only our understanding of the consequences and the forces that bring them about. In the end, it is not my personal concern if a peer of mine eschews a burrito in favor of a vitamin-rich slurry so he or she can spend an extra five hours in a week dedicating service to someone else’s startup scheme. But as us two, me and this peer of mine, lie on otherwise parallel deathbeds, as they unplug us from whatever simulation – digital or analog – diverts us from our pain, and explain to us that despite their best efforts, the healthcare system does not have the means to keep our bodies in working order, that all the vital-sign monitoring and synthesized tissue and bespoke heart valves and futuristic procedures could not meaningfully extend our time on this earth, regardless of who’s paying for it all, as we consider the sacrifices we made to reach that end, I will have a few spare memories of al pastor meat leaking grease through foil or burning the roof of my mouth on a hot egg sandwich or every once in a while properly executing the alchemical rites to cooking a decent meal, and my peer will have memories of blending a nutritionally-sufficient powdered beverage in the interest of logging a few extra hours at a terminal. Neither decision is particularly important, and the richness of the human experience is a subjective thing, but I imagine my peer will wonder why he or she did that, and if it made any difference.
|1.||↑||New York Times|
|2.||↑||New York Times|
|3.||↑||not that it was actually much fun: AV Club|
|6.||↑||Discussion on Quora, offending comment deleted|
|7.||↑||Screenshot by Rod Begbie (twitter)|
|10.||↑||San Francisco Examiner|
exciting content tk 😉