Did the story get it right? Is the tech industry specifically changing Mill Valley? It seems “Mill Valley is changing for the worse” has been the theory du jour in town for years, if not decades. Is the Chronicle onto something new and different this time around?
As we see it, there’s no doubt that Mill Valley faces some huge challenges, namely in the way of traffic, housing affordability and school district enrollment. And we’re really glad the writer spoke to the likes of Mayor Stephanie Moulton-Peters and local business owners Will Hutchinson (Prooflab) and Susan Griffin-Black (EO Products) – they all provided some good context and, in Susan’s case, some Seinfeld-inspired levity.
But we were left feeling a bit underwhelmed by the piece, particularly from a “How is this really news?” perspective. Demographic changes have been occurring in the 94941 for decades – “new money” has been coming here for so long that it’s now long since “old money.” The median single-family home price in Mill Valley in April 2014 was $1.83 million, and it was nearly $1.5 million for the same month 10 years ago. And while traffic has indeed spiked in recent months, the connection of the dots between gridlock and the latest tech boom seem tenuous at best.
We would’ve loved to read a single quote from or an anecdote about a “tech-sector newcomer” who recently moved to town, or at least more than a mention of a “former venture capitalist” who was once a contestant on “ABC’s “Wife Swap.” It would’ve been nice if the premise of the article – the tech industry’s boom specifically changing Mill Valley – was supported by some evidence other than somebody who saw someone flying a consumer drone. Right?
A few other minor points of contention:
- Mickey McGowan closed his Unknown Museum in 1989, having been initially been displaced by Smith & Hawken, the gardening store that was born in Mill Valley and which shut down in 2009. You can’t blame Twitter and Facebook money for the loss – 25 years ago – of a quirky cultural institution.
- Charlie Deal, creator of the toilet-seat guitar, passed away in 2007. Not sure that occurrence can be laid at the feet of the tech industry.
- Ditto with the original Sweetwater, which closed in 2007.
- And what does a guy from Kentfield badly beating someone up while riding his bike through town have to do with Mill Valley?
Hutchinson perhaps said it best: “I think that the tech boom that’s happening in San Francisco sends waves out in every direction, so it’s impossible not to be affected by that.”
The impact of the latest tech boom is being felt virtually everywhere in the Bay Area. Mill Valley is not immune to that, better or worse. The only thing that feels unique about its impact on Mill Valley is that the history of the 94941 is more colorful and interesting than many of its counterparts.
What did you think of the Chronicle story? Tell us in the Comments below.