Menus Subscribe Search

Burgh Diaspora

sf-food-trucks

San Francisco food trucks. (Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

Guerrilla Geographies of Artisanal Toast

• January 30, 2014 • 2:16 PM

San Francisco food trucks. (Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr)

How the affliction for hand-crafted confection gentrifies industrial space in the Bay Area.

For Pacific StandardJohn Gravois wrote the cultural anthropology of artisanal toast. I’m here to map the contemporary urban economic geography. How the affliction for hand-crafted confection gentrifies industrial space in the Bay Area:

While San Francisco’s industrial base has been slowly eroding for decades, the strong uptick in local food industry — everything from producers of boutique goods like coffee and chocolates to corporate caterers — is creating a strong demand for industrial space.

“They live in San Francisco and they want to be able to say they are a San Francisco entity,” said Golubchik. “The challenge is you can’t find food grade space in the city. Every space is 100 percent leased. When you have food-grade space the sky is the limit on rents.”

Rarely does one read a Matthew Yglesias going on about the rent being too damn high for industrial food space. But the impacts are just as far-reaching as techies bidding up the price in the draconian zoned residential areas. All kinds of activities are competing for city turf, which impacts the cost of toast and the wages for service workers.

Land scarcity breeds innovation. While San Francisco bullies buses, street food producers squat in London:

There are over 30 storage units in the yard and they all have their own tale to tell, each a tiny engine of industry, crucial to the running of one business or another. You could find a bicycle workshop or a ‘pound shop’ stockroom, but more than anything you’ll find the building blocks of London’s street food revolution. The movement has grown rapidly in recent years, and as central London has been blanketed in burger trucks and portable barbecue shacks, vendors have looked to establish footholds in less-traditional areas of the city. Few areas are less traditional than the Dalston container yard.

I first came across the place during Street Feast, a roving party night of pork buns, tacos and good times. As a street cook myself, I’ve been on both sides of the party, stoking wood ovens, flipping burgers and packing salt beef into sandwiches, but have often been away from the bare bones of the business. I wanted to take a look behind these heavy steel doors to see how good food comes together in the most unlikely of places. My interest has only grown since discovering that Dalston is living on borrowed time: A planning application is in place for the existing structure to be replaced by an apartment block. This will comprise 79 homes, only 13 of which fall into the category of ‘affordable housing’.

These are the stories of the Dalston street-food vendors, before their steel boxes are replaced with polished glass.

Emphasis added. More housing will displace the livelihoods of many struggling to find enough work in an ever-more expensive global city. Don’t worry. Urbanists assure me the increase in residential supply will fix everything. Embrace density and all that.

Where an urbanite works and how much she makes is just as important (if not more so) as where she lives and the cost of rent. Both sides of the equation are competing for limited land. “When you have food-grade space the sky is the limit on rents.” Where’s the outrage about displaced employment? It is drowned out by the xenophobic rants of tenured residents who think only they have any rights to a neighborhood.

Jim Russell

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


August 27 • 2:00 PM

Do Better Looking People Have Better Personalities Too?

An experiment on users of the dating site OKCupid found that members judge both looks and personality by looks alone.


August 27 • 12:00 PM

Love Can Make You Stronger

A new study links oxytocin, the hormone most commonly associated with social bonding, and the one that your body produces during an orgasm, with muscle regeneration.


August 27 • 11:05 AM

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”


August 27 • 9:47 AM

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.


August 27 • 8:00 AM

A Skeptic Meets a Psychic: When You Can See Into the Future, How Do You Handle Uncertainty?

For all the crystal balls and beaded doorways, some psychics provide a useful, non-paranormal service. The best ones—they give good advice.


August 27 • 6:00 AM

Speaking Eyebrow: Your Face Is Saying More Than You Think

Our involuntary gestures take on different “accents” depending on our cultural background.


August 27 • 4:00 AM

The Politics of Anti-NIMBYism and Addressing Housing Affordability

Respected expert economists like Paul Krugman and Edward Glaeser are confusing readers with their poor grasp of demography.


August 26 • 4:00 PM

Marching in Sync May Increase Aggression

Another danger of militarizing the police: Marching in lock step doesn’t just intimidate opponents. It impacts the mindset of the marchers.


August 26 • 3:03 PM

The Best Reporting on the Federal Push to Militarize Local Police With Riot Gear, Armored Vehicles, and Assault Rifles

A few facts you might have missed about the flow of military equipment and tactics to local law enforcement.


August 26 • 2:00 PM

How the Other 23 Percent Live

Almost one-fourth of all children in the United States are now living in poverty, an increase of three million kids since 2005.


August 26 • 12:00 PM

Why Sports Need Randomness

Noah Davis talks to David Sally, one of the authors of The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong, about how uncertainty affects and enhances the games we watch.


August 26 • 10:00 AM

Honor: The Cause of—and Solution to—All of Society’s Problems

Recent research on honor culture, associated with the American South and characterized by the need to retaliate against any perceived improper conduct, goes way beyond conventional situations involving disputes and aggression.



August 26 • 8:00 AM

The Transformative Effects of Bearing Witness

How witnessing inmate executions affects those who watch, and how having an audience present can also affect capital punishment process and policy.



August 26 • 7:15 AM

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.


August 26 • 6:00 AM

Redesigning Birth Control in the Developing World

How single-use injectable contraceptives could change family planning in Africa.


August 26 • 4:15 AM

How Gay Men Feel About Aging

Coming to terms with growing old can be difficult in the gay community. But middle-aged men are inventing new strategies to cope.


August 25 • 4:00 PM

What to Look for In Dueling Autopsies of Michael Brown

The postmortem by Michael Baden is only the beginning as teams of specialists study the body of an 18-year-old African American killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.


August 25 • 2:00 PM

Thoughts That Can’t Be Thought and Ideas That Can’t Be Formed: The Promise of Smart Drugs

Are we asking the right questions about smart drugs? Marek Kohn looks at what they can do for us—and what they can’t.


August 25 • 12:00 PM

Does Randomness Actually Exist?

Our human minds are incapable of truly answering that question.


August 25 • 10:31 AM

Cesareans Are Still Best for Feet-First Babies

A new study confirms that surgery is the safest way to deliver a breech fetus.


August 25 • 10:00 AM

What Can Hurricanes Teach Us About Socioeconomic Mobility?

Hurricane Katrina wrought havoc on New Orleans but, nine years later, is there a silver lining to be found?


August 25 • 8:00 AM

How Low Voter Turnout Helps Public Employees

To a surprising degree, as voter turnout goes down, public employee compensation goes up.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

How Gay Men Feel About Aging

Coming to terms with growing old can be difficult in the gay community. But middle-aged men are inventing new strategies to cope.

Cesareans Are Still Best for Feet-First Babies

A new study confirms that surgery is the safest way to deliver a breech fetus.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014 fast-food-big-one

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.