Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Gravediggers for Capitalism


It’s another beautiful day in my neighborhood, San Francisco’s Mission. And as usual, there are many unneighborly new neighbors moving in — likely too many of them using Move Loot, yet another app-as-service, service-as-app that loots us of our money, self, and indeed humanity. Ah, but that’s another story.

For today, here’s a round-up of just a few of the neo-neighborhood doings that ran across my path.

*   *   *

First, there is the “steal” (if you’re the owner especially) of a rental deal on gorgeous Folsom Street, a hop, skip, and an Uber from the increasingly Epcot-esque “Mexico” that the Mission’s 24th Street is being compelled to embrace for its very survival. Yes, for only $10,000 per month and 1.5 months’ rent in security deposit, you and two friends can inhabit — at least for a year — the 3-bedroom home at 2733 Folsom Street (https://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/apa/4727078103.html). The landlord will throw in 2.5 bathrooms, and leave you and your two friends to then flip what coins you have left to see who gets that half-bath versus a full one.

I hear whispers of protest here that $3,333 per bedroom, or a mere $107.50 per day on 31-day months, is a heap of dough, not to mention the utility costs to keep your work-live space up and running 24/7. But consider this:

A slightly longer Uber or Lyft or Spinlister bike share away, on Valencia around 20th Street, a two-bedroom was going for $10,500 about six months ago. And unlike your garishly lit-up Folsom Street Victorian — illuminated at night to boldly display your wealth, and/or keep any potential poor folks from getting ideas about breaking in or tagging your home with class-war messages — the Valencia abode is a personality-less box. Your new digs get you a grassy backyard, although you might want to see it in person, because it looks suspiciously like Astroturf in the Craigslist ad.

Least you further protest that this is an anomaly in terms of price tags, spend about 15 minutes on Craigslist, as my friend and I did last night until we both couldn’t stand it anymore and turned to conversation of start-up shantytowns and favelas, kicking off a blog about a couch-surf-a-night-for-a-year (an idea ripe for venture capital, thus allowing us to afford a home here!), or. . . . This morning, that same friend sent me links to rentals in Sausalito — all far cheaper, relatively, than SF’s Mission.

*   *   *

Second is the charming dialogue, or rather question and answer, that I engaged in with a white male techie, newly moved to San Francisco. He sat down next to me at a work space last night, and seemed amenable to chatting, or rather, answering the questions that I peppered him with. He’s from Texas, so maybe that explains the friendliness. Likely San Francisco will beat that out of him soon enough.

My new acquaintance has been here 1.5 days, or maybe a whole week. He’s already found a home — for three months, and if he pays another $100, her new landlady might extend that another 30 days. His start-up tech employer is staying put in Texas, but joy of joys, he can work remotely.

“Why San Francisco?” I query.

“This,” he responds, spreading his arms open wide, pointing to all around.

“What’s ‘this’?”

“The resources,” he answers.

He tells me that he likes his new apartment — well, room — in the Mission. It’s in a 4-bedroom home that his landlady recently bought and has been renting out for $1,600 per room. “What a deal, huh?” he notes a bit too excitedly, adding that she lives in another of the rooms, but two are still empty.

His landlady, he continues, wants all three rooms vacant soon — hence his short-term housing — so she can “Airbnb all the rooms and never have to work again,” he tells me, even more enthusiastically. “I mean, it’s Airbnb. It’s not like she’s committing murder or anything.”

*   *   *

Last but not least, because this list could go on all night, and then there’d be plenty more to add in the morning, is all the “supercharged with creativity” start-ups moving in to the Mission. It’s hard to see them, I know, because they are cleverly, playfully — one could even say, neighborly — masking themselves behind the run-down facades of former dollar stores, taquerias, SROs, and the like on Mission Street.

Take a gander, again, at Craigslist spaces for rent, and you’ll get a cyberpeek at them. Or wander down Mission Street between 16th and 24th streets — if you dare, because the local paper seems ever-more eager to hype up crime, helping the police and other forces of gentrification to create a buzz around “cleaning up” this neighborhood; of course, there is an upsurge in the poor robbing the rich, a perhaps-understandable Robin Hood sensibility, or simply the sad desperation that inspired great works of literature like Le Misérables.

There are too many to mention here, but one caught my eye for this present piece: DoubleDutch.

It’s not just a name. They’re from Amsterdam. Well, that’s what their Web site says, which also mentions that their office here in the “heart of San Francisco’s Mission” means that if you join their team, you can up their numbers of tacos eaten per day (“favorite team lunch”!), also listed on their Web site. Yes, they exclaim, “we have the best burritos around, the most exquisite coffee in the city, and more art murals than we know what to do with,” or so note the white folks pictured in the snazzy promo video of why you, too, should work at DoubleDutch.

Tortilla chips, lattes, and cultural appropriation aside, and rental increases notwithstanding, the best reason to join this peppy but serious tech start-up (with the cheerful motto, “Do together! Die together!”), is their assertion that at DoubleDutch (http://doubledutch.me/jobs.html), you’ll find “people talking to each other.”

*   *   *

San Francisco isn’t completely gone, yet, but there are already too many cyborgs, too many dead, secluded in their own private sharing economies that make no human sense at all.

There are, already, too many willing gravediggers helping to bury this neighborhood, San Francisco’s Mission, my neighborhood, my home.

We who are still here, mournful ghosts though we are, must try to steal their shovels.

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Please sign up to receive notices when I post to my blog, Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com. Enjoy, share, reprint, post, tweet any of my writings . . . as long as it’s free as in “free water” and “freedom.”

(Photo by Cindy Milstein, street art from some cookie-cutter capitalist-crushed city in North America, November 2014.)

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