Silicon Valley startup CEO Greg Gopman set back by miles the already bitter relations between the tech industry and, well, everyone else in the Bay Area when he took to Facebook Tuesday night to post a screed about San Francisco’s poor who dot the city’s main downtown thoroughfare. He’s since removed his post, which opened thusly:
Just got back to SF. I’ve traveled around the world and I gotta say there is nothing more grotesque than walking down market st in San Francisco. Why the heart of our city has to be overrun by crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash I have no clue. Each time I pass it my love affair with SF dies a little.
Gopman laments that the poor in other "cosmopolitan cities," "realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests," but San Francisco’s "degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city."
"You can preach compassion, equality, and be the biggest lover in the world, but there is an area of town for degenerates and an area of town for the working class. There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us."
Gopman’s words are so cruel and hysterical they sounds like satire, but they’re not. By this morning he’d thought better and wrote, "I’m really sorry for my comments. I trivialized the plight of those struggling to get by and I shouldn’t have." He asked for some dialogue, "an open discussion on what changes we can make to fix these serious problems."
So let’s get to it.
Here’s what Gopman may not realize. The tech boom of which Gopman’s a part has spurred an influx of wealth into the Bay Area, and with it, a class of new arrivals who want a piece of the small city’s charm. Swift market forces and the absence of protective regulations have spurred skyrocketing rents and no-fault evictions. Evictions, according to San Francisco’s Eviction Defense Collective’s 2012 report (PDF), are a leading cause of homelessness in the city. Ellis Act evictions in particular increased by over 100 percent in 2012, coinciding exactly with the recent tech boom. "Thirty-five percent of respondents indicated that immediately prior to becoming homeless they lived in a home owned or rented by themselves or their partner," the report’s authors write.
Put another way, people like Gopman may actually be contributing to the, ahem, degeneration, of the lives of the city’s most vulnerable.
And even besides the facts, there’s the very clearly emotional nature of the city’s gentrification debate. It’s particularly tough for longtime San Franciscans who are being priced out of their hometowns to stomach derisive remarks from people like Gopman who lay claim to the city and yet who, by their own account, are not even from it. According to his own Facebook profile, Gopman is from Aventura, Florida.