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One Tweet Shows What Silicon Valley Really Thinks of the People It's Crushing

One Tweet Shows What Silicon Valley Really Thinks of the People It s Crushing


Let's unpack what was said here. Steve Silberman observes that laundromats are shutting down in his neighborhood. Rohit Jenveja, who helps build Google's email platform, says that this is because startups like Washio are killing the need for laundromats. He's wrong on a couple levels here. 

The need for laundromats isn't going away. Silicon Valley isn't elevating every San Francisco resident to an income bracket that allows for on-demand laundry, just a select few. For everyone else, they're stuck doing their laundry the traditional way, waiting hours in a laundromat, a stack of quarters in hand.

Jenveja's perspective sheds a light on his privilege. It represents Silicon Valley's insistence on prioritizing free-market ideologies and tech industry boosterism over common sense and the needs of the poor — an ideology convinced that the invisible hand of the market, with some guidance from these innovators, will sort everything out naturally.

So why are San Francisco laundromats actually closing down? Two reasons: real estate and the tech boom. There is a shortage of housing in San Francisco, which is a problem exacerbated by the boom in startups and the influx of highly paid employees. The rich want homes, and they're willing to buy the poor out of them.

Stashed in: Silicon Valley!, Twitter!, @ifindkarma, San Francisco!, Awesome, Palo Alto, economics, Jerk Store, Poverty, Uber, Homeless, Silicon Valley, Freakonomics, Rich people get richer., @alexisohanian, Real Talk, Tiny Homes, Bay Area Housing

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Rohit Jenveja's attitude is ugly because many people in the Bay Area do not have high incomes.

Unfortunately his attitude is shared by Alexis Ohanian:

We are feeling the Bay Area pricing squeeze in Palo Alto, too.

People can no longer afford to live in Palo Alto unless they have a high income. 

Palo Alto's median home sale just hit $2.5 million for the first time. It was $1.25M in Sept 2012. Yes, it doubled in three years.


Palo Alto real estate madness: A $2 million shed.

Really, it's a 180 sq ft shed. 

2 million dollar shed Silicon Valley 829 La Para Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306 | Zillow

Twitter comments:

granted, it's a shed on a 6800 ft^2 lot, in Barron Park.  The identical one next door sold for $3.5M !!

Wow, that's outrageous. I see your point that you could build a home on the lot...

829 La Para Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306 | Zillow

...but still compared to anywhere else in the world this price seems ridiculous.

I bet dude hasn't done his own laundry EVER... so he probably thinks even thinking of a SERVICE that does it, instead of having the cleaning lady or his wife do it in his own home, is egalitarian.

Sounds like his attitude. Also he works for Google, who provides him with laundry service at work.

what is wrong with google providing laundry service? and if he has done his own laundry, why would he not choose to have a service do it for him? 

It makes him not appreciate that most people cannot afford laundry service. 

It's not even just about money dude. If you never have to personally avail yourself of last-resort public services -- laundromats, the city bus, homeless shelters, public libraries, public schools, Planned Parenthood, the post office -- it's too easy to drift into thinking that they aren't truly necessary because you have the CHOICE to get your laundry done at work or use Shyp to mail a package, and who wouldn't choose the nicer option if they could so why do you need to pay taxes to maintain a service you'll never use? But all of these public services are necessary because when you need them (barring a very few types of egregiously bad behavior) they HAVE to serve you or be in violation of the law and their mission. Uber drivers do not have to carry you if you have a low rating on their app or look like you smell bad or are obviously handicapped or are of the wrong ethnicity, and a lot of services like Washio work through employer contracts instead of having to have direct contact with actual customers.

I'm seeing more and more services that you need to be an employee of a specific company to use -- for instance I have to change doctors because that office now only accepts platinum-level health insurance due to high level of Googler patients. Or, you know, sometimes I look at those fancy motor coaches with envy while I'm standing for an hour on the Caltrain. Certainly when I see that California public schools rank 46th out of 51 states in math, and I can barely even think of any friend whose kids are in public school, I feel a sense of futility as a taxpayer. So even without money changing hands in many cases, I feel that Silicon Valley is totally becoming a two-tier society.

Now that was some Real Talk. Thanks for that perspective, Halibutboy. 

laundromats are a business though, not a public service. they probably suffer and succeed more depending on their locations/conditions?

tech is a new form of inequality but being part of the right club for a specific service has been around for a long time. 

Of course laundromats are a business, but they are in a category of businesses that make it possible for lower-income people to live decently in a city. If all the laundromats, dive bars, corner markets, cheap eats spots, bike repair services, thrift shops, old-school barber shops, etc get displaced by upscale businesses catering to the high-income customer... for all intents and purposes it becomes impossible for students, immigrants, older people and service workers to live in that area.

Don't get me wrong, I personally believe that neighborhoods need to remain dynamic and I've always opposed efforts like rent control that tend to make them static. I lived in Chicago for a long time, which is a city that has greatly benefited from the redevelopment cycle: stagnant middle class neighborhoods go downhill as older immigrant groups move away and newer immigrant groups move in, young people with a little bit of capital and a lot of hard work start buying houses from the older residents and fixing them up, new businesses open that cater to the newer residents, nicer infill housing gets built by developers, and eventually a lot of the charming older businesses either get priced out or the owners decide to cash out. You can clearly see the costs AND benefits of this cycle in Chicago, because often the dynamic redeveloped neighborhood is close to a similar neighborhood that never had the influx of fresh blood -- and guess what, the static neighborhoods gradually get older and poorer and have fewer services. If I were the owner of a small business or a small apartment building, I would rather cash out after a maximizing my income for a while rather than having to close because the whole neighborhood has become too old, poor and depressing to attract new customers.

But San Francisco seems to be a different case. I don't know if the problem is that it's so small or has weak city leadership or what -- my pet theory is that because relatively few people actually grew up in San Francisco, every single resident wants it to remain exactly as it was the day they signed their first lease as a young adult -- but they seem to be very prone to fighting over redevelopment instead of all enjoying what does not need to be a zero-sum game. People there seem to develop really extreme views: like EITHER touting a service that almost no one has ever used as "the cost of disruption", OR becoming a "homeless advocate" in a way that condones people regularly pooping on the sidewalks. Both sides are antisocial assholes! 

Awesome thoughts, Joyce. I am hearing more and more from my friends that live in the city about its problems. 

It is hard to time the market while it also seems like it is hard to move from a wonderful location/gig/thing/etc (been thinking about Grantland a lot, obviously).

In Mountain View $900 a month will get you a tent in someone's backyard.

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