No, the tech boom did not turn the Mission into a “hipster haven”

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Well, this is a strange and wildly misinformed article.

In a Business Insider story titled “The Tech Boom Turned This Working-Class San Francisco Neighborhood Into A Hipster Haven,” Brooklyn resident Melia Robinson roamed the streets of the Mission District for an afternoon to observe the invasion of “earthy-crunchy yuppies,” and the bicycles, organic bakeries, and farm-direct small batch ice cream shops that apparently followed in their wake.

But while it’s true that the booming tech industry has brought with it an influx of young, single, professionals, to say that it created a “hipster haven” constitutes an oversimplification of San Francisco, so-called hipsters, and cities in general.

To begin with, there’s the inconvenient impossibility of defining what a “hipster” is in 2015. The term is so vague it could mean anything from a banker who happens to shop at American Apparel to a homeless youth squatting in a community art gallery. As in most articles about “hipsters,” the writer shapes her definition to fit the thesis of the piece, suggesting that all it takes to be identified as a “hipster” is a predilection for bicycles, flowers, fresh produce, and street art. As it happens, however, those traits describe almost every resident of my neighborhood of Bushwick, “hipster” or otherwise. The suggestion in Robinson’s piece that fresh produce and street art are the domain of middle-to-upper class youths is particularly off-the-mark, considering that street art had been a cultural staple in cities like San Francisco and Brooklyn since long before young gentrifiers discovered neighborhoods like the Mission.

Furthermore, if we assume that the term “hipster” extends beyond a person’s sartorial choices, we can safely assume that many members of this subculture are artists, musicians, and other creatives. And yet as housing prices have risen sharply in San Francisco, it’s become harder than ever to survive as an artist. Take LisaRuth Elliott, a mural artist and community historian who tells KQED, “There was a time when artists would get together and say, ‘Hey, what are you working on?’ ‘Well, I’m really inspired by Pluto!’ or, ‘I’m really inspired by this technological creation!’ Whatever that topic might be. Now, it’s, ‘Ugh, how long am I going to be able to stay in the city?’” The world may not be worse off for having missed out on the “Pluto art” movement, but that isn’t the point.

There’s a similar trend happening in Brooklyn, where artists, who generally need a great deal of space for their work and often lack the financial resources of, say, your average Wall Street broker, are moving out of the so-called “trendy” neighborhoods as quickly as anybody else. The tech boom is only one factor contributing to higher rents, but it’s simply untrue to say that the influx of tech workers has created an environment more conducive to artists.

But the most ridiculous conclusion Robinson makes is to assume that the abundance of Postmates cyclists suggests some kind of larger biking culture. Certainly, plenty of people bike in San Francisco, but these cyclists aren’t doing it for fun or hipster cred. For many, it’s their job as members of a “sharing economy” that exists to make life easier for those with enough disposable income to afford to pay someone to pick up staples for them.

San Francisco, and more specifically the Mission, has certainly undergone demographic shifts in recent years, just as any urban center has where housing prices have increased so rapidly. But to label every cultural movement in the Mission as a symptom of the tech boom, and in turn to generalize “hipsters” as the sole beneficiaries of these movements, is unfair to longtime residents, artists, and tech workers alike.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]

PandoDaily

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