The issue of gentrification in Bernal Heights is a delicate subject that’s often framed as a tension between Bernal oldtimers vs. newer arrivistes — with the latter frequently derided as techie “masters of the universe” who don’t fully appreciate the funky, ragtag diversity that has done so much to nurture the Bernal we now know and love.
I’ve always chafed at that stereotype… and not just because my day job would nominally mark me as one of those techie douchebags. More empirically, I’ve gotten to know a lot of Bernal newcomers while working on Bernalwood during the last few years, and I have yet to meet one who really matches the techie caricature.
Instead, if I had to generalize, I’d say the common denominator among newer Bernalistas is that most are “makers” — dynamic people who create clever products or cultural objects that are well-suited to the economic realities of 21st century American capitalism. Some work for big companies, and some are self-employed, but most conform to the (admittedly somewhat squishy) “creative class” archetype proposed by social theorist Richard Florida.
Now, as it turns out, Richard Florida has created a map which shows how thoroughly the creative class has settled in Bernal. Using data from the 2010 Census, Florida’s map compares density of service workers and creative class-types around San Francisco:
The creative class includes people who work in science and technology, business and management, arts, culture media and entertainment, law and healthcare professions. All told its ranks make up 39.4 percent of the [San Francisco] metro’s workers, substantially better than the national average of 32.6 percent and has the 16th largest share among the nation’s metros. These creative class positions are high-skilled, highly-educated, and high-paying where workers average $91,361 per year in wages and salaries, almost 30 percent more than the national average of $70,890 and second only to the nearby San Jose (Silicon Valley) metro.
When you zoom in to Bernal Heights in Florida’s map, the geography of gentrification becomes easy to see, with Bernal’s creative class dominating the purple census tracts, and service workers in the red:
So if at times Bernal Heights seems a bit divided on itself, well… that’s because in some ways it is, with the northeastern portion dominated by creative class-types, while service-sector employment prevails in the southwest. The dichotomy can be delicate to navigate, but I remain convinced that our shared Bernalnicity shall prevail.