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The Real Faces of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley workers rarely look like men idealized in their folklore. They are sometimes heavier, sometimes older, often female, and often have darker skin. Many have migrated from elsewhere. And most people earn far less than Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook.

This is the place of division.

The region remains one of the most unequal regions in the United States, as valley tech companies have been driving the US economy since the Great Depression.

During the pandemic, four out of ten families in the area with children were uncertain whether they could eat enough on a particular day, according to an analysis by the Silicon Valley Area Studies Institute. Just a few months later, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who recently added “Techno King” to the title, temporarily became the wealthiest man in the world. According to the California Real Estate Agents Association, the median home price in Santa Clara County, home of Apple and Alphabet, is currently $ 1.4 million.

For those who weren’t lucky enough to make a list of millionaires, mid-career engineers, food truck workers, and long-time residents, the valleys are becoming more and more reluctant, with their resilience and I’m testing my determination.

Here are the 12 people who first appeared in our book. View Silicon Valley, Excerpt from this.

Rabbi and Gautami

Among them, Ravi and Gouthami hold multiple degrees in the fields of biotechnology, computer science, chemistry and statistics. After studying in India and working in Wisconsin and Texas in 2013, he landed in the Bay Area and is now working as a stats programmer in the pharmaceutical industry.

They rent a one-bedroom apartment in the Gulf town of Foster City and regularly attend Hindu temples in Sunnyvale, which has been a hub of the Indian community since the early 1990s.

The couple are working hard to get here and they are making a fair amount of money — their starting salary was about $ 90,000 each — they feel the future of Silicon Valley is missing them. I am. For example, their apartment costs about $ 3,000 a month. They could move to cheaper places, but due to heavy traffic, they spent hours commuting every day. They want to stay, but aren’t sure they can save, invest, and start their families. They don’t know what to do next.

Diane

Diane lives in a spacious home in Menlo Park, home of Facebook. Her home is full of beautiful things from her travel life with her now-deceased Chinese businessman and philanthropist husband. The couple moved to the Bay Area when he retired over 30 years ago, and they loved the area — sunshine, sea, large open spaces.

Since then, Diane has been watching the changes in the region. It used to be nice. There was space and there was no traffic. This was an absolutely gorgeous place. Now that the population is very large, buildings are everywhere so that there will be no tomorrow.

“The money that rolls here is incredible,” she continued. “And it’s in the hands of very young people now. They have too much money. No emotions, only materialism.”

Victor

Victor came to Silicon Valley from El Salvador over 25 years ago. He lives in a small white trailer with Mountain View, a few miles from Google’s campus. He once lived in a nearby apartment, but had to leave if the rent was too high.

His trailer is parked in a long line of trailers inhabited by others who have lost their homes. Currently, Victor in his 80s has no electricity or water, but the caretakers of old apartments often sneak in for bathing and washing.

Victor always puts a bottle of medicated ointment in his backpack and knows that if his neighbor twists his ankle or stiffens his neck, he knocks on the door of Victor’s trailer. He prepares a chair for them and massages the painful area until the pain is gone.

Teresa

Teresa works full-time on a food truck. She prepares Mexican food for Silicon Valley customers. Hand-ground corn tortillas, vegan tamales and organic Swiss chard burritos. The truck travels up and down the valley, servicing Tesla headquarters employees, Stanford students, and Whole Foods shoppers in Cupertino.

Teresa lives in an apartment in Redwood City with her four daughters. In the fall of 2017, her parents came from Mexico for the first time in 22 years. The crayon “Bienbenidos Abueros” drawn on the door was announced. Welcome, grandparents.

“Esmuydificil parauno,” she said. It’s really hard.

Constance

As a teacher, Constance is one of the thousands of civil servants in Silicon Valley and can’t afford to live where they serve. For years, she joined commuter firefighters, police officers, and nurses who had been sitting on the highway traffic around San Francisco Bay for hours, commuting from more affordable locations tens of miles away.

In July 2017, Konstance won a lottery location run by Facebook. We provided apartments to 22 teachers in the school district adjacent to the company’s Menlo Park headquarters. Teachers pay 30% of their salary to rent. Facebook will make up for the difference. There, Constance and her two daughters moved within walking distance of the family’s school. Suddenly she was surrounded by something she was missing: time. Time to cook hot meals at home instead of eating in the car, time for my daughter to join the Girl Scouts.

In 2019, Facebook announced that it would provide $ 1 billion in loans, grants and land to build more affordable homes in the region. Of that pledge, $ 25 million will be used to build housing for educators. The 120 apartments include those for the former pilot’s Constance and other teachers as long as they work at a nearby school.

At the time of the announcement, Facebook said the money would be spent over the next decade. Construction of the teacher’s house is not yet complete.

Geraldine

One day, Geraldine received a phone call from a friend saying, “They are occupying our church!” Her friend said. It was in 2015 that Facebook was expanding in the neighborhood of Menlo Park where she lived. Her father-in-law founded a small church here 55 years ago, and church leader Geraldine could not allow it to be demolished. That night, the city council was holding a meeting for the community. “That’s why I went to the meeting,” she said. “I did because I had to write my name on a piece of paper to hear. They called my name, I bravely went there and I spoke.”

Geraldine doesn’t remember exactly what he said, but he stood up and prayed. And finally, the congregation was able to protect the church. “God really did that,” she said. “I had nothing to do with it. It was God.”

Gee and Virginia

In 2016, Gee and Virginia purchased a five-bedroom home in Los Gatos, an expensive town surrounded by coastal hills. The house on the street was just under $ 2 million at the time, with two children each having a bedroom, large enough for parents to visit them from Taiwan.

In total, the couple earns about $ 350,000 a year. This is more than six times the national average for households. Virginia works in the finance department of Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto, and Gee was an early employee of a startup that developed an online auction app.

They wanted to buy nice furniture for their home, but I don’t think they can afford to buy it all at once, between mortgages and childcare costs. Some of their rooms are now vacant. Mr Gee said that Silicon Valley salaries like them sounded like real wealth to the rest of the country, but they didn’t necessarily feel that way here.

John

John lives in East Palo Alto. East Palo Alto is a traditional low-income area separated from the rest of Silicon Valley by Highway 101.

John wanted to go to college by the time he was in the second year of middle school, so he was accepted into a strict private high school for low-income children. He discovered the suitability of computers and was excellent at school and professional internships. But as he progressed his career, he realized that few people looked like him wherever he went.

“I was really in trouble,” he said. “I didn’t know who to talk to, so I knew it was okay for them. I was like,” I need to do something about this. ” “

John is now in his thirties and has returned to East Palo Alto. So he developed a maker space and brought technology-related educational projects to members of the community.

Elfan

“It’s great to live here,” said Elfan, who moved to Mountain View when her husband got a job as an engineer at Google. “But it’s not the place I want to spend my whole life. There are plenty of work opportunities, but it’s all about technology, new technology speeds, new ideas, everything new.” The couple previously lived in Canada after moving from Iran. I was there.

“We didn’t bring these opportunities home in Iran. I know it — I don’t want to complain,” she added. “When I tell people that I live in the Bay Area, they say:’You are very lucky — it must be like heaven! You must be very rich.”

But emotional sacrifices can be heavy. “We are sometimes happy, but very anxious and very stressed. Living costs are very high and competition is fierce, so if you lose your job you have to worry. It’s not that easy. Come here, live in California and become a millionaire. It’s not that simple. “

Elizabeth

Elizabeth studied at Stanford University and works as a security guard for a major tech company in the region. She is also homeless.

Sitting on a panel on this issue at San Jose State University in 2017, she said: (She refused to reveal which company she worked for for fear of retaliation.)

Homeless colleagues sometimes serve meals in cafeterias and clean buildings, but often they are white-collar professionals.

“There can be just one mistake, one financial mistake, and sometimes one medical accident. A slight expiration of insurance can take one, but that can be a lot. But in reality, there are many middle-class people who have fallen into poverty very recently, “she said. “It turns out that their homeless, who should have been a month, two, or three months to recover, will last for years. Remember that we are a lot.

Copyright 2021 The New York Times Company

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