They Can’t Leave the Bay Area Fast Enough

Two Sunday Business covers in a row!

This Sunday I got the cover of Sunday Business again with this story about Tech Life After San Francisco. I talked to a bunch of people about what life is like on the other side.

San Francisco suffers from largely self-inflicted problems. This story scratches the surface, but there’s a heck of a lot more to explore in what went wrong and why these ambitious smart young workers don’t see a future in that city on a hill.

The reaction online was funny. It’s basically: “This story is fake, no one is leaving, nothing is wrong with San Francisco — and also it’s good they’re leaving, hooray! they suck.”

And: “They’re leaving and now service industry jobs will disappear so they’re assholes, but also they’re leaving and now all those twee places they liked will disappear so good riddance.”

There’s a strange dynamic on the left around jobs. You saw this in Queens chasing out Amazon, which had announced a plan to put a new headquarters in town and then, facing opposition, decided not to. It was touted as a huge win for New York’s progressives. The media was thrilled. It was maybe the end of neoliberalism! But those who saved Queens from this evil company had to reckon with the fact that the vast majority of New Yorkers very much wanted Amazon to come — and wanted those jobs. How would those jobs be replaced while Queens residents waited for The Revolution? There was never a very convincing answer.

(A caveat here: This did not mean all tech companies shuttered their doors and nary a tech job was found in New York. The neoliberal nightmare continued. Amazon and Google and the rest continued to expand and hire. There just was not a new Queens headquarters with massive amounts of jobs, as Amazon had hoped.)

The young people in my story on Sunday came to San Francisco hoping for a better life and hoping to do something big. These are the kids I’ve been covering for a decade — sometimes they were short-sighted or goofy, scammers or blindly ambitious, sometimes idealistic and sweet, smart and creative. More often they were a blend of all — to me they were (and are) endlessly interesting and endlessly funny. I don’t find joy in a group of ambitious people deciding there isn’t a future in my hometown.

And so an era of the startup world in San Francisco is done, ended by pandemic and politics.

But: This is the Bay Area. It lives in booms and busts. So I know that in a couple years another set of moving vans will come.

***

I spent last week in Miami reporting Part 2 of this story. Now I’m home, on my tread, typing up my notes.

And as always, if you want to follow my writing on religion and Judaism, Greek Orthodoxy and converting, that’s over here on my OTHER newsletter, Chosen by Choice. This past week I wrote about trying not to be offended by sometimes very dark Jewish humor.

Those are my thoughts of the week.

Sending love from sunny Los Angeles. Because, of course, I’m among the ones who fled.

Leave a comment