Animus against gentrification of San Francisco has been much-reported recently, with a Google bus having been blocked in by protesters earlier this week. I understand why people worry about gentrification, but I really wonder what they think the alternatives are.
I mean this genuinely! What do people protesting gentrification want to see? One possibility is new development, but that appears to appeal exclusively to Matthew Yglesias and me. What are the other possibilities? When you’ve got a bunch of rich people working in the area, they’re gonna live somewhere, guys. Are gentrification protesters working from an explicitly selfish point of view? Is their argument “go gentrify San Jose, those guys are assholes and we don’t care what happens to their neighborhoods”? Or what?
Gentrification obviously creates some losers, but it also transfers a certain amount of money from the rich who want to live in previously poorer neighborhoods, to property owners in those neighborhoods (who may not be principally the poor residents of those neighborhoods, but certainly include those residents). And they probably increase quality of life for at least some of the people who live there. They also probably pump a certain amount of money into the construction industry and local retail.
What alternative has at least that limited benefit? Do San Franciscans imagine that it will be to their advantage if the center of gravity of the Bay Area shifts finally and permanently to the south? And do they imagine that there will be fewer people who will be the losers of gentrification in that alternative? If we imagined the (utterly laughable) scenario in which all the rich of the Bay Area went and created some brand new city so they weren’t touching any existing neighborhood, that would create a center of economy that was even further from San Francisco. Do people really not get that this will not improve their lives?