How to Be a Landlord in San Francisco
A fact about Frisco living is that we deal with a predictable litany of questions when we encounter someone from outside our urban womb: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the gays?” Or: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the earthquakes?”
But nowadays, instead, I get: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the evictions?” Evictions are the new earthquakes.
These days, San Francisco’s gonzo housing market is international knowledge. And yet, an unspoken truth about San Francisco housing is that the easiest job in the world is to be a landlord here. On the list of easy jobs, it edges out press secretary for the Secret Service, where the only words you ever get to say are, “That’s classified.”
I would know what an easy job it is because I am a San Francisco landlord. That’s why I started Small Property Owners for Reasonable Control as a PAC of insignificant landlords. We are small landlords (we own four or fewer rental units), and we support tenant protections, rent control, and limits on evictions because, as landlords, we know we’ve got it way too good.
Ten years ago, I bought a house in North Bernal with an in-law unit using a down payment I inherited and a mortgage I shouldn’t have been allowed to get. You know the kind of mortgage that caused the housing bubble and wrecked the world economy? I had one. Then, through no acumen of my own, my neighborhood became the Hottest Real Estate Neighborhood in America™. I got out of my sketchy mortgage and into a low-rate 30-year fixed because my home value rode a wave of appreciation fueled by the relentless power of startup pixie dust and tech VC hot air.
Now, because it is so groovy and desirable and close to the Google (and Apple and Yahoo and Genentech and Facebook) buses, no one I know can afford to live in my neighborhood. So instead of having friends nearby, I get to charge obscenely high rent. I don’t want to charge obscenely high rent. I’d rather have friends.
Offline Activism Is the Tricky Part for #YesAllWomen
As with every mass shooting in the last decade, Elliot Rodger sparked a clash of ideologies. This being a misogyny-fueled massacre, instead of the usual gun debate, it provoked a nationwide Twitter war between anti-patriarchy feminists and a bunch of apologist white guys, with most tweets focusing on the fact that while not all men denigrate women, all women are denigrated by men, and culminating in the latest clicktivist hashtag #YesAllWomen. It’s a strong hashtag, and it has staying power, but does it have the potential to inspire people offline?
When a branch of the American Revolutionary Communist Party concerned with banning pornography for the benefit of women, called StopPatriarchy.com, organized a series of #YesAllWomen rallies in Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Francisco, it meant another attempt at turning global social media awareness into community activism, in the hopes that the effort is broadcast somewhere, anywhere. Best case - recursively on social media; worst case - word of mouth. This cyclical advocacy happens fair often with little effect, #BringackOurGirls and #Kony2012 come to mind. Ralph Nader was right, “the Internet doesn’t do a very good job of motivating action.”
Catching Up with One of Our Favorite Photographers, Teen Witch
Andrea Sonnenberg, a.k.a. Teen Witch, is a 21-year-old self-taught photographer from California. Ryan McGinley first hepped us to her, and fellow VICE photographer Sandy Kim is her best friend. She’s obsessed with super-esoteric things like skateboarding and partying and tattoos. Sometimes she gets topless for no reason, and she recently got the letters “SVU” tattooed on her because she loves Law & Order so much. Her photos make San Francisco look like a big, pretty party full of wild-haired weird girls, and everything looks like the funnest time. And when she’s not running around with her crazy friends, she spends her time working at an ice cream shop. We foresee great things coming from this one.
Great things indeed. Sure, things have changed a little for Teen Witch since, mainly her age and primary occupation (she’s 24 now and no longer works at an ice cream shop), but luckily the rest remains unchanged. She’s still putting out countless zines and has had a couple solo shows, as well as buttloads of commerical work, resulting in her photos being plastered onto everything from T-shirts to skateboards.
In the past, we’ve let her photos speak for themselves, but considering that it’s been a couple years since we last heard from her, we thought it was time to catch up and find out what she’s been up to.
VICE: So you quit your job at the ice cream place. How does it feel?
Andrea Sonnenberg: Yeah, I just quit my job of seven years. I started scooping ice cream at Bi-rite Creamery here in San Francisco and eventually became a baker and worked in the kitchen for my last three years there. Quitting and moving on feels incredibly exciting and liberating, but I also have a tough time dealing with change, so to finally take the plunge has also been something hard for me to do and accept.
Does this mean photography will be your main focus?
Yes. I hope I can use this time to focus my energy solely on photography. It was challenging to balance working two jobs and also being involved in so many photography projects with super stressful deadlines and not as many hours of free time to work with.
The Uptight Traveler’s Guide to Portland, Oregon
The constant, crushing judgement I feel for every living person and non-sentient being I encounter is an anchor that weighs me down and prevents me from experiencing true joy. But just because mama can’t experience true joy doesn’t mean she can’t have a good time not doin’ it! (For the purposes of this paragraph I, and possibly you, are mama.) Mama recently found herself a tourist in the socialist paradise that is Portland, Oregon. She’s heard it’s a nice town. She believes it’s a nice town. Said judgement, however, rendered her unable to fully appreciate its charms. If you’re anything like mama (and, dear reader, I pray you are), this guide should help the Rose City’s organic medicine go down.
Get Your Non-Drinking Business Done During the Day
Most non-alcohol dispensing businesses close at or around 6PM, giving the city’s residents ample time to practice with their noise rock bands, make crafts (crafts are considered currency to Portlanders, in the same way “ideas” are currency to San Franciscans) or ironically play video poker. If you want to do anything but get blotto once the sun sets, you’ll be shit out of luck. Plan accordingly.
Purchase Cutesy Shit
Portland is essentially an Etsy store people live inside of. Embrace the twee and buy your estranged spouse the bacon-scented candle and mustache-shaped wine opener you know will repair your damaged relationship.
Pretend to Enjoy Bitter Beer
Portlanders love craft beers—the darker, the better. Part of being a craft beer connoisseur is convincing yourself that the more bitter a beer, the better it is. You may wonder why your face contorts into a pained grimace every time you take a sip of that local IPA. Ignore those logical feelings and prepare your body for one of the worst hangovers it will ever experience.
NOTE: If you feel like consuming a beverage that won’t make you build character, a mere $3 can net you a tall boy of shitty American macrobrew. Tell your friends it’s an ironic choice, all the while knowing in your heart of hearts you’re drinking it because you want to consume something that doesn’t taste like coffee grinds.
Reasons Why San Francisco Is the Worst
2014 is slowly turning into the “Year of San Francisco.” The East Coast media in America has anointed SF as the new hub for innovation, conspicuous consumption, and comically absurd rents. New York Magazine parachuted a bunch of reporters into the Bay Areato figure out how to steal their douchebags back. The article asked “Is San Francisco New York?” No, it’s much worse. The existential crisis around San Francisco’s ascension to the heights of assholery stands in stark contrast to the fact that it is damn near unlivable for most normal people.
The end is nigh for a city that used to be a magnet for the counter-culture. San Francisco was strangled, so we decided to go over the numerous causes of death.
Everyone Worth a Damn Is Moving to Oakland
San Francisco used to be that place you moved to if you were too weird for LA, but too lazy for New York. It was a perfect city to ply your trade as a quirky motherfucker with a penchant for “edgy performance art” and whimsical scarves. That was just dandy. We liked that.
Around every corner, there could be an anarchist bookshop or a dude covered in glitter, wearing a Spongebob t-shirt, and sporting a raging hard-on. Where did that San Francisco go? Across the fucking bridge, that’s where.
Oakland is cheaper than San Francisco (but not by much), it’s close to Berkeley’s cultural gravity, and it’s just a BART trip away from what’s left of SF’s relevance. It’s also an industrial wasteland full of crime and Raider fans. You might ask yourself, What happened to San Francisco’s iconoclastic spirit…? Well, in two simple words:
There’s always been a bourgeois element to San Francisco that we all just ignored. The landed gentry of Nob Hill, Pac Heights, and Sea Cliff have always been there. They have owned their home for years, love wearing fleece sweaters, own nothing but real wood furniture, and are the type of people who tool around McCovey Cove in their yachts during Giants games. They are from a different planet and don’t mingle with the plebs. They have their world of brandy snifters, champagne flutes, cheese tastings, and obscure European automobiles. They honestly don’t care what you think.
The tech bro, on the other hand, seeks to engage in city life. They go to the same bars you do. They eat at the same restaurants. They badly want to be accepted as “cool,” while also having more money than you and getting chauffeured to work in a free corporate bus. Their insistence on trying to infiltrate the real San Francisco has pretty much killed the real San Francisco. Dolores Park, once a safe haven for burnouts to drink 40s and smoke weed at 2:30 PM on a Tuesday, is now the world’s biggest networking event for dudes who wear khakis to the gym.
In New York, Wall Street people know they’re pricks. In Los Angeles, Hollywood people are too stupid to know they’re pricks. In San Francisco, tech bros think they’re saving the world with their crackpot schemes aka “start-ups.” They’re the fucking worst.
Should everyone take acid?
No because you have to ask the right question to take it. Do you want a one-on-one with your maker?
And what if the answer is yes, even if you’ve got a mental illness?
Well there’s a correlation between acid and curing mental illness. I realized after my beautiful accidental rebirth that what we usually call psychology is actually just art.
You use a lot of complicated metaphors.
No, I just use the truth.
Motherboard’s Brian Merchant spent a month living on nothing but Soylent, the futuristic meal-replacement drink. Watch the documentary