Activists take swings at a piñata in the shape of a Google bus May 5 at the 16th and Mission BART plaza in 2013. Housing rights activists organized an "anti-gentrification block party."

Sick of the housing madness? So is Montreal – at least a group of people that  broke into, vandalized, and looted a fancy grocery store to “recalibrate” a gentrified neighborhood and engage in “degentrification.”

People there are angry about their neighborhood becoming a “playground for the rich” and lower income locals getting squeezed out by expensive condos. The kicker? The store’s owner says the employees of the grocery (which offers locally-sourced specialties) are locals and they too are being affected by gentrification. Sounds awfully familiar.

If you, too are feeling frustrated with gentrification but vandalism is not your cup of tea, settle in for this long read from Paste Magazine: What’s the Matter with San Francisco? Spoiler alert: it’s apparently tech. Although more specifically, the runaway nature of income inequality and the self-aggrandizing attitude of the tech elite that we allow them to get away with:

“We’re waiting for these people to save us, which is like hoping Batman will swing in the window and whisper the One True Name of God in our ear. He won’t be coming by, no matter how many secret stories I, Jason Rhode, have written about it…Do you want to know what the future looks like? Imagine a Google Bus running its wheels over your face, forever.”

Did you like that? There’s a whole 2,000 more words like it in the op-ed, so you may want to grab some coffee before you sit down with it.

But of course it’s not enough to point fingers – the crisis is real and it’s a horribly thorny problem. What actually would degentrify? UC Berkeley researchers have joined the fray over what’s to be done to rein in the cost of housing, firing back at a state Legislative Analyst Office report that said essentially “build it now!”

The state legislative analyst’s office found that subsidized housing production is way too expensive, plus, stopping market rate construction also stops the flow of money for affordable housing or on-site inclusionary housing that comes with the market rate development. You can read more of their arguments here.

Researchers at Berkeley say wait a moment, don’t build just anything – market rate development, while it does eventually bring down all housing prices and benefit lower income residents regionally, takes many years to have an effect and can have detrimental displacement effects at the neighborhood level. Building subsidized housing, they say, has a higher impact on affordability because it has a protective effect on displacement. Those researchers, by the way, are the same ones who put out this report about gentrification in the Mission having reached an “advanced” stage.

The question of how long it takes for market rate supply to satiate rabid demand is in some ways the most pressing for people trying to find places to stay now. On one hand, we have SocketSite reporting this week that at least one huge developer has reported lower profits for San Francisco because lease income is not as high as they expected – get this – “due to new apartment rental supply.”

On the other, there are still Curbed Comparisons like this one floating around, where one of the best listings they could find for less than $1,600 a month was basically an SRO. Apart from that being a kind of insane amount to spend on an apartment with no in-unit bathroom, it’s also a reminder that the kind of housing stock intended for people with extremely strapped resources are not really available to anyone with less than $2,000 a month income ($4,800 if you want to go by the third-of-your-income rule, which has of course gone completely out the window by now anyway).  

Keep that in mind as you consider the Chronicle’s story on a local Budget and Legislative Analyst report that indicates that housing formerly homeless people brings costs way up at first, but that they drop off over time. Despite the fact that the dropoff still leaves healthcare costs a little higher than before the individuals entered housing, officials are pointing out that (a) that spending is going to something more productive than repeated emergency care, namely prevention and access to services these people should have been getting access to all along, and (b) the report doesn’t take into account potential savings in other areas of city expenditures, like sweeping homeless camps away.

Heavy stuff, so let’s end on a fun note: Curbed has written about an app that for some bizarre reason decided to rename 10-square-foot blocks of every city with strings of three random words – the idea is that you can tell people you’re at “piles buddy towers” and they’ll be able to find you at the Golden Fire Hydrant on 20th and Church streets even if that doesn’t have a specific address (here, try it). But as Curbed discovered, the “random” words have some very fitting combinations: Part of the block of Bryant Street where an enormous and controversial development was approved by the Planning Commission this week is the “fantastic drama basket.”

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  1. ‘…the self-aggrandizing attitude of the tech elite that we allow them to get away with:’

    There are so many things wrong with this statement, I’m not sure where to start. But as my beloved friend Louis (RIP) used to say: ‘JUDGE LEST YE BE JUDGED!’

    1. You kidding? That’s the Randian ethos of Silicon Valley! (Though they usually end up burying themselves in scandal and general douchery.)

  2. “market rate development, while it does eventually bring down all housing prices and benefit lower income residents regionally, takes many years to have an effect and can have detrimental displacement effects at the neighborhood level. ”

    Just like most things in life, you need to take your lumps early and then things will get better. The longer we wait, the worse the short term will be. If we know it WILL get better with market rate development, the faster we start, the faster it will get better.