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San Francisco: A Tale of Two Office Markets
2001-04-02 13:56:27

Bad People
I never said I was cool.
-- Ratsnatcher


Noodling thoughts on SF Real Estate from Mr. Bad.

Man, I was walking around on Potrero Hill where they had all these big lofts for sale that weren't selling at all. And I started thinking: this area started out being warehouses and light factories and shit like that. And then that totally collapsed, probably because of something I did, and in came artists, thugs, losers, musicians, and the insane, to live in the shell of the warehouses illegally and poop in the back alley.

And, then, like, these people got legitimized by some live-work legislation in the 80s that let them keep living in these hovels and still keep up their horrible stunted business interests like growing quasi-legal hallucinogenic plants or hair-farmer guitar bands or sculpting or organ harvesting or foot-fetish video production. And so they could afford from these efforts to go buy toilets and running water and electricity.

And for some reason I still don't quite get these places also became the homes where people were starting home software companies -- probably because making software was slightly less dangerous than making methamphetamines. And so these grubby people with hand-me-down Macs that fell off the back of a truck took some pir8ted copies of Photoshop shit point oh and made crappo slow CD-ROM games and "cyberotica" and such and then other better-dressed people came in and made these hopeless little ventures into BUSINESS businesses, and took out the spermy loft beds and black-light posters and broken-down Ford hillbilly trucks and put in instead foosball tables and seismic reinforcements and water coolers.

And then there were like all these people who were working in places they didn't live, and like coming through the Moebius strip of time it was a business area again, and people were getting rich. And yet those rich people wanted to live by their weird rugby-shirt companies and they wanted to have that "urban" feel and that "skirting the zoning laws" feel that comes from living in a live-work space and not actually working there. Sensing this, a group of rich Irish developer bastardos -- never ones to let a dishonest buck sneak by them -- paid the last of the remaining hooligans who hadn't been shipped off to Vacaville to burn down each others' decrepit and unpicturesque warehouse homes.

And in the place of those squat hovels they, the Irish bastardos, built like these weird Disney-esque pretend warehouses, with shiny corrugated metal sides and earth-tone-colored stucco walls and security gates and covered parking. And like Ben Franklin said, break a deal, spin the wheel: here were residents residenting in business areas, again, albeit desperately faux. But still! Mapping onto the torus of time and urban planning, it's quite weird. People living in pretend businesses pretending to be people pretending not to have businesses in old business buildings. The weird thing is that by statute they were supposed to be doing business there, to qualify as live-work!

But the MOST weird part is that at this point the economy of San Francisco is at full fever pitch, sweating and bug-eyed and tossing around on the bed and spitting up blood. And these loft house executive living spaces were taking up valuable real estate that could be used instead for cramming some more H1-B refugees into tiny boxes and making them code ASP horrors to sell premium nut butters over the Innurnet. So, like, the businesses started buying up the Lidsville-style fake-factory loft homes and using them as illegal office space, without even putting in foosball tables.

So these buildings are half filled with businesses pretending to be residents, and the other half filled with residents pretending to have a business, in these weird Carnival-of-the-Damned structures meant to recall the days when people who weren't supposed to be living in old businesses were living there and having illegitimate businesses on the side. Living space, legislation, liability and LIES -- this is what makes San Francisco great!

And what was really knocking me out, though, was thinking that these latest places made near or since The Crash are going to go to shit, and the developers are going to go bankrupt, because there just aren't as many rich out-of-state bastards flowing into town anymore who would have the ignorant gall to live in these sardine-factory monstrosities, and "start-up" is just the dirtiest word in this town since "Dan White," so the whole things are going to go to shit, and they'll continue to be empty and empty and then get sold around and down the river to increasingly unsavory ghouls of the debt-ridden commercial real estate market until eventually the buildings become half concrete-storage-rooms for Mafia assassinations and the other half waypoint dormitories for shipped-in Laotian illegal day laborers who have lip tattoos and are locked to their bunk-beds each night by their coyotes.

And also... and THEN... there'll come thugs, artists, hooligans, no-goods, accordionists, space cases and weirdos, living on sleeping bags in the spaces between the bags of concrete or helping to lock down the Laotians in exchange for a bunk bed and two daily bowls of rice... And then one day the concrete will be gone and Willie Brown will be missing, or there'll be a raid and the Laotians will be deported, and the thugs and such will make a deal with the landlord to do some security guarding and pull weeds and maybe kick back some of the cash from whoring out that 15-year-old runaway, and then it'll all be back to the same again, but different and more bad.

Crappo! What a city.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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