Class divisions in SF (sorta)


Richard Florida, who got famous creating the "creative class," has a new series of maps out charting class structure in American cities -- not on the basis of income or wealth but on the type of work people do. Sfist has a nice copy of the San Francisco version here. It shows, on the surface, that this city has virtually no "working class," some "service class" and lots of "creative class."

Overall, it's a picture of a city in the late stages of terminal gentrification -- but it's also a bit misleading.

San Francisco long ago lost much of it's traditional blue-collar work -- manufacturing, production, distribution, and repair -- although there's still some left. What we don't have is a lot of unionized blue-collar jobs (like the Port of Oakland offers). That's pretty clear.

But unionized jobs that don't require advanced degrees still exist in San Francisco -- they're just in the public sector. I suppose Muni drivers get defined as "service class" by Florida, but that's really not accurate.

Nor is the notion that "creative class" people all make a lot of money. I suppose there are artists and musicians who are getting rich in San Francisco, but I don't know any of them.

If anything, Florida's approach just underscores the changes in the American economy in the past few decades. It doesn't do much to help understand how the actual demographics of the city have changed, how wealth has become more concentrated and poverty more dire. So I don't really get the point.


Large-scale, monolithic manufacturers are out of vogue in the US, or at least in the Bay Area. Sure, we still have GE, Caterpillar, boeing etc. but factories need a lot of cheap RE so will never be here.

They also need a lot of relatively uneducated workers, AKA cannon fodder, and they won't be here either because our RE prices are too high.

So we are forced into the 21st century knowledge work sector but, luckily for us, that is what pays these days. Those unskilled jobs are better done elsewhere, so why would we want them?

Likewise, unions are sooo 20th century and the only people who need a union these days are people who know they are overpaid and underworked, mostly that means you work for the government.

Tim, you have the good fortune to live in a major nexus of the new economy, which is creating fabulous amounts of wealth and prosperity for many people I know. But sadly, you are firmly stuck somewhere in 1969, lost in time, sans sense, sans hope, sans relevance, sans everything.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

event, is not really a helpful word, being more a denigrative concept used to disparage those who try and improve their homes and neighborhoods.

What we see here is a post-industrial city. But the real problem is looking at SF on it's own, as if it is some disembodied place rather than merely the "creative work" center of the Bay Area.

Throw in the port of Oakland, as you acknowledge, and the picture starts to look different. The East Bay has corporations like clorox, Chevron and other bastions of "old America".

So the real error you are committing is being too narrow in your focus. Look at the 4-5 million people of the Bay Area as one population center and things look very different. SF is then just one area, balanced by the very different aspects of the other parts of the Bay Area.

Bingo - problem solved. Not that I think progress is really a problem anyway

Posted by anon on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

control and inflated public sector employees for decades - look where it got us.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

it's never enough. Our deficit is a crime, robbing from future generations to pay off special interest groups, usually unions and politicians.

We should balance the budget instead of playing games.

Posted by anon on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

True. As yet another conservative troll, I also heartily agree with this conservative bullshit. Remember when we insisted that Bush balance the budget before starting two wars, cutting taxes for the wealthy and their ridiculously profitable corporations, and bailing out the banks? We need to do it again, because nobody cares more about a balanced budget than the braindead warriors that have been cheerleading the drug war and the costly imprisoning of every third or fourth American for the last forty years.
Fuck yeah!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

If you want to fix the deficit (and I know you do not) then start with welfare.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

What about welfare for veterans? They sacrificed for your freedom while your lazy ass sits home spewing nonsense on the internet. If you want to fix the deficit (and I know you do not) then start with the endless drug war, corporate welfare and pointless wars without end. We can and should spend for a strong military without wasting trillions on pointless wars and wasteful defense spending rushed through at the behest of defense industry lobbyists.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

make sure we win them. Which we do. And that takes money.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

Please, elighten us on the history, Guest

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

One way or the other.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

Point is these conservative pisslickers have twisted themselves into pretzels here, arguing to fund the military and every fake ass war they're spoon fed by their masters while advocating the destruction of welfare for some of the same soldiers they pretend to support. These conservacunts don't give a fuck for a soldier or any another human being outside of themselves. They're simply devoted to waging their pointless game of us against them, while their political idols like George Bush and his daddy and his brother take turns fucking them in the ass.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

It's the entitlement programs that need a hatchet taking to them, most obviously MediCaid, but also things like food stamps that almost 50 million now get for free.

But also the elephants in the room - MediCare and Social SEcurity.

Even Obama is starting to propose cutting SS and welfare benefits.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

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Posted by Extraxxx.Net on Oct. 10, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

state that is typically acheived by affluent locations.

there is no industry in Manhattan, the city of London, La Jolla, Hawaii, Aruba and various other highly desirable and prosperous places.

Gentrification is not a problem. It's the removal of many problems, such as homelessness, poverty, crime and other factors that make live less pleasant.

It's a good thing!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

They see change as very threatening because they subscribe to an outdated philosophy, one which has sustained a lot of very difficult body blows as the decades have accumulated. They have opposed many of the biggest changes in the fabric of San Francisco over the years - BART, the Transamerica Pyramid, the Moscone Center and they seem determined to oppose any additional changes. They've contented themselves with believing the scraps developers throw towards Non Profit Inc for things like affordable housing and transportation mitigation, scraps their allies fight over like starving rats, somehow negate the absolutely massive damage progressive philosophy has sustained in the past 40 years. It's the same old song but they never get tired of singing it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

(and a few frumpy middle-aged white women) who endlessly whine about how the world is leaving them behind.

They didn't get it back then and they do not get it now.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

True, as a fellow conservative troll I absolutely have to agree with bending backwards until my spine snaps in order to accuse others of exactly what I'm guilty of.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

and that's why the bit rhetorical fluff doesn't hold up in view of the general level of wealth among artists and writers, etc.

Not only that, but I have experience working in factories and I've seen how front line workers are often *quite* creative, though they are almost never given credit for it; not being of the "creative class" these workers must have their ideas taken from them, altered slightly to suit the vanity of them who are in charge, and used without credit or further remuneration.

The reality is the human beings are far more uniform in capacity than the distribution of rewards would indicate. That's the fault of the "creative class."

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

You're the "no damn use at all" class.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

As a former low-wage service industry worker and a current student, I guess I pretty much fit with this map, since I live in the Tenderloin.

I just want to note on here that I love my neighborhood - described by one commentator on the Chron's website today as "full of filth" - and I hope it remains relatively ungentrified. The Tenderloin is a beautiful, friendly neighborhood in what is otherwise often a cold, expensive, and elitist city.

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

Nor that "creative" people, who typically are paid more, live in the nice area's.

As a whole, SF is expensive because it attracts the kind of businesses who need workers with high skill levels, and they will insist in living somewhere nice, i.e. expensive.

The problem with something like rent control is that it provides housing for the class of people that the city increasingly does not need, while NIMBY land use policies prevent us building adequate homes for those with the skills that the city needs.

As an owner of real estate, I can live with that and laugh at my property values, but I do not think it is good for the city to have such a mismatch.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 5:59 am

I think you've just articulated how gentrification is tied to class. Congratulations.

You've stated that, as an owner of real estate who is concerned about property values, you have a CLASS interest in ensuring that people who move into the city are of a "class" who will prove the skills the city "needs" - ie those with high skill levels who can afford to live in expensive places.

In other words, it is good for you if property IS expensive - that's your class interest. So you oppose rent control.

I'm a worker and a law student. I have an interest as a non-property owner in ensuring that rents remain low, so that when I rent a new place it won't be incredibly unaffordable. That is my CLASS interest. Our class interests conflict. And what we have right now in San Francisco, essentially, is a one-sided class war by people who would like to see excessively high property and rental values in all areas.

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 10:23 am

personal ambitions I have to make money off of real estate (which means wanting little new supply and little turnover of existing units) with what I thinbk might be better for the city.

It's clear that the city does not need more poor people, nor more homeless people. They tend to cost the city money. Rather we want more middle and upper income folks here - the 75K per annum and up knowledge workers who provide the driver for prosperity here.

IOW, we need a bigger, better taxbase and, paradoxically, that is the ebst hope for our underclass to, who rely more on city services that would be under threat without a healthy, vibrant local economy.

Don't worry about me - I'll do fine either way.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 10:44 am

True, as a conservative troll i agree completely with everything you said. Let's put a moratorium on poor people while we suck hundred dollar bills out of each other's asses, which will no doubt lead to a healthy vibrant local economy.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

But I suspect that many of them would be happier in a less expensive and competitive location

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 7:00 am

Actually when someone doesn't know afterward its
up to other visitors that they will help, so here it takes

Posted by on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 10:32 am

And I am charitable enough to assume that you are not so dense as to know that trickle-down economics is a completely discredited philosophy - as proven through practice.

As an alternative to trickle-down economics, I simply propose taking the wealth of the rich - through taxation. Or by force. The police are nothing more than a force that is used to take the resources of the poor, and so I think that in a society n which the working-class unites to take power, some police force should be used to ensure that the rich do not hoard a disproportionate amount of the wealth as well. Both bread, and roses, should be demanded.

Posted by HeartTenderloin on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

society and so you seek expropriation from those who do.

The lament of the inadequate since the beginning of time. Unfortunately for you, the voters do not buy your attempted mugging, not even the poorer ones.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 6:59 am

I can understand it if you don't like it. But to say it has been refuted requires something like, er, evidence?

The fact that it is the official policy of both major parties rather promotes the idea that it is deemed valid.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

Trickle down has not worked because since supply side economics has been practiced, capital has flowed uphill not as a trickle, but as a concentrating torrent. That discredits the thesis on the merits which has no purchase for the true believers in the religion of economic sharia.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

You make the classic progressive error of looking at the difference between the rich and poor, rather than ask if the poor are better off in absolute terms.

Inequality isn't the problem; poverty is.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

Trickle down was supposed to raise all boats when it has not.

California has a 23.5% poverty rate today after almost two generations of unbroken conservative economic, supply side rule that you admit is the standing position of both parties.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

been in poverty but for a trickle-down, pro-growth policy? You cannot know that because it never happened.

California has a quality and standard of life that is as good or better than anywhere, such that it often seems that most of the population of the planet wants that.

And yet you claim it's no good?

We are a wealthy State and there is almost nowhere else where you have a better shot of the American dream.

Whine away but your policies would turn this State into Detroit by the Sea.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

Yay, no use for that sciency stuff, empirical evidence is wrong when the instruments of theory dictate otherwise.

Forward, controlled flight into terrain!

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 7:27 am

That's the problem.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 8:45 am

Poverty in CA is higher after 30 years of supply side neoliberalsim than it was before.

The conservative presumption has to be that the change in economics has led to an increase in poverty.

The radical assertion that things would have been worse had supply side neoliberalism not dominated needs to be substantiated, not asserted.

All sciency and stuff.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 9:08 am

hardly a shock if there is more of everything. There is certainly more wealth and prosperity now than then. And opportunity is greater now.

But sure, if you areless educated, old school, refuse to take risks, get educated or work hard then, sure, you might end up poor. I can live with that.

Posted by anon on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 9:22 am

What has the "creative" class created that is necessary to life on Earth?
Does anyone know the difference between "innovation" and imitation?
I'll give the creative bubble another year or so before the economy catches
up with the fact that staring at screens is not the same thing as real work.
Clean drinking water, air, and food are much more important to the both the local
and world economies than my iPad Mini.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 7:07 am