Income Disparity in San Francisco

Global Business

Rental prices in San Francisco continue to rise. They’re one of the highest in the country and a big contributing factor is the influx of tech workers, who command high salaries, thereby allowing landlords to charge more. But that’s created hardships for the rest of the population, including artists who sometimes make just a few thousand dollars a year.

Income Disparity in San Francisco

Income Disparity in San Francisco

Rental prices in San Francisco continue to rise. They're one of the highest in the country and a big contributing factor is the influx of tech workers, who command high salaries, thereby allowing landlords to charge more. But that's created hardships for the rest of the population, including artists who sometimes make just a few thousand dollars a year.
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Surrealist artist Sandra Yagi feels fortunate to be able to do what she loves for a living. With a prior career in commercial banking she’s saved up some money, and her paintings are selling well even having sold five works to rock star Axl Rose.

But even with her success, she’s still had to move from studio to studio when landlords sometimes double and even triple the rent.

“I’ve never seen it like this in San Francisco before.  I was working a corporate job before and I thought I had planned appropriately for contingencies in the market place and so forth, I’m still finding it a struggle,” says Yagi.

Heather Holt is an artist who also works with organizations to help other artists survive. One such project is Adobe Books, which after being squeezed out by the rental market, relocated and formed a cooperative.

Holt says artists’ contributions — like serving as educators and beautifiers of buildings and streets— are being overlooked. She worries that when artists can only think about where they can afford to live, society loses out: “It does affect the space and time to experiment which is what the new and the next is made of, so if artist’s aren’t able to experiment while making some really bad work before making some really brilliant work, then are we really going to be innovators in the art world,” she adds.

Many argue the growing tech money should be a rising tide that lifts all boats. If there’s more people out there with greater disposable income, then there’s more money to buy art work.

But artists say purchases from that sector of society are few and far between, with techies preferring to stay in their own world.

Gallery owner and Art Dealer Anthony Luzi believes more work needs to be done to capture the tech industry’s interest, by for example, explaining how similar the precision of an artist’s work is to that of an engineer’s.

Themes of economic disparity are now becoming more prominent in Yagi’s work art imitating life and in this case surreality becoming reality.