San Francisco has long enjoyed a reputation as the counterculture capital of America, attracting bohemians, mavericks, progressives and activists. With the onset of the digital gold rush, young members of the tech elite are flocking to the West Coast to make their fortunes, and this new wealth is forcing San Francisco to reinvent itself. But as tech innovations lead America into the golden age of digital supremacy, is it changing the heart and soul of their adopted city?
In SAN FRANCISCO 2.0, Alexandra Pelosi (HBO’s Emmy®-winning “Journeys with George”) returns to her hometown to document what the tech boom has in store for this historically progressive city, talking to various industry representatives, politicians and longtime residents hoping to maintain their place and not be left behind. Directed, produced and filmed by Pelosi, this insightful film looks at the price of progress, and the challenges of holding onto a collective past.
Alexandra Pelosi has always been proud of San Francisco, in particular its “long tradition of embracing nonconformity.” She sets out to explore how the arrival of innovators – the so-called “IT invasion” – is reshaping its iconic neighborhoods and forging a tech paradise in the City by the Bay. Pelosi talks to a range of subjects, from ambitious trendsetters bringing an unprecedented wave of wealth, to the entrenched communities of artists and immigrants who are hoping to hold onto the place they call home.
Pelosi interviews a wide array of insiders, including: Gov. Jerry Brown; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom; San Francisco mayor Ed Lee; former San Francisco mayors Willie Brown and Art Agnos; tech-industry notables Michael Birch (Monkey Inferno), Andrew Houston (Dropbox), Ron Conway (SV Angel) and Sean Gourley (Quid.com); economist Robert Reich; journalists David Talbot and Gary Kayima (Salon); and lifelong residents and small-business owners who have to face an increasingly unaffordable real estate market.
The city’s tech boom was born out of Silicon Valley’s tech influx, which found companies shuttling young, newly affluent employees between suburban offices and desirable residential neighborhoods of San Francisco. Mayor Ed Lee jumped at the opportunity to move companies from the Valley into the city, offering tax breaks and incentives to those relocating to the run-down neighborhood of the Tenderloin. Angel investor Ron Conway touts the city’s “progress,” but acknowledges that housing affordability is becoming a problem.
This change has been felt most acutely in places like the Mission District, where the immigrant community that’s lived there for decades is being uprooted. “The heart and soul of San Francisco is being ripped out from the city,” says activist Roberto Hernandez, who points out that the neighborhood’s historic murals are being painted over by new businesses. The number of no-fault evictions has spiked, and developers are squeezing out local businesses.
SAN FRANCISCO 2.0 leaves Pelosi pondering the price of change, and wondering what “the growing divide between rich and poor [will] do to the fabric of America.” If any place can work through these problems and forge a solution, however, she believes it is San Francisco: a city rich in progressive history, which Pelosi hopes will “not leave its heart and soul behind.”
SAN FRANCISCO 2.0 is the ninth HBO documentary by Alexandra Pelosi, who made the 2002’s Emmy® winner “Journeys with George,” as well as “Diary of a Political Tourist” (2004), “Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi” (2007), “The Trials of Ted Haggard” (2009), “Right America: Feeling Wronged – Some Voices from the Campaign Trail” (2009), “Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County” (2010), “Citizen U.S.A.: A 50 State Road Trip” (2011) and “Fall to Grace” (2013). Pelosi spent ten years as a producer for NBC and has authored two books, “Sneaking into the Flying Circus” and “Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip” (the companion to her HBO documentary).
SAN FRANCISCO 2.0 was directed, produced and filmed by Alexandra Pelosi; edited by Phillip Schopper and Angela Gandini. For HBO: senior producer, Lisa Heller; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.