Doug Sovern’s KCBS Cover Story Series: Through the Roof airs on KCBS 740AM/106.9FM through Friday at 6:30am, 8:30am, 12:30pm and 4:30pm.

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – What used to be low-cost rental properties in gritty parts of San Francisco are being converted into high-end office space and luxury apartments, to cash in on the influx of technology companies and their well-paid workers.

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That is pushing many low-income renters to the fringes of San Francisco and beyond, and transforming traditionally working class neighborhoods.

San Francisco has the highest median rent in the nation and the lowest rental vacancy rates, now below 3 percent. So when Norman Zelaya and his family were forced to move by a fire, their rent doubled, and he had no choice but to take a second job.

Zelaya was determined to remain in the Mission District, where he’s spent his entire life.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that I can grow up and live in the city where I was born and raised,” he said.

Zelaya now works 60 hours a week, teaching special ed and working with emotionally disturbed kids. He’s angry that the city is giving tax breaks to tech companies, whose highly paid workers are making his neighborhood unaffordable. “What’s my value, as a young Latino bilingual teacher working special education? What’s my value, where’s my tax break?”

To the east, along Third Street, the Dogpatch neighborhood is changing dramatically too. Daniel Lyon, a plumber and electrician, rented a house in this neighborhood 28 years ago.

“I got a two bedroom Victorian house for $400. Now my next-door neighbor pays $7,000,” Lyon said.

The Dogpatch was a sketchy, industrial zone, but it has now been transformed into an area with fancy condos and trendy restaurants. “Where are all the people that wash dishes, the painters – where are they going to live?” Lyon asks. “It’s tough.”

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Lyon owns his house now and fantasizes about how much he could sell it for. “I could retire and move to Iowa or something.”

Craig Dalton is CEO of DodoCase, located in the Dogpatch, which makes cases for smartphones and iPads. “We’re starting to see different people on the block everyday,” he said. “Certainly, this is one of those neighborhoods that the challenge of gentrification is coming here and now.”

There’s a wine bar in the neighborhood, a rock climbing gym and a microbrewery and restaurant are about to open. There’s also a neighborhood controversy over the advent of parking meters, all this within sight of the Potrero Hill projects.

“Five, six years from now, this neighborhood is going to have a dramatically different feel to it,” Dalton said.

The gentrification is pushing out Third Street right into the Bayview. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission and surrounding neighborhoods, said San Francisco needs to be intentional about how it develops, and what happens to the people who get displaced.

“We’re talking about an issue that goes to the core of who we are as a city,” Campos said.

Zelaya said he hopes the city’s new identity has room for him. “I’ll stay as long as I can, but it’s heartbreaking, it’s heartbreaking.”

Ripoffs and scams are making the already tough task of finding a place to rent in San Francisco even tougher, as we’ll explore in Part Four of our “Through The Roof” cover story series on Thursday.


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