People and Places – San Francisco – 1 – It was Wild!

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Australian Guy: So in 1979…
American Guy: Seventy-nine I moved to San Francisco. And at that time… it was the height of the punk season. It was still the waning years of the punk era. But punk was the dominant music form at that time and there were people living in inner city breweries; breweries that were abandoned and there were these punk kids living inside these vats.
Australian Guy: The brewing vats.
American Guy: The brewing vats
Australian Guy: Wow!
American Guy: And they had parties there and they were like … skateboarding was also coming on at the time. It was a big thing then.
Australian Guy: How old were you then?
American Guy: I was twenty-three then. About twenty-three. I was twenty-three. And there were … there were abandoned schools; schools that were shut down. And people were living in them. Houses; a lot of people were living there and squatting. It was wild. The gay movement was in full swing. It was pre-AIDS. And in the Castro people were walking around with leather “chaps”.
Australian Guy: Cowboy pants?
American Guy: You know these black “leather chaps” with their “butts” hanging out like “naked butts”. They would all go up to the Russian River which was about an hour and a half north of San Francisco and the “Russian River Gazette” which was the newspaper from that town was available in San Francisco because a lot of people had houses up there. It was wild. They had “Hare Krishnas” on Haight Street. You would go out to Haight street and they had these gangs of “Hare Krishnas” walking down the street.
Australian Guy: It sounds like “the sixties“.
American Guy: Yes. It was weird. There was still…it was a decade after “the sixties” but it was still; there were a lot of … people who were like still living a sort of you know …there were hippiesthere were the punksthere were the gays…it was wild.
Australian Guy:Wild.
American Guy: Every part of San Francisco had a different ..
Australian Guy: Sub-culture like.
American Guy: Subculture going on. (to waitress) Thank you very much.
And you could live cheaply. There were like a lot of houses you could live very cheaply in or for free if you were squatting and then if you were living in a big Victorian house.
American Guy: And then Punk faded and the New Wave came. I was working at a restaurant then. I was going to art school then later on too … everything…. starting like…Everything went downhill in the nineties.
Australian Guy: Why? What happened?
American Guy: Because………..it started…it was basically…San Francisco is not a big city. And it became…These areas became gentrified...the Haight Street was run down. The hippies ran down Haight Street. It was a shambles. Some people that lived there; they said that the real estate prices, because of so many people who had moved in there, had plummeted and a lot of stores had closed up but then there was a revival; a renaissance. New businesses came in. The hippies all moved out and it became very trendy to live there. And because of “Silicon Valley”; the closeness to Silicon Valley; a lot of people who had made money in the computer industry would also live in San Francisco and commute down to the south Bay.
Australian Guy: How far is that from San Francisco?
American Guy: It is about forty-five minutes to Palo Alto. So a lot of people would live there and commute from there and what happened was eventually they tore down the breweries. A lot of abandoned buildings were torn down and real estate became scarce. And real estate prices started going up. Abandoned buildings were being used again. They were being bought up and refurbished. Factories…inner city factories that had existed from the fifties and the post war era and were basically just abandoned were torn down for new housing developments or they built a big school or something…
Australian Guy: Mm.
American Guy: And in the nineties the “dot.com” businesses completely destroyed San Francisco. San Francisco became a ? for the computer industry especially for the internet. And there was a lot of small internet shops that opened up in San Francisco that had you know the whole internet; the early internet craze. So everybody had a website and tried to get something on the internet ; medical websites. Selling something on the internet . And a lot of them were based in San Francisco. The people that worked for them were highly paid. All the early network engineers.
Australian: Web designers.
American: Web designers. They were getting six hundred thousand dollars a year. They were like twenty-one years old. There was a lot of resentment. Doctors and lawyers who were making that kind of money who had studied at you know like Princeton.
Australian Guy: Mm.
American Guy: And then spend like a lifetime… and then angry that these twenty-one year old punks were making that kind of money. And that lasted for about six or seven years but it completely… There was a housing shortage in San Francisco because there were so many new people coming in. If there was an apartment to rent people would line up at 6am in the morning to be the first ones to get in. And they would pay more than the asking price. If the apartment was (advertised) for one thousand dollars … people would offer fifteen hundred to try to get it. And it pushed out all the alternative people who used to work in the political scene and a lot of the musicians. They all packed up and moved back home to the midwest. And it really destroyed the arts scene, the music scene and also the political scene because everybody worked for non-profit..who was doing it for…. How do you say this?
Australian Guy: Moral?
American Guy: Or some kind of cause.
Australian Guy: Voluntary?
American Guy: Yeah. Voluntary. All the volunteers.
Australian Guy: Community-minded people.
American Guy: Yeah. They could not afford to live there any more. They got completely priced out.
Australian Guy: Around the village like?
American Guy: Yeah. They were literally constrained. When money moves in there is always… when there is an economic boom… That happens. The city is doing well. New jobs are being offered. Then people come in with high-paying jobs and they push people out who have low-paying jobs. The landlords; you can’t blame them. They had strict rent control in San Francisco and they still have it. In New York they abolished rent control and landlords were able to charge what they felt like. But San Francisco had rent control and if you could be in a place, you could hang on. New York; they abolished rent control.
Australian Guy: Where did people move to?
American Guy: This was the question. I asked some people Some of them moved out to like God knows where…

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6 Responses to “People and Places – San Francisco – 1 – It was Wild!”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Mark White says:

    1. In what year did the American guy move to the Bay area?
    2. What was the dominant music form at the time?
    3. What were the punks living inside?
    4. What is the difference between a distillery and a brewery?
    5. What other types of buildings were people squatting in?
    6. How old was the American guy at the time?
    7. What is the Castro?
    8. Who is Castro?
    9. What sub-cultures can you identify?
    10. Was the American guy working at the time?
    11. Was he studying as well?
    12. Does “the hippies ran down Haight Street” mean “the hippies were joggers”?
    13. When did things go downhill? (according to our informant)
    14. How did that manifest? (What exactly happened?)

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