Balancing Tech, Rest of Economy ‘Delicate’ for San Francisco

Susan Hall

Bay Area job growth accounted for just over half the positions added in California during August, adding 6,100 of the 12,000 new jobs. And economists attributed that largely to tech, though construction also posted strong growth. quoted Michael Bernick, a research fellow with the Milken Institute and a former director of the state's Employment Development Department, saying:

There are now two job markets in the Bay Area. One is the traditional economy that is surviving, but not really growing. The second is the social media and Internet commerce economy that is hiring rapidly. That technology economy also is generating spinoff jobs in hospitality, leisure and retail.

The Bay Area added 13,000 new tech jobs in the first half of 2012, with 150 new companies setting up shop there, according to a report from the San Francisco Center For Economic Development, Inc. reports.

An article at San Francisco magazine, called “How Much Tech Can One City Take?” looks at the ways that the tech industry is changing the culture of the city — namely that it’s so expensive that regular folks such as teachers and police officers can’t afford to live there. That’s been true for years, though, and it’s true in many desirable areas.

It quotes Susan MacTavish Best, whom the San Francisco Chronicle has called “the hippest party hostess in the history of Silicon Valley’s pocket pen-protector set,” as saying:

Money is not the No. 1 thing in San Francisco. I like that about this city. People come here to make money, but unlike New York they’re also here to see new ideas come to fruition.

Without a doubt, the region and the wider world benefits from that innovation. Gov. Jerry Brown, with Sergey Brin at his side, on Tuesday signed legislation allowing Google’s driverless cars on California roads — though it’s still not clear that’s a good thing.

Nor whether would a change in building code be either to allow the country’s smallest apartments — 300 square feet, roughly three-quarters the size of a boxcar. While San Francisco rents averaged $2,734 in June, these micro-units are expected to rent for $1,200 to $1,500, says.

Yet the high cost of doing business is driving some companies away. Comcast has announced it will eliminate 1,000 positions in California, including 600 in the Bay Area, as it moves its call center operations to Portland, Seattle and Denver.

As writer and cultural entrepreneur Dave Eggers put it in the San Francisco magazine article:

… it’s important for San Francisco to pay attention to balance and to make sure that the city remains open to a broad range of people, not just the tech crowd. There’s a delicate equilibrium to all this.

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