SF doesn’t blame the tech bros for ruining the city, polls show

Only it turns out that many San Franciscans don’t really hate the techies.

A San Francisco Chronicle/SF Next survey of hundreds of city residents showed that there are more people who believe the influx of tech companies and workers benefits the city, more than those who think their presence is detrimental. Overall, 41% of residents surveyed said tech companies and employees are a good thing, compared to 25% who said they were a bad thing and 34% who chose neither good nor bad.

“It’s not the tech bros that destroyed the city; it’s the anti-growth NIMBYs,” says David Levine, 55, who lives in the Presidio with his wife and two children (one of whom is now going to college) and recently launched a small e-commerce business after 30 years in the financial information industry. . “It’s 50 years of accretion of rules and laws (which make it difficult to build homes). It’s stubborn thinking.”

The SF Next survey, conducted in late June and July, asked some 90 questions about aspects of life in San Francisco to a random sample of 1,653 residents that reflect the city’s demographics. More details about the research methodology can be found here.

The specific poll question was: “As you know, tech companies have set up new offices in the city of San Francisco over the past few decades, and many people who live here now work for those companies. Would you say that this has generally been a good thing for the people living in the city, a bad thing, or neither good nor bad?”

Levine was one of the respondents who views the boom of tech as positive.

“Economic growth is critical to the success of anywhere,” he said. “The tech boom is a wonderful thing for people. The growth of that industry has created jobs for people in it and people around it. The city has benefited from all the money those people earn and spend locally. It’s your classic economic multiplier effect.”

San Francisco chief economist Ted Egan had similar thoughts and data to back this up.

“There is no doubt that technology has really transformed the city’s economy,” he said. “San Francisco has experienced much faster economic growth than the country as a whole. For many people in San Francisco, the growth of the tech industry led to broad benefits.”

The city’s GDP — the value of all goods and services produced — grew at an average 7.1% per year from 2011 to 2019 (with a pandemic decline of 0.8% in 2020), Egan said.

San Francisco’s share of jobs in technology grew from 3.6% in 2006 to 18.7% in 2021, Egan said. Looking at the share of tech in the private sector payroll, the trajectory is even steeper: it went from 5.4% of payroll in 2006 to 32.8% in 2021.

The prosperity of Tech boosts the general fund of the city. In 2021-22, San Francisco collected $1.27 billion in business taxes, more than triple the $354 million in 2009-10, Egan said. Some business tax laws were changed during this time.

Tech also dampened the pandemic downturn. Technology-dominated office industries have added 50,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic; all other industries lost 60,000 jobs in the same period, Egan said. However, it’s unclear how many of those jobs are currently remote versus in an office building.

Salesforce Tower puts on a light show as fog returns after a brief storm earlier in the day in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, August 17, 2022.
Salesforce Tower puts on a light show as fog returns after a brief storm earlier in the day in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, August 17, 2022.Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle

For all its economic benefits, the tech industry continues to be criticized for spreading its benefits to a wealthy group – as evidenced by the first public offerings from start-ups that are bringing in many new millionaires in San Francisco.

Poll-respondent Alexandra Gonzalez, an 18-year-old resident of San Francisco, criticized former Mayor Ed Lee for advocating “millions upon millions of dollars in tax breaks” approved in 2011 to tech companies, such as Twitter in the Mid-Market region. in a bidding to create jobs. She does not feel that the existing residents benefit from it.

“It created jobs for people from out of state to just come in, take all the money, take our homes, take our opportunities,” she said. “Gentrification has a huge impact on the entire city.”

Today, many of those mid-market tech workers have left the city thanks to remote working, and Twitter is shrinking its office space.

But while technology’s footprint in the city is shrinking, its influence in San Francisco politics is not. From Silicon Valley wealth financing recalling elections to tech-influenced groups like GrowSF influencing ballot issues, the reach of technology goes beyond the simple economics of high salaries and erratic lifestyles.

That’s partly why some residents had mixed feelings about technology.

Survey respondent Jan Masaoka, 69, fell into the “neither good nor bad camp”. The Noe Valley native, who is CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits, has lived here since 1972.

“I love the prosperity it has brought,” she said of the tech industry. “A constant influx of young people is really important to maintain.”

But that’s a double-edged sword. Too many new people flooding the city can overwhelm an infrastructure that can best handle about 750,000 people, she said. And she believes that too much of the tech money has been concentrated in too few individuals and has widened wealth disparities.

Austen Coles, 28, has lived in San Francisco since joining Teach for America seven years ago. She now teaches special education at a secondary school for adults.

She wasn’t sure whether to say that a technology company’s influence was negative, good or bad.

“There are so many more city residents who could get into those tech fields, but I don’t feel like the tech companies are putting a lot of effort into recruiting locally,” she said.

And the high-tech salaries are fueling the rising cost of housing, Coles said. She just managed to afford her first place with no roommates, an $1,800 studio in Portola/Visitacion Valley.

She’s noticed that new businesses, like restaurants and bars, seem like they’re trying to serve a tech audience “with a big emphasis on how cool, modern, and sleek” they are.

The research results differed by demographics. Men, Asian-Americans, seniors, those earning more than $200,000, and homeowners were stronger in the “good thing” camp.

Among men, 48% were pro-tech, versus 22% who said it was a bad thing and 29% chose neither. In terms of age, the over-65s felt most strongly that technology was beneficial, with 48% saying yes, 15% no, and 36% neutral. Asian-American respondents were 50% in favor, 17% against and 32% neutral, similar to the distribution for people earning more than $200,000 and homeowners.

Levine, who has lived in San Francisco since 2000, said the city should consider a cautionary tale about what happens when the dominant industry contracts.

“If there wasn’t growth, we’d be Detroit,” he said.

Chronicle staff writers Roland Li and Mallory Moench contributed to this report.

Carolyn Said is a writer of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @csaid

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