On the eve of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s January 17 State of the City speech, we asked fifty local residents which issues they thought the mayor should address. Their answer: jobs, economic disparity and rising housing costs.
“I think hands down the top issue for myself and those I know is the ongoing trouble finding adequate jobs in this city that pay the bills,” said 34-year-old marketing consultant Kristen Chow, who told Beyond Chron outside the Montgomery BART station on Wednesday early morning as she made her way to her part-time position in the Financial District.
For her and others Beyond Chron spoke with over the past few days, the three issues that kept propping up were the state of the economy in San Francisco, the problem with employment and living wages as well as the growing tension over the homeless and housing options in the city.
“I have a family, my wife and my young son, and it is difficult to cover all our expenses,” began 31-year-old recent transplant to San Francisco Tyson Wells, who arrived two years ago from Atlanta for a job with a media start-up only to find the company didn’t make it and he was without a job for nearly 10 months before landing two part-time positions that require upwards of 60 hours a week to cover rent, food and healthcare for his young family.
“With two of us working you would think that one job each would be enough, but this city is expensive and we have to work more and more just to make ends meet,” he added.
Housing costs in the city have grown dramatically in comparison with other cities across the country. For Wells and others, many leases that they have signed are not being renewed, and if they are, landlords are increasing the monthly rental fees by a few hundred dollars annually, which many say is unsustainable.
“How can we afford to keep increasing rent when our jobs are not increasing our pay? This is something that needs to be addressed,” Wells added.
There is some good news for many in the city who are working minimum wage jobs, as the city is looking once again at increasing minimum wage, but at the same time many employers are not giving enough ours to current workers in order to meet the state and national requirements for healthcare. This leaves many frustrated that the city is not doing enough to end what a handful of residents referred to as the city’s “cycle of poverty.”
“It is great that we have a number of progressive policies in the city and I look forward to riding my bike in safety, but at the same time, we have to push companies and businesses to be more supportive of their employees and get people healthcare and better wages so we can fully become part of society,” said 25-year-old recent MA degree recipient in healthcare administration Yvonne told Beyond Chron.
For her, the youth of the city is vital to the continued development of structures and culture. “We are a city that professes a belief in progressive ideas, but it seems we have been caught up in money and this is creating, in my opinion, a void that the government needs to address. Housing is paramount to the future of San Francisco.”
Lee is likely to speak to some of these issues in his city-wide address and citizens are eagerly awaiting concrete plans to address the struggle many have in finding work, adequate housing and better living wages to “participate in society” on a daily basis, said Wells.
But for others, especially the homeless and those without work, the daily grind to find something continues and they hope that the Mayor will do more to assist them in pushing forward on plans to create more opportunities for the general population.
A former construction worker, who saw his work dry up during the recent economic collapse that his the United States, John Bowen told Beyond Chron that once you fall out of the system, the city, while he admits does a better job than most, “doesn’t quite live up to its expectation that people come first instead of business. I know we live in a society that has a lot of money in politics, but it would be great to see the Mayor talk about and implement new strategies that help those who really need it. We are the homeless and often forgotten so I hope to hear some new talk about how to help us.”
Housing, the economy and current wages in the city are arguably the most important issues many San Francisco residents feel need addressing. The SF Board of Supervisors has on their agenda a number of these topics in the weeks to come, and with Lee’s speech on Thursday there is a growing hope that the city will continue moving forward as a leading progressive global city.