What’s a couple million for a tiny shed in prime SV when you make a thousand bucks an hour? (Photo: Google Maps)
What’s a couple million for a tiny shed in prime SV when you make a…
Would you like to trace all the moral and socioeconomic ills of the Bay Area to a single, archetypal flashpoint? To locate, on a literal map, a superlative example of the black hole of bland that’s sucking all the creative dynamics and laidback-hippie joys from regional life?
If so, you can perhaps find it just down the road, at 2006 Carol Avenue, in Mountain View, California.
Behold, this humble bungalow, a cute little charmer full of sunshine, tidy shrubbery and lost dreams, located in what has become a brutally expensive suburb called Martens-Carmelita (read: white, rich, entitled) of San Jose – AKA the high-tech capital of the world, the teeming, booming, khaki-benumbed capital of Sad.
Our sunny little cottage – just a ramshackle speck of a thing by regional standards – offers a peasant’s worth of space: just 825 square feet of sunny smiles, two little bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. And a birdbath.
Of course, you don’t care about any of that. As a blindingly wealthy tech industry magnate, as the Second Associate VP of Retention Engineering Logistics in West Coast Division III at Googlebook, as perhaps a newly rich Chinese investor who buys multimillion dollar properties sight unseen for your Stanford-bound children, you will buy this tiny slab of the American dream for its brain-stabbing asking price: a simply awesome 1.9 million dollars.
But it’s not just that one cottage. The neighbors just sold their even shabbier 1,000 square foot slice of suburbia a few shacks away for $1.983 million. And there were two other “comps” this year in the same range.
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The numbers, of course, have nothing to do with the structure. It’s is all about the land. For 2006 Carol, it’s an 8,000-square-foot plot of dirt that just so happens to exist smack in the middle of what’s become an insanely precious neighborhood in one of the wealthiest tech regions in the country.
Which is to say: Two million for the dirt, another five or 10 to bulldoze the living hell out of it and replace it with a perfectly vulgar McMansion, a charmless beast of a thing with vaulted ceilings and blindingly over-polished marble floors, an silly “media room” and way too many French doors, all stuffed to the edges of the lot lines, because who needs subtlety and class when you make a thousand dollars a minute?
What, too bitter? Not really. Just another tired Bay Area cliché, actually. Happens all the time.
But it’s also more than that. It’s also a pitiless example of why the soul of the Bay Area has been quietly leeched of all color and character over the past 20 years, replaced with the tech industry’s version of a happy, successful life – gleaming, sanitized, wildly lonely, limned with opioids and therapy and really excellent Wi-Fi.
This is the thing: 2006 Carol Lane? It spreads. The mindset, the values, the shiny pseudo achievements this property’s laughable asking price represents bleeds out all over the Bay and sets the tone for the entire economy, the industry, the region as a whole.
It’s just the way of the decade. All the most nonsensical, morbid cues of San Jose get sucked up into the baffled brainstems of every eager tech worker in the City and turned into a hugely seductive, but enormously vacuous worldview, loosely translated as: You won’t know you’ve “made it” in the Valley until forking over $2,300 a square foot for a tiny teardown in a really prime neighborhood barely makes you flinch.
And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Change is what cities do. It’s all a matter of whether you find that change invigorating and interesting, or numbing and exhausting. It’s all a matter of whether you mind having your personal definitions of “fair,” “normal,” and even “happy” warped beyond recognition, you moral codes skewed, your sense of entitlement engorged to death.
The City has almost fully succumbed. I’ve lived in my central San Francisco neighborhood, Alamo Square, for more than 17 years, watched it evolve and mutate, cram and dance and become a whole new corridor of perky white-boy hustle, swarms of young, mostly male tech industry types, all competing for the same avocado toast and artisan cocktails (and savage dearth of interested females) and all stacked like logs into overpriced SF housing and each one, it seems, scrambling to find just the right job at just the right startup for which he will sacrifice all his youth in hopes of someday “living the dream,” as it were, and spending exorbitant amounts of money just to become, well, exactly like everyone else.
At least the toast is delicious.