Fog City Journal
March 23, 2011
Copyright © 2011
by Marc Norton
I have been wandering up and down what is now called “Mid-Market” since I was eight years old. My mother lived in the Whitcomb, at 8th and Market, back when the Whitcomb was a residential hotel, what policy wonks now call an SRO. There was a parking lot for the hotel next door. Across 8th Street was the Del Webb Towne House, a luxury motor hotel. People drove downtown in those days, but there were also plenty of streetcars and buses on Market. There was no Muni underground, no BART, no fake brick sidewalks. The Orpheum on the corner was a Cinerama movie theater.
Now the Whitcomb is a tourist hotel. The parking lot is an ugly office building. The Del Webb is Trinity Plaza, soon to be the site of multiple high-rises for the yuppies. The Orpheum is a live theater for the encultured with disposable income, not a place for kids to see How the West Was Won.
And up the street is the old Furniture Mart which Doug Shorenstein just bought for $110 million, so he can take advantage of the Twitter-inspired corporate welfare project that the current Board of Stupes is about to ram down our throats.
I’m much older now. My mother is long gone. I read the San Francisco Business Times. I recently read an article there that offered this observation about the Twitter deal:
“It’s going to be huge,” said a supposed “Mid-Market specialist” with some commercial real estate firm. “That is why Shorenstein is jumping in… Shorenstein
is the big dog and where the big dog goes a lot of other people are going to follow. Shorenstein is very smart about value investing. Over time, that will change the paradigm of how people view the area.”
Apparently those stupervisors who claim that the Twitter deal won’t gentrify the neighborhood don’t read the Business Times.
I even read Business Times editorials. Sun Tzu famously said “Know Your Enemy.” The editors of that esteemed journal, even though supportive of the Twitter deal, had this interesting bit to say:
“This newspaper is avowedly pro-business, but we’re generally no fans of tax giveaways [sic], in the form of payroll tax breaks or otherwise. They usually reward companies for doing something the companies would have done anyway (in Twitter’s case, stay in San Francisco). They tilt the playing field in the direction of the politically favored, and as a result frequently overpromise and underdeliver in terms of job creation. And Twitter was so nakedly inartful in threatening to leave that giving in almost guarantees the city will see similar attempts at tax-break extortion.”
If there is a referendum on the Twitter giveaway, I expect that quote will get some play. They certainly got the part right about the ever-expanding demands for “tax-break extortion.” You can see that in the on-the-table deal itself, which has now expanded to encompass the entire Tenderloin and multiple tax-break business partners.
A couple of days ago I took a walk down Market Street, starting at Buck Tavern where I blundered into some kind of meeting with Twitter deal opponents. I only hung around long enough to have a Guinness, a short chat with the proprietor, and a serious discussion with a fellow bar dweller about what happened to Vegas after the corporations took over from the mob.
I’ll write a bit about my stroll down memory lane after the Stupe’s Budget Committee decides just exactly who-is-in and who-is-out
of this deal. Right now, I have to get ready for our picket line at
Hotel Frank this afternoon, which is not (yet) in on the Twitter deal.