As the city ordeals a new wave of gentrification, industries are shuttering and nothing is replacing them
At the beginning of this decade, one beloved block in San Francisco had a taqueria, a flower shop and a bookstore. Sparky’s diner, a favorite final hangout for night owls, queer teenages and the blackout drunkard, was open round the clock.
Today, this block of Church Street just south of Market has the various kinds of vacated storefronts that would otherwise a shorthand for worsening mill cities , not centers of the tech future. But all those closed browses are emblematic of today’s San Francisco, where even in upscale arenas, the city’s financial thunder can look 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 stores, 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 vortex that is the Mission District. It’s not necessarily picturesque, but it’s long been quirky, lively, easily to be affected by public transit and popular with young inventive natures. In the last decade, splashy apartment complexes have shot up all over the expanse. The neighborhood must have gained hundreds, if not thousands, of new occupants. But the businesses in the area have been dying off.
In 2017, about one in every eight storefronts here was empty, and more industries seem to have leaved since then. The diner was first to go: in 2015 rent suddenly travelled up, the diner’s owner refused to pay, and Sparky’s was no more. Our usual sentiments about gentrification intimate neighborhood standbies get replaced by fancy stores and brunch-centric eateries. Instead, after Sparky’s came … nothing. Elsewhere, very, long-term leases duration out, rents increased, and the old-fashioned neighborhood 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 strain of Market Street have had a paradoxical aftermath, replenishing the country with parties while depopulating it. The reasons “ve got 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 accommodations aimed at high-salaried tech craftsmen, while ground floor retail is an architectural and economic afterthought: monstrous seats that any business would have trouble filling with life and justifying financially.
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