Friday, May 23, 2014

Gary Kamiya: Portal of the Present

Gary Kamiya

That's a remarkably smug piece by Gary Kamiya in the May edition of San Francisco magazine (San Francisco Is Dead. Long Live San Francisco), as he retails some outright falsehoods to gloss over the radical gentrification of San Francisco. (Kamiya is now in the lead for my Pangloss of the Year award, which has been awarded twice to John King---here and here---his colleague at the Chronicle.)

Kamiya writes the Portals of the Past column for the Chronicle, stories about the history of San Francisco. Maybe he's been taking the long view so long it's distorting his view of what's happening to the city now. The subtitle of the article itself is a succinct bit of Panglossism: "Yes, the city we know is going away. But, as has happened throughout its history, a new one will arise. Let’s give it a chance." Out of the mud grows the lotus!

Yes, let's give the new gentry a chance. After all, the coffee and the food will be good---if you can afford it.

Kamiya does some pro forma hand-wringing about gentrification:

This prospect worries me. As someone who loves San Francisco’s maverick tradition and its class and ethnic diversity...I find the idea that my beloved town is on the verge of becoming another Manhattan---a picturesque but increasingly expensive, homogeneous, and sterile burg---distressing, to put it mildly. When I hear about yet another writer/artist/mentor/activist/all-around cool person being priced out of town, or learn that African Americans now make up only 6 percent of the city’s population, or hear stories about another young family that can’t afford to move here, my heart sinks.

But apparently what bothers him even more are those "cool" people who are protesting gentrification, including this outright falsehood:

There’s the view---promulgated by former elected officials like Art Agnos, Quentin Kopp, and Aaron Peskin---that any alteration in the physical landscape of San Francisco, especially if it involves market-rate housing, is akin to the Mordor Development Corporation’s erecting the Dark Tower in the middle of the Shire...For even if it were possible to keep San Francisco exactly the way it is...why would anyone want to? Any such attempt would be antithetical to the very things that I value most about the city: its youth, its vigor, its ability to reinvent itself...Progressives (who, it should be noted, played a key role in blocking housing starts for decades) can yell and scream at the techies and the mayor all they want, but they’ll still end up in the same place: a city with more housing demand than it has supply...

Like C.W. Nevius and Gabriel Metcalf---who invoke the anti-development trope regularly---Kamiya doesn't name anyone who actually believes it because no one does. I've lived in San Francisco off and on since 1960, and it's simply untrue that "progressives" have "played a key role in blocking housing starts." Not surprising that Kamiya, with his vast knowledge of city history, doesn't name any people or organizations to support his charge.

Agnos, Kopp, and Peskin opposed 8 Washington and support Proposition B, both of which are only about the waterfront and have nothing to do with opposing "market-rate housing" in the city in general:

I’m all for rushing the barricades when there’s an enemy to fight and a battle that can be won. I’ve engaged in my share of such battles. But it’s time to reckon with reality: There is no enemy here. Or if there is, it’s an enemy that won’t be defeated. What has hit San Francisco in the last couple of years can be summed up in one word: capitalism. And that is a tsunami that no seawall can keep out.

Thanks for clearing that up, Gary. That makes it all so much better.

Though Kamiya too supposedly "worries" about the gentrification of his beloved San Francisco, he only scolds those who are visibly opposing it---and he does it in a magazine owned by a company that perfectly represents that process: Modern Luxury---"56 titles in 15 affluent U.S. markets"!

Why do I suspect that Kamiya himself doesn't have to worry about being evicted?

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At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These people seem like they want to block market-rate housing:

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, but have they blocked anything? Or even delayed a single development? Why didn't Kamiya mention this group? Because he's never heard of them and neither have I, and both of us have been in SF a long time.

And these folks have a point, since market-rate housing in SF is now only affordable for the well-off. What the city needs is more affordable housing.

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

There is a big difference in the type of person the recently arrived hipster/ techie types and the type of person that came here in previous surges. The beatniks (1950s), folkies/ hippies (1960s), gays (1970s) all just showed, came to be part of the mix, to join in. This new kind has a secure job first with Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon (Lab126) all using "work here and you can live in San Francisco and we'll chauffer you to work each day in a custom luxury bus," as a recruitment incentive.

Thus these new kind spend more of their weekday waking hours on the peninsula or commuting to/ from the peninsula than they do in SF. The Great Inversion: they are turning SF into suburbia, their bedroom community.

They don't like urban living as presented, don't like the ding an sich of SF, they want the convenience and ease of suburban life, bike lanes, Sunday Streets, Valencia St. as shopping mall.

So they support SPUR and the SFBC and Livable City and the SFTRU to make physical alterations so that SF will be more like where they came from, only "hip" because, you know, they're hip, they're the Creative Class.

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