San Francisco is a city of enormous inequality.
Shutterstock.com and Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Nov 23, 2019
- San Francisco has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last 10 years.
- The city has built massive skyscrapers and welcomed major tech companies and their employees.
- It has also witnessed rising rents, an escalating homelessness crisis, and increasingly dirty sidewalks.
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There was a time when San Francisco was almost empty. In 1846, two years before the dawn of the California Gold Rush, the city only had around 200 residents.
By 1852, its population had skyrocketed to 36,000 people. That ethos of rapid growth has been inscribed in the city’s DNA. Over the last decade, San Francisco has undergone a new transformation, as the arrival of major tech companies kicked off a period of rampant growth and rising inequality throughout the city.
The homeless population has risen by about 50% and average rents have climbed to nearly $1,900 per month. Meanwhile, the tech industry has ballooned to more than 835,000 employees across the Bay Area.
Take a look at how San Francisco has changed in the last decade.
The tech industry has grown by 57% in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2009.
Over the last 10 years, major tech companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook have dramatically expanded their presence in San Francisco. The city also saw the rise of startups like Uber, Slack, and Lyft. The Bay Area had more than 835,000 technology jobs as of May.
At the same time, creative professionals like artists and musicians have found it increasingly difficult to live there.
“I’ve seen more change in San Francisco in the last two years than ever before,” local artist Locust Songs recently told Hyperallergic. “It’s lonely here now — so many of the people in my community have had to leave.”
The median household income has risen 27% in the last decade.
In 2009, San Francisco’s median household income was less than $76,000 a year.
Today, it’s more than $96,000 a year — an income that still isn’t enough to everyday expenses, according to a recent analysis by GOBankingRates. The analysis determined that a San Francisco resident would need to earn $104,000 a year to afford to live in the city.
San Francisco’s average rent climbed 25% from 2007 to 2017.
In 2007, the city’s average gross rent (which includes taxes, insurance, and utilities) was less than $1,500 per month.
Ten years later, that rent had climbed to nearly $1,900 per month.
Much of the spike took place in the last five years.
In the last 10 years, the city’s homeless population has risen by about 50%.
San Francisco had around 6,500 homeless residents in 2009.
The crisis has led to mounting tensions. In September, residents of Clinton Park, an area close to the Mission District, raised money through a Facebook group to erect two dozen giant boulders along the sidewalk to bar homeless individuals from setting up tents there.
The action incited a tug-of-war: Activists tried to clear the sidewalk by pushing the rocks onto the street, but the city’s public-works department lifted the boulders back onto the sidewalk via crane. The department eventually removed the rocks because Clinton Park residents were reportedly getting harassed in person and online.
Parts of downtown San Francisco are now littered with used needles, trash, and human poop.
On a recent visit to San Francisco, President Donald Trump said the city was in “total violation” of environmental regulations because of its homelessness crisis, which has left some blocks littered with feces and discarded needles.
The Tenderloin neighborhood has long been considered the heart of the crisis. Last year, the city’s Public Health Department and Public Works Department collected hundreds of thousands of needles in the area.
Overall, San Francisco spent $54 million on street cleaning in 2018. The city even has a “poop patrol” — a group of five employees who earn more than $184,000 per year to clean up feces. In 2018, residents called the city more than 28,000 times to complain about feces on their streets — a 35% increase in complaints compared to the year prior.
The city has witnessed a boom of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings.
San Francisco has more than 90 finished skyscrapers. Seventeen of those were built in the last decade and three more are under construction. The city’s tallest building, the Salesforce Tower, was completed in 2018.
High-rise developments (buildings between 115 and 330 feet tall) have also sprung up in the city’s downtown core. According to Curbed, 14 new high-rise construction projects have recently broken ground in San Francisco.
One luxury tower has started to sink and tilt. Cracks also proved to be a problem at the city’s new transit center.
The 58-story Millennium Tower opened in April 2009. Since then, the building has sunk 17 inches and tilted another 14 inches to the northwest. Residents have also complained of mysterious odors, bubbling floors, cracked walls, and one giant fissure in a window on the 36th floor.
The tower’s developers blame the sinking on nearby construction of the Salesforce Transit Center. The center opened to the public in August 2018 but closed a month later due to a cracked beam on the third-floor deck. It remained shuttered for 10 months.
In March, authorities also discovered two cracked windows at the Salesforce Tower. The skyscraper is located by the Millennium Tower and the Salesforce Transit Center.
Air quality has gotten worse as northern California witnesses more large and destructive wildfires.
A recent report from the American Lung Association placed San Francisco among the worst US cities for year-round particle pollution, which comes from dust and other tiny particles (usually carbon dioxide and methane).
Particle pollution has been linked to lung and throat cancers, as well as heart attacks. A recent study found that it may also increase a person’s risk of developing brain tumors.
San Francisco’s particle pollution has gotten worse in recent years, according to the report. That’s likely because California’s fire season is getting longer and more destructive.
San Francisco’s transit fares have gotten more expensive. There are also more delays.
The system has also gotten steadily more expensive since 2013, when its board of directors approved a series of fare hikes that expire in 2020. Another set of fare hikes is scheduled to go into effect in 2022.