I'm going out on a limb here and saying that the massive fire in a new apartment building in San Francisco is not unrelated to the past year's increasingly violent struggle between long-term residents and new arrivals from the tech sector. According to local TV station KVTU:
Another Strata resident, 25-year-old Hisham Bajwa, said he could see the fire start to burn outside his window shortly before 5 p.m.An interesting observation; it would be surprising for an accidental conflagration to manifest in two separate points. Now eyewitness reports are famously inaccurate, and the fire could have spread internally before being visible in two external points, but it does make you wonder...
"There were two main points of fire, one on the left and one on the right," Bajwa said. "It got pretty big pretty fast."
You can see the building under construction to the west of the intersection between 4th Street and China Basin Street. The implication of the size of the construction is that it was a new apartments block - opposite it is Strada Apartments which had to be evacuated, and just up the street is Channel Mission Bay Apartments. So why does a huge new apartment building start to burn down? A welding accident? A gas leak igniting? Or something more deliberate?
The Mission District in San Francisco next to where these apartments are located has been Ground Zero for the protests against the influx of tech and biotech workers from Apple, Google, Facebook, Genentech and others. Assaulting Google Glass wearers in bars, blockading shuttle buses or just generally protesting tech nerds has become an increasingly popular sport in central San Francisco. Since it's nearly impossible to increase rents significantly in San Francisco apartments or evict a renter who doesn't want to leave - even if their contract is at an end they can require the landlord to renew it at substantially the same rent and terms - the only way that most landlords can improve their rent income is to invoke the Ellis Act to "go out of business" and sell their properties to another company, which then changes the use of the building (often via a drastic knock-down and rebuild).
The organised protests to date have mostly been focused around the shuttle buses which take the tech workers to Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and other places across the South Bay; they are a very visible and concentrated target. Perhaps now the anti-tech movement is changing tactics: instead of impeding the transport, make building luxury apartments a much more expensive and chancy business. If they cause enough disruption maybe they'll be able to slow the influx of tech money and keep their existing apartments.
The investigation into this (hundred millions of dollars?) fire could be very interesting.
Update: KTVU confirms a $220M+ project with 360 apartments and "Arson investigators were on the scene Tuesday and will return Wednesday morning. " I bet they will.