The Worst Silicon Valley Renovation Trends

Five examples that prove money can’t buy taste

Angela Lashbrook

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Courtesy @sf_daily_photo

In 1906, the city of San Francisco saw the destruction of 28,000 buildings, first from the 7.9 earthquake that hit at 5:12 am, and then, more significantly, from the fires that followed. These fires, responsible for 98% of the city’s total damage, essentially razed the burgeoning outlaw oasis to the ground. What arose from the ashes was something both far worse and far better than what its residents, both permanent and passing through, had been working to build before.

Today, San Francisco’s houses face another existential crisis: rich techies.

I’m being hyperbolic, obviously (and what was truly tragic about the 1906 earthquake were the 3,000 lives lost and 225,000 left homeless). But as a former San Franciscan who made the dubious choice of leaving several years ago, it’s been agonizing to witness beautiful old homes, some of which did in fact miraculously survive multiple earthquakes, ensuing fires, and gentrification trend travesties, succumb to the dismal taste of the west’s Nouveau Riche.

Perhaps this wouldn’t feel so bad if California weren’t in the midst of a decades-long, escalating housing crisis. If beautiful old Victorians were being gutted and turned into affordable apartments, or even torn down altogether in favor of housing complexes meant to shelter the city’s many low-income and unhoused residents, it would not be nearly so devastating to see them go.

But this, of course, is not what is happening. Instead, very wealthy people are buying them, stripping them of the interesting details and quirks that made them beautiful, unique, and historic, and replacing them with glass staircases, flat granite fireplaces, and greige floors.

Thanks to the wonderful, inspirational, and agonizing Instagram account @sf_daily_photo, I’ve been able to observe from afar some of these calamitous renovations. Below are a few of the worst, most baffling, hideous trends that for whatever reason are sweeping the city’s glut of millionaires, who are seemingly intent on gobbling up gorgeous old homes and transforming them into luxury airport lounges.

These Horrible Glass Staircase Handrails

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Angela Lashbrook

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.