The Techie Town Of San Francisco Gets A completely new Tower As Houses Remain Scarce


Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News

Marc Benioff (left) in addition to also former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown at the opening of the completely new Salesforce Tower.

As noon approached, an Orthodox priest, a rabbi, a Zen Center reverend, an imam, an Episcopal bishop, a Catholic archbishop, in addition to also a leader coming from the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center stood on a stage in downtown San Francisco, clasped hands, in addition to also said a prayer: “Bless This specific magnificent edifice,” they intoned, “the Salesforce Tower.”

of which was a bit ridiculous. however the Salesforce Tower itself, which opened to the public on Tuesday, will be no joke. For San Francisco, of which will be a literal monument to the wealth in addition to also power of tech, in addition to also its grand opening brought together a nexus of powerful forces in modern-day California: the technology industry, Democratic politics, in addition to also the housing crisis.

of which was also a chance to show off a fancy completely new building. The massive 1,070-foot structure looms over the rest of the city, where the second-highest structure, the Transamerica Pyramid, tops out 0 feet below of which. of which adds 1.4 million square feet of office space to a city busting at the seams. (in addition to also all of of which rented out the day of which opened.) Much like Google or Facebook, the Salesforce Tower will be unprecedented in its scale, in addition to also of which will be hard not to think of the building as a manifestation the radical transformation wrought upon San Francisco by the tech industry.


Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News

The Transamerica building as seen coming from the top of Salesforce Tower.

in addition to also on an impossibly foggy day, the event was clear evidence of how cozy the tech industry will be with Democrats coming from Northern California. A parade of San Francisco’s political power players arrived on the scene to celebrate. Willie Brown — the city’s former two-term mayor in addition to also Assembly speaker who helped launch the careers of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in addition to also Sen. Kamala Harris — hosted. Mayoral hopeful Jane Kim shared the stage, while her rival Mark Leno was spotted within the audience. Mayor Mark Farrell, a venture capitalist who was appointed mayor by the board of supervisors after the previous acting mayor was ousted for being too friendly to tech interests (specifically BuzzFeed investor in addition to also San Francisco political machinator Ron Conway), rounded out the cavalcade of mayors. The opening remarks droned on for more than an hour.

(San Francisco’s mayor-for-life Brown was also sure to invoke Nancy Pelosi. “This specific will be her district, in addition to also This specific will be a project she got the money for,” said Brown, who knows how to generously spread the butter. Later he would likely joke about venturing into an off-limits section of the tower, saying, “I know of which of which was against the law, however if you know me, I kind of make the law.” San Francisco!)

however Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, not Brown, was the main event. Benioff has already emerged among the city’s great philanthropists. On the occasion of the completely new building opening, he donated $1.5 million to a nonprofit working to end long-term family homelessness in San Francisco, matched by another $1.5 million coming from Salesforce, the company’s charitable arm. in addition to also he used the event as a backdrop to talk about the twin issues of homelessness in addition to also the lack of affordable housing in San Francisco. If there was a shadow of the Dickensian hovering over the event, Benioff made us gaze right at of which.

“We see extreme wealth — a community with over 70 billionaires — however also grinding poverty within the shadow of This specific building,” said Benioff. (Indeed, San Francisco today ranks behind only completely new York in addition to also Hong Kong on the cities-with-billionaires list.) in addition to also then, by god, Benioff definitely went in. “Some parts of San Francisco are more unsanitary than the poorest neighborhoods in developing countries,” he said.

He lamented of which the city was becoming unaffordable for teachers “who need to be able to afford to live here, too.” He noted of which one out of 20 school children in San Francisco will be homeless. in addition to also he pledged to raise another $0 million to fight homelessness in San Francisco.

of which will be true of which San Francisco will be in real shit shape. of which’s increasingly a city of the rich in addition to also poor. As mayor Mark Farrell noted in his opening remarks, of which features a mere 2.5 percent unemployment rate. however of which high employment in addition to also all those tech billionaires (in addition to also garden-variety tech multimillionaires) have made This specific a very tough place to live. The median home sale cost will be $1.65 million. The average income needed to afford a home here, according to the California Association of Realtors, will be $330,000 per year. Meanwhile, the issue of homelessness in San Francisco often seems an intractable problem. in addition to also although the number of individuals identified within the most recent point-in-time count was slightly down, the survey will be widely assumed to be low, especially when of which comes to counting families.

All of which points to a city within the deep throes of a housing crisis. This specific crisis stems coming from a melange of factors, many of them decades within the producing. however of which will be very often laid at the feet of the tech industry workers, who for years have been blamed for gentrifying the city in addition to also driving up rents. in addition to also no matter who you blame — techies, NIMBYs, foreign investors — the general zeitgeist when of which comes to actually fixing anything will be an abysmal sense of intractable dread.


Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News

however to Benioff, “This specific will be a solvable problem.”

“We’re going to raise more than $0 million to get every homeless person off the streets,” he promised. He called on those who work in tech to help make This specific a reality. however Benioff also pushed back on those who would likely blame the city’s current woes on the industry.

“The challenges I’ve described today are not all the fault of the tech community,” he said. “Just as I’m challenging the tech community to step up, I’m challenging others not to scapegoat the tech community.” He called on the city, in addition to also its businesses, to support each some other, in addition to also to grow together.

Benioff’s notes on unity were pitch-perfect because of This specific moment in time in This specific city of wealthy liberals. He was impassioned in addition to also articulate, in addition to also he puts his money (in addition to also time) where his mouth will be. Some interpreted the remarks, especially coupled with his US flag lapel pin, as a step toward an actual run for office. Yet while the determination came through as genuine, the solution was…vague.

of which will be true of which many of the problems around affordable housing in addition to also homelessness within the Bay Area have been ongoing for many years. however if you want to look to a moment when everything seemed to change in San Francisco, in addition to also of which became a city dominated by, rather than adjacent to, the tech industry, the years coming from 2010 to 2013 seem worth examining. Facebook in addition to also Twitter both went public. In 2011, Ed Lee, widely seen as a friend to the tech industry, was appointed (then elected) mayor. One of his early acts was to extend a tax break to businesses, mostly tech firms, to locate within the city’s Mid-Market district. (This specific would likely become known as the “Twitter tax break.”) In 2013, ground was broken on the Salesforce Tower, which would likely go on to reportedly cost $1.1 billion. Amid all of which, home prices, after dragging for a few years after the Great Recession, began to shoot up.


Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News

The Millennium Tower in addition to also Willie Brown Jr. Bridge as seen coming from the top floor of the Salesforce Tower.

today, Salesforce will be not the only tower within the neighborhood. The Millennium Tower, completed in 2009 at a mere 184 meters, will be proximate to Salesforce, in addition to also coming from the latter’s observation deck you can gaze down onto the former’s roof. Under of which roof, the venture capitalist Tom Perkins (who once boasted of which his watch cost as much as a “six-pack” of Rolexes) bought a penthouse to gaze out at the city. Perkins paid $9.4 million for the condominium in addition to also did another reported $9 million in improvements to of which. In 2016, Craig Ramsey, a tech industry CEO, bought the property for a mere $13 million.

Today, the Millennium Tower will be slowly sinking into the soft clay soil of San Francisco Bay. of which has today has sunk some 17 inches on one side, in addition to also its roofline today tilts several inches to the north in addition to also west. Despite the Bay Area’s soaring home prices, the many millionaires who own property there are having trouble unloading of which.

Nobody wants to pay for a piece of the leaning tower of Frisco.

Because of course what goes up must come down. in addition to also in tech, as in earthquake country, of which can happen very quickly no matter to which heights you once soared. (See: Myspace, the collapse of the Nimitz Freeway, Pets.com, the collapse of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, Vine, Zynga, Jawbone, Jelly, colour, Yik Yak, the great earthquake in addition to also fire of 1906.) however for a company like Salesforce, which passed $10 billion in its annual run rate last year, in addition to also its gleaming completely new tower, these seem like distant concerns.

At the end of the ceremony, the press was ushered into the nave of This specific newest tech temple. We were offered little cups of curds in addition to also whey, with fresh spring vegetables, to snack on.


Mat Honan / BuzzFeed News

Curds in addition to also whey with fresh spring vegetables.

in addition to also then we were whisked up to the 61st floor on an elevator so fast of which makes your ears pop, in addition to also invited to gaze out upon the city. in addition to also as Benioff had explicitly pointed out during his address, the city was gazing back at us. The rich, the poor, the homeless, all the people of San Francisco, “they’re all looking up at This specific tower,” he said. “When you look up in addition to also see This specific tower, I want you to know you are not alone.” He wants people to “see of which as a beacon.”

in addition to also when you look down? Well. coming from of which height, can you definitely tell a tech bro coming from a homeless mother? Don’t they all just look like ants? Or even Sims? “This specific tower allows us to see This specific will be one community,” Benioff promised.

Maybe so. however on Tuesday, at least, of which was pretty hard to see very much of anything through all the fog.

Mat Honan will be the San Francisco bureau chief for BuzzFeed News. Formerly a senior staff writer at Wired, he has been writing about the technology industry in addition to also its impact on society for nearly 20 years.

Contact Mat Honan at mat.honan@buzzfeed.com.

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