THE PRICE OF PROS­PER­ITY

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY EMILY BADGER

In cities like Oak­land and Sacra­mento, res­i­dents and pun­dits have voiced dread at be­com­ing The Next San Fran­cisco.

Seat­tle does not want to be­come San Fran­cisco, a fate that has come to re­fer ex­clu­sively to the city’s worst traits: its $5,000-amonth rents, its home­less en­camp­ments and the ever-present dis­so­nance be­tween those two.

As San Fran­cisco’s trou­bles have grown more vivid, so too has its sta­tus as other cities’ worst night­mare. In Port­land, Oak­land and Sacra­mento, res­i­dents and pun­dits have voiced dread at be­com­ing The Next San Fran­cisco, where the mid­dle class is dis­ap­pear­ing.

San Fran­cisco is wor­ried, too – about be­com­ing Man­hat­tan. That fear has lurked for decades be­hind ev­ery new pro­posed sky­scraper. And now cranes are erect­ing them all over down­town. The new Sales­force Tower sits at the cen­ter of the con­struc­tion zone, 1,070 feet tall and butting into ev­ery vista in the city.

Surely there is noth­ing left to fear in New York, a place that al­ready has tall build­ings and high rents. But the pend­ing ar­rival of Ama­zon in Long Is­land City, as Vice re­cently put it, has some res­i­dents on edge about “be­com­ing Seat­tle on steroids.” The specter cap­tures the par­tic­u­lar mix of high hous­ing costs, tall build­ings and tech bros.

Our deep­est anx­i­eties about the fu­ture of where we live are em­bod­ied in other cities – in Port­landi-fi­ca­tion, Brook­lynifica-tion, Man­hat­taniza­tion. The com­par­i­son is sel­dom a com­pli­ment. You don’t want to be­come Man­hat­tan (too dense), Port­land (too twee), Bos­ton (too ex­pen­sive), Seat­tle (too tech-y), Hous­ton (too sprawl­ing), Los An­ge­les (too con­gested), Las Ve­gas (too spec­u­la­tive), Chicago (too in­debted).

San Fran­cisco has come to stand for the most spe­cific set of hor­rors. It is the place where ex­treme poverty and tech wealth oc­cupy the same block, while the school­teach­ers and fire­fight­ers all live two hours away.

Con­sider other nu­ances: Port­land ifi­ca­tion can be Brook­lyni­fied, as hap­pens when am­bi­tious me­di­asavvy types com­mer­cial­ize twee. Man­hat­taniza­tion has evolved over time. It once meant build­ing up. Now it in­creas­ingly refers to build­ing only for the rich.

Seat­tle-iza­tion, mean­while, is a par­tic­u­larly dire di­ag­no­sis: The high hous­ing costs and tech riches there have re­made the city with star­tling speed.

Den­ver seemed to im­ply no ob­vi­ous mean­ing un­til The Kansas City Star’s ed­i­to­rial board as­signed it one last month. “Stop the Den­ver­iza­tion of Kansas City,” its head­line said. Be­fud­dled read­ers in Den­ver re­al­ized their city was now a syn­onym for gen­tri­fi­ca­tion – at least, among cities not yet ex­pen­sive enough to worry about San Fran­cisco-iza­tion.

In truth, most of these cities have qual­i­ties other cities would rea­son­ably de­sire. Den­ver has one of the coun­try’s fastest­grow­ing tech la­bor forces, with mi­nori­ties and women rel­a­tively well rep­re­sented in those jobs. Seat­tle and Port­land have among the fastest al­laround job growth. New York has some of the fastest-grow­ing wages. San Fran­cisco has unem- ploy­ment well below the na­tional av­er­age and house­hold in­comes among the high­est in the coun­try.

But San Fran­cisco-iza­tion and the other -iza­tions don’t re­fer to the process of ac­quir­ing any of these good things. Rather, those terms cap­ture the deep­en­ing sus­pi­cion of many com­mu­ni­ties that the costs of ur­ban pros­per­ity out­weigh the ben­e­fits. The tech jobs and the high wages aren’t worth hav­ing if they come with wors­en­ing conges­tion, more crowded de­vel­op­ment or soar­ing hous­ing costs.

Ama­zon’s search this year for a new se­cond head­quar­ters made this trade-off ex­plicit for many cities. De­spite the tens of thou­sands of new high­pay­ing jobs in tech and con­struc­tion on of­fer, pro­test­ers in Chicago and Pitts­burgh – even some in the win­ning ar­eas of New York and Wash­ing­ton – con­cluded that they didn’t want to be the next Seat­tle.

Em­bed­ded in these fears is some­thing slip­pery, seem­ingly in­evitable. Once you let tech giants in the door, you have a home­less cri­sis. Once you al­low more den­sity, you’re sur­rounded by sky­scrapers. Once hous­ing costs be­gin to rise, the log­i­cal con­clu­sion is San Fran­cisco.

“Bos­to­ni­ans: Do you worry more about Man­hat­taniza­tion? Or San Fran­cisco-iza­tion?” Tim Lo­gan, a Bos­ton Globe re­porter who cov­ers de­vel­op­ment, asked on Twit­ter this year. To him, the cities rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent routes to the same end of cre­at­ing ur­ban play­grounds for the rich.

Man­hat­tan has built its way there, through the con­struc­tion of lux­ury con­dos seem­ingly af­ford­able only to oli­garchs and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists. San Fran­cisco has be­come equally ex­pen­sive, but it has ar­rived there by not build­ing much for decades.

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