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The Year We Broke Everything

Our office is in one of the worst neighborhoods of San Francisco. I walk home from work every day. Helps me unwind. I walk a few blocks up to Market Street and then up Market for about half a mile. Along the way I pass a few things of interest.

The first is the Quaker meeting house. The one I keep threatening to go into someday. So far, I haven’t had the guts. And I’m not sure why I think it takes guts, but I seem to think it does. Every night, homeless people construct their nightly shelters outside the Quaker meeting house. Quakers will not make you leave. And have a high level of empathy. A few weeks ago I was walking home and there was a woman, a homeless woman, setting up a space. She’d unrolled a rug. And a chair. And a toy stove. The big chunky plastic ones kids play with. And that’s when I noticed the kid. A girl. About five or six years old. And realized her mother was setting up a space for the girl to feel at home.

And I kept walking.

Past a construction site for luxury condos. Workers were in the process of attaching sculpted glass pianos to the exterior. A lobby enhancement. This particular evening they were testing the LED lights inside the pianos. I imagine the lights will match the beat of whatever music might be playing in the lobby. At least, to my designer’s mind, that’s how I would do it.

And I kept walking and turned the corner and walk past the Twitter building. A beautifully renovated space taking up the entire block. Including an immense lobby carved out of what I’m sure is described on some purchase order as reclaimed wood.

And then I hit Nema. San Francisco’s newest multiple tower “high amenity luxury condo”. Where you can live if you have $4200 a month for a one bedroom apartment. They’ve got a whole lifestyle they want you to buy into. And enough has been written about them already.

And as I walk up Market, every block has a construction site.

High-rises going up at an incredible pace. Thousands of living spaces being built to house the tech workers of San Francisco. The people who burn the midnight oil day after day. Making applications to help you locate which bar your friends are at. To help you call a car to go meet them. To help you find a mate for the evening. Applications that make it easier to voice your displeasure at having to pass the people you’ve displaced as they attempt to make their homes in the corners of society you haven’t decided to take over yet.

And I wonder when we broke everything so thoroughly.