San Francisco--Activists fume over dot-com ruins--4 million square feet of office vacated so fargreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Saturday, March 31 9:53 PM SGT
Activists fume over dot-com ruins SAN FRANCISCO, March 31 (AFP) - Community activists in San Francisco are fuming this week over reports that the failing dot-coms have left behind almost four million square feet (370,000 square meters) of empty urban office space -- space that once housed artists, small businesses and lower-income families.
"It is a really, really tragic outcome for the city," said Debra Walker, a neighborhood organizer who tried to slow the sprawl of Internet companies in the district. "People just let the money blind them."
San Francisco's South of Market district, also known as "Multimedia Gulch," was the birth place of the dot-com craze. According to a recent study done by commercial real estate concern Cushman and Wakefield, rents in the area spiraled from twenty two dollar a square foot in 1997 to 75 dollar per square foot in mid-2000.
Vacancy rates, which were hovering around the eight percent mark, plummeted to nearly zero during that time.
In an effort to slake demand, developers over the last four years evicted families, musicians and small businesses who were occupying run-down warehouses and flats in the funky, formerly bohemian area.
The dot-com craze also pushed out many residents of neighborhood's Mission district, home to a large number of San Francisco's Latino population. In their place came contractors, who descended on the district to convert warehouses and dowdy duplexes into tony "live/work" lofts and Internet-specific work spaces.
Community activists over the years tried, unsuccessfully, to put the brakes on the development. Musicians who had been kicked out of their loft spaces staged noisy rallies in front of city hall, and an underground urban guerrilla movement began a campaign of vandalizing the SUVs and Porsche Boxsters parked overnight in the district (the cars are favored by the newly rich dot-com executives).
In 2000, dot-com opponents launched a ballot measure called Proposition L, which called for a "slow growth" moratorium on multimedia gulch development. That measure lost by less than two hundred votes.
But for all those efforts, the dot-com invasion eventually collapsed under its own weight of debt and investor pessimism. In June, 2000, layoffs at dot-coms in the city shocked observers when they topped 2,000, but that number would soon pale to the 12,000 sacked in January, 2001.
Now, according to a study released this week by Rosen Consulting, a real estate and economic consultancy, more than 80 percent of those dot-coms remaining will probably fold by the end of this year.
The Rosen study found that more than four million square feet of office space now sits empty, much of it in Multimedia Gulch. Adding to that, Rosen said, will be the two million square feet of office space under construction --- ordered when the future looked much rosier.
In San Francisco, "for lease" signs now festoon emptied converted warehouses that once housed buzzing young companies. At trendy restraurants like Fusion, a lunch table is easy to find. There are few sports cars around for vandalizing.
Realtors believe the neighborhood, though suffering, will eventually find a new market as rents decline and smaller technology companies move in. Which means the pre-dot-com population of artists and Latinos are banished for good.
"There's been a lot of money poured into these places," said one developer. "No one's going to rent a million dollar loft space to a garage band."
That lasting change to the neighborhood has left a bitter aftertaste for those who used to call the district home.
"San Francisco really lost part of its soul," said Eric Quezada, a member of the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, one of the main organized opponents to the dot-com incursion. "What was a bustling diverse neighborhood is now just open office space, and you can find that in almost any city these days."http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/technology/afp/article.html?s=asia/headlines/010331/technology/afp/Activists_fume_over_dot-com_ruins.html
-- Carl Jenkins (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 31, 2001