New York’s disease, “high-rent blight” . . .

January 9, 2020 at 11:30 pm (By Amba) (, )

. . . comes to San Francisco, with a tech twist.

The intersection of Church and Market streets is where many San Francisco neighborhoods come together. . . . In the last decade, splashy apartment complexes have shot up all over the area. The neighborhood must have gained hundreds, if not thousands, of new residents. But the businesses in the area have been dying off.

In 2017, about one in every eight storefronts here was empty, and more businesses seem to have vacated since then. . . . Elsewhere, too, long-term leases timed out, rents increased, and the old neighborhood hangouts disappeared. . . .

As a result, a kind of noncommittal capitalism has moved in.

One of the saddest statements in the article:

Meanwhile, most of the residents in the lofty towers above are probably ordering their necessaries from Amazon Prime and their food from the delivery service Caviar. (Or no one is living in the condos at all: a recent report found there are roughly 38,000 empty homes in San Francisco – three to five times the city’s number of homeless people.)

What a paradox: more and more people are moving to cities, even as cities are committing “urban suicide.” Maybe the vitality is centered in ethnic and immigrant neighborhoods that haven’t yet been discovered by the hip and by the realtors who learned from the story of SoHo that hipsters are merely the truffle-sniffing pigs of the next real estate gold rush. Sunset Park appeared to be such a place when I visited it a couple of summers ago, but it’s already in the gunsights, as you’ll see at the link. (Sunset Park has a best-kept secret, the greatest view of Manhattan you will ever see. It’s just a matter of time before “pencil buildings” are offering that view for million$.)

(Someone recently told me that New York’s luxury realtors have overbuilt. Prices are coming down; units once for sale are being rented and incentives, discounts and abatements offered. It’s still far from affordable housing.)

UPDATE: My bro David sends me a piece documenting an “urban exodus” OUT OF New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and the factors driving it.


  1. Alexandra Leh said,

    I recently read the 2018 article in Harper’s titled “The Death of a Once-Great City.” If you missed it, let me know, and I’ll email the PDF to you (I cut-and-pasted the piece when a Harper’s pop-up message told me I only got one free read. Greedy bastards.)

    I’m seriously considering my escape from LA, which is suffering from the same disease. I’ve been looking into Nashville for a few years, for a handful of reasons. But it would be my 35th home, and I really love my current loft and my building of over 14 years, and I get rumblings of diarrhea just thinking about moving.

    On another note:

    There was a young man
    From Cork who got limericks
    And haikus confused

  2. amba12 said,

    (first things first)
    Did you compose that classic? I want to send it to a haiku-loving friend who will likely want to post it on FB, and I want to give credit where credit is due (if known, and if someone I know).


    Not trying to influence you; this article just says “we’re moving less.” I talked to a friend from my Feldenkrais training; he and his wife had earlier considered moving AGAIN and had just found the prospect too wearying—and the community they already had, too comfortable and valuable to them. He had worried that his treasured Tai Chi teacher was thinking of retiring and moving, and lo and behold, that hasn’t happened either.

    I think all in all this is a good development. Wrote in my journal “People are abandoning the fantasies of Infinite Possibility, the fretful American urge to ‘light out for the territories,’ accepting and appreciating that they in fact depend on the communities they’ve already built.”

    I feel that way, with my karate school, which is my community, with deep roots of continuity in my life, walking distance from my beloved “tiny tree house” on the 5th floor, which also has much dear history. I wouldn’t at all mind having another compass foot somewhere in the green and going back and forth, but to abandon this place completely seems like a more and more preposterous idea. And I don’t think it’s just inertia.

  3. amba12 said,

    P.S. Would you call that a “haikerick” or a “limeroo”?

  4. Alexandra Leh said,

    I can’t give you a long answer to this comment, as my entire left arm is in great pain, and I can’t lift it high enough to type.

    The “limeru” was on my friend’s FB page, no attribution.

  5. amba12 said,

    Oh no!! From what?

  6. Alexandra Leh said,

    i have severe degenerative arthritis in my neck. sometimes forget i shouldnt lift heavy boxes. pain started in my wrist thursday morning. suddenly moved up to rotator cuff last night. feels like all my tendons have snapped. entire arm. agony. icing, using cbd drops and balm. typing w one hand. must stop now, try to rest.

  7. amba12 said,


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