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PDR zoning encouraged Artists to clean up the old industrial areas of the Eastern Neighborhoods.

August 27, 2016

OpEd: by Zrants

I have often been asked why this dotcom boom is displacing neighborhoods when former ones did not. Having lived through a number of booms and busts I see some major differences this time. A short history of the development of the eastern neighborhoods should explain it, so here is Part One in the series.

History of the Mission and SOMA Development – Part One.

In the 1970’s the Mission, and what came to be called SOMA, were full of empty industrial building, factories, warehouses and old worker housing with a sprinkling of beautiful Victorians and other vintage properties that were abandoned for better neighborhoods. The cheap rents and relatively lax building codes drew artists and entrepreneurs with wild ideas to the neighborhoods of empty properties on empty streets. In some areas they were patrolled by gangs at night. City officials pretty much ignored those areas.

The new residents created a hip new community and cleaned environment with no help from private or government funds. Sweat equity was the currency we ran on. The activity and excitement of creating our own spaces, drew the best, most motivated problem solving talent.We had no money but we were young and full of energy and ideas.

Instead of tearing down the old properties, the tenants threw themselves into creating their homes inside of the old buildings. The wages were low and so were the prices of materials . We lived on a limited no-credit budget.

By the time of the first dotcom boom, the Eastern Neighborhoods were ready to join that movement. Our homes were finished. Our streets were clean and we were ripe for the picking. We had cool galleries and entertainment spaces and walls full of murals and we loved our funky old streets filled with empty parking spaces. The gangs were gone and the streets were clean.

During the first two dot come booms, possibly because of tighter height restrictions, higher taxes and higher interest rates, the rents stayed relatively low while wages sky-rocketed. People were paid ungodly sums for not doing much of anything by companies that had no idea what they were doing or trying to sell. The utilities could not deliver the service they were selling so many companies relying on it failed and the first dotbust so many layoffs.

We still had our low rents and our traditional talents to fall back on so things were not so bad. Most of us weathered the storm of the first dot bust and came back for the next round of ups and downs that was brought on by the millennium crisis. Once that was past us, we had the next round of layoffs. This proceeded the economic downturn brought on by the housing crisis.

(Stay tuned for Part Two)



One Comment leave one →
  1. September 8, 2016 2:06 pm

    Wonderful article. Before the days government at all levels decided to “solve” all our problems, people found ways to improve their own lives, based on their willingness to work hard, learn new things, and use their talents. Looking forward to more on this series.


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