KCBS Cover Story Series: Getting By – Income Gap Widens In San Francisco

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Pedestrians carry shopping bags as they walk along Market Street on April 26, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The Commerce Department reported that consumer spending helped lift economic growth to a 2.5 percent annual rate for the January to March quarter compared to a meager increase of 0.4 percent in the October to December quarter. Consumer spending surged to a 3.2 percent annual rate, the largest gain since the end of 2010. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Pedestrians carry shopping bags as they walk along Market Street in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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Doug Sovern’s KCBS Cover Story Series: Getting By airs on KCBS 740AM/106.9FM through Friday at 6:30am, 8:30am, 12:30pm and 4:30pm, March 24-28.

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The Bay Area has the highest median income in the nation and San Francisco has the fastest-growing gap between rich and poor. That economic inequality is on stark display in the very places where the latest technology boom is transforming the city.

Across the street from the Twitter building on Market Street, John Forrey works at a stationery store making minimum wage—about $21,000 a year.

“It is difficult and it’s paycheck to paycheck and it’s concern after that paycheck and it’s concern after that one. So there is a major concern that I didn’t have as a kid growing up.”

Forrey, 60, said retirement is out of the question as he sells scotch tape, Sharpies and birthday cards to young high-tech professionals from Twitter who earn far more than he does.

“I can’t hold that against them. I don’t want to hold that against them,” he said.

“If I judged what I do by what I make then I would not bring much dignity to the job. I try to bring dignity to whatever job I have.”

Forrey, is said is aware of the disparity and said it “dosen’t seem to be getting better” and that gap is widening. Forrey said he and his wife are middle class and said he sees far worse hardship just outside the shop.

“We see those that do and those that don’t right out there. This is like a nexus,” he said.

Just outside, a homeless woman, who didn’t want to give her name, said she had a college degree but was collecting soda cans. It’s “exhausting” work, she said.

Meanwhile, Carlos, who didn’t want to use his last name, manages a garage near North Beach and a car wash on Divisadero Street and said he is exhausted working seven days a week—five at the garage and two at the carwash. He takes a day off “only when it’s raining.”

Carlos works more than 75 hours a week and earns just over minimum wage parking and washing the luxury cars of people who work half as much but make 10 to 15 times more income.

“It’s kind of unfair because some people are making too much money and some other people, like myself, have to work very hard for the money,” he said.

Carlos said he supports his children and has to pay alimony to his ex-wife. But like Forrey, he said he’s not resentful and said fretting about economic inequality is a luxury, like many other things, he can’t afford.

“I got to get up and work; everything is too expensive. I got pay my bills, the rent. That’s my life right now,” he said.

The dollar divide is almost as pronounced in Silicon Valley with its high-tech wizards in their mid-20s becoming overnight billionaires, heartbreaking poverty and plain working folks trying to live on middle-class paychecks—and where Wednesday’s “Getting By” series will focus.


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