Another Bay Area Tech Is Dead article has run in the Times, written by Nellie Bowles, who should be known as “the person who gave Jordan Peterson and Men’s Rights Activists a national platform” and literally nothing else.
These articles are great, because every single one is basically the same story:
- People are leaving the bay.
- They’re doing so in droves. Here are the stats.
- Where are they going? Texas, Washington State, New York, Chicago. Here are the stats.
- Bay area prices are changing. Here are the stats.
- Here are a lot of quotes - usually interwoven with stuff deliberately give people the chance to pick a quote on Twitter and say “wow, look at this person.”
- End with some sort of vague conclusion with a wistful quote from someone.
- File story.
This one is different because it, as per Bowles’ modus operandi, gives voice to people who had a voice anyway, people who consider themselves victims despite usually being the victimizers, and/or people who live in privilege who are already totally fine. Take this quote:
“I miss San Francisco. I miss the life I had there,” said John Gardner, 35, the founder and chief executive of Kickoff, a remote personal training start-up, who packed his things into storage and left in a camper van to wander America. “But right now it’s just like: What else can God and the world and government come up with to make the place less livable?”
Hello John, quick question: what the fuck are you talking about?
Because nobody ever asks in these articles “so, what specifically are you moving away from?” I’m going to guess that he’s going to claim there’s some sort of free speech vacuum happening in the bay, when the actual reality is all the people that he regularly goes and sniffs the butts of like a dog are all in quarantine, and he’s suddenly realized he’s paying an effective tax rate of 45% to live in a place that costs a lot. Which is totally fine and a reason to leave, if you’re not getting the value! But nope, Bowles is onto bigger, better things, like trite bullshit about housing sizes without, of course, a comparison of square footage. Why have depth?
“Moving into a $1.3 million house that we saw only on video for 20 minutes and said yes,” wrote Mike Rothermel, a designer at Cisco who moved from the Bay Area to Boulder, Colo., with his wife last summer. “It’s a mansion compared to SF for the same money.”
Bowles does succeed in starting a paragraph about income tax, and includes a quote that sounds entirely made up:
“I run payroll for myself, and when I saw zero, I called the accountant like there’s an error — there’s no tax line here,” he said. “And they were like, ‘Yeah there’s no tax.’”
Now, a good journalist here would have responded with “are you fucking stupid? You moved somewhere without realizing there was no state income tax? Did you seriously do that? Did you move to Austin without realizing that? Why are you so stupid? But no, there is no challenge - as per usual with her work - against people who are very stupid. Okay, perhaps the question was not “are you stupid?” but “okay, so, why didn’t you check? How did you move without realizing that?”
The extremely boring and generic article that pisses me off not just because of the content but because it’s the same thing as everyone else did then goes on to drop a quote that is, as usual, totally unchallenged:
“When people decide to leave San Francisco, they usually don’t know where they want to go, they just want to go,” Mr. Gilliam said.
Excuse me, what’s that dude? You’re being quoted in an article of people who very clearly know where they wanted to go, bar the one person she quoted who went to live with his parents in Atlanta. Why put that quote in there? What’s the point? What’s the relevance?
One credit I’ll give this article is that it does have a meandering section about how he’s building a community in Costa Rica for remote workers. Reading this part, I have to wonder why she didn’t do the article entirely about that?
What infuriates me about these articles is that very few of them seem to actually think for themselves, and follow the most trite, dull story about how people are leaving the bay to go to Austin and Miami. I get that people have jobs and have to file them, but I have yet to leave a San Francisco Is Over Panic Story that actually says anything genuinely interesting, or actually digs into the why of people leaving the city. I get that people should be quoted in these articles and that’s how you source the content, but at some point you have to ask what is the real reason? When someone says “it’s a free speech issue,” get specific.
In my opinion, people are leaving because of a simple cost-benefit analysis - a lot of the San Francisco tech people I know predominantly stay in and around the bay, they don’t venture past Oakland, they perhaps go surfing or they ride a bike up Mount Diablo, and they love to talk about burritos and In ‘n’ Out, a burger you can get elsewhere now. They love to talk to their fellow tech people and be around tech people, and the last year has proven that at least 85% of those things can be done somewhere else. And by making your entire personal life related to your professional life, you’re likely to actually have very few real friends - even social occasions are work-poisoned.
What actually adhered them to the landmass they were on was the work relationships they have (now clearly operable remotely), and whatever friendships they have are either ones they can handle remotely, aren’t worth staying for, or some combination of both.
And they realized that the cost-benefit of living in the bay (on a purely economic scale) was more like a JC Penney sale - you were getting paid 10% more than you would elsewhere but paying 8%+ of that taxes, and paying more than the 2% in rent, food, utilities, and so on.
I just don’t buy the free speech angle because I don’t believe for a second any of these people actually talk to people outside of their own circles. I also think that a lot of them don’t want to admit it’s the income tax thing because it seems greedy - fuck you! I moved because of that! I’m gonna make more money now, and have a bigger place, and my family will be happier, and so will I! That’s a fine reason to move! Stop trying to wrap it all up in some crap about not being able to “speak your mind” when most likely you’re just trying to hide that you really, really do not like homeless people.
And I get why people don’t want to talk about the homeless problem in San Francisco - they think they’ll get canceled for saying it’s gross seeing poo on the streets or a bit scary being yelled at by a homeless person. You can say that and acknowledge that it also is the city’s failure to fix the problem, and the dead hand of Reagan’s influence - but so few of them see an empathetic solution (IE: giving them housing) and lean more toward the fascistic side (using a big bulldozer to knock over their shanty towns “so they’ll go somewhere else,” a place that does not exist, as they are homeless). I rarely see someone who finds the homeless problem in San Francisco and uses it as an excuse to leave who also says “it’s a failure of society to protect and house these people.”
And these people who leave are going to be assholes in their new places. My buddy Kasey once put it to me that the problem with this particular kind of person, and in particular the problem that locals have with these types of people, is that they arrive and do nothing to actual enjoy the local culture - they expect it to wrap around and cater to them. Another salient point he made is that they also move to these places and act like they’re having to suffer and make do with what they’ve got in this new place - “it’s not San Francisco, but it’ll have to do.” I get that perhaps people move for whatever reason and they miss the other place, but you shouldn’t move if the new life it’s going to be markedly better for you (in this context - obviously people move sometimes for other reasons - like the many people who were pushed out of the bay area due to the pricing surges because of tech people), and you should not treat the new place as a second choice. It should be great.
These people are acting as if they’re hard done by, and going to somewhere out of spite, almost. I’ll show you, Bay Area! I’ll go and live in TEXAS, where they’ve got FREEDOM OF SPEECH, I THINK! And they go to these places, and they don’t (not during a pandemic) try the local food, or visit local bars, or see local sights, or enjoy the weird and wonderful things that are, well, everywhere. They sure didn’t in the bay!
Eventually, assuming these moves stick, you’re going to see people cluster in particular areas and local capitalism wrap around them, and I can only hope that the areas don’t lose their culture to placate people who want Exactly What San Francisco Had But Cheaper (also, haha, Miami is not cheaper).
To conclude, I moved for a number of reasons, but primarily because I was paying an extraordinary amount in taxes, housing, utilities - everything! - and mostly spent time at home. I think if I was less of a homebody I might have found it a more difficult move, but I didn’t, because my job is on the computer and so is the rest of my life. Maybe it’s just family life - I’d mostly work and spend time with them and occasionally see my friends, which I imagine living in Las Vegas will also afford me. And I think that a lot of these people are moving out of some weird imagined scorn that the Bay Area has for them - that it doesn’t provide the services they so demand, that it doesn’t “do” something for them, when I cannot for the life of me find out what the Bay doesn’t do for them.
If it’s a cost thing, fine! That’s fine, that’s a perfectly reasonable reason to leave. Go with God. The Bay Area is a bad deal if you don’t go out and enjoy the Bay Area and the extended area around the Bay. But we need to stop giving people space in columns in newspapers who are treating the rest of the country as a rebound partner for the Bay, a place that they will make do with because they’ve been so horribly mistreated by San Francisco. Get a grip.