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Washington Post writer Karen Heller’s story “How San Francisco broke America’s heart” is not the first attempt to eulogize San Francisco. In fact, it is just the latest of many. It contains all the hallmarks of the classic “death of San Francisco” piece: framing the story with the closure of a beloved local business, imagery contrasting abject poverty with an overpriced food item, nostalgic quotes, and disgust at the long list of tech companies that inhabit the city.
Just last week, The New Yorker published “In San Francisco, Tech Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness,” a bleak look at the “loss of the city’s soul” due to tech wealth by a writer who moved to the city for a tech job. These pieces are becoming so common an A.I. bot could write them (for a hilarious look at what that would look like, see this Hmm Daily story: “In a Constantly Changing San Francisco, Change is Constant“).
But the poignant, heart-wrenching, “battle for the soul” of a city story loses its punch when it’s been done too many times — especially when it fails to explore the complexity of the issues at hand.
“This is unregulated capitalism, unbridled capitalism, capitalism run amok. There are no guardrails,” Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff is quoted as saying in the article.
On social media, some people took issue with this oversimplified take on San Francisco’s income inequality and housing crisis.
“Everything is getting worse and it’s unstoppable because it’s capitalism’s fault and we can’t do anything, says city that steadfastly refuses to build housing,” quipped Scott Feeney on Twitter.
“This article misdiagnoses the problem,” wrote Zack Subin, another Twitter user. “This is not only about wealth flooding a progressive city, but one clinging to a 1960s view of land use that prohibits new apartments in 86% of its residential land #yimby.”
Others were rubbed the wrong way by choosing the Salesforce CEO as the sole person to give an explanation for “what went wrong” in San Francisco.
“Don’t write one more goddamn story lamenting change without interrogating the politicians who voted one way or another on how your city or the state that your city is in is supposed to be,” wrote Washington, D.C. housing organizer Alex Baca.
Regardless, many San Franciscans still found a lot to relate to in the “Too homogenous. Too expensive. Too tech. Too millennial. Too white. Too elite. Too bro” portrait Heller paints of the city.
“Born in China to Russian Jewish parents in 1941, I came to SF in 1947, grew up in a modest 2-bedroom rental in the city’s Sunset District, went to neighborhood public schools, and came of age in a thriving middle-class community. You can’t go home again,” Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe commented on the article.
Click through the slideshow above to see people’s thoughts on the Washington Post’s take on San Francisco.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Eulogizing-San-Francisco-Washington-Post-13875070.php.