This past Tuesday, voters in San Fran- cisco and Oakland passed two measures that would increase the minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour over the next several years. With this increase, San Francisco will have the highest minimum wage of any city in the United States by 2018. Fifteen dollars is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and five dollars more than the rest of Cal- ifornia. Until now, San Francisco enjoyed praise for its $10.74 minimum wage, still far superior to those around the country. However, this increase does not ad- dress the wage gap like it should and more should be done to stop the exo- dus of the poor from this increasingly gentrified city.
Gentrification and low incomes are not merely an economic problem, so the city cannot continue trying to solve them with the most basic economic tools. Raising the minimum wage from $10.74 to $15 will put more money in the pockets of those who work, but will do nothing to fix the rising inequality in this city. Gentrification is a result of a boom of high-income residents moving into previously low-income neighbor- hoods. It uproots families, businesses and communities, leaving many neighborhoods absent of any cultural identity. The push to raise the minimum wage shows that people in San Francisco are willing to address the problem, but un- willing to see its complexity.
A minimum wage worker working forty hours a week every week can expect to make $31,000 in 2018. If this worker pays even 10% in taxes that number drops to $27,900. According to the rental site, Zumper, the median price of a one bed- room apartment is $2,764. This means no minimum wage resident would be able to pay the median price of a one bedroom apartment, at least on their own, in the city. The minimum wage increase gar- nered a lot of political momentum, but will not do nearly enough to solve to prob- lems that San Francisco faces.
Instead of something simple, we need programs that will help small families succeed and give people the oppor- tunities to live in the city. Affordable housing can be made by allowing for certain vouchers for small families or students who can get subsidies for the government to pay for part of their rent. Zoning laws can be used to protect busi- nesses that have been in neighborhoods as long as their existence. Resident tax breaks could be implemented for those who live and work in San Francisco. The list can keep going because the amount of work that can be done to fix inequal- ity is almost limitless.
Inequality is one of the most com- plex problems that our generation will have to solve. San Francisco is a city a crucial point in defining its political structure over the next 20 years and a mayor like Ed Lee could hang his campaign on fostering growth as well as combating inequality. The constant flow of money into the city should be used to create a stronger city as a whole rather than paying for subsidies for to further growth in the tech sector. Its time for San Francisco to take its pro- gressive ideas of social and economic equality and turn them into policy and its time to end this massive pay gap that is polarizing our city.