San Fran­cisco Is Ask­ing: What Hap­pened to the Kids?

The tech boom trans­forms a city into a twenty-some­thing’s play­ground.

Paper Boy - - Front Page - By THOMAS FULLER

SAN FRAN­CISCO — In a stu­dio apart­ment here a young cou­ple live with their 7-year- old, whom they dote on and take ev­ery­where: a Scot­tish ter­rier named Olive.

Rais­ing chil­dren is on the agenda for Daisy Ye­ung, a high school sci­ence teacher, and Slin Lee, a soft­ware en­gi­neer. But just not in San Fran­cisco.

“When we imag­ine hav­ing kids, we think of some­where else,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s start­ing to feel like a no-kids type of city.”

A few gen­er­a­tions ago, be­fore the tech­nol­ogy boom changed San Fran­cisco and sent hous­ing costs soar­ing, the city was alive with fam­i­lies. To­day it has the low­est per­cent­age of chil­dren of any of the largest 100 cities in Amer­ica.

San Fran­cisco, pop­u­la­tion 865,000, has roughly the same num­ber of dogs as chil­dren: 120,000. The share of chil­dren is 13 per­cent, low even com­pared with an­other ex­pen­sive city, New York, with 21 per­cent. In Chicago, 23 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is un­der 18 years old, which is also the over­all av­er­age across the United States.

Hous­ing costs, an un­even pub­lic school sys­tem, the at­trac­tive­ness of the less-foggy sub­urbs to fam­i­lies, and the large num­ber of gay men and women, many of them child­less, have all played roles in the de­cline in the num­ber of chil­dren in San Fran­cisco. The tech boom now re­in­forces the no­tion that the city is for the young, sin­gle and rich.

Richard Florida, au­thor of “The Rise of the Cre­ative Class,” said tech­nol­ogy workers who move to San Fran­cisco an­tic­i­pate long hours and know they may have to put off hav­ing fam­i­lies.

“It’s a state­ment on our age that in or­der to make it in our more ad­vanced, best and most-skilled in­dus­tries you re­ally have to sac­ri­fice,” Mr. Florida said. “And the sac­ri­fice may be your fam­ily.”

Liz Devlin, a se­nior man­ager at Twit­ter, lives with her hus­band and two chil­dren in a three-bed­room apart­ment. Ms. Devlin said she con­sid­ered San Fran­cisco a “phe­nom­e­nal place to raise kids.”

Still, last July, she and her hus­band de­cided it was time to leave. “In terms of cost of liv­ing, space and schools, I think it’s def­i­nitely at­trac­tive for peo­ple to look out­side the city,” said Ms. Devlin, who moved north to Marin County.

Mr. Lee said he loved San Fran­cisco but felt some­what de­tached from the life cy­cle.

“It’s sim­i­lar to when you go to col­lege and you are sur­rounded by peo­ple who are in the same life stage or who have the same at­ti­tude about what their pri­or­i­ties are,” Mr. Lee said. “That’s all you see: peo­ple who are ex­actly like you.”

JIM WIL­SON/THE NEW YORK TIMES Slin Lee and Daisy Ye­ung say they imag­ine hav­ing chil­dren, but San Fran­cisco doesn’t seem ac­com­mo­dat­ing.

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