"There goes the neighborhood." Every so often that cry goes up in San Francisco, announcing a new chapter in American cultural history, as the rest of the country looks on. There were the beats in North Beach, then the hippies in the Haight, then the gays in the Castro. Now it’s the turn of the techies who are pouring into my own Mission neighborhood, among other places. Only this time around, the green stuff that’s perfuming the air is money, not weed.
Locals are agitated over soaring rents and the changing urban landscape, as used bookstores yield to cafes full of people punching out business plans on their laptops. But the most heated protests and discussions have focused on the buses that shuttle 18,000 tech workers from San Francisco to their jobs at Google, Apple, Facebook and other companies. People call them all Google buses, because they’re hard to tell apart — oversized Wi-Fi-equipped luxury coaches, usually gleaming white, which scoop up their passengers at transit stops like something out ofClose Encounters of the Third Kind. You couldn’t invent a more compelling visual symbol for the privileged and disconnected lives that the tech workers seem to live, cosseted behind smoke-tinted windows.