Noe Valley Voice May 2001

Noe on the Shaky Economy:What--Us Worry?

By Heidi Anderson

The news is grim. Investors have all but abandoned tech stocks that were once the darlings of Wall Street. The Federal Reserve keeps lowering interest rates to stave off a recession. Dot-coms are disappearing. The media can't seem to keep up with the list of companies announcing huge layoffs. Time to tighten the belt.

You wouldn't know it around Noe Valley. Well, not from what people are telling the Voice.

According to a recent woman-on-the-street survey, a lot of Noe Valley residents are still employed. Many have businesses of their own that are doing fine. Asked if they have changed their spending habits because of the downturn in the economy, most respondents simply shake their heads.

"No," says John, who co-owns a business on Church Street. "I've definitely thought about it, but haven't changed anything yet."

Ed from Glen Park gives the question some thought, then decides, "Actually no. I'm conscious of my spending, but I haven't changed anything yet." Ed says he's self-employed and doesn't do any work for dot-com businesses.

Ryan of Sanchez Street shrugs, "Nope, but I work in a coffee place, so I'm always strapped for cash."

Pam is aware of a need to cut back on spending. "Oh, sure," says the Noe Valley Judo teacher, then she smiles meekly, "at least in my mind I have."

Craig of Burnett Street says he feels immune to the current cruddy economy and sees no reason to become frugal. "I don't work for a dot-com. I'm in pharma-ceuticals."

Katherine, who lives on 24th Street, is blunt about her spending habits. "No, I haven't changed anything. I'm an artist. It's always bad."

"Me? I'm spending more," said Patrick of Day Street. But he's doing some work on his house, so he has an excuse.

But, Just in Case...

Not all of us are that carefree. Some of us have adjusted our spending, in a nod to the shrinking job market and lousy returns on our investments.

"I'm being a little more careful," responds Lisa from Dolores Street when asked how she's dealing with the economic uncertainty. "But I don't think I'll lose my job--I don't work for a dot-com."

Andrew from Elizabeth Street juggles a cup of coffee and a baby, and laughs. "Well, yes, I've changed my spending, but not because of the economy."

David on Chenery Street writes business plans for a living and works for himself. He says, yes, business is down because, well, people have less money for business planning than they used to. But he adds, "Mostly they have the perception that they have less money."

Still, David is cutting down on spending lately.

It's the Electricity, Stupid

A few people are more concerned about the effect PG&E is having on the household budget than anything else. Rather than clipping coupons, they're clicking off the lights.

Chris, a frequent shopper at MikeyTom Market, says her home's utility bills are now lower than they used to be, because of stringent conservation efforts. "Hey, they tell us to conserve, and we know how to do it!" cheers Chris.

Others agree to this cost-cutting measure as part of their new regime. Amy is a college student who lives on Dolores Street. She also works on 24th Street. "We've stopped running any heat at our house."

Carmen echoes these budgetary sentiments, though for less personal reasons. The San Jose Avenue resident says she takes BART to work now more often, uses less electrical lighting in her house, and no longer leaves the TV on for her cat during the day.

"I'm trying to be conservative all around, but for global reasons."

Carmen adds that she is indeed aware of the economy. "But I'm choosing not to worry about it yet."

Rainy Days Are Here for Some

Not all Noe Valleyans are dealing with things in such an abstract way, however. For some, economic reality has come knocking at the door.

Perjol works for a dot-com in the Mission. "Yes," he acknowledges hastily between cell phone conversations, "I'm much more careful now about what I spend."

Isabel and Marcos from 25th Street began making some changes a while ago in anticipation of a slowdown and perhaps out of common sense.

"We started a while ago to get out of credit-card debt. We're self-employed and we definitely think about our budget," says Isabel.

A new Noe neighbor finds herself a bit strapped, too. She and her husband and new baby moved to San Francisco recently when the company her husband works for merged with another one. They still own a home in Seattle and are renting here.

She's now concerned about how the new company, which she says is tech-related, will hold up in this economy.

"We're trying to save as much as possible. Everything feels a little bit on edge for us," she says.

Brett from Castro Street is one of those people we've been reading about in the news. He got his pink slip a few weeks ago, from a tech-related company. While he's aware of the economic slowdown, he has a relaxed attitude.

"I'm actually enjoying having all this time off."

He says he's been checking the Internet for job listings and he's not worried.

Brett also claims he has saved enough money to live on during this unexpected vacation.

Hang in There, Baby!

The mood across Noe Valley is cautious. But not overly so. While most people the Voice interviewed are aware of the latest convulsions on the NASDAQ, few admit they have hunkered down themselves. And those who have been directly affected seem to be keeping it together.

Amy, the student, sums up Noe's handle on things. Asked about her future earnings, she shrugs, "No one's ever really secure, are they?"

Perhaps Amy is studying philosophy.