|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Silicon Valley Wars in SF
|From owner-hangout-outgoing-at-mrbrklyn.com Wed Mar 19 20:51:54 2014
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Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2014 20:52:36 -0400
From: Ruben Safir
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Subject: Re: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Silicon Valley Wars in SF
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On 03/19/2014 08:51 PM, Ruben Safir wrote:
*JUDY WOODRUFF: *The national battle over inequality, the rich vs. the
rest of the population, has taken a curious turn in the San Francisco
Bay Area, where buses carrying high-tech workers have become a symbol of
* San Francisco?s last working-class neighborhood gets left behind in
* Will Yahoo! ban on employee telecommuting from home ensure
* Exploring the psychology of wealth, ?pernicious? effects of economic
NewsHour special correspondent Spencer Michels has our story.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *Every weekday morning, between 7:30 and 10:00, dozens
of big, sleek buses roll down Valencia Street in the heart of San
Francisco?s traditionally Latino Mission District and other city
Using bus stops created for city buses, the private coaches pick up a
cargo of workers who for the most part have moved into the city and work
30 or 40 miles south of it at places like Google, Facebook, Apple, eBay
and Yahoo! The free buses, generally referred to as Google Buses, are
one of the perks for high-tech workers in high demand in Silicon Valley.
When they began rolling six or seven years ago, they were generally
praised as an alternative to crowded highways and carbon emissions from
cars. But that?s not the issue, says writer Rebecca Solnit, one of the
first to charge that the buses were more than a way to get to work.
*REBECCA SOLNIT,* Writer*: *They?re unmarked, and with tinted windows,
so you don?t know who?s inside. They?re like a cross between a limousine
and an armored personnel carrier, cruising around the central city.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *Critics say the buses are clogging city bus stops.
And while the tech companies have recently agreed to pay the city a
dollar per bus per stop for their use, the critics say it isn?t enough
to make up for the congestion they cause. So feelings are raw.
The buses have sparked a nasty debate that has found its way onto
YouTube, with the satirical ?Google Bus Song.?
*SPENCER MICHELS: *Solnit and others say the buses are symbols of the
disparity in wealth between the new tech workers and the longtime
working-class residents of neighborhoods like the Mission. And, she
adds, the influx of techies is gentrifying the city.
*REBECCA SOLNIT: *Joe Google moves into the apartment from which Jose
auto mechanic has been evicted, Jose auto mechanic is now going to move
to Vallejo, and have a hellacious commute to the auto body shop in San
Francisco. And no luxury bus with tinted windows and Wi-Fi on board is
going to pull up at his new home in Vallejo to bring him to the office.
So, what you?re really doing is displacing the more vulnerable people.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *The buses have inspired a series of protests that, in
turn, have sparked a lively debate on the merits of the high-tech boom
taking place in the Bay Area, and its effects on residents.
One woman wearing high-tech Google Glass was attacked in a bar after
refusing to take them off. Her glass recorded the incident. She said one
of her assailants told her, ?You guys are killing the city.?
At City Hall, Supervisor Scott Wiener is amazed at the hostility that
some San Franciscans have shown to what he sees as an influx of new jobs
for the area, workers with money to spend, and new development.
*Scott Wiener,* San Francisco Board of Supervisors*: *Most cities would
be thrilled to have an industry come in that has good-paying jobs, with
good benefits, and workers who are actually paid well.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *Some San Franciscans say that gentrification is a
symptom of a healthy economy, not a war on those without enough money.
Adrian Covert is a policy specialist for the Bay Area Council, a
*ADRIAN COVERT,* Bay Area Council*: *The Bay Area is adding jobs because
it?s a good place to do business, and, at the same time, Silicon Valley
has failed to provide enough housing for all its work force. And so you
see the work forces spilling over into the surrounding Bay Area.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *One problem, says Supervisor Wiener, is that cities
have made it too tough to develop new housing.
*SCOTT WIENER: *Average rents are over $3,000 a month. I think it?s very
important that we focus on addressing our structural housing problems,
which we as a city have created over a period of decades by making it
too hard to build housing, and not scapegoat the shuttles for our
*SPENCER MICHELS: *But housing activists say the tech companies are
culpable for changing the nature of the city, resulting in the eviction
of longtime residents to make way for the young and well-paid.
Erin McElroy organizes for the San Francisco Tenants Union, which put
together this rally to halt evictions, which she claims have increased
175 percent in the last year.
*ERIN MCELROY,* San Francisco Tenants Union*: *The real issue is
gentrification and the systemic displacement of longtime residents in
San Francisco, and what?s happening is that people are being displaced
by a particular political economy that?s benefiting from the money that
tech is bringing into the city.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *McElroy says that landlords have found a way around
city-enacted rent control, using a state law that makes it too easy for
landlords to evict low-paying tenants from their apartments.
That, she says, is what is happening to roommates Tom Rapp and Patricia
Kerman, who are being forced out of their rent-controlled three-bedroom
apartment in an old Mission District building, where their rent is less
than $1,000 a month.
*PATRICIA KERMAN,* San Francisco*: *What?s really happening is that
long-term residents are being thrown out on the street like garbage. And
it?s not just me. People who have lived here two, three, four
generations, because they didn?t have the money to buy property, they?re
*ERIN MCELROY: *The city is no longer a place that if you?re poor
working-class, even middle class, that you can afford to live in.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *For some companies in Silicon Valley, the furor over
the buses, and their symbolism of the divide between rich and poor, have
become an embarrassment of sorts, as they pull up to stops near the
high-tech campuses and discharge their computer-carrying cargo of San
Google declined to comment on the bus controversy and what it may
represent, and said that it has discouraged its employees from talking
to the media. The company did issue several statements, including one
that said it certainly didn?t want to inconvenience San Francisco Bay
*SPENCER MICHELS: *Nearly all employees we asked remained mute, except
for one operations worker.
*IVAN VAJVOVIC,* Google*: *Not everyone riding the bus is you know,
rich. I can guarantee you that. Buses are not the problem, right? I
think the jobs are the problem. If people have jobs, if people have
opportunity to make their income, you know, they wouldn?t be focused on
*SPENCER MICHELS: *As if in answer to all the criticism, in late
February, Google announced it was donating $6.8 million over two years
to provide free rides for low -income youth on San Francisco city buses.
The business council?s Covert praised that move and the Google Buses as
*ADRIAN COVERT: *I think they?re being pretty good community players. I
think that Google and other companies have identified a big gap in the
Bay Area?s public transportation service, and are spending hundreds of
millions of dollars to address that gap by providing these buses.
*SPENCER MICHELS: *Meanwhile, state lawmakers from San Francisco have
introduced bills to reduce evictions. And, as the buses roll on, the
city supervisors are debating how to deal with those buses and the
issues they raise.