Bus riding tech workers respond to national spotlight on evictions

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Google bus riders watch a protest blocking their bus.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Evictions are rippling through San Francisco. Tensions are high. Tech workers with gobs of cash are driving up the rental market in what may be the newest tech bubble -- or the city’s new reality. Protesters took to the street earlier this week, blocking a Google bus to draw attention to gentrification, and our video of a union organizer posing as a Google employee shouting down those protesters lit up the Internet

In the wake of that national spotlight on San Francisco’s outrage, the Bay Guardian decided to talk to the bus-riding techies themselves and ask how they felt about the new tech revolution. Are they at fault for displacing long time San Franciscans? What did they make of Monday’s outrage?

We returned to the scene of the protest, 24th and Valencia streets, where workers from Yahoo, Genentech, Google, and others line up at Muni stops to be whisked away in mammoth private buses. Most had hands in their pockets, turning away when asked questions. Others decided to talk, but none would go on the record with their names.

“We’re very aware of the sentiment in the city against us,” one tech worker with grey hair and glasses told us. “But hopefully this (protest) leads to a positive conversation.”

He said that the envy was understandable. Public transit in the city “isn’t the best,” he said, but pointing to any one company to be at fault isn’t productive. 

“Our economy lacks upward mobility, and the haves and have-nots are divided all over the country,” he said, not just in San Francisco. 

But some of the techies themselves are “have nots,” as one tech worker, a middle-aged Java programmer sitting in Muddy Waters cafe, could attest to. As we watched the tech buses ride by, he told the Guardian he’s been out of work for a few months now. He used to work for a computer sketch software company called Balsamiq. 

He’s lived in the city for 22 years. When he first moved into town, he lucked into renting a room for $175 a month. Now his rent is much, much higher, though he wouldn’t say by how much.

This is not the viral video of the staged argument, but from the same day. A protester enters the Google bus, and a bus rider shouts her out.

“I’m sympathetic,” he said, of the discord on rising rents. “But getting rid of tech isn’t the solution.” He pointed to a need for more affordable housing.

A blonde haired Apple employee told us that although he makes more money than the average San Franciscan, he can’t afford to buy a home here. He’s lived in the city three years, and worked at Apple for four. He took a balanced view of the protest, saying the stunt started a national look at inequality.

“It’s keeping (the conversation) at the front and center. You could argue it’s not fair to target one company, but I see both sides,” he said. 

Tech should do its part to pay its fair share, the 19-year cafe owner of Muddy Waters said. Hisham Massarweh said he likes the tech folk, who are great for business. But the transit issue needs to be worked out, he said. He once got a $250 ticket for parking in the same bus stop outside his store that the tech buses park in every day -- ticket and permit free. 

Across the street, Jordan Reznick, a PhD student and teacher at California College of the Arts, said she’s seen many of her friends displaced. “I feel a lot of animosity towards Google and Google workers,” she said, as we sat just behind a line of Google employees waiting for their bus.

“I live in a small place with a family of four,” she told us, as it’s the best she could find in this market.

As she ran off to catch her ride to work, the Guardian approached a man who sat waiting for the same Google bus that was protested earlier in the week. 

“San Francisco doesn’t have its shit together,” he said. The protest was about housing, but San Francisco needs to address that fast. And as for the Google buses, there’s no framework for Google to pay the city, yet. “If they could (pay) they would, going forward I’m sure they will.”

We asked him point blank if he felt guilty watching longtime San Franciscans lose their homes. 

He took a drag of his cigarette, looked me in the eye, and said, “Every day. I love San Francisco with all my heart, and I feel tremendously guilty. Every day.”

As the bus pulled up he hopped on and headed to Mountain View.

Comments

"the tech employees should live close to where they work"

Just to clarify, why are tech workers different from all other workers?

The Bay Bridge is one of the two most heavily trafficked bridges in the United States and just about everyone using it to come into San Francisco has a commute similar to the Google people. What about every East Bay Bart station east of Oakland? Should all of those people move to San Francisco? Sam Trans from Marin?

And if all of those people moved to San Francisco, would it affect rents?

Also, what if two people live as a couple; one works in San Francisco and one in Mountain View? Should they be recognized as a couple anyway? If so, will you allow then to live together?

Lastly what about the tech people who do work in San Francisco? Is it OK with you if they live here?

Thanks.

Posted by Chloe on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

Oakland

Posted by Grant DuPont on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

Aspen

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

Daly City

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 5:22 am

alternative places for people to live who cannot afford SF.

Aspen is not, of course, but does go to show that a town can work well even if it is only affordable to a few.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:27 am

I've done a few jobs in Mountain View.

I can understand why people don't want to live there.

Especially when there's Frisco, just up the road.

Posted by Bryant Mariposa on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:39 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 4:46 am

Could you explain to me what you mean by that? Are they staying up late, blasting loud music, trashing neighborhoods, mugging people, having sex in the alleys, crapping on the sidewalk? Those kinds of things? Cause I don't really see any tech workers doing anything like that.

I see them buying houses, fixing them up, maintaining their lawns, sending their kids to public schools, donating to the PTA, things like that.

All the tech employees that have moved into my neighborhood have been good neighbors, I don't have a problem with any of them at all.

If I was paying rent, I might feel differently, but rents are up at least as much do to a lack of supply as an increase in demand. Idiot "Progressive" policies have caused this housing shortage, not Google shuttle riders.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

"All the tech employees that have moved into my neighborhood have been good neighbors,..."

When areas of the city are listed that techies are moving into or have moved into, Glen Park hasn't been on the list, GLENPARK Daddy. Techies live in Glen Park? Really?

"I see them buying houses, fixing them up, maintaining their lawns, sending their kids to public schools, donating to the PTA, things like that."

From what I've read in credible publications, most techies don't have kids. They are young and single. Are you sure you're not just making the whole thing up in order to "rah, rah" for tech?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

Yes, I am certain that there are tech employees in Glen Park. I am certain there are tech employees in almost every neighborhood in San Francisco.

It is true that Glen Park is more sedate than say Mission Dolores so tends to attract an older crowd this is more settled down. What do you think techies do when they get old enough to have children? Do you think they all move to Aspen?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 9:52 am

It's not one OR the other, both tech workers and tech companies are problematic. The tech workers are choosing to push others out of their homes, they are forcing family owned businesses to close. They seem to think it is ok to use money to barge into a city, bully others, and take over.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

Exactly.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

You can only buy or rent a home that is already vacant.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:25 am

but only for the RIGHT kind of workers - tech workers don't count. To qualify for worker solidarity you must be a union member or a WOC (Worker of Color) or an illegal immigrant. White workers, those with advanced degrees etc.. are suspect on any number of levels and will not be admitted to the Worker Solidarity Club.

Remember - all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than other animals.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

Those who work for tech companies should be called tech employees, not tech workers. There's a difference. There's an employer at the tech company who hired the employees. The employees do not own the company.

The word "worker" is a term used in cooperatives and cooperative work structures where the workers are the owners of their business (i.e. "worker-owned and operated") and there is no employer because all of the workers own the business, like a "mom and pop" operated store. That is the correct usage of the term "worker." So "worker" should not be applied to tech employees or tech companies unless the workers themselves own the tech company (which I don't think is the case with most of them, or any of them).

Also the term should be "undocumented immigrant/migrant worker/unregistered worker" and not the hate "i" word term you used.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:43 pm

"because all of the workers own the business"
Umm... sure then ... right, then according to your definition partners who make millions through wealth transfer schemes at Goldman Sachs are workers...

And also ... ironically... middle class techies who get worthless paper stock options of an unsuccessful startup are... workers..

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 11:44 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:21 am

Some kinds of leftist ideology is not equal others.

The Khmer Rouge type of "worker" resentment and jealousy against the "educated class" (where people who wore glasses aka "smart people" were "removed from society" on the Killing Fields) is not the same kind of leftism as something sane and open to reason.

Essentially many of these anti-techie posts say: "You must be the same as me!" or you should be purged (in the name of Fairness and Rights, no less!).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

search engine:

By Paying Employees To Live Near The Office, Imo Cuts Commutes, Ups Happiness

Excerpt:

"The principal benefits of living near where you work are almost too obvious to mention; the time that would have spent commuting simply goes back to things you love: family, friends, hobbies, sleep. But Imo has found there are secondary benefits, too. A five-mile radius (plus Palo Alto’s climate) makes active commutes, via bike or foot, more likely. Employees find they’re able to pop home during their lunch break to take care of a few quick chores. Those who have dogs are saving on doggy day care or dog-walker fees..."

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

choose how they commute and for how long.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:22 am

How can I get involved and help the protesters? I think the various groups working to preserve the city and communities need to *join forces*, and they need to *spread the word* about how interested people can help out, financially or otherwise. I would at least like to donate money to your cause.

I'm not going to mince words here - I think the tech workers and companies are not good for sf and don't belong, even if they pay for blocking up bus stops, and stop kicking families out of their homes.

I think there are tons of us in the city who support your efforts, but we do not know how to help you!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

How can I get involved and help the protesters? I think the various groups working to preserve the city and communities need to *join forces*, and they need to *spread the word* about how interested people can help out, financially or otherwise. I would at least like to donate money to your cause.

I'm not going to mince words here - I think the tech workers and companies are not good for sf and don't belong, even if they pay for blocking up bus stops, and stop kicking families out of their homes.

I think there are tons of us in the city who support your efforts, but we do not know how to help you!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

Here is the crux of the progressive argument: Some workers belong in San Francisco, others do not. It doesn't matter what they contribute - they are bad and must be expelled.

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than other animals.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

This year it is tech workers.

Next year? Who knows? Frackers, perhaps?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:23 am

Harassing people trying to get to work harms your cause.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:20 am

Here's The Evidence That The Tech Sector Is In A Massive Bubble
Nov. 3, 2013, 8:08 AM

http://www.businessinsider.com/evidence-that-tech-sector-is-in-a-bubble-...

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 3:31 am

The Bay Guardian should do some pieces on how inviting the city was to the various sub groups that have showed up in the past.

For example the the dirty drug hippies that showed up in the late 60's, especially after 68.

1968

the establishment:

"These filthy Haight St. types are ruining the city."

mid 70's

the establishment

"all those gays are ruining the city"

1979

"I hope more of those progressive groups don't commit mass suicide, it makes us look terrible and they are ruining the city... maybe the suicide thing isn't so bad?"

2013

the progressive establishment:

""these tech workers are ruining the city"

Posted by ----- on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

Unless a major tech bubble breaks (see the business insider link down the page), or the Haywood Fault snaps, or BOTH happens, I don't see tech leaving the city any time soon, regardless of how many protests there are. Tech may take a major hit and dive when the Haywood Fault goes off in a major way. I remember what happened with a 6.9 in 1989 - Loma Prieta earthquake...the Financial District was covered in glass. It was a major mess, and the building I was working in on the 7th floor (on landfill) shook violently.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

Adding to that: The glass "luxury designer condos" (one small condo costing in the millions) that tech are supposedly "snapping up" will mostly be in glass chunks and pieces on the sidewalk below the buildings since many of them are cookie-cutter-looking stacked glass boxes one on top of the other. No imagination in the designs whatsoever. Most of them are also sterile-looking and cheaply-built. Where will those tech people live then? It will likely be very windy and cold up in those pretentious "luxury designer condos" with no outside walls thereafter. Whatever nut approved them---connected with the mayor's office?---lives under some illusion that we no longer have earthquakes here.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

the older SF buildings were built. In the 1989 quake it was the old structures that buckled and collapsed. The new stuff stayed up.

I know your envy eats away at you and so you engage in fantasies where tech is a "bubble" and collapses, or these new condo's "collapse".

But the reality is just that are an ageing failure, watching all these younger smarter guys get rich and pass you by, and you are lashing out in the only way you know how trolling a website.

Oh, and I've just caught you trolling on another site too, FYI.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

and he's been grinding it for days on this same story. He also watches corporate shuttles at night and counts the workers coming off them. The guy is a class A freak who's prolly embittered his AS400 skills are out of date and he can no longer get a job.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

That's nearly a copy and paste of what you wrote to that person as "The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug." Abandoned your old screen name, eh? Now using Guest. Okay. Now that we all know.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

Deal with it. Don't you have a corporate shuttle to watch and exiting employees to watch?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

From a casual observation on my part as a San Francisco resident, tech shuttles don't run on weekends. You would know that if you lived here. Your asshole personality is noted. Why so angry consistently?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

"Oh, and I've just caught you trolling on another site too, FYI. "

Care to provide a link or are you just talking out your ass as usual?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

I'm afraid no link can be provided because I'm not on any other site. They made that up, and since they made that up one has to question what else they made up. But I'm only on here. Thanks for asking.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

"Most of them are also sterile-looking and cheaply-built."

That's what my neighbor says who is a very successful San Francisco building contractor. He has watched many of them being built and has told me the same thing. That most of them are cheaply made, including using single-paned windows. He's seen only two condo buildings that he says are well-built, but most are not including no sound insulation so everyone will be hearing everyone else with their paper-thin walls.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

It's nearly impossible to even find single-pane windows for sale anywhere now anyway, excepting those specially made for older historical buildings. You've been caught in yet another lie and this one is particularly hilarious because it's so easily disproved.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

You hold no credibility whatsoever on any topic. So anything you say should be outright dismissed as rank hot air and willful-ignorance.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

Again. There's a an IBM 700 somewhere in need of your assistance now.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

"It's nearly impossible to even find single-pane windows for sale anywhere now anyway"

Really?

search engine: single-pane windows

A major tech search engine located in Mountain View brings up 2,840,000 results about single-pane windows, with many, many places to buy them.

You're on the internet, yet don't believe in ever looking up anything do you? It must be because you think you're omnipotent (that means "all-knowing") when you don't know anything, including how to use a search engine.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

"That most of them are cheaply made, including using single-paned windows."

I was curious about. So I went and looked for myself. Today I looked at the new condo building not yet open at Market & Sánchez on the north side of the street. The windows are in including the ground-floor retail level and they are single-paned windows. Cheap.

I guess that ignorant troll who lives on this site and pretends to know-it-all (no matter what the topic) doesn't thinks that people will go and look at buildings (and windows) to see for themselves what has been installed, and to see that the troll is once again lying (the #1 requirement for being a troll, along with willful-ignorance).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

You know they come pre-packaged, right? They don't install triple-paned glass in three separate stages.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 7:52 am

Alcoholism must be at an all-time high now, especially in the Castro. I was just out for awhile and so were the drunks, again. Jesus! Get some control people. Of course the snarky trolls on here will excuse the drunks in the name of “alcoholi$m is good because it make$ money for people/bar$ and that'$ all that matter$.” I do feel sorry for the “dry” people who hangout at the Castro Country Club. They must feel rather isolated and alone these days. They are former alcoholics who are now completely surrounded by drunks.

I’ve not seen the Castro look like it does these days. I despise what is happening to this city and to the Castro. The Castro is becoming (or has already become) a hetero drinking area for some reason. WTF? Have all the bars closed in the Marina, North Beach, Pacific Heights, Union Street or the other mainly hetero areas? Why are the heteros so attracted to the Castro?

Are there no GLBTQ people in tech? Why do I get the sense that tech is entirely hetero, or techies pretend to be? I see guys who look gay to me (according to my reliable gaydar) walking with a female holding hands and making out at the Muni stops in the Castro. WTF? In the closet still dude? Come on out especially considering you're in San Francisco! Trying to pretend to be something you’re not as many heteros do and then later get a divorce and come crashing out of that closet you’ve kept yourself stuck in for decades and finally declare "I'm gay." One of my close hetero friends came over here and said the same. She asked "what is happening to the Castro? Every time I come over here I'm seeing more and more straight people here holding hands and making out in the Castro. What’s with all these straight people?" I said: Oh you've noticed too, have you? She said, “We (straights) have the entire world and now they want the Castro too?” She's equally as angry about it as I am.

And of course the snarky, anti-gay, neocon trolls will say it’s good that heteros are taking over the Castro because it brings “tolerance" and “diversity” which of course the trolls have never cared about either before.

So have at it sick trolls. Just to let you know I won’t be reading a word you write in response or responding to anything you say because you’re not worth anyone’s time. You're septic corporatist parasites living on a site that you despise. (That's called fucked up in the head).

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

Yeah, I'm seeing some things in the Castro I've never seen there before, or it was very RARE to see and I have to assume it's because of the techies since this tech shit and their corporate welfare from the city (in the $ MILLIONS) is the major change to the city. One thing that comes to mind: Straight people behaving as if they just met and can't wait to go get it on passionately making out at Castro and Market. Why there? It almost seems to be a requirement make-out location for them. ("We straights are going to take back the Castro.") I used to never see that, but these days it's a rather common thing to see at Castro and Market. Damn odd. I read a restaurant reviewer's comment the other night about a restaurant on Market Street near Castro and the reviewer was talking about a straight make-out session that happened near him in the restaurant while he was there. He told them (in his review) that next time it would be easier to get a room at Beck's across the street for an hour rather than do it in the restaurant. That, among other things I've read, told me that other people are noticing this stuff. It's rather in-your-face. Ironically, I remember not that long ago when straights whined about gays being so in-our-face with their sexuality. But it's all right for them (straights), I guess.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 12:35 am

>>>One thing that comes to mind: Straight people behaving as if they just met and can't wait to go get it on passionately making out at Castro and Market. Why there? It almost seems to be a requirement make-out location for them.<<<

Was talking with a friend today who said she doesn't remember where she read it but it's apparently pretty common knowledge that straights go to the Castro to cheat on their spouse or partners because it's the last place the spouse or partner that they're cheating on would think to look for them, if they were suspecting the person of cheating. After thinking about it, that makes sense. That could explain the passionate, all-over-each-other straight make-out scenes at Castro/Market as if they just met...because they did just meet in person for possibly the first time after hooking up online. By looking at them I just assumed they were techies who were cheating on someone.

Then I've also seen the male-female couples in the Castro holding hands as if they are a couple and the guy she's with is discreetly looking at other guys out of the corner of his eye without her knowing he's looking at guys. Oh so that's why they're in the Castro. So he can look at guys while she thinks he's straight and then he'll have news for her later (could be years later). They also look like techies to me. As a group, are techies that insecure with their sexuality?

In the US, as of today we have same-gender marriage legal in 14 states and the District of Columbia and yet some people are staying in the closet and some are going back in the closet. What exactly was the point of working for same-gender marriage if some people were going to go back in the closet or stay there? [roll eyes]

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

You can tell someones sexuality *and* their profession just by looking at them? O-M-F-G! You should get a job with the NSA or something, they could really use your skillz.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

You need to lay off the drugs.

Whatever other people are up to, or whatever you think other people are up to, let it go.

Posted by gust on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 1:10 am

A Classic fly-by/hit-and-run "Attack the Messenger" routine seen countless times on the Internet. It fails to specifically address any of the content of the message it attacks.

This same "Attack the Messenger" tactic is used upon the writers of this site (Steven, Joe, et al) and the work they do. It's a very lame and cowardly tactic and approach most often used by bullying trolls who hide behind their keyboards.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 3:02 am

A certain group is entitled to a certain area, when others come in its bad.

George Wallace progressives strike again.

Posted by gust on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

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