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

Man, that's rich. Dude, do you ever take your own advice? GuestInCastro is free to think what s/he wants. So "let it go." Don't worry about what GuestInCastro is thinking. S/he is free to think what s/he wants. Understand? "Let it go." What drugs are *you* on that prevents you from detecting your own hypocrisy? "Let it go."

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 3:27 am

Castro and Duboce Triangle merchants have expressed your concern. Without the gay identify there would be no reason for tourists to come here (Castro) to see a place that is a museum of its former self. Bye, bye tourist dollars to Castro and Duboce Triangle businesses and the area. A local gay activist wrote about this topic recently and said that the Castro is no longer that gay. True. I can't see tourists coming here to see tech or str8 people. You can see that at home. What's there to see with tech other than office cubicles and techies staring at screens. You can see that anywhere.

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

So what's the quantitative measurement used to delineate between just "gay" and "that gay?" I'm curious how that's studied.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

I think when he said that the Castro isn't "that gay" anymore, he meant that the population demographics have shifted from, say, 80-90% gay to maybe 50% as more heterosexual couples moved in. Kind of like how the Mission isn't "as Latino anymore".

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

Can you not see people as individuals rather than as mere members of some convenient classification?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:20 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 5:52 am

When there is an industry boom in any city, local government is usually savvy enough to seek improvements in services and resources not only for the industry's employees, but for the people who cook their meals, wash their clothing, clean their homes and offices and care for their children. This industry has been allowed by city officials, feverishly lining their pockets, to push half of its workforce out of the city and make it impossible for them to return to work. Not only is this dooming the Bay Area to a nightmarish commuting future of LA proportions for every income level, they have created their own transit authority that is able to operate non-union and under living wage. Even if you could care-less about the long term tax payers being displaced, you have to admit, with the concessions made on behalf of these companies the residents of this city should at very least have 24 hour BART. It enrages me to hear Wllie Brown tsk-tsk'ng this situation when he's primarily responsible for the short end of the stick that we've been left holding.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:54 am

What else would you expect?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

Wait a sec... "Better jobs come with better perks?" You mean making more money allows me more choices such as means of transportation, place of living, where and what to eat, and where I send my child to school? That's impossible! From what I've read here, I should be able to live where I want, for as little as I feel is correct, be paid what I think my work is worth rather than what the market feels its worth, and let the government force me to bus my child to school across the city in the name of "diversity". The heck you say!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 8:37 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 7:50 am

Why are San Franciscans complacently standing by while City Hall and cronies make our City so completely FOR SALE, guised as generous “gifts” to its residents? Are we going to wait until all our parks, streets, and water front are cobwebs of tech company wires and AT&T box obstacle courses that only techy GPS apps can navigate us through it? When did going to the neighborhood park to hear the birds, smell the flowers, and play with our children away from the nauseating distractions of Wi-Fi tunnel vision become so old fashioned? When did it become routine to stroke the egos of politicians whose grinning faces crowd the pages of newspapers, oops! excuse me − I should say “social media,” seeking to be the first, the fastest to convert yet another precious part of our City because they feel pressured to prove how cool and cutting edge San Francisco is? Must we give in to the fear that there is no time to reflect and truly consider what really makes crowded city living one which can still respect the things that make living here unique − quiet contemplation, allow one’s imagination to fill in blanks that 3-D and smart phones need not replace, and where common sense still applies instead of being told what we need, what we want, what we like. Heavens forbid I would risk being labeled unfashionable − so not San Francisco!

Posted by Andrea on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 12:02 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

You left out that anyone who criticizes the techies---or their tacky, depraved shills/hacks (trolls) who stand for nothing but money and greed ("the ends justify the means") and who live on this site---are instantly accused of "envy" and being "envious" of the techies and their shallow, self-absorbed and self-entitled materialistic thinking (must-have "luxury designer condos" et al.) And being "envious" of tech's corporate welfare from SF.

The Big Envy Lie is being told all over the place (i.e. "envy" of tech shuttles, "envy" of corporate welfare, etc). If one criticizes anything about the wealthy and the techies one is accused of "envy" instead of acknowledged as having principles based in fairness and equality for people instead of septic classism. The Big Envy Lie is the new propaganda.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

When you see a class of people (techies, bankers, whatever) who can afford what you cannot (luxury shuttles, condo's, $65 burgers) and you resent them for that, then you leave yourself wide open to the allegation of envy.

Because otherwise there is no significant difference between the rich and the poor. As the old saying goes - "the rich are different from you and I - they have more money".

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

Sorry, but trolling is just trolling.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

Whenever poor people are thrust up against wealthier people, the less mature of them will resort to cheap identity politics.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

Cheap identity politics? Well you would know all about that, if anyone! You hold the Trademark for cheap identity politics on this site. Some close self-examination is most assuredly in order on your part. Cheap identity politics spoken by the less mature is certainly not limited to any one group as demonstrated by yourself daily on this site to an Ad Nauseam level. Below is an example of what I'm referring to. It's a comment written down the page either by yourself or one of your cheap identity politics techie cult members:

"Blacks have gotten away with using poverty as an excuse for years now. Why shouldn't whites be able to claim excessive wealth as a decisive factor too? Welcome to the end result of the no-responsibility nation. What's good for the goose is good for the gander!"

Are you ever embarrassed by your rank hypocrisy?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 2:31 am

identity politics here and elsewhere. It's ugly and ineffective.

If I never had to read words like "blacks" and "gays" and "tech workers" as part of some absurd over-generalization, I'd be perfectly happy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 7:49 am

I see that some of my comments have been deleted which took quite a while to write. They leave troll shit on here but delete others. My comment was deleted about how there's still a need for a gay mecca in the Castro---the merchants agree---because even though gay people live "everywhere" as we always have gay people cannot live comfortably everywhere and I gave a link to colorlines website regarding hate crimes rising against GLBTQ people. I talked about this heteronormative language that gay guys are using in their personals, as if they're trying to act straight, be like jocks, as if straight is preferred to gay even in their mind. Crazy thinking. I talked about how the techie industry is helping to force GLBTQ people out of the city. That's all, since this will likely be deleted too.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

clear anti-straight bias in them.

You need to stop thinking in terms of identity politics and dividing people into arbitrary classifications. It's really not helpful or constructive.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

LOL.

You don't know why they were deleted because you don't work for the BG and you're not the one who deleted them. So stay out of it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:32 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

"You need to stop thinking in terms of identity politics and dividing people into arbitrary classifications. It's really not helpful or constructive. "

Oh you mean like you do constantly on this site with your class-ism. Your rushing to defend the wealthy and dumping on the poor? It's really not helpful or constructive. Do you ever take your own advice, hypocrite!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

endless desire to engage in class warfare.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

I understood your comments. Your concern is for losing the gay mecca being taken over by straights. Your concern makes perfect sense to me. Straights have the entire world and now they also want this little "gay mecca." They are never satisfied. Thousands of us Queers moved here decades ago some with hardly any money. It was a struggle to move here for some of us. Some of us moved 3,000 miles to get here and left our lives on the East Coast. If we had known this was going to happen here decades later we would have stayed where we were since this place is looking more and more like where I left. It disgusts me. Those that refuse to understand this reveal their real anti-gay agenda. I have relatives who are straight (and not anti-gay) and they don't like that's happening here (straights invading the Castro). They are asking why would they do that? Damned if I know. Some of us/my friends are sick of it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

If I said "gay people disgust me", would that be OK too?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 7:47 am

The rent control addicts hate with a passion that would make the KKK proud !!!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

So why don't you just go back where you came from?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

If you're an SF resident who drives and you've never idled in a Muni stop, you are a god damn liar.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

Now I better understand how that kid got away with murder using "Affluenza" as a defense.

I am appalled that these young people think experience and age is disposable. They think they have all the answers and yet can't see anyone but themselves. Absolutely no empathy or understanding for anyone's perspective but their own.

What started out as helpful to the city overall has gotten too big and is too heavily relying on the city's infrastructure without contributing a dime to it's care and maintenance. My question is…

the tech worker who boarded the bus feeling guilty… did he simply crush his cigarette on the curb for someone else to clean up?

Posted by Molly on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

"I am appalled that these young people think experience and age is disposable. They think they have all the answers and yet can't see anyone but themselves. Absolutely no empathy or understanding for anyone's perspective but their own."

That's talked about in this article:

Why the Tech Industry Needs to Deal With Its Ageism Problem
http://simplicity.laserfiche.com/content/why-tech-industry-needs-deal-it...

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

for years now. Why shouldn't whites be able to claim excessive wealth as a decisive factor too? Welcome to the end result of the no-responsibility nation.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

>>>What started out as helpful to the city overall has gotten too big and is too heavily relying on the city's infrastructure without contributing a dime to it's care and maintenance.<<<

Agreed. It's completely out of control. They are just bumming off the city and contributing little or nothing. The techie companies are receiving millions of dollars from the city in corporate welfare which the corporatists among us love while they hate on and scapegoat anybody else (not connected with a business) as well as hating on welfare for the average person. It raises hypocrisy and class-ism to new levels.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

That's the sole purpose of the city maintaining roads - so that anyone who wants to do use them can do so. That is what roads are for!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 7:45 am

Hey, the people that use the commuter buses ARE citizens in these San Francisco neighborhoods. This is helping out our City. Sure the tech company should chip in for some agreed use. But recognize that the users are local citizens of these neighborhoods. They have some rights to use the bus stop for there daily needs.

PRO-MASS TRANSIT.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 8:11 am

ELLIS ACT PROUDLY !!! San Francisco landlords, you can make San Francisco prosper and drive out the bums and rent control creeps. Sweep the city clean of these loser trash !!!!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

Build more housing in Mountain View. Why should San Francisco be the only community to shoulder the responsibility to fix this problem?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2013 @ 7:56 am

The shortage of housing is throughout the Bay Area and is the direct result of overly strict land use policies and NIMBY'ism.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2013 @ 9:04 am

Rent control started San Francisco decent into a toilet and it will not get better till rent control is finally banned state wide.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

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