Monday, August 13, 2012

Dodgy pocketses South of Market

I always wondered what it might be like to live in one of a city's "dodgier pockets." Now, per the out-of-town business press, we can just sit tight in our perfectly adequate San Francisco apartment and the dodginess will find its way to us. Without impairing the quality of our local restaurants, cafes or bakeries nor discouraging the newly arrived crème brûlée shop.

While our Western SoMa neighborhood continues to gain material prosperity, out-of-town business writers keep claiming it's dangerous, run-down, and now "dodgy". I wonder, do they exactly know where we are?

Back in May, the Seattle Times version of an AP story tinkered us into the Tenderloin.

Now the San Jose Mercury News has a geographically muddled story on the current shift in tech focus from the South Bay to San Francisco's South of Market. It has us defined as a slum and a fancy cafe-society milieu all at once. And, whaddayaknow, it's reprinted in the Seattle Times.

First the article repeats a claim, via startup incubator The Hatchery, that San Francisco has "more than 4,000 startups in the South of Market area alone." Then there's all kinds of stuff about the San Francisco tech startup scene being "chic urban restaurants and coffee bars" and how it's all "about running into people and building relationships, because people want to work with and invest in people they know and trust."

(Actually, you want nerds, don't look anywhere chic. Look in sandwich shops, pizzerias, and cafes offering loud music and fatty foods, and you'll find doughy 25-year-olds in xkcd T-shirts.[*] Of whom there have been noticeably more on Folsom Street sidewalks this year. I think the chic urban restaurants must be for the sleeker types who move the money around.) 

Then this non sequitur:
"Under [SF Mayor Ed] Lee's watch, Twitter last year cut a deal to avoid paying a 1.5 percent city payroll tax on new hires for the next six years. As part of the controversial pact -- which reportedly will save the social media powerhouse $22 million -- Twitter and other startups looking to avoid the tax have to base themselves in dodgier pockets of the city's downtown, including the Tenderloin."
Or rather, that's the Merc version. The Seattle Times snipped those last three words about the Tenderloin -- realizing, I guess, that although Twitter's tax break district is primarily in the Tenderloin, the Twitter building itself is separated from the TL by both Market Street and the neoclassical public buildings of the Civic Center complex.

The "dodgy pocket" containing Twitter -- that is, the 9th-to-10th stretch of Market Street, AKA The Slot, not previously to my knowledge ever known as The Pocket -- is only three blocks from us. If they're dodgy, I guess we are too. That makes us one oddly dodgy pocket full of crème brûlée, lambic microbrews, Kobe beef and artisan levain.

So I admit the gentrification is denser over here, in the "FolSoMa" foodie micro-hood, and it's true the blocks between us and the Twitter building include a welfare office and a couple of iffy marijuana dispensaries.

But if Ninth and Market is a slum, Marie Antoinette was a shepherdess.

[* P.S. J. says, "How do you know it's a dodgier pocket, and not a podgier docket? True, we got the out-of-shape coder nerds eating fatty desserts on Folsom Street. Also, we got the overstuffed court calendars at the local courthouses, what with state funding cuts and all... eh, trust us to not know when to quit on a joke...]

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