Tech leaders must engage their critics


EDITORIAL It's time for San Franciscans to have a public conversation about who we are, what we value, and where we're headed. In the increasingly charged and polarized political climate surrounding economic displacement, the rising populist furor needs to be honestly and seriously addressed by this city's major stakeholders.

Whether or not the technology industry that is overheating the city's economy is to blame for the current eviction crisis and hyper-gentrification, it's undeniable that industry and it's leaders need to help solve this problem. They are rolling in money in right now, including tens of millions of dollars in city tax breaks, and they need to offer more than token gestures to help offset their impacts.

As we were finalizing stories for this issue on Dec. 9, the Guardian newsroom was roiled by our rollercoaster coverage of a protest blockade against a Google bus, which has become a symbol for the insulated and out-of-touch nouveau-riche techies in the emerging narrative of two San Franciscos.

Our video of an apparent Google-buser shouting at protesters "if you can't afford it, it's time for you to leave" went viral and burned up the Internet (and our servers) even as we discovered and reported that he was actually a protester doing some impromptu street theater.

But there was a reason why his comments resonated, and it's the same reason why The New York Times and other major media outlets have been doing a series of stories on San Francisco and the problems we're having balancing economic development with economic security, diversity, infrastructure needs, and other urban imperatives.

Rents have increased more than 20 percent this year, the glut of new housing coming online now is mostly unaffordable to current residents, even that new construction has done little to slow real estate speculators from cannibalizing rent-controlled apartments, and the only end in sight to this trend is a bursting of the dot-com bubble, which would cause its own hardships.

We need this city's political leaders to convene a summit meeting on this problem, and Mayor Ed Lee and his neoliberal allies need to bring tech leaders to the table and impress upon them that they must engage with their critics in a meaningful way and be prepared to share some of their wealth with San Franciscans. Not only is the future of the city at stake, so is its present, because the housing justice movement won't be ignored any longer. The good news is that San Francisco has a golden opportunity to test whether democracy can help solve the worst aspects of modern capitalism, offering an example to others if we succeed. But if our political leaders don't create good faith avenues for meaningful reforms, San Francisco may offer a far messier and more contentious lesson.


I guess we're lucky nothing really major happened, huh?

But no, it is not the job of the tech business to fix anything. If you can persuade the voters to tax or regulate them more then good luck to you, although the Twitter experience is in fact the exact opposite i.e. that the city needs tech more than tech needs the city.

A policy predicated on fossilizing the city and subsidizing existing residents over new arrivals who can actually pay their way is neither desirable not sustainable.

Ed Lee has deftly handled and finesses this situation and i do not see SFBG as adding any value here.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 10, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

Unfortunately, companies like Twitter do nothing for the city. They get tax breaks and they import workers form outside of the region to work here. They're not creating any new jobs. On the contrary, they are importing thousands of people to come and compete with long-time residents for rent, simultaneously displacing local jobs (small businesses are closing right and left because rent increases) and local industries (local non-tech industries cannot compete for commercial rents and get priced out of the market).

Tech has ben a net looser for SF. Time for them to go back down to Silicon Valley whence they came.

Posted by Alejandro on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:52 am

but saying that they haven't created any jobs is just laugable on its face.

and kudos to Salesforce, maybe you didn't see it, but they've announced that the copmay will match all charity donations for the homeless, without limit. Maybe SFBG can do one of their hard-hitting pieces on that and other things the tech industry has done for SF

and it is spelled "loser" not "looser"

Posted by guestD on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

provide volunteers as well. I am willng to bet they contribute a lot more than the average progressive who is too busy telling other people what they should do to actually offer any tangible help.

And each new tech job creates several service jobs. Many of those whining here about tech probably would not have a job without tech.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 2:35 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

Fuck the "tech leaders," progressives and liberals must abandon their prejudices that ethnicity, income level or field of work determine an individual's politics and make a salient appeal to enough San Franciscans, new, old, progressive, liberal and other to build a viable electoral coalition.

Anything else is just begging for crumbs from the "tech leaders" who would just as soon clear existing San Franciscans from our city and start over with a more "vibrant" population.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 8:51 am

clearly a tech company CEO who neither lives nor works in SF is responsible for what happens in SF. Nor should he "help" in any way.

But these protests and the corresponding acting out of envy actually turns most SF voters against their cause. Peaceful protests are fine but these extremists do not seem content with that. They want to interfere with the ability of workers to live peacefully in their neighborhood and support their families through their jobs.

Attacking ordinary working people is not the way forward, and will move us backwards.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 9:04 am

for whatever negative impacts his corporation causes on muncipalities regardless of where he may live. These private shuttles are creating externalities that San Francisco residents are having to pay for--slower public transit, road deterioration, rent and real estate hyperinflation.

By your reasoning, the British CEO of BP had no responsibility for the Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because he didn't live in Louisiana.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 10:11 am

"and real estate hyperinflation."

As we all know, there is nothing Marcos hates more than "real estate hyperinflation" in San Francisco!

Posted by racer さ on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 11:44 am

No, if you mean that you cannot afford to live where you think you deserve to live.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

The Google buses are not responsible for Muni on-time problems. That is a BS argument, as is the claim they are degrading the "quality" of the streets. Google is responsible for removing dozens of cars from the road, which should be considered a good thing, as is less demand on public transit. BTW - Levi's has used Muni stops for decades - without complaints - so this is not a new thing.
Google (or any other business) doesn't require their employees live in a particular location. That is the individual's right to choose.

Posted by Richmondman on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

Why is it OK for Levi's but not OK for Google?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

The interwebz "masters of the universe" who are throwing venture capital around the region like confetti and are investing in gentrifying housing to sop up those investments are responsible for the consequences of their actions on others and should be forced by the government to make them whole.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 10:55 am

Successful places are always more expensive. But you cannot blame people for trying to earn a living as best they can.

As a white male tech worker, you have helped push up home prices in the Mission. But I do not believe that you should be arrested or sued for that. (But maybe for your hypocrisy about it)

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

I've lived here for 25 years, thanks, I've gentrified nothing.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 11:26 am

homes in the Mission, you push up RE prices which in turn helps make housing less affordable for the people who were here before you.

And it gentrifies the neighborhood. Didn't you brag a while back that all the homes on your block have been shorn of tenants and are now all condos and TIC's?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

"by our rollercoaster coverage of a protest blockade against a Google bus, which has become a symbol for the insulated and out-of-touch nouveau-riche techies in the emerging narrative of two San Franciscos."

Actually, it has become an international symbol of how gullible the SFBG is...

Posted by racer さ on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 9:07 am

wasting his readers' time with stories that were not fact-checked, SFBG might just have salvaged a shred of credibility here.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 9:34 am

Yeah, we at the Guardian are totally irrelevant and nobody listens to us, right? Although the mayor just did just what we called for in this editorial:

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 9:21 am

He said that you made a rookie error and haven't really copped to it.

Ed Lee talking to business leaders is hardly a new thing. That's his job.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

It's called Mollify Mr. Jones. And you just got taken to the "mental" cleaners. Watch and see how much comes of Uncle Ed's and Uncle Ron's meeting. I am a life long San Franciscan..4 generations and counting...I am a blue collar worker who's job prospects remain bright thanks to all the high income earners that settle in San Francisco. Choosing to be bitter only effects my perspective. If the day comes that I become bitter and unable to live in SF I might have to do something drastic like MOVE. Life is too short to be a hater or to treat the good fortune of others as an I O U for for the less fortunate. I'm certain someone will blast me for my perspective to which I say "oh man you got me that really hurt". Move up? Move On? Just do it in peace i.e. without malice

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

left and I have to say Steven has perpetrated a colossal fail. As is always said of politicians - it's not the sin, it's the cover-up that always gets them. Same here - when Steven should have been a man, stepped up and taken the blame on the chin, he instead wriggled and squirmed and hopped about throwing abuse here and there and everywhere.

Dude, just won up, apologize and move on. You won't win the "war on tech" any more than you won the "war on bankers" or the "war on AirBnb".

Sequential FAIL.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

Where politicians can gather and ponitificate, the usual screamers and complainers can show up and whine and complain, the non-profits can send out those dependent on their largess to hold signs most of them can't read and the Guardian can cover it all while patting itself on the back on the "dialogue" it feels its coverage has spawned. Then in the end there will be a commission composed of "stakeholders" who have very little interest in actually changing anything substantive, whose recommendations will be roundly ignored (except for those which can get a supervisor's name in the paper for a day or two) and then the city will continue on its present path.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

reach out to Tech employees?

Didn't last long, I guess.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

and accomplished nothing - as usual.

Look - the SFBG is hanging on by a thread and looking for any issue it can use to grow readership and revenue. This "outrage" over tech workers may work briefly but, like the last "outrage" over gentrification in the late 90s, gentrification will continue apace and the SFBG's readership will continue to sink with the most likely outcome that it becomes a web-only publication like SFist. It's inevitable - print is becoming obsolete will information continue to grow.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

and the site did get a lot of hits because of its shoddy journalism.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2013 @ 9:21 am

If your read what the SFBG has written about the bogus incident that they published as news they actually seem to take pride in it somehow. Amazing, but it doesn't augur well for any hope of real journalism from the SFBG when they so much pride in publishing a false story.

They are badly in need of some adult supervision.

Posted by Chloe on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

when you have as an imperative the need to take a totally biased view of anything and everything.

Nobody comes here for news or objective, neutral journalism. They come here for progressive "comfort food" - a steady diet of hopelessly biased invective based on the idea of dividing people into classes and then engaging in and encouraging warfare between them.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 4:06 pm this crap. Pardon my language.

There is a lot of benefit in the progressive ideals and they could be communicated cogently and convincingly. Easily.

But when you go around bragging about bogus stories that you publish, claiming that they "resonated" despite there being a fabrication...

The progressive movement deserves better and it could do a LOT better.

Posted by Chloe on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

Bold leadership must proceed from Washington, D.C. to advance monetary fixes to the Federal Reserve Bank to stop $85-billion monthly debt-for-debt swaps that apply increasing pressure to the asset bubble, assisted by some businesses and the Wall Street casino. Otherwise, the Neoliberal shock treatment of Americans will continue. I am trying to visualize the result of an assymetrical crisis to understand how this American social experiment could end and I imagine a wheel barrow load of depreciated U.S. dollars to purchase one loaf of bread that only less than 1% of citizens possess.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Dec. 11, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

Perhaps the Academy of Art should engage the city, since I am sure they have evicted more occupants of affordable housing than any tech wave.

Or is there a double standard at work here? Heaven forbid!

Posted by Richmondman on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

built, but of course that was a public sector project and so SFBG cannot hate on it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

Got some news for you folks. Gentrification has always plagued certain neighbors or people moving to San Francisco for one reason or another. I lived in the city in the late 80's, remember the Fillmore started turning. Gentrification in the Mission started in the mid to late 90's, no Twitter or Google, only little that in end seemed to mostly failed.

Castro changed in the 70's, Van Ness Ave started showing signs of change when Opera Plaza was built. South of Market started with all the condo's back in the 80's, restaurants followed, then UCSF decided to build.

Changes always happen.

Posted by Garrett on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 11:47 am

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