When I was working on my SF magazine piece “War of Values” my editors asked me to write how I truly felt about what I described in the article. In the end, they decided that this writing didn’t have a place in the final version of the story. I was attached to this as it is a genuine description of my final reactions. I saved it and now am publishing it here. Those who object, or even those who agree, can respond!
On the internet, in websites about local real estate, those who post comments are gleeful as they watch the Lembi’s fortunes fall. I don’t share that joy. After all my time working on this story, I’m angry. I’m angry for the same reasons that I’m angry about the banks that screwed over millions of homeowners and got bailed out by taxpayer money and are now working their way back into profitability and bonuses while the rest of us continue to feel the consequences of this outrageous excess, this jobless recovery. What the Lembis did affected a huge segment of the city, all the way from a day laborer who didn’t get paid for his work to the swells on Nob Hill. None of the Lembis will every spend a day in jail for the thousands of San Franciscans they frightened, fleeced and drove from their homes in the pursuit of dominating the local real estate market with other people’s money. Yet people comfort themselves that the Lembis are paying a price. This crisis may have brought about something that no one thought was possible: The Fall of the House of Lembi.
I’m not so sure. Walter lives in the Park Lane, for chrissakes, with a closet filled with Wilkes-Bashford suits some of which his pals in real estate bought for him. And he drives to work in his Bentley, appearing as if none of this ever really happened. That’s because in most ways it didn’t happen to them; it happened to San Francisco, a place that to them was not filled with individuals and families struggling to hold on in one of the most expensive cities in the world. To them we were just pieces on the Baccarat table, numbers on the roulette wheel. Walter merely placed a bad bet, but he’ll live to play again.