As the city suffers a new wave of gentrification, professions are shuttering and nothing is replacing them
At the beginning of this decade, one beloved block in San Francisco had a taqueria, a bloom browse and a bookstore. Sparky’s diner, a favorite final hangout for night owl, queer teenages and the blackout drunk, was open round the clock.
Today, this block of Church Street just south of Market has the kind of abandoned storefronts that are usually a shorthand for rejecting mill municipalities , not centers of the tech future. But all those closed shops are emblematic of today’s San Francisco, where even in upscale neighborhoods, the city’s economic boom can gaze astonishingly like an economic crisis.
What this represents is a strange, second-wave gentrification, in which an influx of well-heeled occupants represents not Blue Bottle coffee shops and Kinfolk-inspired interior design accumulates, but emptiness.
The intersection of Church and Market streets is where numerous San Francisco neighborhoods have worked together- from the historic Castro to the nouveau gentry in Hayes Valley and the hipster whirl that is the Mission District. It’s not necessarily picturesque, but it’s long been whimsical, lively, easily reached by public transit and popular with young creative natures. In the last decade, splashy apartment complexes have shot up all over the orbit. The place must have gained hundreds, if not thousands, of brand-new inhabitants. But the businesses in the area have been dying off.
In 2017, about one in every eight storefronts here was empty, and more firms seem to have quitted since then. The diner was first to go: in 2015 lease abruptly started up, the diner’s owner refused to pay, and Sparky’s was no more. Our customary feelings about gentrification intimate place standbies get replaced by fancy boutiques and brunch-centric eateries. Instead, after Sparky’s came … nothing. Elsewhere, extremely, long-term rentals epoch out, payments increased, and the age-old place hangouts disappeared. Aardvark Books, which stood on Church Street for roughly 40 times, until 2018, is now a hollow storefront.
The fancy new developments along the upper extend of Market Street have had a paradoxical gist, crowding the field with parties while depopulating it. The rationales have a lot to do with the tech economy that’s made San Francisco one of the most expensive metropolis in the world. Developers make their money with luxury suites aimed at high-salaried tech laborers, while ground floor retail is an architectural and financial afterthought: monstrous infinites that any business would have trouble filling with living and vindicating financially.
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