Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Monday, August 20, 2007

Life in Silicon Valley

We live in a very unique and exciting place. I would say that our area is one of the worlds leaders in many areas, certainly technology but also medicine, education, philanthropy and many other arenas. We live and rub shoulders with trend setters and world shakers every day. However, there is a out of control feel to life here that can sometimes take charge, where enough is never enough. With crazy housing costs, even folks who would be considered wealthy and rich other places are only middle class here.

The New York Times did very interesting article on life and riches in Silicon Valley called "Millionaires Who Don't Feel Rich" I've excerpted some of the article below. It's a glimpse into the lives of folks right across the bridge from East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park. The article shows the mid set of people who live in our region. It eludes to the cost of living in our area and what it takes to love here, but also the 'golden treadmill' and the temptation to always want more. Those of us who have taken a 'silicon valley vow of poverty' include pastors, teachers, police... all feel the similar pressures. While sometimes it's easy to be discouraged I also feel blessed and honored to love in such a beautiful and influential place.
"Silicon Valley is thick with those who might be called working-class millionaires — nose-to-the-grindstone people like Mr. Steger who, much to their surprise, are still working as hard as ever even as they find themselves among the fortunate few. Their lives are rich with opportunity; they generally enjoy their jobs. They are amply cushioned against the anxieties and jolts that worry most people living paycheck to paycheck.

But many such accomplished and ambitious members of the digital elite still do not think of themselves as particularly fortunate, in part because they are surrounded by people with more wealth — often a lot more."

"Like most of her neighbors, Ms. Baranski splurged most on a house in a community studded with some of the most expensive real estate in the country. Early in 2001, when Ms. Baranski seemed richer than she was, they paid $1.95 million for a dilapidated house in Menlo Park, knowing they would tear it down. They spent $1 million over the next few years building their dream house.

Ms. Baranski recognizes, of course, that she is far better off than many of her neighbors. Even well-paid college administrators, professors and other white-collar professionals struggle to pay their bills in this expensive redoubt 30 miles south of San Francisco.

“I don’t know how people live here on just a normal salary,” said Ms. Baranski.

Her nanny rents an apartment in Palo Alto, Ms. Baranski said. She pays her what she described as a generous salary and gave her the keys to her old Saab when she bought the newer one. But “basically I have no idea how she survives here."

"Mr. Hettig, the estate planning lawyer, sums it up for many: “We’re in such a rarefied environment,” he said, “people here lose perspective on what the rest of the world looks like.”"

"Then there are the additional burdens on this digital elite, said Ms. Holland, the psychologist — demands they are typically not prepared to handle.

“There are all these people who come to you for money,” Ms. Holland said. “Siblings, parents, other relatives. Organizations seeking charitable contributions. There’s this assumption you have all this money — so why don’t you write a big check to the school or to this other charity?”

Other pressures can come from within the social circle. Mr. Barbagallo, for instance, remembers when several couples tried cajoling his wife and him — unsuccessfully — to fly to Las Vegas for a charity event featuring Andre Agassi.

“You look around,” Mr. Barbagallo said, “and the pressures to spend more are everywhere.” Children want the latest fashions their peers are wearing and the most popular high-ticket toys. Furniture does not seem up to snuff once you move into a multimillion-dollar home. Spouses talk, and now that resort in Mexico the family enjoyed so much last winter is not good enough when looking ahead to next year. Summer camp, a full-time housekeeper, vintage wines, country clubs: the cost of living bloats. "

" To Mr. Milletti, it all looks like a marathon with no finish line.

“Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent,” he said.

“You try not to get caught up in it,” he added, “but it’s hard not to.” "

1 comment:

  1. Great post; really educational. It is crazy how there is such a different mindset over in your neck of the woods...

    I posted a blog ab out Gentrification today. I'd love to hear your thoughts!