But leftists in San Francisco see daggers in Google buses, which they insist are symbols of growing inequality. In December, Oakland protesters broke the windows on a Google bus, and last spring a few dozen street demonstrators in San Francisco’s Mission District smacked piñata buses. Local writer-activist Rebecca Solnit summed up the populist perspective about the buses when she wrote recently in the London Review of Books that “some days I think of them as the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us.”
The “battle” in San Francisco against the “tech overlords” is merely the latest skirmish in a very long war, and that war is not being fought over high-minded issues. It is, in fact, brutally simple: Housing costs.
It is an article of faith in leftist San Francisco that there is some inherent right for anybody who wishes to live in The City, whether they can afford to do so or not.
More than seventy percent of SF residents rent. Hence, rent control is the most sacred of cows. Also, the city spends hundreds of millions of dollars on “affordable” housing so that people who can’t afford to live here are able to do so – with a lot of help from the taxpayers.
But even our socialist city fathers and mothers dimly understand that perfect price controls on housing would, in a relatively short time, destroy the housing stock and defeat their desire to placate the renters who vote. So as long as you live in your place, the rent can only be raised a certain small amount each year (there are other conditions as well). However, if you move, the landlord can – and does – hike the rent to whatever the market will bear.
The clamor for San Francisco housing from tech workers who can afford to live in the city is pushing that market rate higher and higher. And so the poor leftist activists who just want to move to San Francisco, live in the Mission, and “do good,” find themselves forced to live like dogs in a puppy mill, crammed four or five to a room in a two-room apartment that goes for 4000 dollars a month. It just isn’t fair!
Glenn Reynolds has it partly right, when he says:
Yes, envy and resentment do play a role here, but at base both emotions are fueled by the raging sense of entitlement to other people’s stuff that fuels leftist ideology as a whole.
The City owes them affordable housing, you see. And if those tech workers are keeping them from getting what they are owed, then those tech workers must be destroyed.