There we are, 2023. San Francisco downtown looks like an apocalyptic preview of times to come. The over and over again predicted reality hit the city hard.
The past two administrations bet on an unsustainable economic formula, resulting in catastrophic results. The city’s middle class is gone, and with it, the essential parts of the engine that runs a town. If you didn’t buy a house before the mid-nineties (and I am stretching here) or make way more than 100k a year, you can’t afford to live in this town.
Now, the CEOs who rented the city’s hundreds of new office spaces together with the big developers and City Hall incumbents understandably campaign hard to save what’s left of their investments. And they already zeroed in on a culprit. The remote worker.
Bringing back the workforce to the office has been chanted as the solution to San Francisco’s problems. This may temporarily bring some relief, and I understand entirely what’s at stake here. But the truth is that the damage is done. People would instead move to a place where they can have a decent life than keep struggling in this new reality.
Small businesses can’t survive in the city anymore; the middle-class professionals who still live in the city are retired or getting close to retirement age, and the workforce is not renewed simply because policemen, firemen, and hospitality workers can’t afford to live here. And they probably don’t even want to come here anyway.
I wish I knew a way out of this mess, but I know the solution isn’t putting remote workers against the wall and threatening them with mass layoffs. This may keep them from getting stronger at the negotiation table, but it won’t bring back the Silicon Valley utopia.
What I know for sure is that remote work is part of the solution, not the problem.