A Tuesday afternoon in the Mission District of Americaâs tech wonderland.
Michael Feno stands outside Lucca Ravioli, his beloved pasta emporium on Valencia, a vestige of old San Francisco, puffing on a cigar while posing for pictures, his customers in tears.
Living in this cityâs radically shifting landscape, veterinarian Gina Henriksen found comfort by telling herself, âThank God, Lucca is still here. If Lucca goes, Iâm going to have to leave San Francisco. What do we have left?â
Lucca is no longer here.
After 94 years, doors shuttered on the last day of April. The parking lot sold for $3.5 million. A three-building parcel, including the store, listed for $8.3 million and was purchased by â need you inquire? â a developer..
A few blocks away, in this neighborhood of shops hawking $2,600 electric bikes and $8 lemonade, Borderlands Cafe â a throwback with plants cascading from the ceiling â closed the same day after a decade in business.
Owner Alan Beatts couldnât retain staff, even with a $15 minimum hourly wage. Who can live on $15 an hour in this city transformed by innovation?
How can Alba Guerra, co-owner of nearby Sun Rise restaurant, continue to charge $10.95 for the housemade vegan chorizo platter after her rent spiked 62 percent last year to $7,800 a month?
For decades, this coruscating city of hills, bordered by water on three sides, was a beloved haven for reinvention, a refuge for immigrants, bohemians, artists and outcasts. It was the great American romantic city, the Paris of the West.
No longer. In a time of scarce consensus, everyone agrees that something has rotted in San Francisco.
Conservatives have long loathed it as the axis of liberal politics and political correctness, but now progressives are carping, too. They mourn it for what has been lost, a city that long welcomed everyone and has been altered by an earthquake of wealth. It is a place that people disparage constantly, especially residents.
Real estate is the nationâs costliest. Listings read like typos, a median $1.6 million for a single-family home and $3,700 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
âThis is unregulated capitalism, unbridled capitalism, capitalism run amok. There are no guardrails,â says Salesforce founder and chairman Marc Benioff, a fourth-generation San Franciscan who in a TV interview branded his city âa train wreck.â
You no longer leave your heart in San Francisco. The city breaks it.
The city is filthy rich in what other regions crave: growth, start-ups, high-paying jobs, educated young people, soaring property values, commercial and residential construction, a vibrant street life, and so much disposable revenue. But San Francisco, a city of 883,305 residents, 100,000 more than two decades ago, is the Patient Zero of issues affecting urban areas. The sole constant is its staggering beauty.
Downtown is a theme park of seismic start-ups â Uber, Airbnb, Slack and Lyft, with Twitter in the nearby Tenderloin, every app a skyscraper. The 58-story Millennium Tower is a sinking, tilting luxury condo folly that will take $100 million to right â writer Rebecca Solnit dubbed it âthe leaning tower of hubris.â
In the shadow of such wealth, San Francisco grapples with a very visible homeless crisis of 7,500 residents, some shooting up in the parks and defecating on the sidewalks, which a 2018 United Nations report deemed âa violation of multiple human rights.â Last year, new Mayor London Breed assigned a five-person crew, dubbed the âpoop patrol,â to clean streets and alleys of human feces.
The small downtownâs streets are choked with Google and Apple employee buses, and 45,000 daily Uber and Lyft drivers, some commuting from hours away and unfamiliar with the city. By comparison, there are 25,000 ride-sharing drivers in Philadelphia, a much larger and more populous city.
Thereâs an ongoing battle between the NIMBYs and YIMBYs over development in one of the nationâs densest cities. Tech companies here are the beneficiaries of gilded carrots, tax breaks. Longtime residents worry that tech workers are drawn here for the jobs, not the city, and may never become stakeholders in San Franciscoâs future.
âOur rich are richer. Our homeless are more desperate. Our hipsters are more pretentious,â says Solnit, who