The sound of rain pouring down this morning, and the crash and roar of the garbage collectors–more dramatic when there were metal garbage cans, though there weren’t any frighteningly efficient crushers back then. More crash, less roar.
For a lot of years, much of the garbage ended up as fill in San Francisco Bay. Between debris from hydraulic gold mining that came down the rivers to the bay, silt deposited along the edges by dredging to keep shipping channels open, and garbage and trash, a third of the bay had been filled in or diked off by the early 1960s. Only a few miles of shoreline were open to the public, and the bay was so full of raw sewage and industrial pollution, nobody wanted to go there anyway. But when people found out there were plans to fill in 60% of what remained, an ‘enraged citizenry,’ as the newspapers like to say, formed the organization Save-the-Bay and put a stop to the filling. Since then, the bay has been cleaned up, opened up with shoreline parks and trails, and wetland restoration projects are in progress. The developers still give it a go now and then–huge agricultural giant Cargill is currently trying to pave over 1,400 acres of restorable salt ponds 20 miles south of here–but they’re having a much harder time of it.
If only this were true for development in the city. A small nonprofit I used to work with just had its rent increased from $335 to $1750/month because the shabby section of Market St. where it’s situated has suddenly become hot real estate. Twitter opened its fancy new headquarters there six months ago, and other tech companies are falling all over themselves to become neighbors. It just seems like there’s no in-between anymore, at least downtown: either it’s shabby and run-down, full of desperate sometimes crazed people, or it’s pristinely upscale with a private security force to keep out the undesirables. This:
Saving the bay and losing the town. I guess you can’t win ’em all. But the trouble with the kind of wild real estate speculation that has gone on here intermittently the past 50 years, is the city loses its character. Small, unique businesses get driven out by high rents only the big chains can pay; small, modest houses get torn down and replaced with huge, expensive ones; money goes to beautification rather than services; working piers become Disneyesque tourist meccas. It becomes unreal, like pages out of a glossy magazine: the Good Life and the Beautiful People. It costs so much, and there’s so little middle ground, a lot of other people have the Down and Out Life. I do sometimes wonder, too, how many of the beautiful people will end up in rehab.