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"You can't afford it? You can leave!"
December 9, 2013 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Protesters blocked a private Google shuttle in the Mission District of San Francisco today. "In the video, a Google employee who hopped off the bus shouts down Erin McElroy, a protester who also heads the eviction mapping project. 'How long have you lived in this city?' McElroy asked him. He shouted back 'Why don't you go to a city that can afford it? This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave. I'm sorry, get a better job.'" Concern over increases in cost of living in San Francisco are becoming more of a focal point for discussion, as seen in a recent NYT blog post, Dystopia by the Bay.
posted by FuturisticDragon (574 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eh, Google will replace all their expendable employees with self-driving robots in a few years, anyway, making all this a moot point.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


So what's the answer? Prohibiting people from living where they want if they earn too much? Everyone complains about gentrification. How do you do anything about the inevitable?
posted by xmutex at 12:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I used to yell that to every bum in New York City, but they're still here.
posted by monospace at 12:10 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


meh it's only a matter of time before an earthquake flattens the city again.

(see also: self absorbed jerks are everywhere. )
posted by k5.user at 12:12 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shoulda taken an Uber car.
posted by FJT at 12:13 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody loses their shit over not being able to get to work like that unless it's coming from a place of raw, naked fear.
posted by anazgnos at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


If everyone had to drive themselves down to Mountain View (or better yet, take public transit) every day I think a lot of people would reevaluate their priorities and hey we might get some pressure to improve transit too.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


> So what's the answer? Prohibiting people from living where they want if they earn too much?

Rent control is an answer (though not the answer) — i.e., not prohibiting people from living where they want, but letting people who already live in those places stay there more easily.

One of the complaints here (the linked site is down for me) is the use of the Ellis Act as a loophole to evict people who landlords would otherwise not be allowed to evict.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Uhh...so what are the odds that this was staged?
posted by downing street memo at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2013 [28 favorites]


You should have heard this 1940s Mississippi sharecropper and retired R&B record store owner tell me stories yesterday about what San Francisco was like in '66, the days of the old Fillmore neighborhood. It's a shame the place has become so uncool.
posted by steinsaltz at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


We know this is an unstoppable thing, but for those of us who remember when it was a glorious vision to go to San Francisco or New York to pursue our artistic dreams - and some of us did - this is pretty fucking sad.
posted by kozad at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter
In particular, for San Francisco, adopting that reality means one thing above all: It needs to build more buildings. Build taller buildings, sites that house many more people and businesses than they do now. If it accepts its fate as large metropolis, San Francisco could become the next New York, Hong Kong, or Paris — a city that’s dense with people and businesses, and all of the urban services, cultural values and environmental virtues that density accommodates.
posted by melissam at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


Who would bother to stage this? It would be otiose to do so.
posted by thelonius at 12:17 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what's the answer? Prohibiting people from living where they want if they earn too much? Everyone complains about gentrification. How do you do anything about the inevitable?

Some decent protection for renters so that the people who aren't working at Google and supply essential services and do other jobs get to live in the city where they work? Who do they imagine puts out fires, works in the shops, clean the streets, etc? Pixies who fly in from the ether?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:17 PM on December 9, 2013 [60 favorites]


If everyone had to drive themselves down to Mountain View (or better yet, take public transit) every day I think a lot of people would reevaluate their priorities and hey we might get some pressure to improve transit too.

If Mountain View and the other cities in the Valley would allow expansion and development beyond giant homes for rich people, maybe everyone wouldn't want to live in the City? Why is living and working in the same place so hard to figure out?
posted by Arbac at 12:18 PM on December 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


o·ti·ose ˈōSHēˌōs,ˈōtēˌōs adjective
1. serving no practical purpose or result.
posted by goethean at 12:18 PM on December 9, 2013 [58 favorites]


if all of the people who can't afford the new prices leave, then who will clean this guy's office? or serve his food? or work at the entertainment venues? or protect his person and possessions from crime and fire? the argument is just so shortsighted.
posted by nadawi at 12:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Who would bother to stage this? It would be otiose to do so.

Seriously? The Bad Brogrammer Man just happens to utter a phrase that confirms the hell out of everyone's prior beliefs?

If I were an activist I'd definitely stage something like this. It's perfect.
posted by downing street memo at 12:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Rent control is an answer (though not the answer)

Rent control just pushes the unfairness into darker corners where it's hard to see or control legislatively.
posted by yerfatma at 12:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The company doesn't pay San Francisco a dime to use the Muni stops -- fines that private auto drivers pay regularly." They what now?
posted by dabitch at 12:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pixies who fly in from the ether?

In their perfect world? Probably delivery drones and warehouse robots.
posted by xqwzts at 12:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


We can teach the homeless how to code, and then they can be Googlers too, so what exactly is the problem here?

--Silicon Valley problem solving
posted by naju at 12:20 PM on December 9, 2013 [33 favorites]


Land value tax. That's what stops gentrification. Markets don't just happen; we construct them with legal regimes and values.
posted by wuwei at 12:20 PM on December 9, 2013 [28 favorites]


Rent control just pushes the unfairness into darker corners where it's hard to see or control legislatively.

Then what's the unfairness other than the unfairness inherent in all of life? What do you do here to satisfy these protestor's concerns?
posted by xmutex at 12:20 PM on December 9, 2013


A year or so ago when I still considered software jobs I had a recruiter call me about a job in SF. I said I'd only consider if I were able to live on my own (without roommates) as I do in Chicago, and that would require doubling my salary. She never called me back.

At some point it's going to stifle growth in tech, it probably already is. Yes, the high-end experienced programmers can afford it, but what about lower paid but also essential tech jobs? People just starting out, sysadmins, people who do network cabling?
posted by melissam at 12:20 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I feel sorry for that guy. He's a dick who can only hang his hat on where he works and how much money he makes.

Today is the start of the shitty reputation he'll have for the rest of his life.

Also, dude can't even manage his emotions. Trying to be a hero by yelling at protestors for being poor? Wow.

And he's lived in SF for 6 months. Hahahahaha.
posted by discopolo at 12:21 PM on December 9, 2013 [24 favorites]


k5.user: meh it's only a matter of time before an earthquake flattens the city again.

Earthquakes are passé. They are now known as "disruptive seismics in the tectonic paradigm".
posted by dr_dank at 12:21 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've suggested it before, but I think property should be sold by lottery, and priced and taxed by the square foot. If you want a particular property, line up. If you want to sell, you sell into the exchange, and you can't determine who will get the land. You get poor maids and gardeners and their families living next door to the people whose kitchens they clean and gardens they tend. Class-mixing Utopia.

(Yes, it's a fantasy. Let me revel in it for the next few minutes.)
posted by klanawa at 12:21 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Inclusionary zoning? Although that's had somewhat mixed results (no pun intended)
posted by kagredon at 12:22 PM on December 9, 2013


1. serving no practical purpose or result.

since some purple-veined screaming guy will inevitable appear if you block the bus in the first place.
posted by thelonius at 12:22 PM on December 9, 2013


Who do they imagine puts out fires, works in the shops, clean the streets, etc?

That's Taskrabbit, right? I know a guy that does UX for them. They scored a case of Westvleteren for the office last year, pretty awesome.
posted by Sokka shot first at 12:22 PM on December 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


How do you do anything about the inevitable?

First, by realizing that it is not inevitable.

Second, by asking questions about a system that makes it seem "inevitable".

Third, as the second point implies recognition that you are living in a system, looking at other systems, for instance, different governments around the world in which the disparities between rich and poor are less. No country is perfect. But there are systems in which there are solutions that exist for these problems. Imperfect solutions? Yes. Perfection is the enemy of good.

Fourth, in so doing, you will have noticed, interestingly, that those countries with greater equality also happen to be those that are the most demonized by a system that has "inevitable" flare-ups of rich folk telling poor folk they can't live where they were born if they turn out poor. Sometimes demonization passes through derisive humor or merely painting countries as black or white so that you don't question your "privilege" of living in a system with such "inevitabilities". You're told, in essence: Other countries are blacker and whiter. Plus, they're Not Our System (Country), so even allied democracies who copied one anothers' constitutions and fostered one anothers' revolutions, who have their occasional similarities pointed out in rare contradiction to wider media paintings in black and white, well, that can be brushed off with disqualifications of it being "moral equivalence".

Fifth, think for yourself. Your country is indeed different. Other systems cannot, indeed, be copied. But inspiration can be had, and used. Only if you ignore the system telling you just to shrug and accept the inevitable, though.
posted by fraula at 12:22 PM on December 9, 2013 [69 favorites]


Also, dude can't even manage his emotions. Trying to be a hero by yelling at protestors for being poor? Wow.

Also let's talk about the burnout rate for high-powered tech jobs. If he decides he just can't take it, he's probably going to have to leave. In a city with rent that high, there is very little career flexibility.
posted by melissam at 12:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The protestors should be targeting the legislators not the Google employees.
posted by asra at 12:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Disclosure: I made that up, I don't know anyone at Taskrabbit.
posted by Sokka shot first at 12:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"(UPDATE 12:12 PM -- The Guardian amended the headline to reflect our story more accurately, that though this man exited the bus and claimed he was late for work, we have not yet verified his employent (sic) at Google)"
posted by Ardiril at 12:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another reason we need a real crash in house prices. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 12:24 PM on December 9, 2013


I know a bunch of people who are leaving the bay area. They seem to be about half the people I know there. Some of them said it was because of the rent, not sure about the rest.

The bay area is cannibalizing itself this way.
posted by hellojed at 12:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also let's talk about the burnout rate for high-powered tech jobs.

Not everyone has what it takes to be an Engineer. If he can't handle the pressure, he should get a better, less-stressful high paying job.
posted by thelonius at 12:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Protesters blocked a private Google shuttle in the Mission District of San Francisco today. "In the video, a Google employee who hopped off the bus shouts down Erin McElroy, a protester who also heads the eviction mapping project. 'How long have you lived in this city?' McElroy asked him. He shouted back 'Why don't you go to a city that can afford it? This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave. I'm sorry, get a better job.'" Concern over increases in cost of living in San Francisco are becoming more of a focal point for discussion, as seen in a recent NYT blog post, Dystopia by the Bay.

Its one thing to engage one's elected representatives with your strongly held beliefs. But to engage private persons, who you actually know nothing about? That's wrong.

More importantly, it would require a constitutional amendment to legislatively prohibit parties from accepting offers to purchase a home based purely on the purchasers making more than a particular amount of money per year. Its per se unconstitutional. If the government purchased the land, sure you could do it, but a private party? I don't think it would make it past even a 9-0 liberal supreme court.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The protestors should be targeting the legislators not the Google employees.

They probably figured that fuckung with people's commutes was the easiest way to get an angry quote and score publicity, and they hit the jackpot.
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


> So what's the answer? Prohibiting people from living where they want if they earn too much?
Rent control is an answer (though not the answer)


Used to have Rent Control in Boston and Cambridge, and one other city in MA. The "landlords" managed to get a ballot question passed banning rent control state-wide. here, in Massachusetts, which is usually spelled with a capital "D". So now formerly rent controlled apartments in Cambridge easily sell for $400,000 and in Somerville a single family house sells on average for $435,000. Small change compared to silicon valley, but it has effectively eliminated working class home ownership in the metro Boston area.
posted by Gungho at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Creating public / affordable housing is one answer. Some of these folks must work downtown. It seems slightly unfair to make them commute to a job as a cook or whatever.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


those legislators do what the money tells them to do. protesting a private bus using public services seems pretty on point to me.
posted by nadawi at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Apple employees of course live in levitating domes.
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2013


The protestors should be targeting the legislators not the Google employees.

They probably figured that fuckung with people's commutes was the easiest way to get an angry quote and score publicity, and they hit the jackpot.


Looks like we took the trollbait.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was all ready to be angry at the yelling guy but really he seems so frightened by this sort of non-threatening interruption to his day that I can't be too angry.

How did we get started talking about rent prices and gentrification? Are we allowing Mr. Shouty Libertarian to set the agenda? How did he get started about rent, anyway? Who said anything about that?

The issue in the story is that a profitable company is illegally exploiting public infrastructure and thereby getting use of it for free, to boot.

You'd think Mr. Shouty Libertarian, of all people, would be opposed to that.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Nobody loses their shit over not being able to get to work like that unless it's coming from a place of raw, naked fear.

But was it fear of the person confronting them, or fear of losing their job for being late, or fear of realizing they were about to become a news story (and possibly lose their job) over a confrontation that someone else had provoked? So many choices.

Why is living and working in the same place so hard to figure out?

This is a larger question than just San Francisco and Google. I think there's a fairly straightforward answer, though: generally speaking, the places that are most hospitable to having a home are hostile to running a large-scale business, and vice versa. It's a combination of zoning, pollution (back in the day, you REALLY wouldn't want to live close to a factory!) and the chicken and egg problem of building housing and developing resident-friendly infrastructure at the same speed that successful companies rise up (not to mention what's left behind when they fall.)

People have tried to solve this problem, most famously via company towns (Pullman comes to mind) and generally with little success over the long term. Personally, I sympathize with both sides of the coin, and wish there didn't need to be sides at all. I do firmly believe, however, that large-scale public transit at affordable (albeit subsidized) prices would go a long way to making this a smaller problem...but wouldn't address the class problem, which is really what this is all about. Which is to say: if, instead of private buses, Google gave the city money to increase the number of buses running in the public system (and adding routes good for their employees) nobody would be complaining about the buses, but I'm fairly certain a large subset of the people riding the buses now wouldn't take them under that condition.

The class aspect of public transit kind of makes me laugh, though; if you'd grown up in Chicago (where transit is ubiquitous and taken by all levels for the most part) and you'd heard about these private buses, you'd probably just tilt your head like a confused puppy and say "why, when I can just take the [pick your line] line in?" -- which is probably what would happen in the case of Google and San Francisco, if there were an extremely well-developed downtown area with really good public transit options (which there is) and if Google's headquarters were located there (which it isn't.)

My two cents, anyway.
posted by davejay at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


those legislators do what the money tells them to do. protesting a private bus using public services seems pretty on point to me.

Because fuck car pooling.
posted by Artw at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The protestors should be targeting the legislators not the Google employees.

Yes, they should...if they want absolutely nothing to be done.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [32 favorites]


How about Google, Salesforce, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, etc, all start paying their taxes?
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:29 PM on December 9, 2013 [52 favorites]


those legislators do what the money tells them to do. protesting a private bus using public services seems pretty on point to me.

No, they do what the voters say. The problem is that a large proportion of U.S. voters listen to what corporations tell them to do--indeed they actually defend those practices.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:30 PM on December 9, 2013


But to engage private persons, who you actually know nothing about? That's wrong.

People tend to only notice problems when they are inconvenienced. That's why strikes, etc. are also aimed at stopping private persons entering stores and such when the workers are on strike. And having your commute delayed or disrupted for a short period pales behind someone being evicted from their apartments after years of living in the cities with nowhere to go, because they've been priced out of everywhere. You also argue that there's a communal good to the protest because cities benefit from having diverse populations at all social levels.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:31 PM on December 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


How about Google, Salesforce, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, etc, all start paying their taxes?

whoa whoa whoa, lets not get crazy here, why don't we just defund more public health projects and slash food services so they become too tired to protest? We'd save so much money!
posted by The Whelk at 12:32 PM on December 9, 2013 [23 favorites]


since some purple-veined screaming guy will inevitable appear if you block the bus in the first place if you do anything that interrupts the status quo in the United States, or even if you don't sometimes, because that's what living here is like.
posted by davejay at 12:32 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, TwelveTwo , that would be a start. And perhaps pay for the use of those Muni stops. Why doesn't Google pay for that? What magic rule are they using?
posted by dabitch at 12:32 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a Google Engineer who was told that the peasants had no rent money, and who responded: "Let them buy houses."
--Rousseau
posted by kagredon at 12:32 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


But was it fear of the person confronting them, or fear of losing their job for being late, or fear of realizing they were about to become a news story (and possibly lose their job) over a confrontation that someone else had provoked? So many choices.

Someone else didnt provoke the confrontation. Notice that the majority of Googlers didn't get off the bus with their backpacks a-swinging. Only Mr Six Months Shoutypants started screaming.

Most of them managed themselves like adults.
posted by discopolo at 12:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


No, they do what the voters say. The problem is that a large proportion of U.S. voters listen to what corporations tell them to do--indeed they actually defend those practices.

So, really, if they want to be effective, they should target voters. Which, hey, we've come full circle.
posted by kagredon at 12:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


davejay: I work at Google in NYC, and every so often someone brings up the whole "why does Mountain View get transportation but not us?" thing, to which the answer is usually a resounding chorus of "because the subway is better anyway".
posted by Itaxpica at 12:35 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Someone else didnt provoke the confrontation...most of them managed themselves like adults.

From your perspective, and mine, I agree with you 100%. I was thinking from his perspective (i.e. fear of those people, fear of losing his job, fear of being a pariah for a conflict the bus protesters started by being there.) Sorry I wasn't more clear. Absolutely not defending the guy.
posted by davejay at 12:36 PM on December 9, 2013


But to engage private persons, who you actually know nothing about? That's wrong.

People tend to only notice problems when they are inconvenienced. That's why strikes, etc. are also aimed at stopping private persons entering stores and such when the workers are on strike. And having your commute delayed or disrupted for a short period pales behind someone being evicted from their apartments after years of living in the cities with nowhere to go, because they've been priced out of everywhere. You also argue that there's a communal good to the protest because cities benefit from having diverse populations at all social levels.


So then it is OK for Fred Fucking Phelps to picket a private funeral with signs that say hateful things about gays and lesbians? OK for the Klan to yell at black people on the street because they are black?

Fuck no. There is a level of common decency that requires random private individuals to not be targeted by others just because of some perceived characteristic they have. We cannot live together in a society if it means that some jerk can get in my face at any time just to harass me and tell me who God hates or doesn't or that I am beneath them racially.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:36 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I work at Google in NYC, and every so often someone brings up the whole "why does Mountain View get transportation but not us?" thing, to which the answer is usually a resounding chorus of "because the subway is better anyway".

I didn't want to make assumptions and loop NYC into my Chicago tale, so thanks for joining the chorus. You can probably understand why (after more than a decade) the class issues surrounding California public transit (esp. in LA) leaves me confused.
posted by davejay at 12:37 PM on December 9, 2013


xmutex,
Rather than limiting the choice of where people can live, we should make it easier to move to places like NYC and the Bay Area by building more housing. Housing is expensive in both places because of high demand limited supply. We have the technology to increase the supply (building up), we should use it instead of surrendering to NIMBYism.
posted by ChrisLTD at 12:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Gentrification isn't the problem here folks! It's that these people just need to get better jobs! If they don't have a job helmet, that's their problem. They just need to get a job helmet, and then they can squeeze down into a job cannon and fire off into job land, where jobs grow on little jobbies.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [37 favorites]


Personally as a boring soulless techy I would love to live and work in the boring Midwestern suburbs where I grew up and my family lives but all of the tech jobs seem to be consolidating in a few overcrowded cities these days.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Anti-gentrification fingerpointing is the poor man's urban planning.

The Bay Area is saddled with decades' worth of failed urban planning. People are pointing at high rent prices and blaming software engineers, but the high rent prices are just a symptom. Lots of people want the same thing : a pleasant city with a strong economy, lots of fun things to do, affordable rents, and decent public transportation. Problem is, there's only so much of this "good stuff" to go around. Outside of SF, your choices are the suburbs (yuck!) or Oakland (good if you're willing to be a neighborhood pioneer, but for a lot of people, Oakland isn't quite there yet). So we can fight about how we're going to divvy up "the good stuff", but that's going to get ugly, it's already getting ugly, and really nobody wins that fight. (well, other than the super rich, but they win every fight)

Once everybody's done yelling at each other and burning Google Bus piñatas, I hope the conversation shifts to New Urbanism and how to make more of "the good stuff" in the Bay Area. I think it can happen. Improve public transportation in the city and surrounding areas, infill development in the less-dense parts of Oakland (read : lots of Oakland), community programs to improve public safety as well as the lives of working class people, that kind of thing.

People in NYC talk about gentrification, but it's a far more calm, civilized conversation. Part of this is because things changed so quickly in the Bay Area. But it's also because NYC doesn't have the same kind of failed urban planning baggage as the Bay Area. Outside of Manhattan, you have the outer boroughs, you have semi-walkable suburbs that are well-connected to mass transit, you have Jersey City, etc. In other words, you have options. More of "the good stuff" to go around. This isn't to say NYC doesn't have its own problems with income inequality, but I'd argue that perhaps it's not as acute as what we're facing in the Bay Area. I mean, I was just out in NYC visiting friends, and I was astounded by what 350K will buy you there (a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment overlooking Sunset Park) versus what it'll buy you in SF (jack squat). I mean, you know your real estate market is fucked if the NYC real estate market makes yours look sane.

I wonder how much of the Bay Area's ills are due to Oakland and SF being separate cities. Like, imagine what NYC would have been like if Brooklyn had stayed an independent city. I have no idea what that would have been like, but you can look to St. Louis and Baltimore as examples of what happens when metro regions have arbitrary boundary issues. Both cities had their borders frozen early in the cities' development, and as a result, you've got horrible segregation, crime, and poverty. Whole swathes of what should be the city (like, um, the financial district) aren't actually part of the city, and don't have to contribute to its tax base. Not that I think Oakland and SF will ever become part of a larger, multi-borough city, although that seems to have worked out well for NYC.
posted by evil otto at 12:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [36 favorites]


So then it is OK for Fred Fucking Phelps to picket a private funeral with signs that say hateful things about gays and lesbians? OK for the Klan to yell at black people on the street because they are black?

Fuck no. There is a level of common decency that requires random private individuals to not be targeted by others just because of some perceived characteristic they have. We cannot live together in a society if it means that some jerk can get in my face at any time just to harass me and tell me who God hates or doesn't or that I am beneath them racially.


These are very different situations and I suspect you know that. (Is there a term for Godwinning when your comparison is Phelps and the Klan? If not, there should be.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:39 PM on December 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


So then it is OK for Fred Fucking Phelps to picket a private funeral with signs that say hateful things about gays and lesbians? OK for the Klan to yell at black people on the street because they are black?

Not even going to engage the question...just wanted to say that it's an excellent one, and captures the crux of what I see as a derail (but only a derail because it deserves a much larger conversation of its own, as most free speech questions do.)
posted by davejay at 12:39 PM on December 9, 2013


So then it is OK for Fred Fucking Phelps to picket a private funeral with signs that say hateful things about gays and lesbians? OK for the Klan to yell at black people on the street because they are black?

There are reasons most people don't think those examples are ok, but it's not because the targets are private persons.
posted by the jam at 12:40 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Or.. other cities could improve their infrastructure so they are more attractive to companies whose workers want good public transit.

I miss good public transit something awful.
posted by nat at 12:40 PM on December 9, 2013


What wear on the infrastructure are those buses causing exactly? If they weren't available, wouldn't many of those people be driving to work? I'd think they're actually a net gain for the city because they cut down on road wear.

This sounds like it's actually about the corporations existing, not where their buses are stopping. There's a valid point to be made about the structure of capitalism if that is indeed how they feel, but I can't stand disingenuous arguments even when I'm sympathetic to the goal.

These Stalinists need to purge their PR team.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:40 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The advice I received on Oakland is "you will die"... That is some years back but I assume it's still safe from the evils of gentrification.
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


SF Bay Guardian Reporter, Joe Fitz Rodriguez: NEW INFORMATION: "Google" employee shoutout earlier today at bus protest was staged by union organizer.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2013 [42 favorites]


I've only lived in the city for 18 years, but I've had friends here since the 70s, and my take is, in part, that SF has always had this disparity. It has always been attractive to well educated people and housing prices have always reflected this. Sure, prices were lower in earlier years, but SF has in my memory always been a place where young people lived with roommates. SF is a peninsula and is a very small city. It's also beautiful and gracious in many ways and the fact that there are so many interesting people here means that the culture in the city has a lot going for it (particularly wrt reading -- not necessarily so with theatre and popular music tends to come through on Tuesdays as the bands travel between LA and Seattle). Small supply and high demand and the fact that so much of the demand is coming from professionals with high incomes has always kept our rent prices higher than average.

And generally, yeah, a big scary earthquake shakes out a lot of the neophytes.

We've had so many booms and busts here, it's just part of the landscape. Anyone here old enough to remember the Dot Com Boom? The Asian financial crisis (sometimes called the "Asian Flu")? Housing prices in San Francisco fell 30% after the 2008 crisis.
posted by janey47 at 12:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. WOW.
posted by dabitch at 12:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well fuck them forever, if that's the case.
posted by Artw at 12:44 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is not about commuting. Every high payed resident of SF is contributing to this, regardless of where they work. SF keeps handing out sops to attract more and more investment/startups to the city. All of which adds on the imbalance.
posted by asra at 12:45 PM on December 9, 2013



I wonder how much of the Bay Area's ills are due to Oakland and SF being separate cities. Like, imagine what NYC would have been like if Brooklyn had stayed an independent city.


I always thought it was a shame that San Fransisco missed out on the huge land-grab period that Chicago and NYC had.
posted by The Whelk at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Start building 40 story residential towers in the Tenderloin and make sure existing residents get rent stabilized apartments in the new buildings.
posted by humanfont at 12:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


The advice I received on Oakland is "you will die"... That is some years back but I assume it's still safe from the evils of gentrification.

It's 100% true. In fact, even if you don't live in Oakland, you will die.
posted by theodolite at 12:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [51 favorites]


Well fuck them forever, if that's the case.

Actually, it's led to interesting stuff on Twitter. Especially since people like that guy appear to exist in the area.
posted by discopolo at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2013


Trying to be a hero by yelling at protestors for being poor?

Let's be fair, he's yelling at the protesters who are keeping him from being able to get to work, earn a living, and pay for food and shelter. We are talking about stuff pretty far down on Mazlow's hierarchy here -- these are needs that I'm sure the protesters share.

If all of the people who can't afford the new prices leave, then who will clean this guy's office? or serve his food? or work at the entertainment venues? or protect his person and possessions from crime and fire? the argument is just so shortsighted.

If people who live in SF can't get basic services, SF will cease to be as popular of a place to live, people will start leaving, prices will go down, it's supply and demand.

It seems to me that it's the anti-gentrification types who are short (if not backward) sighted -- they are so focused on looking at how things used to be that they are blinded to looking forward to how to achieve the new balance.

On preview -- I'm glad this was staged. What the protesters were doing was shitty, but by being shitty they seemed to have scored a victory by pushing this worker over the edge. I'm glad that real people haven't been shown to lack that kind of restraint, yet.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]




Is public transportation bad there? When I had extended stays in the 90s, it seemed pretty good.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2013


Rent map of San Francisco, just so we're all clear on how brutal it is out there.
posted by naju at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


SF Bay Guardian Reporter, Joe Fitz Rodriguez: NEW INFORMATION: "Google" employee shoutout earlier today at bus protest was staged by union organizer.

Lol. I'm going to keep this in mind every time someone complains about the dastardly conservative echo-sphere.
posted by downing street memo at 12:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Please note this has been outed as fake.
posted by Doug Stewart at 12:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


If people who live in SF can't get basic services, SF will cease to be as popular of a place to live, people will start leaving, prices will go down, it's supply and demand.

I've been waiting for this to happen in Cambridge, MA for 20 years. Still hasn't happened. Won't in my lifetime.
posted by Melismata at 12:52 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is public transportation bad there? When I had extended stays in the 90s, it seemed pretty good.

Buses are pretty good in Seattle, but some of the larger companies still have shuttles. It is a good and practical thing to do.
posted by Artw at 12:52 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


On preview -- I'm glad this was staged. What the protesters were doing was shitty, but by being shitty they seemed to have scored a victory by pushing this worker over the edge. I'm glad that real people haven't been shown to lack that kind of restraint, yet.

Huh? I think the new reports are saying the "worker" was in fact one of the protesters.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:53 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently the "Google employee" has been identified as not-a-Google-employee.

Wait, so they let this guy on the Google Bus, and he was just riding on it? How the heck did that happen?
posted by FJT at 12:53 PM on December 9, 2013


It turns out the fake Googler is actually Max Bell Alper, a local activist who was born to juggler parents in Illinois, according to his biography on Making Change Media.


Haha his backpack and long coat and haircut were right on the mark. He played the part perfectly!

If they give awards for improv activism, this guy wins. Also, juggler parents?! What the what? Brilliant! Just genius!

I'm feeling inspired!
posted by discopolo at 12:54 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been waiting for this to happen in Cambridge, MA for 20 years. Still hasn't happened. Won't in my lifetime.

So it's obviously not that much of a problem (in Cambridge, MA). It probably helps that Cambridge is a suburb in a constellation of suburbs with decent public transit connecting them.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:54 PM on December 9, 2013


Wait, so they let this guy on the Google Bus, and he was just riding on it? How the heck did that happen?l

Clearly the laser defense grid was faulty.
posted by Artw at 12:55 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wait, so they let this guy on the Google Bus, and he was just riding on it? How the heck did that happen?

I don't think he was riding anywhere. Some of the protestors got onto the bus. It's not like there's an armed guard at the door of the bus, or that Googlers were going to rise up Flight 93 style.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


So they faked the arrogant Google Employee? Wow, if so that's a really dumb move. There's enough real tension here you don't need to manufacture any.

Let's enumerate the problems balled up in this protest:
  1. The cost of living in San Francisco is terribly high.
  2. Housing costs in San Francisco are terribly high and people are getting evicted.
  3. Tech company employees are better paid than most other industries.
  4. Many techies work for Google, whose main office is in Mountain View.
  5. Mountain View is a boring place to live if you are a young techie. San Francisco is nice.
  6. Public transportation in the Bay Area is terrible, other than BART.
  7. BART doesn't run down the Peninsula because of 60s NIMBY bullshit.
  8. Even if it were reliable, there's no efficient public transportation route from San Francisco to Mountain View.
  9. Google can afford to give its employees free private busses.
  10. Google Busses are giant lurking monstrosities.
  11. Google Busses briefly park in public bus transit stops.
  12. There is no public bus transit stop on Valencia anymore, the reported site of the protest.
Of all those problems, the ones I think most worth addressing are #1 and #6. I don't know how to control the cost of living in San Francisco, and I'm pretty sure pillorying Google employees isn't the solution. But the problem is destroying the city. As for #6, better public transit would benefit everyone. SF to Mountain View is a tough route to serve, but if you extended BART down the Caltrain right-of-way it'd be a start.
posted by Nelson at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2013 [30 favorites]


On preview -- I'm glad this was staged. What the protesters were doing was shitty, but by being shitty they seemed to have scored a victory by pushing this worker over the edge. I'm glad that real people haven't been shown to lack that kind of restraint, yet.

Huh? I think the new reports are saying the "worker" was in fact one of the protesters.


That was my point, before the reveal of the fakery, it seemed like the bad guys (protesters) had scored a victory in getting one of their enemies (google employees) to lose it on camera.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, so they let this guy on the Google Bus, and he was just riding on it? How the heck did that happen?

He blended! Apparently all you need is to hitch your backpack up to your neck and wear glasses.
posted by discopolo at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rent map of San Francisco, just so we're all clear on how brutal it is out there.

So the average San Franciscan has no savings? Because it looks like rents are way higher in San Francisco, compared to the average household's income, than they are pretty much anywhere on the continent that isn't Manhattan south of Central Park.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:57 PM on December 9, 2013


The Bay Guardian's site is problematic right now. Here's the update on it being a fake.
UPDATE 12:32pm: Various tips have streamed in that this shout-out was staged. Protest organizer Leslie Dreyer talked to us on the phone and verified that this person's identity was Max Bell Alper, a union organizer from Oakland. This person was not a Google employee, and Dreyer was not able to verify if Alper was there in the morning with the group of 20-30 protesters. The Guardian is attempting to contact Alper for comment. Dreyer said she, as an organizer, was unaware that the "performance" had been planned. We are following this as it develops.
Lots of pictures of Max Bell Alper online if you want to make your own visual determination, here's one.
posted by Nelson at 12:58 PM on December 9, 2013


Huh? I think the new reports are saying the "worker" was in fact one of the protesters.

Oh, twist! Bravo!

I do love the arts!
posted by discopolo at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Forget the City. Build a new one. (Previously!)
posted by Apocryphon at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2013


So what's the answer? Prohibiting people from living where they want if they earn too much? Everyone complains about gentrification. How do you do anything about the inevitable?

There is a time-honored solution.

High crime rates against outsiders who try to live in the ghetto.
posted by jamjam at 1:00 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't this a variation on the same story that gets posted to the Blue time and time again?

As I recall, MeFites more knowledgeable than I am about the Bay Area have mentioned that the patchwork of cities and municipalities makes it difficult to plan transit or something. And from what I know about San Jose and the region where the tech companies are located, if I could afford it I would totally want to live downtown.

Instead of watching some dude blow his stack it would be more interesting to hear what local government has to say about the issue of gentrification.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:01 PM on December 9, 2013


Those protest organizers have a great future ahead of them, with these sort of Disruptive shenanigans! Get some angel investors over there stat!
posted by naju at 1:02 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Instead of watching some dude blow his stack it would be more interesting to hear what local government has to say about the issue of gentrification.

But then we wouldn't get to engage in our favorite pastime, narcissism-of-small-differences hatred of other people!
posted by downing street memo at 1:04 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


What wear on the infrastructure are those buses causing exactly? If they weren't available, wouldn't many of those people be driving to work?

If they weren't available, the techies who want to work in Silicon Valley and live in SF would be driving to work down 280 and 101, which would be even more parking lot-like than they are now. This would cause sufficient disruption to encourage SF and the cities/counties on the peninsula to expand their public transit options.

Expansion of public transit by way of express buses, more trains on Caltrain, and more connections to BART would increase service to members of the public who are not tech employees; would encourage newcomers to live places in the city other than those served by the tech buses; and would decrease the class-based segregation we see so often on public transit in this area, thus increasing general public political support for public transit among the middle- and upper-class.

As for the tech buses' use of the Muni stops, that just cheeses me off. The fine for parking--even stopping to drop someone off!--in a bus stop for an average person is $250+. That Google and the other tech buses get to use those stops for free is ridiculous.
posted by suelac at 1:06 PM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


I used to yell that to every bum in New York City

So you're that guy?
posted by mattoxic at 1:07 PM on December 9, 2013


In particular, for San Francisco, adopting that reality means one thing above all: It needs to build more buildings. Build taller buildings, sites that house many more people and businesses than they do now.

Can anybody point to an example of some place/time where housing prices actually decreased when additional supply was built?

I've been able to witness some significant housing supply buildouts in a few areas, and each time my observation has been that the new housing is usually priced somewhat above market rate (after all, it's new, it's often marketed as luxury housing, plus the building costs were in $LAST_YEAR dollars plus financing, vs older housing that had costs in $DECADES_PAST dollars and the financing is mostly paid off).

I'd think this might be more true for land-constrained places like San Francisco, where the only way to increase supply is up, so it's more capital intensive and will *need* to be heavily financed.

Where I've seen housing prices decrease, it doesn't seem to be because of supply increase. It's places like Detroit where demand drops off because the economic activity of the region stagnates, or places where health/property hazards drive people out.
posted by weston at 1:08 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


As for the tech buses' use of the Muni stops, that just cheeses me off. The fine for parking--even stopping to drop someone off!--in a bus stop for an average person is $250+. That Google and the other tech buses get to use those stops for free is ridiculous.

Because it's so much better to put 40 cars on the road, or remove three street parking spaces, instead of allowing this?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:08 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


As for the tech buses' use of the Muni stops, that just cheeses me off. The fine for parking--even stopping to drop someone off!--in a bus stop for an average person is $250+. That Google and the other tech buses get to use those stops for free is ridiculous.

What's ridiculous is the fines and lack of spaces for the public to drop people off without trying to find a god damn place to park in SF, the king of "fuck parking garages, either walk or stay on the god damn peninsula".
posted by Talez at 1:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Because it's so much better to put 40 cars on the road, or remove three street parking spaces, instead of allowing this?

under that rationalization, shouldn't carpoolers just get to park there for a minute to drop someone off? i mean who is it hurting? of course, besides the muni buses who actually need to use the bus stop as a bus stop. if google can't operate their shuttles within the laws that everyone else has to follow than they should come up with another solution (or pay into muni to use their bus stops if that's satisfactory to everyone).
posted by nadawi at 1:11 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because it's so much better to put 40 cars on the road, or remove three street parking spaces, instead of allowing this?

It's better to support expanding public transit, so that everyone can ride the bus, instead of giving employees of a particular company special access to public infrastructure.
posted by suelac at 1:12 PM on December 9, 2013 [34 favorites]


Because it's so much better to put 40 cars on the road, or remove three street parking spaces, instead of allowing this?

Why does it have to be an either/or situation - either let Google run roughshod over the law, or put 40 cars on the road? Why can't Google negotiate a contract with the City, under which they PAY to use the existing stops? Or with a business to set up a stop in their parking lots?

Our local carpooling cooperative has agreements with several shopping centers in town, where participants in that area can park their cars in a designated area and get picked up by their carpool. Everyone pays to participate, the businesses get paid to maintain the lot, and they get a little community goodwill (and business from commuters in need of coffee) besides.
posted by MissySedai at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's better to support expanding public transit, so that everyone can ride the bus, instead of giving employees of a particular company special access to public infrastructure.

That's nice, who is paying for that?
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is no public bus transit stop on Valencia anymore

I misinterpreted the picture, the Google bus was parked on 24th Street, not Valencia. That is a city bus stop for the 48 Quintara and maybe the 12 Folsom.

There's been a back-and-forth on private busses using those stops. Here's something from July saying Muni was looking to make it formally OK. The SF Chronicle's article today notes this plan is under way and the companies will pay for permits to use those stops.
posted by Nelson at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


That Google and the other tech buses get to use those stops for free is ridiculous.

It does call in question the whole libertarian attitude in the Bay Area. Like taxpayers should keep their hands off tech, but tech gets to use all the taxpayer-paid stuff for free. Time to ship 'em all off to Somalia for a three-week taste of dirt roads and warlord-led libertarianism, maybe.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


"White people: you should stay in the suburbs. But only the uncool white people. Not me." - San Francisco activists
posted by downing street memo at 1:18 PM on December 9, 2013 [31 favorites]


The main thing we know from this is they were jealous of all the attention Occupy was getting for doing stupid self-defeating things.
posted by Artw at 1:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's nice, who is paying for that?

Who usually pays for public transit? It's usually a combination of public funding and private funding, through local taxes and special assessments, federal or state grants/funding, and use-fees by private individuals. Sometimes developers are requested to specially fund projects to address the transit issues caused by their development proposals--say, for instance, a big tech company complex that will be a strain on local transportation systems.

These are not unsolveable problems, but they do rely on private industry stepping up to acknowledge the burden they're placing on public infrastructure, and help to solve it for the benefit of the entire population, and not just their own workers. It also depends on politicians having the willpower and spine to require such contributions from private industry, of course (which may be even more of a problem).

God forbid Google or Facebook do anything that might have generally beneficial long-term consequences to the local community...
posted by suelac at 1:22 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's nice, who is paying for that?

Google, assuming they want to continue to use the public infrastructure.

Honestly, Google has a fairly intriguing opportunity here. They could use their money and power to push for an overhaul of a badly broken system, and collect on all of the goodwill that goes with, instead of maintaining the status quo of screw-the-rules-I've-got-money.

Don't be evil. I think Rousseau said that too.
posted by kagredon at 1:22 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why does it have to be an either/or situation - either let Google run roughshod over the law, or put 40 cars on the road? Why can't Google negotiate a contract with the City, under which they PAY to use the existing stops? Or with a business to set up a stop in their parking lots?

What in the world? It's pulling to one side of the road that's specially marked for a bus already. Do they want a nickel for the white paint?
posted by Talez at 1:22 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


tech gets to use all the taxpayer-paid stuff for free the cost of permits that they must purchase from the city.

FTFY.

This isn't some Randian tragedy-of-the-commons bilking of the public here, it seems like a reasonable industry-funded solution to a problem that was caused by the taxpayers in the first place.

I mean, obviously better public transit would be more efficient and provide better service to everyone, but better public transit doesn't seem to be in the cards. And if the private bus schedules are co-ordinated with the public transit schedules such that the private buses aren't delaying the public buses at all (big if -- it would be pretty stupid if they weren't doing this), it's not like private buses cost the city anything.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


But then we wouldn't get to engage in our favorite pastime, narcissism-of-small-differences hatred of other people!

Weren't you the same person who was insinuating that someone's possible past affluence made them not a credible activist?
posted by kagredon at 1:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rather than limiting the choice of where people can live, we should make it easier to move to places like NYC and the Bay Area by building more housing. Housing is expensive in both places because of high demand limited supply.

That may be true of NYC, but I don't think there's any evidence that it's true of SF. As someone noted above, prices there fell 30% in 2008. Housing prices in a bubble are always ascribed to supply and demand, but are always actually generated by delusional people buying and selling from/to other delusional people. (See this excellent article on the bust in Ireland.)
posted by junco at 1:24 PM on December 9, 2013


Well, looks like I was wrong.
posted by thelonius at 1:25 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's pulling to one side of the road that's specially marked for a bus already.

specifically marked for a public bus. you seem to keep missing this part. i don't think those stops should be used for tour buses of extravagant rv'ers either.
posted by nadawi at 1:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


As for the tech buses' use of the Muni stops, that just cheeses me off. The fine for parking--even stopping to drop someone off!--in a bus stop for an average person is $250+. That Google and the other tech buses get to use those stops for free is ridiculous.

I love how this is an angry thing, and not completely fixable in five minutes if Google wanted to just choose non-Muni stops. You know, like all the private school bus drivers do.
posted by corb at 1:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


What in the world? It's pulling to one side of the road that's specially marked for a bus already. Do they want a nickel for the white paint?

It's being pissy for the sake of being pissy because Americas version of "the left" is far more interested in that than solving any form of problem.
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


So then it is OK for Fred Fucking Phelps to picket a private funeral with signs that say hateful things about gays and lesbians? OK for the Klan to yell at black people on the street because they are black?

Fuck no. There is a level of common decency that requires random private individuals to not be targeted by others just because of some perceived characteristic they have. We cannot live together in a society if it means that some jerk can get in my face at any time just to harass me and tell me who God hates or doesn't or that I am beneath them racially.

These are very different situations and I suspect you know that. (Is there a term for Godwinning when your comparison is Phelps and the Klan? If not, there should be.)


What, exactly, makes them different? The fact that you don't like the Klan or Phelps? So they don't get free speech and someone you agree with does?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Locals here in Oakland talk about making up t-shirts that read "Oakland is scarier than you imagine and you should stay far, far away" and "Oakland: Don't move here." We're not kidding. We've seen what happened to SF.

Two words, techies: Apple Picking. Hell, you don't have to be eyes-down into your screen to signal "VIABLE TARGET"; a backpack is enough to get you jacked in these parts. Because they hold laptops and iPads and all manner of expensive, portable electronics that are a short BART ride from Market St in SF, where they can be turned for a quick profit.

You wanna see things go sideways, run one of those Tech shuttle buses through East O. Predators like it when their dinner bunches up conveniently.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


when private citizens are fined for doing something that a corporation is given free reign to do, when those private citizens are paying their taxes and the corporations aren't really, it's not really hard to figure out why some people might get pissed off about that.
posted by nadawi at 1:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


Yes I will keep in mind how I'm an evil privatizer when I get on my campus shuttle bus tonight. It picks me up on the publicly-funded sidewalk!!!! Jesus.
posted by downing street memo at 1:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


specifically marked for a public bus. you seem to keep missing this part. i don't think those stops should be used for tour buses of extravagant rv'ers either.

I didn't realise that a private bus stopping at a convenient loading and unloading point for a couple of minutes while nobody else was using it was creating an epidemic in the loss of value for the taxpayer.

Somebody should really monetize parking on residential streets while they're at it. God forbid Fedex and UPS getting all that value of just parking while they have the nerve to deliver private packages.
posted by Talez at 1:31 PM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


There is a time-honored solution.

High crime rates against outsiders who try to live in the ghetto.


That's a time honored power fantasy. Poor people and people of color have far higher crime victimization rates. But hey, tell yourself whatever simple lie makes you feel better about a complicated problem.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 1:33 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Capital and Ideology are, and always have been, more valuable than people. Surprise, surprise.
posted by aramaic at 1:34 PM on December 9, 2013


under that rationalization, shouldn't carpoolers just get to park there for a minute to drop someone off? i mean who is it hurting?

Which every driver in the city does with regularity, when they aren't just double-parking in the middle of the street for five minutes to go order take-out or deliver packages, even when there's a perfectly good enormous loading zone directly next to their truck (I'm looking at you Mr. Asshat UPS man on Bush St. Friday; I know your job is crazy busy this month, but seriously??). While I'm sure it does happen sometimes, people by and large don't get tickets in this town for stopping an attended vehicle that is actively loading/unloading passengers in a bus stop.

The pile of tickets that Google, Facebook, Apple, etc... would get (really, their transportation contractors) if enforcement were stepped up would still be pocket change that such companies would happily pay as part of the cost of doing business, just like how FedEx and UPS price parking tickets into their model. When you're bussing your employees into work, providing three meals a day, on-site laundry, etc..., a few parking tickets isn't a substantial addition.

And what good would the money do? Muni buses would still encounter the same situations they do now, people who can't afford their rents would still be unable to afford their rents, and Googlers would still ride their buses to work. If these really hard problems about livability and equality could actually be solved, or even just perceptibly dented, by a couple of the most valuable companies on the planet scrounging up, say, $250K/year from their collective couch cushions to hand to the City of SF, don't you think it would have long since been done?
posted by zachlipton at 1:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, what does SF charge the tech companies to use the bus stops? If it's nothing, or if it isn't particularly high, that should change. They're using a publicly funded resource, they should at least be paying MUNI something substantial for that.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 1:35 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


when private citizens are fined for doing something that a corporation is given free reign to do, when those private citizens are paying their taxes and the corporations aren't really, it's not really hard to figure out why some people might get pissed off about that.

There are some pretty pragmatic benefits to encourage people to live downtown.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:36 PM on December 9, 2013


Also, what does SF charge the tech companies to use the bus stops? If it's nothing, or if it isn't particularly high, that should change. They're using a publicly funded resource, they should at least be paying MUNI something substantial for that.

For... Reducing the load on roads amf public transportation?
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Locals here in Oakland talk about making up t-shirts that read "Oakland is scarier than you imagine and you should stay far, far away" and "Oakland: Don't move here." We're not kidding. We've seen what happened to SF.

I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that what happened in SF will happen in Oakland. Don't get me wrong; parts of Oakland will get more expensive (this is already happening). However, vast swathes of Oakland are ultra-low-density residential or decaying industrial. There's lots of room for everybody in Oakland if we're willing to consider infill development. Infill development would also make public transportation in those areas more viable, since more people could be served with fewer buses.

There was a time when Williamsburg, Brooklyn was, like, cars-on-fire dangerous. That was fewer than two decades ago. Now it's practically Park Slope, what with the stroller moms and Kent St. and all that. Don't count on your "crime premium" keeping the yuppies away.
posted by evil otto at 1:39 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are some pretty pragmatic benefits to encourage people to live downtown.

Pragmatism? If people knew the meaning of that word we wouldn't be having this whole ridiculous conversation in the first place.
posted by Talez at 1:40 PM on December 9, 2013


He blended! Apparently all you need is to hitch your backpack up to your neck and wear glasses.

Dude looked, dressed, and acted more like a Google employee than most Google employees. Great impersonation.
posted by 3.2.3 at 1:41 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The pile of tickets that Google, Facebook, Apple, etc... would get (really, their transportation contractors) if enforcement were stepped up would still be pocket change that such companies would happily pay as part of the cost of doing business, just like how FedEx and UPS price parking tickets into their model. When you're bussing your employees into work, providing three meals a day, on-site laundry, etc..., a few parking tickets isn't a substantial addition.

Well, then charge them that. Let them eat it as the cost of doing business. I mean, no one's calling for Sergey Brin's left kidney, I just don't see why Google deserves to catch a break on the cost of doing business in the city.
posted by kagredon at 1:41 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Those protesters sure are a bunch of douches.
posted by jpe at 1:44 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can anybody point to an example of some place/time where housing prices actually decreased when additional supply was built?

I would venture a guess that most often increased supply merely keeps prices from rising too fast in a given area. However, there is plenty of evidence, including this case in Australia, of increased housing reducing prices.
posted by ChrisLTD at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


However, vast swathes of Oakland is ultra low-density residential. There's lots of room for everybody in Oakland if we're willing to consider infill development. Hell, lots of Oakland looks downright suburban. Infill development would also make public transportation in those areas more viable, since more people could be served with fewer buses.

OK, but if this is so easy, then why isn't it already happening in San Francisco? If there's such a demand for housing that prices are going through the roof, why isn't anyone capitalizing on that and developing more dense housing on the Peninsula? Seriously - is it that developers lack/can't get funding? Pure NIMBYism/cargo-cultism from San Franciscans who somehow think that their existing building stock is what makes the city what it is rather than the demographic mix? Outdated zoning regs that no one wants to change despite the obvious, growing problems?

Google obviously started the bus system because the public transit options weren't going to cut it. I wonder if at some point they decide that the existing housing options aren't going to cut it either and get into land development, putting up New-Urbanist downtowns wherever they can. Not necessarily as company towns, but just investments in the housing market.
posted by LionIndex at 1:46 PM on December 9, 2013


I love how this is an angry thing, and not completely fixable in five minutes if Google wanted to just choose non-Muni stops. You know, like all the private school bus drivers do.

Except private school bus drivers either have to obey the same loading/unloading laws that everyone else does (I.e. No blocking public transit) if they use private roads, or else have to work out an arrangement (usually involving money) with the owners of private parking lots or with homeowner's associations on residential roads, etc. They don't just get to park wherever they damn well feel like.

I mean, I thought you of all people would be for paying fair market value when you're using other people's resources.
posted by kagredon at 1:47 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]




Or with a business to set up a stop in their parking lots?

Ahahahhahaha that's a good one! Most businesses here don't have parking lots. Most of the ones that do don't have ones big enough to fit a full-sized bus, let alone allow a bus to safely drive through it while having any space for the parking of cards. A bus stopped at a curbside bus stop is less individually disruptive than a bus blocking everybody in an entire parking lot. A handful of SF businesses have lots that could potentially fit the bill (basically a few supermarkets), but you'd wind up with a handful of shuttle stops miles away from where employees live; entire popular neighborhoods would lack stops. What parking lot would you use in the Mission? Even the 16th St. Safeway, which is all the way down at Potrero, can't handle vehicles taller than 8'2".
posted by zachlipton at 1:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's being pissy for the sake of being pissy because Americas version of "the left" is far more interested in that than solving any form of problem.

In the first 35 or so comments of this thread, I count 1), 2), 3), 4), 5), 6), 7) offers of potential solutions or approaches to deal with the problem. It's indeed a shame that the thread has devolved into a pissing match, but let's not pretend that people aren't interested in solving the problem.
posted by fatehunter at 1:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


The facebooks tells me the protest in the OP and Heart of the City are connected. From the site:
Today we are the San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency, and we're stopping the injustice in the city's two-tier system where the public pays and the private corporations gain.

Rents and evictions are on the rise. Tech-fueled real estate speculation is the culprit. We say: Enough is Enough! The local government, especially Mayor Lee, has given tech the keys to shape the city to their fancy without the public having any say in it. We say, lets take them back!

Tech Industry private shuttles use over 200 SF MUNI stops approximately 7,100 times in total each day (M-F) without permission or contributing funds to support this public infrastructure. No vehicles other than MUNI are allowed to use these stops. If the tech industry was fined for each illegal use for the past 2 years, they would owe an estimated $1 billion to the city.

We demand they PAY UP or GET OUT!
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


As for the tech buses' use of the Muni stops, that just cheeses me off. The fine for parking--even stopping to drop someone off!--in a bus stop for an average person is $250+. That Google and the other tech buses get to use those stops for free is ridiculous.

It's not ridiculous. They're using the space as intended - a place for traffic-reducing buses to pull over, pick people up, and leave.

That $250 is a fine, not a rental fee for the space that Google is somehow worming their way out of.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or with a business to set up a stop in their parking lots?

Apparently Seattle is importing this stupid idea from San Francisco, and of course doing it in the worst part of the city for parking.
posted by Artw at 1:54 PM on December 9, 2013


OK, but if this is so easy, then why isn't it already happening in San Francisco?

That's a really good question, and, as you've hinted, the answers are manifold. The real problem is that SF and Oakland are different cities, and Oakland doesn't get any benefit from SF's tax base. So all that money that could go to improving transit or services or whatever doesn't make it across the bay.

This is really just my best guess as to what's going to happen (barring another tech bust, which of course is always possible). Lots of not-really-great parts of Oakland are sparsely developed. If you wanted to put up high-rises there, you may not get as much opposition as you would elsewhere. Depending on the area, you may not even be forcing a whole lot of people out.
posted by evil otto at 1:55 PM on December 9, 2013


I love the parklets in SF. They contribute so much to the culture of the street and make walking and hanging out in public so much nicer.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:56 PM on December 9, 2013


Can anybody point to an example of some place/time where housing prices actually decreased when additional supply was built?

Lad Vegas, Phoenix and the Sacramento area are recent examples.
posted by humanfont at 1:57 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The facebooks tells me the protest in the OP and Heart of the City are connected. From the site:

Sorry, people concerned about rent, Firesticks McYurt and his nonexistent problem takes priority!
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


SF should charge a big permit fee for these busses and use that money directly for improved public transportation. Seems like a no-brainer. Enough tech employees are going to want to live in SF over points south that the companies will pay for it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently Seattle is importing this stupid idea from San Francisco, amd of course doing it in the worst part of the city for parking.

Good. Now they should introduce congestion pricing and toll the interstates and bridges. Seattle's traffic is ridiculous.
posted by junco at 2:00 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


So then it is OK for Fred Fucking Phelps to picket a private funeral with signs that say hateful things about gays and lesbians? OK for the Klan to yell at black people on the street because they are black?

The Supreme Court ruled that it's okay for Phelps to protest funerals, based on the first amendment. The Klan is also allowed to hold rallies and protests in publics, though I think they would be arrested if they threatened random individuals on the street.
posted by FJT at 2:00 PM on December 9, 2013


Gentrification is partly the massive issue it is because we all really like it in the micro and rail against it in the macro. We all love it when neighbors move in and redo their old houses and send our property values up. We al love it when another nasty old building is razed and a sweet little cafe bistro comes in and a coffee shop next door. And then more of that, for the homeowners increasing the property values, and for renters just making a hell of a nice neighborhood.

Then, we see stories of displaced people and we get angry.

It's a bind. It's a real bind.
posted by xmutex at 2:01 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Now they should introduce congestion pricing and toll the interstates and bridges

I'll bet that congestion pricing around the stadiums alone would easily pay for the planned Metro bus cuts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 PM on December 9, 2013


Can't stop laughing at "Firesticks McYurt"
posted by downing street memo at 2:06 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I vote for a pox on both their houses.

Two groups of people are yelling at each other that they don't belong in a particular city. Neither deserves to have their say respected in that regard.

San Franciscans need to figure out how to increase the supply of housing in the city and how to improve public transit around the Bay Area so that moving outside the city isn't that big a deal. But neither money nor prior residence gives you some kind of right to demand that you get to live there and some other dude has to live elsewhere. That's just repugnant.
posted by ocschwar at 2:06 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Actually, another option that I think would make a reasonable alternative--I doubt that every seat on the Google shuttle is occupied the whole of every ride. If, indeed, the rationale for waiving the fines that Google should be incurring is that they are serving the public good by reducing traffic, then Google can sell empty seats (if the shuttle stops are as meticulously tailored as this article indicates, then it'd likely take the form of "1 seat from this stop to this stop", no getting on or off at will) to the general public. Google, of course, is still allowed to subsidize their employees' transit cost. Shit, they could even make a modest profit, if they're selling seats that would otherwise go empty. Essentially, in that case they are acting as a particularly specialized contractor for the public transit system, and no wholesale co-option of public goods for private purposes has occurred. Everybody wins!
posted by kagredon at 2:07 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there such a thing as a world class city that has 'affordable' housing? Seriously. NYC. Chicago. SF. Hong Kong. London. Tokyo. Paris. I don't know, I could keep going, is there anyone that's figured out how to stop the inevitable conclusion of basic supply and demand?
posted by xmutex at 2:08 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a time when Williamsburg, Brooklyn was, like, cars-on-fire dangerous. That was fewer than two decades ago. Now it's practically Park Slope, what with the stroller moms and Kent St. and all that. Don't count on your "crime premium" keeping the yuppies away.

Three letters: OPD.

The "crime premium" has an associated "understaffed, dysfunctional-bordering-on-rogue-agency Police force" codicil in the details.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]



Is there such a thing as a world class city that has 'affordable' housing? Seriously. NYC. Chicago. SF. Hong Kong. London. Tokyo. Paris. I don't know, I could keep going, is there anyone that's figured out how to stop the inevitable conclusion of basic supply and demand?


Something you should know about the 1%: they're 1% of the population.

Now when you're a world class city, the real thing, you're drawing the 1% of all 7 billion of us, and that could mean every last bed renting for thousands a month. So London, Paris, and NYC are in a bind. But otehr cities are more than capable of saturating the housing demand for all of the wealthy people wanting to live there (and generating employment in the process.) Boston proper is just about impossible to find affordable housing in nowadays, but the surrounding cities are doing fine.
posted by ocschwar at 2:12 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can anybody point to an example of some place/time where housing prices actually decreased when additional supply was built?

New York City has consistently subsidized new market rate housing construction in places where it has the potential to ease the burden of supply shortages. They use property tax holidays, excusing developers of rentals from tax for a set number of years after construction.

NYC housing prices haven't gone down, but they haven't gone up the way SF prices have. Comparable apartments in comparable neighborhoods in SF cost more than they do in NYC.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:13 PM on December 9, 2013


Do they want a nickel for the white paint?

Jane Citizen who pulls in briefly to drop her Mama off for a doctor's appointment gets slapped with a $250 fine for improperly using the infrastructure she's already paying for. Why should Google be exempt?

Muni bus stops are for Muni busses. Google is not above the law.
posted by MissySedai at 2:13 PM on December 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Is there such a thing as a world class city that has 'affordable' housing? Seriously. NYC. Chicago. SF. Hong Kong. London. Tokyo. Paris. I don't know, I could keep going, is there anyone that's figured out how to stop the inevitable conclusion of basic supply and demand?

Well Chicago has pretty affordable housing.
posted by Carillon at 2:14 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm in a weird position on this whole issue as one of the rare folks in town who is both a born-and-raised SF native and a SF software developer. All the way around, this issue sucks. I think we need to be dealing with it instead of pretending these problems aren't happening, but we have to deal with them sensibly and focus on the stuff that actually matters, things like housing, the cost of living, our school system, transportation, density and neighborhood characters, what kind of city do we want to have, etc... Yelling at corporate shuttle passengers at bus stops is stupid noise-making that detracts from these very real issues. We're not going to get anywhere with a war between tech and non-tech. We live in a city where we're in close quarters and interdependent on each other: the garbageman has a job because he has tech workers' garbage to collect, and the tech worker has a livable home because he has the garbageman to haul away the stinky contents of his color-coded bins.

Of course, I can see this all solving itself in a few years when more of this generation of tech workers grow up a bit and have more kids/their kids reach school age. Families with children flee the city in large numbers. Housing costs are part of that to be sure, but education is a huge issue. If SF Unified doesn't satisfy your needs, there are precious few private school seats, and tuition can easily run $24K and up. Take that money plus the price of housing, and living out in the burbs with a larger home and a fairly good public school doesn't seem quite so terrible anymore. Something's going to have to give pretty soon, and it's either going to require a massive and incredibly rapid reform of the education system or a decent number of people leaving the city. Now, I can't say whether there will be a whole new generation coming to take their places or whether The Bubble will have burst again by then, but something will have to happen soon enough.
posted by zachlipton at 2:15 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Jane Citizen who pulls in briefly to drop her Mama off for a doctor's appointment gets slapped with a $250 fine for improperly using the infrastructure she's already paying for. Why should Google be exempt?

As if that actually happens. Have you EVER seen the SFMTA or police ticket somebody for parking in a Muni stop? Of course not.
posted by kdar at 2:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah you may get honked at by a bus, but it's not like there's a lot of ticketing of Jane Citizen actually going on at all.
posted by Carillon at 2:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those bus honks represent billions just left on the floor! BILLIONS!
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Boston proper is just about impossible to find affordable housing in nowadays, but the surrounding cities are doing fine.

Isn't that what's being railed against? The implicit (hell, maybe explicit) suggestion that these protestors in SF move to some surrounding, more affordable (for them) area? Isn't that gentrification?
posted by xmutex at 2:21 PM on December 9, 2013


I should point out that on the Heart of the City page, which you should visit for the lulz, the bit about the billions is bolded.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on December 9, 2013


is there any part of this thread other than lulz that you're actually still here for
posted by kagredon at 2:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't that what's being railed against? The implicit (hell, maybe explicit) suggestion that these protestors in SF move to some surrounding area?

No, this whole thread has been about a different problem description, maybe you should review some of the things people have been saying over and over.
posted by polymodus at 2:25 PM on December 9, 2013


Muni bus stops are for Muni busses. Google is not above the law.

This sounds absolutely bizarre from my view in Boston. Here, corporations and institutions are under explicit pressure to run shuttle buses to reduce the amount of commuting by private car. And yes, these shuttles use MBTA bus stops. That might cause a T bus to wait behind them now and then, but each shuttle represents over a dozen cars that are not being driven, and that's a win for everyone.


Isn't that what's being railed against? The implicit (hell, maybe explicit) suggestion that these protestors in SF move to some surrounding, more affordable (for them) area? Isn't that gentrification?


Well, if nobody's building additional units in SF, then yes, someone's going to have to live elsewhere.

So, isn't anyone building more units in SF proper? WHY ???
posted by ocschwar at 2:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Google using the stops doesn't cost the public anything. Missed fines are not a cost.

Private cars using the stops would cost the transit system in slower service and lost time. Hence the fine to discourage that selfish behaviour.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pruitt-Igoe, please, please make a comment regarding housing so I can say "eponysterical".
posted by LionIndex at 2:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Private cars using the stops would cost the transit system in slower service and lost time. Hence the fine to discourage that selfish behaviour.

The Google buses are privately-owned vehicles doing exactly that.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Artw: "Those bus honks represent billions just left on the floor! BILLIONS!"

I'm glad you find this thread so entertaining but just so you know, there are actually a lot of us who live in SF or the Bay Area who are neither google employees or yurt aficionados, and we have to deal with the very real quality of life issues this protest is an expression of.

In fact I'm kind of annoyed at all the people NOT from SF suggesting this is anything less than a complicated issue without simple answers.
posted by danny the boy at 2:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


The Google buses are privately-owned vehicles doing exactly that.

Except for the scale, the efficiency and tangible benefits from the private buses I guess they're identical.
posted by Talez at 2:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know I'm probably opening myself up to a world of shit by introducing a hypothetical, but let's say that some rando were to buy a bus and start trucking people around in it using the public stops as drop off/pick up points. Would the MTA shrug and say "well, it works out in the long run?" Should they?

(Actually, that would probably be a way more effective protest than this false flag shit.)
posted by kagredon at 2:36 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Google using the stops doesn't cost the public anything. Missed fines are not a cost.

Let's rephrase this: if we encourage private industry to replicate public infrastructure for the private benefit of their employees and profit margins, what's the cost?

The cost is borne by the public infrastructure itself, which with reduced demand provides less service for those who are unable to avail themselves of the privatized options.

Upper-class people sending their kids to private schools remove their political (and financial) support from the public school system, reducing the ability of the public school system to meet the needs of the kids whose families are too poor to send them to private school.

Without support for public infrastructure from the classes who can afford to ignore it, public infrastructure suffers. If only poor people who have no choice ride public transit, then only poor people with no choice will ever ride public transit, there won't be much political benefit to expanding or supporting public transit, and the whole system will suffer.

And, frankly, I don't see how class-based segregation can be considered a good in any civilized society.
posted by suelac at 2:37 PM on December 9, 2013 [35 favorites]


ocschwar: "So, isn't anyone building more units in SF proper? WHY ???"

Because it's really really hard to get anything built in SF, especially anything with volume. We are pathologically terrified of turning into... something else, some other kind of city. NYC gets brought up a lot. This is built into our zoning laws, and our political system. During the last election, there was an item on the ballot that let the citizens directly decide whether a particular waterfront development would be able to go ahead as planned. The people voted against it, most of my friends voted against it, because of a very frustrating combination of issues.

You literally can't build up higher than a few stories in the majority of the city.

Many people are convinced changing that would change the "character" of the city. Some of these people are homeowners or have been here for what they would consider a long time, and simply put, they got theirs so fuck everyone else. Others are really frustrated because they can't afford to rent or buy, but all they see is large "luxury" condos being built that don't apply to them--so they vote against further development.
posted by danny the boy at 2:37 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Taxis use bus stops all the damn time.

Drivers use bus stops to drop off/pick up passengers all the damn time.
posted by aspo at 2:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does it have to be an either/or situation - either let Google run roughshod over the law, or put 40 cars on the road?

It's not an either/or situation, but letting Google stop its bus at a bus stop for free is better than not letting Google stop its bus anywhere, thereby dumping a fleet of cars onto I-280 and, more importantly, San Francisco's already clogged streets. Having Google pay for a permit to share the bus stop would be better, but the idea that Google's bus provides zero benefit to the public is incorrect.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This sounds absolutely bizarre from my view in Boston. Here, corporations and institutions are under explicit pressure to run shuttle buses to reduce the amount of commuting by private car. And yes, these shuttles use MBTA bus stops. That might cause a T bus to wait behind them now and then, but each shuttle represents over a dozen cars that are not being driven, and that's a win for everyone.

You probably care about evil corporate stuff like people having jobs and being able to get to them and think that cities should act towards not against such things.

is there any part of this thread other than lulz that you're actually still here for

Thread starts with an idiot doing an idiot thing for an organization that turns out to be idiots, what am I gonba say? As for the rents, I suspect that Danny the boy is right - a complicated and serious issue with no simple answers, but Firesticks absolutely isn't your friend on this.
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Google buses are privately-owned vehicles doing exactly that.

They're not. The Google buses are a small fleet of vehicles that pick people up, on a schedule, and move on. Not only are there many thousands of times more private cars, they might linger for a longer time, make deliveries, etc.

Anyway, the city and the private shuttle operator already seem to have figured out that this arrangement works the way it is. I think the crowing about Google not paying their fair share comes not from concern for the transit system, but from some kind of rage at the workers themselves, and what their presence is doing to the city.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:41 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wasn't under the impression he was, but thanks for telling me and completely ignoring the direction this thread has gone I guess.
posted by kagredon at 2:41 PM on December 9, 2013


All you folks being all GRAWR about the bus stops saw my links above about how the SF bus agency is OK with Google using the stops and will be charging them a permit fee for use, right?

At least until someone demands an Environmental Impact Review. Remember, it took four years and over a million dollars for SF to do the EIR in order to paint a few bike lanes. Our laws are very progressive!
posted by Nelson at 2:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Are people confused about the difference between stopping and standing, or does SF really ticket people who are in the car with the engine running at bus stops? They don't even do that here in NYC and we're at least a few million people larger. The point of the fines is so people don't actually park in the spot, thus making it unusable.
posted by corb at 2:43 PM on December 9, 2013


Google using the stops doesn't cost the public anything. Missed fines are not a cost.

Delayed buses are a cost. Missed work by workers because they are late is a cost. By using the bus stops without permission, it makes it harder for the local bus service to get to where it is supposed to go when it is supposed to get there. Space is a limited use, especially in SF.

Hence, they should pay fines for illegal use and work out with the city a place for their bus. And pay for that place ahead of time, instead of illegally using it for several years and belatedly agreeing to follow the law that the rest of us have to follow. They should not be prioritized over users of the public service, which all pay for and is available to all, not a few.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mayor Curley: What wear on the infrastructure are those buses causing exactly? If they weren't available, wouldn't many of those people be driving to work? I'd think they're actually a net gain for the city because they cut down on road wear.
I also think the private shuttles are probably a net gain for the city - in terms of reduced traffic and parking demand.

But (in mild climates) heavy vehicles like buses really are the main cause of pavement deterioration. Bus stops are often built with extra-thick concrete "bus pads" to help absorb the stress of heavy buses stopping there again and again and again. That creates complications and requires extra effort when building or resurfacing the road, and even the bus pads will have to be replaced eventually. There are real costs involved, and I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the commercial entities taking advantage to contribute.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


We are pathologically terrified of turning into... something else, some other kind of city.
Many people are convinced changing that would change the "character" of the city. Some of these people are homeowners or have been here for what they would consider a long time, and simply put, they got theirs so fuck everyone else. Others are really frustrated because they can't afford to rent or buy, but all they see is large "luxury" condos being built that don't apply to them--so they vote against further development.


Yeah, that's kind of the rub. You're already changing into a different city and people just need to be convinced of that I guess? The buildings in San Francisco largely don't exude a magical aura that preserves the meaning of the place (genius loci for a $10 word).
posted by LionIndex at 2:44 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


is there any part of this thread other than lulz that you're actually still here for

To what extent is this a real thing that has happened?
posted by Artw at 2:46 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]




I spent the last 20 minutes re-reading the thread and can find no lulz. Please help.
posted by xmutex at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Delayed buses are a cost.

There are not enough of these private shuttles that they are delaying public buses.

They should not be prioritized over users of the public service, which all pay for and is available to all, not a few.

You could make the same argument against taxi stands.

The shuttles are using the bus stops in a way that is compatible with their existing use, in a way that other private vehicles would not. They also provide a public good in that they reduce traffic.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


They're also providing a transit service that the government doesn't have to subsidize.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just as an example, that development that was put to the ballot, had the Sierra Club campaigning against it because it was 'too tall' for the waterfront and the public space that was part of it wasn't satisfactory enough. Also against it (and funded the campaign) was a wealthy neighbor who would have had her view blocked.

San Francisco is probably the least architecturally significant world-class city, because it's not worth attempting an interesting design as nothing ever gets built.
posted by danny the boy at 2:51 PM on December 9, 2013


God this thread is so depressing. Not any particular commentary in it, just the fact that the housing situation is such a dog's breakfast. I live in Boston and would really live to move out to the Bay but the rental prices are just terrifying.

To me it seems like the best solution would be to lift the height restrictions on new development and built more 6-10 story apartment blocks like you see in Brooklyn. It's pretty clear that more people currently want to live in SF than can, and until that situation gets better (via increased housing supply) the rent situation is just not going to improve.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


the SF bus agency is OK with Google using the stops and will be charging them a permit fee for use, right?

Actually, MTA's response appeared to be more on the order of, "We'll try to figure out a plan that involves them not delaying Muni buses, and paying some permits."

There's nothing in that link that says such a program is in place, or that Google et al. are paying those fees yet. This Chronicle article says there might be a pilot program in place in January.
posted by suelac at 2:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb: "Are people confused about the difference between stopping and standing, or does SF really ticket people who are in the car with the engine running at bus stops? "

We have cameras on the buses that are used to ticket people. I think the entire fleet is getting them by next spring.
posted by danny the boy at 2:53 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


300/800 buses have cameras now.
posted by danny the boy at 2:55 PM on December 9, 2013


I would venture a guess that most often increased supply merely keeps prices from rising too fast in a given area.

That's my guess on the best case scenario, too.

However, there is plenty of evidence, including this case in Australia, of increased housing reducing prices.

I'm not sure the linked article provides that evidence. The "oversupply" mentioned doesn't seem to be specifically linked to a recent buildout, and the article seems focused on macro factors and falling demand as things driving the excess of real estate on the market.
posted by weston at 2:55 PM on December 9, 2013


I know I'm probably opening myself up to a world of shit by introducing a hypothetical, but let's say that some rando were to buy a bus and start trucking people around in it using the public stops as drop off/pick up points. Would the MTA shrug and say "well, it works out in the long run?" Should they?

This happens all the time. Have you never heard of a dollar van?

People use the damn bus stops in every city in the world for activities not strictly related to public municipal transportation.
posted by downing street memo at 2:55 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of the housing problems were exacerbated by so many pending developments being shut down during the housing crisis, which hit SF hard. And they were shut down long enough that many of them had to go through review all over again once the money started flowing again. There is a ton of new development happening now. Granted they are "luxury" condos (which means what exactly?) but I do suspect it will help stop rents from climbing so crazily.
posted by aspo at 2:56 PM on December 9, 2013


From the article:

UPDATE 1:06pm: Within an hour of our original post, the Guardian learned that Max Bell Alper, a union organizer with Unite Here Local 2850 was the man shouting down Google bus protesters earlier this morning. We asked Alper what motivated him to impersonate a Google employee.

1) Just want to make it clear that the comment was staged. That's important.

2) Personal belief that Google should pay for some aspect of the usage of city infrastructure

3) This does get cars off the road and reduce congestion in the city and on freeways to Mountain View

4) It feels like this is more of a protest against rising housing costs, with an easy target that may or may not be partly responsible for the rise in costs (lots of people are moving to SF, and it is a 7 mile by 7 mile city = high demand and low supply)
posted by foxywombat at 2:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know the part of this argument that annoys me most? When people are like "SF is small! 49 square miles!" Manhattan is just under 23 square miles and has a population of 1.6 million. We have no will to fix things here, but let's not tell lies about size.
posted by dame at 3:02 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Those of us in the East Bay think you SF City types are just, absolutely nuts to live there.

That being said, please don't move here! Prices are high enough as it is...
posted by Cycloptichorn at 3:03 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]




Delayed buses are a cost.

There are not enough of these private shuttles that they are delaying public buses.


The articles cited above show that your assessment is in error. there are serious concerns, especially around stops that are used a lot. I got the idea from the articles that are cited.

The idea that any non-car solution can just go ahead and use the public spaces without making sure it works with anyone else. Taxi stand locations are regulated by Muni, presumably in such a way that does not harm the other uses. The problem is when a private actor just thinks that their use is the most important and violates the law doing so. That's what Google's been doing and that is what is about to stop.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


downing street memo: “Uhh...so what are the odds that this was staged? ... If I were an activist I'd definitely stage something like this. It's perfect.”

I totally agree.

What – you mean this little Google shuttle thing? I mean the City of San Francisco. The whole thing. Completely staged, from the belligerent homeless people on down. Seriously, there is no way this whole thing isn't designed by some sarcastic cynics, eyes narrowed, who believe they can prove how foolish liberal-oriented direct democracy is by taking it to its logical limits.
posted by koeselitz at 3:11 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Google and its employees pay the same local taxes for the use of municipal services that everyone else does. Many of them pay at higher rates than their neighbors because of prop 19 and their income taxes. The notion that they should now pay more for these services than other businesses seems outrageous. Other businesses offer their employees only free or subsidized parking along with subsidies to use BART (which isn't a profit making entity). Why penalize the one business that is actually doing something to reduce their use of shared resources?
posted by humanfont at 3:13 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow! I'd not idea SF was over twice the size of Manhattan. Yeah, just build upwards people. Or maybe build floating buildings. Also expand and speed up BART.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:16 PM on December 9, 2013


corb: "Are people confused about the difference between stopping and standing, or does SF really ticket people who are in the car with the engine running at bus stops? "

Yes. My husband has been ticketed twice for this, and in both cases he wasn't blocking a bus or any other traffic. SF has been vigorously enforcing parking and traffic tickets lately -- it's a quick way to increase revenue.
posted by vickyverky at 3:18 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


The whole fake Google employee tactic seems monumentally stupid. Yeah, it got attention but now Google looks like the victim and the protesters look like jerks. I sympathize with their complaints but they really need to go back to protester's school if they think that this is an effective strategy.
posted by octothorpe at 3:21 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are people confused about the difference between stopping and standing, or does SF really ticket people who are in the car with the engine running at bus stops? They don't even do that here in NYC

First of all, every bus stop in New York is clearly signed "No Standing," not "No Parking." Second, I have personally seen drivers ticketed for standing at bus stops in New York. Basically everything you've said here is completely false.
posted by RogerB at 3:21 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


As if that actually happens. Have you EVER seen the SFMTA or police ticket somebody for parking in a Muni stop? Of course not.

I have. This was circa 2003 however, so don't know if the intervening years has resulted in less enforcement.

I'm moving back to SF to do my urban planning fieldwork. Part of my realization on affordable housing is that when almost every part of the economy (finance capital, real estate market, homeowners, retirement savings, etc etc) is geared toward rising property values as an engine of growth and prosperity it's very very difficult to carve out an exception for affordable housing. Some of the SF City Hall folks I know are frustrated that currently the only way to build new affordable units is by welcoming market rate developments. From my point of view, in the long term, getting a few dozen new affordable units does not make up for feeding even greater real estate frenzy, but in the short term, those new units help keep people in the city who would otherwise would have been priced out completely.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:21 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


jeffburdges: "Wow! I'd not idea SF was over twice the size of Manhattan. Yeah, just build upwards people. Or maybe build floating buildings. Also expand and speed up BART."

Yeah but Manhattan is flat and doesn't periodically try to throw itself into the bay.
posted by octothorpe at 3:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Huh, that CBS article about Google paying to use Muni bus stops quotes the SFMTA as saying private busses carry "about 35,000 workers a day to and from companies". For comparison Caltrain, the primary public transit option on the same route as the Google bus, has a daily ridership of 45,000. The comparison isn't totally fair; the private bus numbers include Genentech which only goes to South San Francisco and you may have to divide the Caltrain number in half to make it apples-to-apples. But whatever the details, my takeaway is that private busses are already roughly the same scale as Caltrain. I had no idea.

Muni is about 700,000 people a day. BART is about about 375,000. Both significantly bigger.
posted by Nelson at 3:29 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this was a stupid, stupid stunt. I've encountered quite a few people who are completely on board with what this "Googler" was saying. That's why I bought it. It's not out of the ordinary. But these people have managed to take a very real thing and turn it into a straw man.

Also, juggler parents? Are they jugglers who also happen to be parents? Or do they use juggling as a parenting technique?
posted by brundlefly at 3:31 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


is that when almost every part of the economy (finance capital, real estate market, homeowners, retirement savings, etc etc) is geared toward rising property values commodity bubbles as an engine of growth and prosperity capital accumulation it's very very difficult to carve out an exception for affordable housing.
posted by junco at 3:32 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah but Manhattan is flat and doesn't periodically try to throw itself into the bay.

Well, the Sunset District is pretty flat and largely two story single houses. There's a lot of room for increased density in San Francisco.
posted by LionIndex at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


New York already exists. All cities don't need to become New York. But suppose you doubled the density, getting it to what, 1/2 the density of New York? The infrastructure would crumble. San Francisco's transportation infrastructure is already at the breaking point, and fixing that is almost impossible. You can't just create a subway system.
posted by aspo at 3:41 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Judging by how dire the situation is getting, maybe those barges by Treasure Island are new housing for Google employees.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:45 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


[kagredon/Artw, please ease back a little. Don't make it personal.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:46 PM on December 9, 2013


It feels like this is more of a protest against rising housing costs, with an easy target that may or may not be partly responsible for the rise in costs (lots of people are moving to SF, and it is a 7 mile by 7 mile city = high demand and low supply

Yes, I think there's a lot of class tension and anger, and these buses are a perfect symbol and therefore a target. (And yeah, what if the buses stopped 100 feet away from existing bus stops--should they still pay the city?)

But I've stood at a cold Haight bus stop waiting for Muni when a tall, gleaming Google busolith rolled up. I rode one once when I worked for Google--dark windows, always an empty & comfortable seat, quiet, full of fast(ish) wifi, badge required. But now it wasn't for me. I wasn't allowed on. I had to ride a crowded Muni bus with stains, smells, noises and exotic pets on people's shoulders. Which I like, but still, it was kind of a mindfuck to see that shiny bus stop and understand what it's like for the people waiting for the other bus.

I think Google will have to address these naked class tensions soon by throwing significant amounts of flashy money at the city/cities. I think it's still in their DNA to do that sort of thing, and at this point they kinda need to.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:46 PM on December 9, 2013 [24 favorites]


double black flag operation...turns out, the protest that turned out to be a staged protest was actually staged by GOOG...
posted by pravit at 3:53 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Once word got out that the confrontation was a hoax the only thing that came into my mind was "Harvard?".
posted by parmanparman at 3:56 PM on December 9, 2013


Well, the Sunset District is pretty flat and largely two story single houses. There's a lot of room for increased density in San Francisco.

There are also a lot of people who like their neighborhoods as they are and don't want to see more density. They don't necessarily want the Sunset to look like Co-op City, and they enjoy having single family homes with a small yard while living in the City. If the answer is: "too bad. Progress marches on," then what's the limit? How does anybody get to say what kind of density and character their neighborhood should have? And if the answer is "stop the development!" then how is that fair to those being pushed out of the city because they can't afford it? And if the population of the Sunset doubled, how would everybody get to work?

The argument we're having here is a bit circular. This post all started with the complaints about private tech company shuttle buses using city bus stops (which is maybe 2% a legitimate complaint and 98% people who are upset about something else screaming about "GRR! BUS STOPS!" instead of talking about an actual problem, but I digress). That problem is inherently a high-density problem: too many people want to use too small a space and so they need to work out appropriate uses for the constrained resources in question. They don't have these kinds of problems in low-density areas; space is easier to share when you've got lots of it to go around. And yet the proposed solutions for all these problems tend to center around building higher density: pack more homes in so, in theory, more people can afford to live in the City. We'll ignore the fact that the people complaining the loudest about the bus stops are generally the same people who complain the loudest over more development and density. Because: what does higher density bring? Less space/person and more contention over the use of shared resources. And what does that bring? More complaining about the dang Google buses! Which is what we started with in the first place.

So I don't know what kind of solutions we want, but I suspect we're going to be hearing a lot of "GRR! BUS STOPS!" no matter what happens.
posted by zachlipton at 3:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


San Francisco's transportation infrastructure is already at the breaking point, and fixing that is almost impossible. You can't just create a subway system.

Nope, but you can easily increase the number of busses running, the number of BART trains running, and the number of MUNI trains running. And you can also upgrade the busses to make them more comfortable.

More ridership would not only allow for more service, it would also allow for lower fares or at least stable fares.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:03 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't just create a subway system.
Right. I forgot, the existing subway systems were bequeathed to us by the Ancient Ones, and we've lost the technology. Guess we better call Terminus.
posted by wuwei at 4:04 PM on December 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I like how some of y'all seem to think that seismic studies and engineering proposals can just be done SNAP like that and voila, more subway system! How much is that teeny little new line of underground MUNI from Caltrain to Chinatown taking? How much is it going over cost?
posted by rtha at 4:07 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why penalize the one business that is actually doing something to reduce their use of shared resources?

Because they are increasing the use of some resources. Space. Just doing willy nilly is wrong.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:07 PM on December 9, 2013


We could rejuvenate Detroit by offering anyone producing "cultural works" in SF property in Detroit with a 20 year property tax immunity, assuming they can actually utilize it. Remove one person who cannot afford SF, while making Detroit more culturally attractive. ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


One thing that is not a part of the discussion is the other end; Google and the rest of Silicon Valley have chosen (to save money) to locate in places that are difficult to serve by transit, and to build at densities that are impossible to serve by transit. (Not that the VTA is doing a bang-up job necessarily).

If you leave Google at 5:00 heading home to the Mission, the trip would take two hours; in the first hour, you would ride two vehicles. At the end of the first hour, you would be standing on the platform at the Caltrain station in Mountain View, 1.6 miles from the Google headquarters. The second hour has you travelling 36 miles by Caltrain and BART.

Google could, if they chose, easily align themselves with transit riders by providing a regular shuttle to Caltrain rather than the employee shuttles all the way to the City. They choose not to.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Google could, if they chose, easily align themselves with transit riders by providing a regular shuttle to Caltrain rather than the employee shuttles all the way to the City. They choose not to.

That's because the shuttles have wifi internet and take you close to home in one uninterrupted trip. This means that your commute can be used to do work.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 4:12 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Muni bus fare in the city is $2. Kid 4 and under ride free, 5-17 year olds, seniors, and disabled passengers pay $0.75.
posted by rustcrumb at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2013


Google could, if they chose, easily align themselves with transit riders by providing a regular shuttle to Caltrain rather than the employee shuttles all the way to the City. They choose not to.

Are we seriously criticizing Google for treating their workers well and providing cushy, fast, and convenient transportation for their workers?
posted by gyc at 4:17 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seriously, ditch the city. Build a new one along El Camino Real. Something like this, except on steroids. Ken Layne's article might have featured a silly analogy, but his reasoning sounds good for those both in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley. Except those poor peninsulares in between. Granted, it's a pipe dream that's never gonna happen, but so is a slightly improved public transit system, so one might as well dream big.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:20 PM on December 9, 2013


"Why'd you do it?" we ask Fake Google employee, Max Bell Alper

Alper maintained that he meant no deception, and that it was all "political theater."

"This is political theater to demonstrate what is happening to the city. It's about more than just the bus," he said. "These are enormous corporations that are investing in this community. These companies, like Google, should be proud of where they're from and invest in their communities."

And the effects of the tech boom are strong, are real, which the thousands of long-time San Franciscans priced out of the city can attest to. The Bay Guardian has covered this extensively, which is what led us to cover the protest. Unfortunately for the organizers of this morning's Google bus protest, all of their work may now be for naught. 

Some of the protesters feel duped.

"No I did not know him, he didn't tell me that he was going to be doing that," said Erin McElroy, who since January has led the Anti-Evitction Mapping Project. A part-time nanny and caretaker for the elderly, she's poured hours of her downtime into the project. The protest was supposed to highlight an issue that for the past year has been her life's work.

posted by Artw at 4:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's not accurate to say that SF isn't increasing housing options. Currently there are over 40K new residential units approved by the city. But these tech companies are growing faster than housing can, so it's still a painful transition.
posted by politikitty at 4:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we seriously criticizing Google for treating their workers well and providing cushy, fast, and convenient transportation for their workers?

Yes, because corporations are evil, so obviously this isn't a good thing that Google is doing but instead either:
  • a sneaky way to exploit more working time out of their serfs (there's no such thing as a free wifi connection; and/or
  • creating a class divide because their buses are nicer than other people's buses and thus are raping and plundering the public infrastructure.
posted by sparklemotion at 4:25 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Google could, if they chose, easily align themselves with transit riders by providing a regular shuttle to Caltrain rather than the employee shuttles all the way to the City.

Actually, they do. I used to ride that one actually. There are a number of employee shuttles (most of them free to anyone) on the Caltrain corridor, generally paid for by the employers who work nearby the stops. I know Yahoo used to run private shuttles to/from Caltrain for employees as well.

Many people prefer to ride the shuttles instead, for several good reasons. One problem is that Caltrain doesn't really even have the capacity to handle all the shuttle riders. But more importantly, unless you happen to live right near the Caltrain terminal, you're looking at an awfully long commute from Caltrain to your home, and that's after you've taken a shuttle and a train already. Mission (and Glen+Balboa Park) dwellers can change to BART at Millbrae, adding another transportation mode, but you still have large portions of the City that are long slow public transit rides away from the Caltrain station. Employers like Google pay for the shuttles because they offer a comfortable, wi-fi equipped, and reliable(ish––traffic) single mode of transportation that reaches near where many of their employees live.
posted by zachlipton at 4:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn. My dad sold a house on Joost street 3 blocks from the Glenn View Bart station in '82. not that he could have hung on all this time on a music teacher's salary, but he'd have made a fortune selling now. It's hard for me to reconcile all this, having grown up working class in SF in the 70's and being gone for so long.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


No doubt there are people really struggling in SF, but the combination of low density relative to demand and SF's chronic curatorial NIMBYism just are not sustainable. As far as I've been able to tell, the activists are just demanding that incumbent renters be protected and calling for the inauthentic techies to be ousted in some unclear way. Do they offer something more than this? Because I haven't heard that, and what I have heard just sounds like a howling symphony of entitlement that is really very difficult to sympathize with.
posted by batfish at 4:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Pruitt-Igoe: "Anyway, the city and the private shuttle operator already seem to have figured out that this arrangement works the way it is. I think the crowing about Google not paying their fair share comes not from concern for the transit system, but from some kind of rage at the workers themselves, and what their presence is doing to the city."

I'm assuming it has just as much to do with the non-unionized bus drivers who operate the Google fleet. Legalizing the use of bus lanes / stops for vehicles with a carrying capacity of 20 people or whatever seems like a fine solution that puts an otherwise unused resource to work more efficiently. But it also means more competition with BART, and it's historically fractious union.
posted by pwnguin at 4:37 PM on December 9, 2013


you can easily increase the number of busses running, the number of BART trains running, and the number of MUNI trains running.

Not without significant infrastructure improvements. MUNI running times are already some of the slowest in the world and the one stretch of underground right of way we have (under Market) is plagued with switching problems and slowness. The idea of more busses is appealing, but doesn't really solve the problem of lack of dedicated right away. The effort to paint a bus lane green on Van Ness to provide a private bus right away is literally going to take ten years and over $100 million dollars.

We are building a new subway in San Francisco! It's going to cost $1 billion / mile to go a grand total of 1.7 miles. That will take 15 years. Oh, and the terminus doesn't really connect to the other subway lines, you have to walk a block or two underground to transfer. We did manage to get a new light rail built, for the cost of $667 million and was at least a year late.

San Francisco's old motto is "The City that Knows How". But when it comes to transportation infrastructure, not so much.
posted by Nelson at 4:39 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's nice as a Seattlite to find out about a city that somehow manages to be worse at this kind of thing.
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because I haven't heard that, and what I have heard just sounds like a howling symphony of entitlement that is really very difficult to sympathize with.

"Entitlement" to live in the place they're from, and where their families are from? Why is that less of an "entitlement" than having more money?
posted by junco at 4:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Right, whenever you have a resource that is scarce relative to demand -- in this case, San Francisco apartments -- you need to find some way to allocate that resource. You can use price, a lottery, or a squatters rights, whoever gets there first gets to stay type system, which is basically what rent control accomplishes. It's not clear to me any of these methods are more "fair" than the others.

On the other hand, you can also deal with a scarce resource by creating more of it, but development and increased density tends to face a lot of NIMBY opposition (although NIMBY's tend to be homeowners, not renters).
posted by Asparagus at 4:43 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The high cost of living also makes it difficult for construction workers to stay in the area, so even once all the other details are out of the way in financing, designing and permitting the big new condo project you end up paying a fortune on a cost / square foot basis. You can't build anything other than luxury condos or you will lose your investment as a developer.
posted by humanfont at 4:44 PM on December 9, 2013


Here's a video someone shot of me when I was waiting for a Muni bus and a tech-company bus (Facebook in this case) pulled up right in front of me at the stop and I criticized the bus driver for blocking the stop. This also was noted on SFIst as "Local Man Flips Out On Facebook Shuttle Driver, Yells at Him To Get Out Of Muni Stop", to which I commented "Hi, I'm the "nutjob" in question. In this case, there are two parking meters directly in front of the Muni stop which are covered over during morning hours with signs saying that the spaces are reserved for shuttles. There were two Muni buses, the 19 and the 83x scheduled to stop at the stop within two minutes, which is why I was waiting right there at the Muni stop when the bus pulled up in front of me, rather than pulling forward to the space which is designated for shuttles."

The buses have got a bit better on 8th and Market at pulling up to the deactivated parking meters in front of the Muni stop but I have still had to walk into traffic sometimes to catch the bus.

Also a couple of times when there was a long time predicted until the next Muni I have boarded a Zynga or Adobe shuttle and rode it to their offices, then walked to my nearby workplace. Since I look like many of their workers (I am white and under 50) nobody questioned me, but it's not something just anyone could do, probably.
posted by larrybob at 4:46 PM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


"Entitlement" to live in the place they're from, and where their families are from? Why is that less of an "entitlement" than having more money?

The tech workers who are moving in to SF (mostly) don't get to live where their families are from either. Should we go back to feudal times when some people had the "right" to keep living in the family estate forever?
posted by sparklemotion at 4:47 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


We are building a new subway in San Francisco! It's going to cost $1 billion / mile to go a grand total of 1.7 miles. That will take 15 years. Oh, and the terminus doesn't really connect to the other subway lines, you have to walk a block or two underground to transfer.

What, are you taking lessons from Toronto now?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not accurate to say that SF isn't increasing housing options. Currently there are over 40K new residential units approved by the city.

According to this link, 4900 units are currently being built and will be available within a year. ~8000 more should be hitting the market in 2-4 years. The rest? "Another 28,000 housing units have been approved to be built by Planning… projects which still have timelines measured in decades, not years."
posted by danny the boy at 4:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And if it's bullshit like this, we'll really have something to protest.
posted by danny the boy at 4:52 PM on December 9, 2013


There are also a lot of people who like their neighborhoods as they are and don't want to see more density. They don't necessarily want the Sunset to look like Co-op City, and they enjoy having single family homes with a small yard while living in the City. If the answer is: "too bad. Progress marches on," then what's the limit?

Well, I think this is sort of where the gentrification argument bifurcates into two : the economic argument versus the cultural argument. The economic argument I sympathize with : the fact that the rent is just too damn high. Pretty hard to disagree with that.

The cultural argument is weaker, which is why I try not to engage with it : the people who shout, "we like things the way they are!" This is where the gentrification argument rankles me. No, it's not okay to force poor people to move to places with fewer services and longer commutes. But "we like things the way they are!" reeks of social conservatism in a way that perhaps its proponents aren't aware of. Even if one pines for the hippie-dippy 60s as opposed to Eisenhower America, it's social conservatism all the same.
posted by evil otto at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Bus Rapid Transit — on Geary & Van Ness. Most of the functionality of the subway at a fraction of the cost.
posted by dame at 4:55 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Entitlement" to live in the place they're from, and where their families are from? Why is that less of an "entitlement" than having more money?

How is that not entitlement? Look, I buy into the idea of protecting socioeconomic diversity, and middle and low income people generally, but the thought that I am deserving of special protection because I was born here is just not coherent to me. Regardless, the problems to do with the supply and demand of housing just aren't made tractable by the rhetoric of authenticity. When you're done screaming that you are one of the deserving people, those problems are still there.
posted by batfish at 4:57 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like how some of y'all seem to think that seismic studies and engineering proposals can just be done SNAP like that and voila, more subway system! How much is that teeny little new line of underground MUNI from Caltrain to Chinatown taking? How much is it going over cost?

I don't think "seismic studies" are keeping these lines from being completed. Other cities along the Pacific Rim aren't having too much trouble building new lines:

Taipei Metro: About 90 km of new track approved and under constructed, scheduled to be all complete on Dec 2018.

Singapore MRT: Has a Downtown Line under construction, to be complete 2017 and will be 42 km.

These are lines that are confirmed to be under construction and not being planned either. Both systems have huge plans, too.
posted by FJT at 4:58 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


But then you need to build up in the Sunset & Richmond and people in SF can make the same trade offs as everyone else: city life or single-family living in the suburbs. Demanding both is perhaps the most greedy option of all.
posted by dame at 4:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "You can't afford it? You can leave" thing harkens back to the 1999 interview with then-mayor Willie Brown by Ivy of the zine Turd-Filled Donut, reprinted in Eric Lyle's book On the Lower Frequencies. Brown said "I say to people who are poverty-stricken, I know how much you love San Francisco, but, because of the nature of cost of living here, you are better off being poverty-stricken where the cost of living is not so great." (1999 SFBG coverage)
posted by larrybob at 4:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nope, but you can easily increase the number of busses running, the number of BART trains running, and the number of MUNI trains running

Yeah, because the MUNI trains already back up 5 deep at Embarcadero as it is! Let's double the number, then they can back up even more!
posted by aspo at 5:02 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Delayed buses are a cost.

There are not enough of these private shuttles that they are delaying public buses.


Yes, there are. If you're not in regularly in Downtown SF or the Mission between the hours of 7-9 a.m. I'm not sure you're qualified to make this assertion.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:05 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, why do people keep claiming SF is low density? It's the second or third densest city in America (Once you ignore tiny little one block municipalities)
posted by aspo at 5:06 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


why do people keep claiming SF is low density?

It's twice the size of Manhattan and half the population, and, like Manhattan, one of the most desirable places to live on earth. There is a substantial housing shortage. Low density relative to demand.
posted by batfish at 5:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


SF is pretty dense relative to the rest of the USA other than NYC, but that isn't necessarily the most appropriate benchmark considering the Bay Area economy and all of the quality of life factors that make SF one most desirable places to live in the world.
posted by Asparagus at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2013


Also, why do people keep claiming SF is low density? It's the second or third densest city in America (Once you ignore tiny little one block municipalities)

Unlike most cities in America, it contains very little 1/10 acre lot suburbs. That's why it's so dense. I don't know about others, but I'm not saying it's not dense, just that it could easily be denser. Sunset is already denser than a lot of areas I've lived in.

If increasing density and figuring out ways to increase public transit aren't something you're in favor of, then you're effectively in favor of changing the city through gentrification. One way or the other, the city is going to change.
posted by LionIndex at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]





Nope, but you can easily increase the number of busses running, the number of BART trains running, and the number of MUNI trains running.

BART already runs at capacity during commute hours- there are only so many trains they can put through the tunnels while keeping them far enough apart to keep from slamming into each other at 80 miles an hour. A fully loaded 10-car train needs lots of stopping space. There's nothing "easy" about adding more capacity to rail systems. What do you do with all the empty cars after the commute is over? How do you store them or route them to where they should be for the evening commute? If you run all those cars empty all day, you lose a lot of money really fast.

I don't think "seismic studies" are keeping these lines from being completed. Other cities along the Pacific Rim aren't having too much trouble building new lines:

A vast majority of the City is sand dunes, and quite a bit of the SOMA/Mid-Market/Mission has a very high water table. You can't just throw in a few extra rail lines willy-nilly throughout San Francisco.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


(sorry that link was supposed to go here.) San Francisco is already a very dense city. It's not Manhattan, no, but generally every person I know who seems to think San Francisco should become Manhattan on the west coast either doesn't live in the bay area or just moved here from New York.
posted by aspo at 5:20 PM on December 9, 2013


SF is not only not Manhattan; it's less dense than Queens, NY.
posted by Asparagus at 5:22 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Manhattan as far as building size or Manhattan as far as a playground for rich folks? It seems like it's going to go one way or the other.
posted by LionIndex at 5:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know, I really wish we could excise the whole "become more like NYC" line from the conversation. NYC becomes this sort of reference point because it's the only US city where you can get by without a car and not feel pinched. The problem is, when some people say "become more like NYC", they mean "more like a world class city", whereas others, when using the same words, mean, "become more like NYC-the-place, as in, the place that has the East Village, the 6 train, and Michael Bloomberg". It confuses the issue and clarifies nothing.
posted by evil otto at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Even if one pines for the hippie-dippy 60s as opposed to Eisenhower America, it's social conservatism all the same.

Well, that's the problem with how we've confused the meanings of the terms of our political discourse and injected identity into everything. By the current definitions, if we ever entered a golden era of racial harmony and dismantled racial theory as an institution, if I wanted to maintain my standing as a Leftist, I'd soon have to start working to advance racial intolerance to maintain my sense of political identity. Thankfully, there isn't really such a thing as a Leftist, but only people who at a given point in time, find themselves on the Left. But hell, the whole mess has gotten so conceptually muddled in recent decades, I just call myself a Leftist anyway, knowing all that, as a way of saying I'm not a member of the ruling elite (the really old, original sense of the term).
posted by saulgoodman at 5:32 PM on December 9, 2013


San Francisco has been betrayed by clueless policy makers (many on the take), greedy developers (who pay off anyone they need to), and tasteless upper-middle-class and newly-minted rich assholes who don't mind replacing poor people as they offer 30% over asking price in SOMA, or anywhere else in San Francisco - or paying whatever the market will bear for rent, with no sense of how that impacts those that want to follow them. These assholes fouled up the Peninsula, now they are moving up here. Sad. Yeah, I know things change, but I don't have to like it, and I don't have to sit by and say "that's the way it is". Fuck this shit!

The real irony in all this is that San Francisco is only a shell of its former self. It's no longer a center of cultural, or social innovation. It's not even a center of tech innovation. Rather, it's one of the most physically beautiful urban landscapes in the world - a place that any lip-smacking, drooling-over-profit developer with any sense in his/her shit-for-brains-greedy-self would want to get a piece of - including the on-the-take policy makers that do their bidding. SF is getting bought out by rich fucks from Google and Facebook and the "top 20 school frat and sorority culture club" that they bring. Fuck em!

Just look at SF Mayor Ed "Puppet" Lee and his development backers like the infamous potty-mouthed, fouling-the-air-with-her-cigarettes "consultant", Rose Pak. The entire kit-and-kaboodle are corrupt - even as they spout their liberal homilies. A bunch of fucking hypocrites!

These are the people who brought us the new subway station to Chinatown, like Chinatown really needs that?! Just wait till that subway is finished and watch Chinatown build up high (with Pak in the background, getting paid for her "consulting" (really, guaranteeing that policy makers who vote her way get to keep their jobs). Watch as the poor Chinese immigrants get displaced from their 10-to-a-room hovels in Chinatown - the immigrants that Rose Pak and Ed Lee and their wealthy, connected friends abuse to keep restaurant food and half-baked, sweat-shop-junk-filled tourist shops going. Look at the tax breaks that "Puppet" gave the likes of Twitter (et.al.) - to settle in San Francisco. Why them? Why give a tax break to a place that is going to be worth 10's of billions! Why should hard-working, middle and lower-middle-income San Franciscans have to supplement those assholes?

This city is fast going to shit - fast turning into a place like Palo Alto, or Los Gatos - filled with, tasteless, entitled, upper-middle-class types who prance around with their new kids in $1500 strollers; the latest Nike fashion wear - frequenting the latest cupcake bakery ($4.50 for fucking cupcake!?), or kids specialty clothing shop filled with the latest Chinese/Indian/etc.-slave-labor-made-overpriced-fashion.

The people who are taking over this town are the golden children from Harvard and Stanford and the other top-20/30 schools who have never had to struggle, replacing those who have lived in this city for years (14,000 San Franciscans lost their homes since 1997 due to Ellis Act evictions) without even a twist of guilt. Here, include the asshole landlords and developers in this town who want even more ease-of-access to throwing people out. (Now, we're starting to see the same thing happen in Berkeley and Oakland, where San Francisco families who have been priced out are flooding to - demand is pushing prices up - people are being displaced, but that's OK, because "it's a free market phenomenon". Give me a break!

My dream fantasy wish for these assholes - the developers; the politicians; the rich creeps who displace hard-working folks with their over-bidding for homes; the assholes who avoid the public schools because they can afford to (and then complain about "teacher's unions"); the new libertarian creeps that tech has spawned - those who eschew helping those less fortunate with their "free market rules" bullshit; etc. etc. - my dream wish is that the next quake is the big one, a 9.0 monster that takes down every one of the homes, developments, etc. etc. that these connected greed-balls have nested and feathered themselves in. I want a Jesus intervention that doesn't kill a single person, but keeps the middle and poor classes and their domiciles (what's left of them) completely untouched - but instead wipes out every one of the overpriced domiciles that these newly minted assholes have aspired to. That said, I want them to be all out of town with their little spoiled-precious-darling kids - nobody gets hurt. Oh, yeah, add to that the double-dealing realtors who own the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, an ad-rag of the highest order that sells itself every day to the highest bidder. Add to that a tech sector crash on the same day. In short, I want all those assholes to be homeless, without any means of coming to grips with their problem for 6 months. Let them experience a challenge besides getting the latest project out the door, unchecked by the H1_B labor (mostly unqualified) that has hurt experienced tech workers in the region, keeping 1000's out of work, or underemployed. (Goddamn you, Mark Zuckerberg, and all the rest who lie about the shortage of STEM workers in America!)

Of course this is a fantasy; it will never happen. But talk to any San Franciscan or anyone who has seen what new, insensitive wealth creation (and spending) and double-dealing policy makers have done to this city since 1980.

Bottom line: San Francisco - what most people think of San Francisco is - a place of cultural diversity, socioeconomic diversity, cultural innovation, liberal thinking, etc.etc. is so over, or so close to being over that it isn't even funny. It's the new "Upper East Side", and there's no stopping this change. Tony Bennett left his heart here, and its gotta be breaking.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


saulgoodman : I get where you're going with that, but I don't agree the two things are equivalent. For example, racial harmony is an unquestionable social good. Detached houses with yards? Not so much.
posted by evil otto at 5:40 PM on December 9, 2013


What, exactly, makes them different? The fact that you don't like the Klan or Phelps? So they don't get free speech and someone you agree with does?

Bear in mind that I'm not an American, so I'm okay with banning hate speech and come from a country where what they do would be illegal. Which is what the Klan and Phelps are all about. But this was not hate speech;* it was a protest, which is a part of the toolkit that people use to drive change. Are you saying that all protests that inconvenience private individuals should not happen? Would that pretty much end any form of protest? Or even strikes? (Even a planned march is going to hinder someone's day, after all. And strikes are frequently about inconveniencing people enough so that the other side concedes something. Otherwise it's not much of a strike.)

*Unless, of course, you think that people complaining about social injustice or deprivation in any form is hate speech. I admit I'm a little confused here by why you went right from stopping a private bus to Phelps and the Klan, but maybe I'm just misunderstanding some intermediate step you've taken in logic.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:47 PM on December 9, 2013


You know, I really wish we could excise the whole "become more like NYC" line from the conversation.

I hear that, but then you're sort of obligated to offer an alternative premise. Some aspect of the protectionist stance just has to go, ultimately, and NYC is a pretty obvious example of having more housing and still having a pretty good city.
posted by batfish at 5:50 PM on December 9, 2013


It would be great if someone would explain - or point out where it's been explained already in the thread - how SF is supposed to increase housing density in, say, the Richmond or Sunset. Many people already live there; are their houses just seized, or what, exactly?
posted by rtha at 5:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


…are the golden children from Harvard and Stanford and the other top-20/30 schools who have never had to struggle…

This is arrogant, judgmental and presumptuous. Who are you to judge someone else's life story — to decide what struggles someone else has lived or faced? Maybe your home should fall down that you might learn the modesty you so badly wish to teach others.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:52 PM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


[comments removed - take your lulzy earthquake gentrification comments elsewhere.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:57 PM on December 9, 2013


UPDATE: Rodriguez writes that the "Google employee" was in fact a union organizer, staging a confrontation.
posted by Relay at 6:05 PM on December 9, 2013


Maybe your home should fall down that you might learn the modesty you so badly wish to teach others.

Oh come on. Be civilized.
posted by discopolo at 6:05 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]



It would be great if someone would explain - or point out where it's been explained already in the thread - how SF is supposed to increase housing density in, say, the Richmond or Sunset. Many people already live there; are their houses just seized, or what, exactly?


Just legalize it. The developers will pay very nicely for the opportunity to put in a 6 unit building where a single family home once stood. And if you don't sell, your neighbor will.

And Richmond's homes are pretty scarily not-earthquake ready...
posted by ocschwar at 6:07 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Then there's the latest Geeks for Monarchy story.

They're kidding right? RIGHT?

Then again, I say if they want to bring back the monarchy, the rest of us should bring back the guillotine.

I mean, really, what would Thomas Paine do?
posted by wuwei at 6:08 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The tech workers who are moving in to SF (mostly) don't get to live where their families are from either.

They're making a choice. Many could stay where they're from, but decide they'd rather move and make a higher salary. That's quite different than being told by the "market" that you won't be permitted to live in your hometown any longer.

Should we go back to feudal times when some people had the "right" to keep living in the family estate forever?

That's a false dichotomy, and I also suspect you don't know very much about "feudal times".

How is that not entitlement? Look, I buy into the idea of protecting socioeconomic diversity, and middle and low income people generally, but the thought that I am deserving of special protection because I was born here is just not coherent to me.

It's only "special protection" if you insist on believing that allocating living necessities to citizens is only possible through the so-called "free market".
posted by junco at 6:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


What about all the techies who grew up around here? Do they have to prove they are allowed to live in San Francisco?
posted by aspo at 6:12 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


It would be great if someone would explain - or point out where it's been explained already in the thread - how SF is supposed to increase housing density in, say, the Richmond or Sunset.

Rezoning to allow more units is all that's needed. Not everyone will redevelop their property, but it would significantly drive up the opportunity cost of (relatively) low-density structures.
posted by ripley_ at 6:13 PM on December 9, 2013


The Geeks for Monarchy article is about a tangential subculture. Neoreactionaries, or the Dark Enlightenment, or the Orthosphere, is a separate subculture more related to contrarian anti-political correctness groups such as the manosphere, Pick Up Artistry, and "race realism." It's not so much a Silicon Valley thing as it is an internet thing.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:15 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's only "special protection" if you insist on believing that allocating living necessities to citizens is only possible through the so-called "free market".


100 years of experience shows that you can bypass the free market and BUILD more housing, or you can allow the free market to build more housing. But the moment you instead talk about "allocating" housing , and deciding who deserves to live in a city, you might as well be talking about internal residence permits like what they have in China.
posted by ocschwar at 6:16 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's quite different than being told by the "market" that you won't be permitted to live in your hometown any longer.

The market isn't banning people from living in SF (though that appears to be what the anti-gentrification crowd actually wants). The market (as currently implemented with plenty of rent control and other housing subsidies) is a way of determining what living in SF is worth to people. If you can come up with a fairer way of deciding who gets to live in desirable areas, I'd be happy to read about it.
posted by sparklemotion at 6:17 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then there's the latest Geeks for Monarchy story.

The Dark Enlightenment: The Creepy Internet Movement You’d Better Take Seriously
posted by homunculus at 6:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem is how hard it is to get to SF from not-SF. Caltrain runs something like 1/hour at non-peak times and it doesn't run late at night. BART is great if you leave in Oakland or Berkeley, but significantly less helpful if you live on the Peninsula. Plus the bus system on the Peninsula is crap, so you're still stuck driving home from the train station. So the quieter outlying neighborhoods that still have city amenities are much closer in than they should be given demand. I suspect there are a decent number of tech workers who would be fine living outside of SF proper if there were viable ways of getting into the city on nights/weekends. But that's hard for all the reasons detailed up-thread. Plus even if you did improve transit, geography and physics mean that it's still going to take an hour to get to the city.

I'm not sure exactly what the solution is, but I think it's harder than just saying "build better transit" or "build denser."
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, whenever this topic comes up, it sure does reveal quite a bit about a bunch of people on MetaFilter. Apparently among the technorati, progressivism is often no more than a millimeter deep; more like a tribal affiliation that it is a real commitment to things like, say, affordable housing and transportation for the poor and working classes.

Everything that involves the better-off people being able to segregate themselves — in where they live and where their children go to school and where they shop and where they work and play — from the worse-off people, or just the "wrong" kind of people, is suddenly all about "freedom" and "rights" and "choices" even though the worse-off people have little ability to exercise these "rights" and "choices" that the better-off value so highly and will so angrily protect.

Public schools are overcrowded and underfunded? How can parents sending their children to private schools that they pay for themselves, instead of to those overcrowded and underfunded public schools, not be a net gain for everyone? Google should build their own schools and their own parks and their own utilities and transportation networks and law enforcement and criminal justice and incarceration systems, and provide all this as part of their employment packages. How can than not be an improvement?

It's kind of amazing to me that we can still be arguing about the problems with class segregation in 2013. And on a site where people frequently condemn the trend toward increasing economic inequality in the US.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Can you please point where people in this thread are saying that they need to be able to be shielded from the "wrong" kind of people?
posted by aspo at 6:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


and where the hell did public schools get into this?
posted by aspo at 6:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It would be great if someone would explain - or point out where it's been explained already in the thread - how SF is supposed to increase housing density in, say, the Richmond or Sunset. Many people already live there; are their houses just seized, or what, exactly?

As others are saying, you just let them. It isn't something would, or even could, happen overnight. This and all the concerns about not being able to provide public transportation for doubling the density of Sunset or Richmond (which I mentioned just as areas that have potential) are treating it like 5 million square feet of building are going to instantly pop up like mushrooms - they're not. Even if they relax the zoning, developers will still have to go through at least half a year of entitlement permitting, months of producing construction drawings, and months of permitting for every. single. project. It'll be fairly slow.

Also, I'm not thinking high-rises, I'm thinking 4-story apartment blocks. To beat the NYC comparison into the ground, we're talking Astoria, not Midtown or the Financial District.
posted by LionIndex at 6:29 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]



Everything that involves the better-off people being able to segregate themselves — in where they live and where their children go to school and where they shop and where they work and play — from the worse-off people, or just the "wrong" kind of people, is suddenly all about "freedom" and "rights" and "choices" even though the worse-off people have little ability to exercise these "rights" and "choices" that the better-off value so highly and will so angrily protect.


Dude, we're talking about wealthy people moving smack into the middle of San Francisco. This is precisely the opposite of segregation happening here.

Bring these arguments back when we talk about assholes in Marin County.
posted by ocschwar at 6:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


It would be great if someone would explain - or point out where it's been explained already in the thread - how SF is supposed to increase housing density in, say, the Richmond or Sunset.

Rezoning to allow more units is all that's needed. Not everyone will redevelop their property, but it would significantly drive up the opportunity cost of (relatively) low-density structures.


The Richmond and Sunset are both neighborhoods where nearly everybody has cars. SF in general can be a hard city to live in without a car but those neighborhoods are worse than average. As you might expect, parking there is already miserable. Suppose that all the new developments include parking. What are you going to do about the congestion? Most of the streets are 1-2 lanes and the big streets are fairly congested as is. Running more buses to other parts of the city would help some, but there are large, steep hills immediately to the east that make bus routes circuitous. Plus it's a natural place to live if you're commuting down 280 to the Peninsula, so bus routes are only going to do so much.

It's really easy to say build more densely, but that doesn't begin to address the problems.

Oh and the Richmond (at least 5-10 years ago) was home to a large number of Russian and Chinese emigres. So ironically, redevelopment there probably would qualify as gentrification.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:37 PM on December 9, 2013


Ivan Fyodorovich: I believe what you're seeing results from the almost total dominance of the neo-liberal economic paradigm. It permeates business schools, and from there, out to the rest of society. Even public-policy grad programs embrace that model, the idea that everything must be done by "private public" partnerships, privatization etc. Sure people are "socially liberal" and that kind of thing is accepted if not promoted by major corporate interest groups. Because ethnic diversity and gay marriage don't fundamentally threaten neoliberalism.
posted by wuwei at 6:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


SF in general can be a hard city to live in without a car

Is that true if you have a shuttle that takes you to work? Uber and zipcar are probably cheaper than owning a car.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:39 PM on December 9, 2013


And on lack of preview, Richmond and Sunset already have 4-story apartment blocks. I'm not not familiar with the zoning regulations, maybe they're grandfathered in. But more likely is that buying 2-3 multi-million dollar homes (because that's how much even modest foreclosures cost there) to build an apartment block isn't very profitable.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:40 PM on December 9, 2013


This is arrogant, judgmental and presumptuous.

Articulated in a way that perfectly proves my point.
posted by Vibrissae at 6:43 PM on December 9, 2013


It's only "special protection" if you insist on believing that allocating living necessities to citizens is only possible through the so-called "free market".

No, the narrow point about what could make incumbents more deserving has to do with the moral attributes that might support an allocation designed to favor incumbency, and not about what kinds of mechanisms can allocate stuff generally. Could there be such factors? I will grant you that there are conceivable cases in the world. But, and even if San Franciscans are deserving of living in San Francisco in some kind of complex ascending relation to their nativeness, and even if the techies are uniformly awful imperialist interlopers, an allocation tracking just those things is just not going to happen. In fact it has not a blessed prayer of happening. So, given that, what are some actual ways of easing the pain of the housing crisis? E.g. have more housing?
posted by batfish at 6:54 PM on December 9, 2013


Hey Vibrissae and Ivan Fyodorovich: instead of insinuating that people's progressivism is somehow insincere, or wishing divine earthquakes on the evil gentrifier (seriously, lmao), what, exactly, is your solution?

I've been in dozens of these threads and have pointed out a few things that are true about gentrification and the move back to the cities.

1) De-suburbanization is an unquestionable Good Thing given the decreased carbon footprint of urban lives. The more people living in cities and the less living in suburbs, the better chance we have of avoiding the worst consequences of global warming. What's more, the demographics of the people leading this charge have been extremely beneficial for cities who've taken advantage of the added tax revenue and higher spending they bring.

2) Cities have been, before this trend of de-suburbanization, inhabited by a range of what I'll loosely call "outsiders" (or those who believe themselves to be outsiders). Racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, and artists called cities home, attracted by cheap housing and better public transportation.

3) Knowing that 1 is a good thing, we want to encourage people to move to cities (and even if we didn't want to encourage them, they should be able to exercise that right). But there is an existing outsider population as mentioned in 2 that presumably doesn't want to be displaced either. There is one, and only one way to make both groups happy: build more housing.

4) But then we get the inevitable "keep everything the same!!!!" crowd, which maybe neither of you are in (although your comments about the evil developers and the like reveal that you probably are).

Like, this isn't fucking magic. The underpants gnomes aren't going to come along and grant you your wish for things to stay forever the same. You want to be able to keep your bohemian artists' existence in San Francisco without being priced out? Demand more housing. You want to avoid the "tasteless" rich newcomers? Demand more housing (and get the fuck over yourself, anyone who calls for an earthquake to destroy people's livelihoods has no business calling anyone tasteless). You want the poor to be able to keep going in the city they love? Demand. More. Housing.

There really isn't that much more to it.
posted by downing street memo at 6:55 PM on December 9, 2013 [28 favorites]


Detached houses with yards? Not so much.

And don't think for a second I'll disagree. My frustration is mainly that sometimes it makes sense to be socially or otherwise conservative (just as it also sometimes makes sense to be liberal), but our politics treats conservativism and liberalism as fixed and immutable political identities instead of transitory positions relative to an evolving baseline.

Count me among those on the old San Franciscan's side. Mindless embrace of change as good is--well, just as mindless as its opposite. Local culture is valuable, and we've acknowledged the right of established settlers to have say over their own affairs in the common law forever, so it seems perverse to characterize the locals as the ones who feel "entitled" here.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:57 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


There really isn't that much more to it.

Well, there is a little more to it. We could embrace development planning that creates new, higher density urban development instead of pushing everyone into the same one or two urban centers, but I realize there's a lot of political and social resistance (not to mention, the economic challenges) to that approach.

Then again, how long did it take to build Dubai up into one of the most developed urban centers in the world (complete with the tallest building in the world)? Well, it takes at least a long weekend, I think, when the people with all the money really put their backs into it.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:07 PM on December 9, 2013


It seems like if you want a place with more open space to build highrises, Mountain View has more of that than San Francisco.
posted by larrybob at 7:10 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is arrogant, judgmental and presumptuous.

Articulated in a way that perfectly proves my point.


What are you talking about? You asked for people's homes to crash down. I suggested that maybe you'd rethink your cruelty if it happened to you. I don't actually want your home to crash down. Is that what you really want? You want people you don't know to lose everything they have?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:10 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, whenever this topic comes up, it sure does reveal quite a bit about a bunch of people on MetaFilter. Apparently among the technorati, progressivism is often no more than a millimeter deep; more like a tribal affiliation that it is a real commitment to things like, say, affordable housing and transportation for the poor and working classes.

I see why you would say that, but I can't say that I agree. I truly think this is an issue that transcends the red/blue, liberal/conservative dichotomies the press likes to foist on us.

First and foremost, let's talk about how fucked we are, and how we got so fucked. The people who put us in this situation don't work for Google. Most of them are dead. Men like Robert Moses, Henry Ford, and Le Corbusier, who turned our cities into substandard living environments. The racism and segregation that led to the race riots of the 60s didn't help, nor did the productivity gains that obviated the need for a large unskilled workforce. White flight, segregation, and unemployment wrecked American cities, leading to one of the worst mistakes in urban planning history : the suburbs.

With all the foaming-at-the-mouth anger churned up by the gentrification debate, I'm surprised how little time is spent discussing this. The peninsula as we know it, a suburban megalopolis, is a place that just shouldn't exist. It seemed like a good idea at the time, back when cities were "scary places for poor people", oil was cheap and would be cheap forever, and owning a car was a symbol of freedom. That shit just didn't work out, and now people want to live in the city again, because that's the natural thing to want to do.

(yes, I know, blanket statements, blah blah blah, lots of people like the suburbs, blah blah blah, yes yes, I know, I know. but the point is, lots of people want to live in the city now, and that's why we're having this conversation to begin with)

So now we have this shit sandwich that was handed to us by history, and it creates a situation whereby a perfectly rational decision (wanting to live in the city) has undesired effects (making things destructively expensive). So, if we want to get all bent out shape and demonize somebody, let it be the bastards who put us into this mess. And what a mess it is! I mean, we think of the 2008-2009 recession as disastrous. The urban planning disaster that is the suburbs is like 1 million times worse! Financial markets can recover (and did relatively quickly), but once a highway, neighborhood, or building is built, that shit is there to stay for a good long while.

There's been a LOT of noise in this thread, but I've also seen a lot of calm, rational discussion about solutions. This is why I'm still here. I don't really think there's anything to be gained by yelling at each other or calling each others' liberal credentials into question (although I do understand it feels good to vent). We need to admit that even in cases where people have the best intentions, the situation is still completely, totally fucked, and the best thing we can do is try and find a way to correct the mistakes of our grandparents.
posted by evil otto at 7:12 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


We could embrace development planning that creates new, higher density urban development instead of pushing everyone into the same one or two urban centers, but I realize there's a lot of political and social resistance (not to mention, the economic challenges) to that approach.

If I could wave a magic wand and create 25 more cities in America with the density of San Francisco, I would. If I could wave a wand and get people to re-densify Detroit, or St. Louis, or Baltimore, or Cleveland, I'd do that too.

There is no magic wand, for a variety of reasons, most having to do with economic history. Cities exist because of a concept economists call "path dependence". Over time cities have developed industries and there are significant agglomeration effects to further economic activity in those industries in those particular cities. In other words, Manhattan has been a financial center since the early 1700's. Silicon Valley has been a technology center since the early 20th century. LA has been a center of entertainment since the late 19th century. The reason people move to New York or San Francisco to be artists is because there are artists there. It's basically a massive recursive function.

The implication of this is that new cities have very little raison d'être. Many significantly depopulated ones once did, but were path dependent on dead or dying industries. And so there's very little reason - very little pull - for people to move to places like this.

Look at the empty cities in China. Planned by a central government, they're mostly devoid of life. Maybe they'll fill up - Chinese demographics and an authoritarian state being what they are - and become lively. But we don't have either of those things.

Basically - if you want urbanization, in the short and medium terms at least you need to allow more people to live in existing urban centers.
posted by downing street memo at 7:17 PM on December 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


clueless policy makers (many on the take)
greedy developers
tasteless upper-middle-class and newly-minted rich assholes
rich fucks from Google and Facebook and the "top 20 school frat and sorority culture club"
tasteless, entitled, upper-middle-class types
golden children from Harvard and Stanford and the other top-20/30 schools who have never had to struggle
asshole landlords and developers
rich creeps who displace hard-working folks with their over-bidding for homes
little spoiled-precious-darling kids


Please sign me up for more of this real progressivism. I like it: let's sneer at the people from rich families who grow up comfortable, let's sneer at the people from middle-class families who strike it rich or become upper-middle-class, let's sneer at how tasteless they are and how much they spoil their precious children and how much they over-bid for what they buy, and let's do this in the name of all the plain hard-working folk who struggle trying to earn money to spend on their children. I like it because moral purity based largely on aesthetics and tribal group identity is a wonderful thing, the type of experience that used to make San Francisco great but is sadly disappearing due to all the tasteless greedy assholes who just don't get it man.
posted by leopard at 7:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


It seems like if you want a place with more open space to build highrises, Mountain View has more of that than San Francisco.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I was thinking with my comment about Google getting into the land development game and building little New Urbanist town centers.

It's really easy to say build more densely, but that doesn't begin to address the problems.

No, but it's better to address the problems than to pretend there aren't any or ignore them and do nothing. Just because there are problems doesn't mean we can't find solutions. The problem of housing in San Francisco certainly isn't going to be solved by saying "oh, well." Again, I suggested Sunset because people were complaining that SF is too hilly to build anything. Again, the whole area isn't going to double or treble in density overnight, and anyone that wants to build a significant development will have to produce some kind of traffic study analyzing how their development will impact traffic patterns. It's quite possible that the main reason the zoning is the way it is in Sunset is because of the inability of public transportation to serve the area and the lack of will to change that.
posted by LionIndex at 7:33 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Planning Map For San Francisco

Note, a lot of the Richmond (especailly inner Richmond) is zoned for low and moderate density apartment buildings, with a relatively large number of higher density places on the corridors. The rest is all 2-3 units per lot, which isn't exactly sparse. (Seacliff doesn't count, and is never going to become dense housing)

The dense parts of the Sunset are much the same, although a bit less so. You go south and it thins out a bit, but then again those are the kind places where I bet these protesters wouldn't be caught dead in those areas.
posted by aspo at 7:42 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


And from thinking of the buildings I've been in that are labled RM-1, I suspect that is what LionIndex is thinking of when he says "four story apartment buildings", in fact he may even be thinking less dense than that.
posted by aspo at 7:46 PM on December 9, 2013


I think it's less about actual path dependence, though, than about perceptions of path dependence and other economic/cultural trends and how that stuff influences where the capital goes. Capital's more concentrated these days, so big swings in where the capital's flowing happen more quickly and dramatically. So you end up with massive metropolises like Dubai springing up in one part of the world in less than a decade on the one hand, while on the other, cities with long, rich histories can fade to nothing over the same short timeframe.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:50 PM on December 9, 2013


This article in the New Yorker is interesting. On the first pass it seems to praise a growing quasi-anarcho capitalistic culture in San Francisco but it took a turn to a very different place for me once it got to Lyft and private bus systems near the end. In the light of those examples it seems like it could be one long endorsement of the privatization of everything.

It seems like there are scores of people in the San Francisco tech scene who made their nest egg on a dorm room project and completely forgot (or never learned) how to be normal, workaday people.
posted by Spiced Out Calvin Coolidge at 7:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman - have you ever been to Dubai? I have. It's a lifeless shithole, and the second the oil disappears and they abandon it, the desert will take it back over.

It will be a ghost town in 100 years, just like all the ones we have out west. Whereas I'm willing to bet NYC will be alive and well.
posted by downing street memo at 7:53 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


It depends a lot on minimum lot size, too. SF's lots were probably divided up in 1850 or something, so they're pretty standard and there may not be a bunch of new areas where lots are going to be subdivided and they need specify minimum lot sizes. Anyway, 2-3 units per lot is more dense than your average motorist suburb, but it's still basically just a house with a granny flat in back.

I was saying a four-story block because that can be done fairly cheaply on the building side. If you get taller than that, you get into much more expensive methods of construction and you need steel or concrete (yes, even in California, you can do a 4-story wood apartment building). But, taking down two houses on two adjoining lots(basically all the RH-1 blocks in Sunset) and putting up a 4-story apartment building (you can even put a 4-story apartment building on top of a concrete garage) effectively quadruples your density without getting super expensive on design and construction. Land costs would still be a pain.
posted by LionIndex at 7:56 PM on December 9, 2013


Point is, people can build even massive cities quickly when the incentives are right, but I suspect we'd agree on the rest.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:57 PM on December 9, 2013


And for another followup. Population Density By Zip Code. Once again, most of the Not New York is San Francisco.
posted by aspo at 7:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Umm, LionIndex: You don't know these neighborhoods at all do you? The areas you are talking about have pretty small lots, generally with 2-3 entrances from the front. (One of the things I love about San Francisco is the classic San Francisco condo with it's own entrance.)
posted by aspo at 8:02 PM on December 9, 2013


Okay, here's a question. Twenty years ago, the cities of the US were burned-out husks, after the crack epidemic, urban renewal, and white flight removed businesses and taxpayers. "The City" became a sort of universal fear, from Dirty Harry to Death Wish and Double Dragon. Now, young people with money are moving back into the cities, and everyone screams "gentrification!" What do you want? Do you want cities that are places of beauty and safety? If so, you need people with money to live there. Do you want cities that have good education systems and public transit? If so, you need people with money to live there. "Gentrification" is a scary sounding word, but in a lot of ways, it just means "taxpayers living in the city."
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:02 PM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


No, I certainly don't. As I've said multiple times, Sunset was suggested as an area because of the objection that you can't build in SF because it's too hilly. Do I need to repeat my statement about it being at least a year after changing the zoning before ground actually gets broken on anything?
posted by LionIndex at 8:04 PM on December 9, 2013


Sonic Meat Machine: I think you mean 30 years ago. I know, it's kind of scary to realize, but twenty years ago was the Clinton years...
posted by aspo at 8:04 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sonic Meat Machine: I think you mean 30 years ago. I know, it's kind of scary to realize, but twenty years ago was the Clinton years...

oh god
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:11 PM on December 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


It seems like there are scores of people in the San Francisco tech scene who made their nest egg on a dorm room project and completely forgot (or never learned) how to be normal, workaday people.

I'm a dot-com millionaire
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:11 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Twenty years ago SF was in the midst of a housing crash. It wasn't all lattes and lavender ice cream, and SOMA looked more Detroity than it didn't.
posted by rhizome at 8:44 PM on December 9, 2013


By this measure Detroit must of course be the best city where everyone would want to move if they weren't against moving places.
posted by Artw at 8:51 PM on December 9, 2013


What do you want?

Socialism. :)

The problem of gentrification is the problem of capitalism. People with money forcing out people without is how capitalism works vis-a-vis desirable space and it sucks.

So: socialism, or, failing that, a compassionate and visionary progressive government that recognizes its role as, essentially, a capitalism trainer or keeper. As capital moves in, ensure that changes are aligned with the values that are important to us. Yes to safety and public transit and education but also yes to families who have lived in an area for two generations being able to stick around, yes to artists and musicians and social workers and teachers being able to live where they work, yes to balancing a city's character with the needs of a growing population.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:53 PM on December 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Those would seem like reasonable and worthwhile goals worth working towards.
posted by Artw at 8:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


That second thing you describe there sounds just about right to me, wemayfreeze, but if the workers somehow ultimately ended up controlling the means of production in the bargain, I wouldn't be terribly disappointed about it.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:29 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm calling the Emperor, he'll straighten this out. You don't get on the wrong side of Norton.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


So I spent a bunch of time discussing this event with people today but no one here seems to have commented on the fact that the shouting guy was in fact a union organizer who did the whole thing extemporaneously, specifically Max Alper who said, “This was improv political theater.”

I have much more to say, but other things to do and apologies if this already got mentioned.
posted by GuyZero at 9:38 PM on December 9, 2013


no one here seems to have commented on the fact that the shouting guy was in fact a union organizer

nope

no one at all
posted by kagredon at 9:48 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was going to ignore this thread but you guys started talking about redeveloping the Sunset. Hey! That's like a total hobbyhorse of mine. Plus, I live here. And it's damn cold here tonight let me tell you.

Yeah, it could totally be denser. And frankly, our housing stock isn't that faboo. The Doelgers range from nice (barrel-fronts) to blah. The Rousseaus are awesome but I can't afford one so the hell with them.

But this kind of bears on the subject: the origin of the Sunset in particular was basically one big, fast, crazy build-up to add homes at a ridiculous clip. Of course, they had a giant empty sand dune to work with, but this is the kind of thoughtful, slow, careful city planning we were talking about:

"The Doelger organization employed separate framing crews for each different house plan, so each crew would be familiar with that one layout, making it unnecessary to spend the time to learn different ones. It was not uncommon for the framing crews to race one another down two sides of one street to see which crew could complete framing their side first. In this way, the development of the Sunset District proceeded at a pace far more rapid than any previous residential development in San Francisco." (source)

And of course before that, some of the few buildings out here were made from old (horse-drawn) streetcars.

So what I'm saying is ... a fast, free-spirited, creative, and relatively unfettered building spree would be completely in keeping with the spirit of the 'hood.

Now, could it actually happen? Well, easing the permitting process would be a damn good start. The parking situation sucks, but it sucks radically less than anywhere else in the city, so maybe we should just lay down a few new streetcars (down Noriega maybe?) or even build BART to the beach.

Housing prices are a little ridiculous even way out here in the bleak Sunset, though. In principle I like the idea of knocking down two crappy Doelgers and building one nice family-oriented apartment building. Problem is, to make the economics work it would probably have to be really expensive condos ... which doesn't help much.

(We are building 182 rowhouses on Brotherhood way ... but they ain't cheap, and that's probably one of the last times you'll see development on open areas in the city.)

So. The best long-term solution is probably to encourage (carefully) development of 3-4 story apartment buildings, especially ones that have 3+ bedrooms, in residential areas like the Sunset, the Richmond, and the Exelcsior. You'd have to add a lot of public transportation improvements (at the very least) to make that work. It's going to be hard to pull off in the short term even if you had the political will to change the permitting because real estate is so expensive that projects gravitate to the high end, which doesn't really address the problem. Doing this wouldn't change the character of the city because the character of the city is change. Not doing it would change the character of the city because we'll end up a damn museum piece no one can afford.
posted by feckless at 9:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


no one here seems to have commented on the fact that the shouting guy was in fact a union organizer

"Union organizer" seems to be overreaching a bit - It seems like his part time job at most, mainly he seems to be some random guy from Occupy Oakland who likes attention.
posted by Artw at 9:56 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


feckless: Now that actually sounds like a sunset plan I can get behind.

Also, I read a bit more about this Max Alper guy, and just in love with the idea that some early 30something from fucking Evanston is out there fighting the gentrifying San Francisco fight. Oh and he lives in Oakland, but is so bent out of shape by the ABUSE OF SAN FRANCISCO MUNI RESOURCES that he just had to pretend to be a Google employee behaving badly in order to get the word out.
posted by aspo at 10:05 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


evil otto: "Outside of SF, your choices are the suburbs (yuck!) or Oakland (good if you're willing to be a neighborhood pioneer"

This is the kind of uniquely SF-centric, constrained view of East Bay, North Bay, etc, that means no multi-borough system can really ever get underway!
posted by meehawl at 10:06 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


meehawl : I was coming at that from the perspective of a city-dweller who doesn't want to own a car. SF and Oakland are, to my eyes, the only recognizably urban parts of the Bay area. I guess downtown Berkeley is urban in a college town sort of way, although I don't think I'd want to live there without a car.

Are you envisioning a multi-borough system that would involve areas outside of SF and Oakland? I hadn't thought of that. I'd be interested to hear you make your case.
posted by evil otto at 10:21 PM on December 9, 2013


Today I learned I'm a neighborhood pioneer. I hope I don't die of neighborhood dysentery.
posted by brundlefly at 11:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just a little tidbit:

Manhattan is 4x as population dense as the City of SF.

Manhattan has 1,619,090 on 23 square miles
SF has 825,111 people on 47 square miles
posted by cman at 11:59 PM on December 9, 2013


Also, for those who think subways don't work in our earthquake zone, I urge you to learn about Tokyo.
posted by cman at 12:02 AM on December 10, 2013


I visited SF from NYC a few weeks back and it was pretty nuts how pissed the fuck off and tense everything was considering you can like, sit in a park for five minutes and people will bring you rolled joints and expertly prepared cookies.

You guys need to put the kibosh on the cars is what's the problem. There was an interesting article about the one car garages being problematic while I was over there. Start disrespecting the cars more with more jaywalking and shit, that seems to help.

Denser, higher traffic Manhattan feels much safer to ride a bike in than SF.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 12:08 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


downing street memo: Like, this isn't fucking magic. The underpants gnomes aren't going to come along and grant you your wish for things to stay forever the same. You want to be able to keep your bohemian artists' existence in San Francisco without being priced out? Demand more housing. You want to avoid the "tasteless" rich newcomers? Demand more housing (and get the fuck over yourself, anyone who calls for an earthquake to destroy people's livelihoods has no business calling anyone tasteless). You want the poor to be able to keep going in the city they love? Demand. More. Housing.

There really isn't that much more to it


Well, there IS a lot more to it. I have watched this scene for 30 years; people around here have been hankering for more affordable housing for decades - and they have gotten a token development bone or two. Displacement is rampant!

What keeps it from being (as you propose) "there really isn't that much more to it" is the fact that money talks, and money bribes, and that there are too many insensitive rich asshole developers and politicians who get into politics to feather their nest. And to many new-wealthy types who are only to happy to oblige the latter group by opening up their checkbooks. Housing becomes someone else's problem for those assholes! Wake up! "Demand. More. Housing."??? Ha! How about the 159 square foot studios that are going to $1900 per month (rent) - all being talked up by developers as a "solution" to the housing problem. Fuck them and fuck their chicken coops!

leopard: Please sign me up for more of this real progressivism. I like it: let's sneer at the people from rich families who grow up comfortable, let's sneer at the people from middle-class families who strike it rich or become upper-middle-class, let's sneer at how tasteless they are and how much they spoil their precious children and how much they over-bid for what they buy, and let's do this in the name of all the plain hard-working folk who struggle trying to earn money to spend on their children. I like it because moral purity based largely on aesthetics and tribal group identity is a wonderful thing, the type of experience that used to make San Francisco great but is sadly disappearing due to all the tasteless greedy assholes who just don't get it man

Yeah, and it's the relativists whose hubris, subtextual tribalism, and snotty privilege enables them to make a statement like you just did. And yes, this town is filling up with tasteless, greedy assholes - just like every other town that gets "discovered" by nouveau-riche trash and their $18 hamburgers. Do I think all wealthy people are bad? Absolutely not (I count many as friends, but then again, I choose my friend carefully). That said, I have seen what wealth-for-wealth's sake assholes and their corrupt politico friends have done to this city (never mind our country), and I'm up to here with it. Having lived among and within the hubris brought these neo-liberalist, self-serving assholes, and their near-cousin libertarian brethren, tyring to "enlighten" the masses with their endless social media "inventions" that are just another way to sell more tasteless crap to the eyeballs of the people who want to use their services to "expand their horizons", until they look up to find that they are owned by these assholes - their minds owned; their housing opportunities gone; their public schools gone bad because the newbies in this town just love them thar private schools). And yes, lets sneer at some of the rich, because they are largely rich on the backs of others - a truism that too many of them forget. Welcome to the new America!

l'spirit de whatever: You asked for people's homes to crash down. I suggested that maybe you'd rethink your cruelty if it happened to you. I don't actually want your home to crash down. Is that what you really want? You want people you don't know to lose everything they have?

Yes. I want them to get religion - as in I want them to see what a real challenge feels like. I want every asshole who bought a home that came from a conversion in this town - a conversion that displaced the family that was there before them, to LOSE that home for six months. I want them to personally meet the people that their fucked up overbidding on homes has displaced. Yes, I want that. Is that cruel? Maybe, by your standard - not mine.

Just what the fuck are any of these nouveau-riche doing for this city, except making it more UNaffordable for anyone but themselves? Except for getting themselves a special ticket to the opening night at the Opera, or funding a part of the new wing at SFMOMA, of course, with their fucking names on it! Am I supposed to like that? Fuck that!

Where's the help for misplaced families? Where's the help for San Francisco's public schools? Where's the innovation re: San Francisco's transportation infrastructure, except some asshole company that puts a pink mustache on a car to take away a job from a hard working limo friver or taxi driver with a family to feed? Where's the help for older, misplaced tech workers who are being replaced by largely incompetent H1_B's, brought to us by lying assholes like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates?

If it wasn't for rent control in San Francisco, these greedy developer assholes would displace the whole goddamn city - and the snotty-nosed newbies wouldn't give two blinks as they sign their down payment checks. Fuck em!
posted by Vibrissae at 12:14 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


There was an interesting article about the one car garages being problematic while I was over there.

Heh. When people ask why parking in SF is so bad, I tell them, "Think of what Manhattan would be like if every apartment building had its own driveway."
posted by evil otto at 12:15 AM on December 10, 2013


Oh la la the nouveau-riche, I mean quell horreur. It's like they almost think they are PEOPLE. Can you believe it?
posted by aspo at 12:58 AM on December 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Vibrissae, it sounds you like you have your own idea about who the right kinds of people are: people who deserve to live in the city, and other people who apparently deserve to "get religion" in the sense of their houses to be taken from them.

The "developers assholes" are the people you need to make additional housing a reality. The "pink mustache" is additional public transit driven by people who also have families, and making transportation more affordable for all residents of the city. The "housing opportunities gone" disappeared as soon there was demand — otherwise who should these opportunities be limited to?— The people that you think are "hard-working" whose contribution to society is not as you put it "tasteless crap"? And your idea that H1B workers are "unqualified" and responsible for "underemployed" tech workers makes the ridiculous assumption that top tech companies would hire unqualified people.

Yes. I want them to get religion - as in I want them to see what a real challenge feels like.

How do you know what challenges someone else has faced? Your selective empathy is really disgusting. The reason you are so sensitive to capricious elitism in the world is because it's who you are.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:15 AM on December 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


How do you know what challenges someone else has faced? Your selective empathy is really disgusting. The reason you are so sensitive to capricious elitism in the world is because it's who you are

Nicely stated, punctuated by the elitist phrasing that gives away your tribal bias. I'm not some relativistic, educated person who buys other people into poverty and dislocation - or a defender of same. You? Try being a taxi driver supporting her family and lets see what you have to say about the Pink Mustache assholes who don't have to pay license fees - who have the cajones to simply drive to SFO and STEAL taxi business.

Try watching your grandmother being forced out of her home because some asshole developer wants to turn her apartment - the one she has lived in for 40 years - into a pricey condo. Let's see how you feel then. Try watching your neighborhood turn into a pricey cupcake, latte, and effete "fusion food" mall, pricing out the more affordable vendors.

You're pissed because I'm forcing you and your kind to to look in a mirror with bad lighting, instead of giving you a chance to prance in front of that mirror until you're satisfied with what you see. What you don't like is the image of the stinking sore that the wealthy pigs who have forced good people out, are. Yeah, I'm judgmental. So? We need more judgmental people around here, instead of relativists that stand around wringing their hands, looking for "solutions" that take fucking years to execute - that, by the time they're finished have gone way over budget, rewarding insiders, and ill-serving the very people that were banking on the solution.

Where are your effete friends when it comes to helping turn around Bayview/Hunter's Point. Where are the Twitter and Facebook and Google and Groupon assholes with their buses? They make me sick. These people are privileged cream-skimmers.

The underprivileged in San Francisco never get a chance to say these things, because they're treated like dirt by the riffraff that you're defending. They're marginalized. This is true in other cities as well, but it's especially visible here, because there is so much new wealth here.

Incidentally, I could care less about the challenges people faced before, during, or after they finish at Harvard, et. al.. What I do care about is how they use what they've learned to not do bad in the world. Pushing out poor people so you can have a tony pad in the Mission isn't my idea of doing good. And, one more time, fuck the self-serving developers in this town who begrudgingly have to be forced to provide affordable units when they build, fuck their self-serving manipulation and the politicians they pay off; fuck the Puppet Mayor of this town for his hypocrisy and ass-kissing. That you think those are the people who are going to help make this city more affordable shows the sheer level of naivete' that comes from too many Ivy League graduate school seminars, or never having to sweat - or both. Yeah, that's elitist. So? Your kind, your class, you even want to co-opt the suffering of those whose suffering you cause. Sad.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:09 AM on December 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Everything that involves the better-off people being able to segregate themselves — in where they live and where their children go to school and where they shop and where they work and play — from the worse-off people, or just the "wrong" kind of people, is suddenly all about "freedom" and "rights" and "choices" even though the worse-off people have little ability to exercise these "rights" and "choices" that the better-off value so highly and will so angrily protect.

This is said as though this is some kind of monstrous thing, and I think it's a large part of the problem people are having with the Google buses - not that they're stopping at muni stops, but that the Google employees have no need to mingle with the hoi polloi. But even the people complaining about it admit that the Google buses are better - quieter, nicer, cleaner. And the things that make the Google buses so nice are not just the wifi and the quicker commute. I'd wager that a large part of it is the fact that the people who everyone hates to encounter on public transit are excluded. No obnoxious drunks, no groups of rowdy teens, no evangelists, no rank odor permeating the entire bus. You cannot maintain that comfort without exclusion.

And so is the thing about living in places and going to schools and work and play. You can't really have a safe environment for your kids in a place where desperate people who live right next door or who go to school with them could pay their entire food bill for the month by mugging them for their thousand-dollar piece of tech. You can't guarantee your children will be learning at their own pace when half the school is focused on severe remedial work. You can't have a quiet environment in high-density living, where people are walking (and hawking) down the street on which you live.

This is why people resist it - not because they somehow hate people with less money than themselves, but because they want to preserve their safety and the enjoyments they currently enjoy. And why shouldn't they be able to move to a safe and relaxing neighborhood, put their kids in a safe and enriching school, go to work in comfort, and enjoy their off time? Should they flagellate themselves and be forbidden from living comfortably on the grounds that other people have less and thus cannot enjoy themselves?
posted by corb at 3:46 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Please assume good faith and don't direct your ire at other commenters.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:53 AM on December 10, 2013


I don't get it, how do the existence of Ivy League schools and billionaire tech tycoons make other people morally pure saints whose every action betters the universe? You think that bad things happen in the world because of some moral rot that resides in the hearts of greedy tastless nouveau riche people, and that if we killed them off we could replace them with a new class of selfless and tasteful heroes who would build just the right amount of housing, accumulate just the right amount of money, and buy properly priced cupcakes while dedicating the proper amount of energy and love towards their children? There are a few billion people on the planet who are worse off than you and sweat much harder than you do, and what have you ever done for any of these people other than overbid for food and generate a carbon footprint that will eventually displace many of them from their homes? Your kind, your class, you don't lift a finger to help anyone else and you hope that by spitting at people even more fortunate than yourself no one notices. Sad.
posted by leopard at 3:54 AM on December 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I want them to personally meet the people that their fucked up overbidding on homes has displaced.

There's evidence that the U.S. is reinflating a housing bubble, but absent a bubble, you can't really substantiate the claim that everyone is overbidding; it's not overbidding just because every piece of real estate goes for more than you, personally, think it should.

If it wasn't for rent control in San Francisco, these greedy developer assholes would displace the whole goddamn city

Rent control subsidizes long-term residents by pulling that money from the pockets of newcomers. Can you actually justify this massive barrier to entry for would-be residents of San Francisco in any way that doesn't boil down to the long-term residents extracting money from newcomers because of reasons?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:28 AM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


[Comment deleted. Be civil. I know the thread hasn't exactly been that, but I have to either delete a bunch of comments quite a ways back, which I am not inclined to do; or simply draw the line somewhere, which I'm doing, here. Sorry to be blunt.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:05 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


As I recall, MeFites more knowledgeable than I am about the Bay Area have mentioned that the patchwork of cities and municipalities makes it difficult to plan transit or something.

Being in the DC area I find this hard to swallow. WMATA manages - often poorly, but manages - to deal with the challenge of planning & gathering funding across two states and a semi/sometimes-independently-run federal enclave. That represents funding and building where you have a minimum of four entities to hassle with even before you drill down into counties within VA and MD.

So difficult, sure, but at least it's all within the same STATE.
posted by phearlez at 8:32 AM on December 10, 2013



The underprivileged in San Francisco never get a chance to say these things, because they're treated like dirt by the riffraff that you're defending.


Look: this is a free country. Among other things, that means we don't get to classify one person as deserving rights and another as "riffraff." We don't have internal passports. We don't have internal residency permits.

And we don't have riffraff.

Not the homeless. Not the old timers. Not the long rooted residents. Not the newcomers.

If your answer to what's going on in San Francisco is to confront people with the demand that they up and leave, you get no sympathy and no respect.

If this is because the normal channels for getting more housing are clogged, that is still no excuse.
posted by ocschwar at 8:52 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]



Yeah, it could totally be denser. And frankly, our housing stock isn't that faboo. The Doelgers range from nice (barrel-fronts) to blah. The Rousseaus are awesome but I can't afford one so the hell with them.


A friend of mine is a civil engineer (living on Geary Street, no less). I once remarked to him how those houses look like in an earthquake they would all swing 10 feet to the right and then plop down, crushing their garage floors. He replied that they don't just look that way, and that the corner homes that were built to bookend them, would fail at that role and fare even worse.
posted by ocschwar at 9:09 AM on December 10, 2013


Being in the DC area I find this hard to swallow.

Well, all politics are local and, as cliched as it may sound, unique. And there may be structural reasons (for example, how regional transport strategy is developed and executed) as to why a more unified transit solution cannot be implemented.

In short, just because we know what is happening in our own backyard (in your case DC) does not mean we will be able to understand the complexities of another locale.

So, any informed MeFites want to comment? Would make a bit of a change from the Student Union Building-level "class warfare" commenting here.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:29 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


WMATA manages - often poorly, but manages

Not really so different from here, and I have lived in DC and on the MD side of the DC line. BART - the system that most people seem to be talking about here - goes south into San Mateo a little ways and also across into the East Bay, and it doesn't end in Oakland - it goes down to Fremont, up to Pittsburgh, out to Dublin. (How long has Metro been working on that line out to Dulles, now?) There are patchworks of buses and commuter trains and ferries. If your commute is a reverse one (e.g. you live in SF but work in Marin), trying to commute by public transit may be exceedingly painful or impossible, since everything is set up to move the most people from outlying areas to the city for work.

And, I mean, if what you really want to know is why you can't take BART from SF to Mountain View, yelling at or sneering at people who live in San Francisco isn't going to get you an answer - you'd have to ask San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. For that matter, why aren't they (or are they? I dunno) adding shitloads of high-density housing as a way to attract all the Googlers and Applers? Housing ain't exactly cheap down there, either - what are Palo Alto and them doing to alleviate it?
posted by rtha at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


WMATA manages - often poorly, but manages

Well here you get the patchwork of MTC, who oversee BART and tries to coordinate the regional transit systems, Caltrans Dist 4, the counties (for this discussion Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara), the individual cities, and then some of the ancillary groups like CARB or ABAG. Inter-agency cooperation is a huge mountain to climb - just look at the botched roll out of Translink/Clipper. (Thanks, BART!)

The WAMATA example is better though than NYMTA, so there's that.

One of the big problems with the regional transportation system is the vast distance. AC Transit sucks, but it also services two of the largest, most sprawling Bay Area counties. (I live in Berkeley and often forget Livermore is in Alameda county, or Union City.)

And, I mean, if what you really want to know is why you can't take BART from SF to Mountain View, yelling at or sneering at people who live in San Francisco isn't going to get you an answer - you'd have to ask San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

This is often over looked, but yeah. I think the companies are making out like bandits (what taxes?), but the cities are letting them do it and it's not just San Francisco. Look at the new Apple mothership in Cupertino or the new planned office-research-retail complex in Santa Clara. So much sprawl, so much parking, not really providing alternative transportation options.

There's not much to add I guess, other than people want what they want and they don't see the disconnect or where they might be the issue. Stuff has to change, and it is changing, but who knows if it's sustainable. I'll admit, I got annoyed when we were house hunting at all the people from SF coming over to Oakland and Berkeley and paying ludicrous amounts of money for houses "near Rockridge". I bristled when I noticed a Google bus parked out a couple blocks from my house. But these people are here and they have rights. Would I like to see them care a bit more about the neighborhood and the area? Sure, but they aren't gonna change for me.

So as somebody in the East Bay, I guess I blame the car culture that has continued to really stymie new types of development on the peninsula. Not that it matters.
posted by kendrak at 9:57 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly, Google has a fairly intriguing opportunity here. They could use their money and power to push for an overhaul of a badly broken system, and collect on all of the goodwill that goes with, instead of maintaining the status quo of screw-the-rules-I've-got-money.

The real opportunity is Google-built, Google-owned, Google-operated, Google-branded monorails!
posted by davejay at 10:35 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


BART down the peninsula would tremendously suck. My hearing would be the first victim. Then I imagine those stupid trains stopping at every single pissant stop in San Mateo county. I'll hold out for electrified CalTrain, thanks. The East Bay can keep it's awful not-really-a-subway-not-really-a-commuter-train system. Also a BART-style gated fortress would ruin the train stations that are often a nice, quick hop-on-hop-off experience.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:40 AM on December 10, 2013


I came up with an interesting idea that might mitigate for some people the economic disturbance of gentrification. It probably won't help the very most vulnerable people, but it might help the middle class.

The problem as I see it is that increasing property value benefits homeowners (and landlords) while negatively affecting renters. Gentrification also affects living costs, but for some people it also represents additional opportunities (fancier restaurants with bigger tips, etc.)

Ideally people who like their neighborhood would buy within their neighborhood. Not everyone can or wants to do that. There needs to be a middle ground so that people can hedge against gentrification.

So I purpose an index offered by the city that tracks the total property tax paid in your neighborhood. You would be limited to purchasing say 5% of your rent. Cities might like this as it gives them capital and they can pay off the appreciation using property taxes. People who don't have the credit to buy a home can hedge against gentrification. If property values go up, their nest egg appreciates heavily.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:52 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who relatively commutes on public transportation from the Peninsula to Oakland, I would love BART all the way down to San Jose. I would love it if I could never spend another moment freezing while waiting for the transfer at Millbrae.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:05 AM on December 10, 2013


There is a BART extension to San Jose underway, but it will extend south from Fremont, not Millbrae. PDF map

Caltrain will get more-frequent electric trains with faster acceleration well before that (2019).
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:26 AM on December 10, 2013


I've never wanted to move to San Francisco and pay way too much for rent more than I do now. #TeamGentrify
posted by dogwalker at 12:07 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The real opportunity is Google-built, Google-owned, Google-operated, Google-branded monorails!

You can ride them for free, but you have to log in with a google id, watch targeted ads on your seat's telescreen, and tell them where you went and anything you bought while you were out.
posted by weston at 12:21 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vibrissae I understand your anger but I think your focus is misguided. Saying that the problem is greed is like saying the reason your football team keeps losing is because the other team cares too much about getting touchdowns: greed is the name of the game. Greed IS capitalism.

Focusing on greed as the problem suggests that the solution is for all the greedy people to stop being so greedy, a solution that is no solution at all. If only the other team would stop trying so hard to get the ball into the end zone!

We all work within this system. What we need are legislative moves that shape and constrain capitalism toward a system that expresses the values we care about.

To extend the football metaphor: if you're trying to limit concussions caused on the field, asking the players to just please not tackle so hard isn't going to work. You need rules in place that dictate how and where a player can tackle another.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:23 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize that I used the term neoliberalism without defining it. Sorry for the jargon. Here's a good definition:
In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives. That, in fact, is the openly declared goal: once we are made more cognizant of our money, where it comes from and where it goes, neoliberals believe we’ll be more responsible in spending and investing it. Of course, rich people have accountants, lawyers, personal assistants, and others to do this for them, so the argument doesn’t apply to them, but that’s another story for another day.

The dream is that we’d all have our gazillion individual accounts — one for retirement, one for sickness, one for unemployment, one for the kids, and so on, each connected to our employment, so that we understand that everything good in life depends upon our boss (and not the government) — and every day we’d check in to see how they’re doing, what needs attending to, what can be better invested elsewhere. It’s as if, in the neoliberal dream, we’re all retirees in Boca, with nothing better to do than to check in with our broker, except of course that we’re not. Indeed, if Republicans (and some Democrats) had their way, we’d never retire at all.
Link
(Link to the very excellent Jacobin.)
posted by wuwei at 1:24 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You think that bad things happen in the world because of some moral rot that resides in the hearts of greedy tastless nouveau riche people, and that if we killed them off we could replace them with a new class of selfless and tasteful heroes who would build just the right amount of housing, accumulate just the right amount of money, and buy properly priced cupcakes while dedicating the proper amount of energy and love towards their children?

Nope. You got it wrong, just like last time. I want the tasteless nouveau riche to be seen as they really are, instead of getting - as they do - to see themselves in their narcissistic reflecting pools. That crowd has gotten too much of a free ride in the media. They're basically a spoiled class of entitled jerks who either eschew community solutions due to their outsized libertarianism, or self-described neoliberals who prance "solutions" via foundations, op-eds etc. etc. as they live lives that disrespect the very ideas they spout. These people need to see themselves, or at the very least, be told how other people think about them. If you don't like that, or they don't like that - too bad. They live inside a shell of media adulation and self congratulation. It's time to take off the emperor's clothes.

What's interesting to me in this thread is how my fantasy wish that those fuckers get religion has brought not even ONE admission that the assholes I'm calling out are even partially responsible for the problems this city faces. Instead, you want to engage the assholes who cause these problems. Not ONE word about the corrupt policy makers in this region. That's not only interesting; it's telling at how these creeps have set themselves up to be the tech saviors of humanity on one hand, but on the other hand they're largely just a bunch of cream-skimming elites who talk out both sides of their smarmy mouths - eating their $4.50 cupcakes as they walk by the homes of those they have displaced. These people are users; they co=opt almost everything they touch. They want to use San Francisco MTA stops for their exclusive transit services? Fuck them! Why don't they build their own; they've taken away the affordability of this city. The tech and high finance crowd in this city have turned this place into a boring, one-dimensional display of wealth - a virus that would be OK if it was confined to one part of the city, but it's not - the entire city of San Francisco is now off limits to a middle income person, unless they want to live in a hovel ir 159 square foot studio at $2000 per month. The people you are defending have caused that, along with their political policy-making tools.

Where is Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, the hapless President of Twitter, etc. etc. in helping to solve these problems? These people, along with the elitist culture they have spawned in the Bay Area make me sick - and, believe me, I'm far from alone in that sentiment in this city.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:27 PM on December 10, 2013


Yeah, if there's one problem in the world, it's people who eat $4.50 cupcakes. Damn those guys and their irresponsible sugar love!
posted by corb at 1:34 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


So you are waging a war against their hypocrisy and self delusion then?
posted by Carillon at 1:35 PM on December 10, 2013


I'm confused, and maybe Vibrissae can help me. Am I tasteless nouveau riche?

Arguments for:
- I'm relatively well off, and have made the majority of my money from tech companies.
- I spent 2 years riding the Yahoo bus from San Francisco to their (now-defunct) campus near Great America. (Pro-tip: That commute sucked. I quit so I could actually see my family.)
- I live in a relatively non-wealthy neighborhood, and probably have more money than a lot of my neighbors.
- By living here at all and paying close to market rent, I'm contributing to the skyrocketing rent situation for the city as a whole.
- I like expensive coffees and totally eat fancy cupcakes. Maliciously.

Arguments against:
- I've lived in San Francisco for over 15 years.
- I'm raising my children here. One child goes to a public school, which we volunteer and raise money for. The other goes to a cooperative preschool which has been in the neighborhood for 60+ years and which we are desperately trying to preserve for the future.
- I consistently vote for and advocate for public policy that would tax the wealthy at a higher rate, change Prop 13, alter our limiting zoning regulations. I'd like to do more, because more is needed, and I don't like seeing my friends driven out of their city.
- I have excellent taste.

It's a puzzle! It's ... almost as if this is a structural class issue having to do with the vast income inequality built into our current capitalist system, rather than a product of the individual moral failings of rank-and-file Google employees.

But that's crazy talk.
posted by feckless at 1:46 PM on December 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


I really want to do malicious things to cupcakes right now.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:49 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Shorter: I don't want anything to change and I want someone else to pay to make that happen.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:56 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


the entire city of San Francisco is now off limits to a middle income person

Rent control tends to price out middle-income newcomers, yes.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:57 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rent control tends to price out middle-income newcomers, yes.

Whereas lack of rent control prices out the existing residents. Exciting!
posted by feckless at 1:59 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


They want to use San Francisco MTA stops for their exclusive transit services? Fuck them!

I have yet to hear - in this long, tedious thread - a cogent argument about how, exactly, a Google bus' use of a public bus stop (which is not a major piece of infrastructure, but rather a signpost and perhaps a shelter on the sidewalk) represents a rivalrous use of such infrastructure. In non-effete language that even the valorous proletariat can understand, no one has yet explained who loses when a private bus "uses" a public bus stop. We're arguing about dozens of things that won't be resolved in a metafilter thread, but if someone can seriously make this argument to me, I'll walk away a happy man. You don't even have to convince me! Just make an argument that makes the slightest amount of sense.

Like, do you guys think that private mass transportation is something you only have in San Francisco? Here in DC, my (private) university runs four shuttle lines, and all the other ones do, too. Apartment complexes have shuttles that'll take you to the nearest metro stop. Government agencies that have multiple buildings operate regular shuttles back to home base; I work next door to a State Department building that has shuttles every half hour to Foggy Bottom. Vamoose and other Chinatown buses use loading points on publicly-funded sidewalks.

No one gives a shit, because the fewer people in cars in this city the better, and probably more because it's the pettiest thing imaginable to complain about.
posted by downing street memo at 2:03 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


These people, along with the elitist culture they have spawned in the Bay Area make me sick

Maybe you should leave?
posted by Nelson at 2:08 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have yet to hear - in this long, tedious thread - a cogent argument about how, exactly, a Google bus' use of a public bus stop (which is not a major piece of infrastructure, but rather a signpost and perhaps a shelter on the sidewalk) represents a rivalrous use of such infrastructure.

It is a rivalrous use when the private buses take up space that public buses need when public buses need said space, therefore delaying the public buses. The contention was made that there aren't enough private buses to cause delays, but Ironmouth pointed to an article that implies that delays are in fact happening: "They’re also taking up space at times at Muni bus stops which are inhibiting or can inhibit Muni service not letting Muni buses get to the stops"

Of course, that very good point was likely drowned out by people who feel bad because the Google buses are big and pretty (and probably serve cupcakes).
posted by sparklemotion at 2:12 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have yet to hear - in this long, tedious thread - a cogent argument about how, exactly, a Google bus' use of a public bus stop (which is not a major piece of infrastructure, but rather a signpost and perhaps a shelter on the sidewalk) represents a rivalrous use of such infrastructure.

I'm not a transportation engineer or planner, but I am a transportation librarian. So hopefully this is coherent, correct enough, and cogent.

The problem with the private shuttles (and any other vehicle) using bus stops is that it sort of defeats the purpose of dedicated public bus stops. They want the reliability of knowing that when the bus arrives they have somewhere to pull over and onboard/offboard passengers. A big part of service reliability hinges on the fact that they are able to do this, and unregulated use of the stops by private entities just makes travel times worse.

As larrybob mentioned, Muni has already tried to give the shuttles spaces my closing off on street parking. (On street parking also contributes to transit delays.)

There is also the consideration of the infrastructure costs, such as the bus pads, which will wear more quickly with higher use than projected.

On preview... what sparklemotion said.
posted by kendrak at 2:15 PM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


The drivers of the big buses also sometimes get lost around Glen Park (somewhat understandable, that place is non-Euclidean) and end up in narrow throughways where, to get out, they do awful 30-point turns and in the process take out a couple of small trees and at least one signpost.

Or so I've heard.

(Seriously, the city should get on the case of the bus companies and fix any issues like these. But god help us, the last thing we want is no buses and all those folks driving to work. God forbid. And yeah, the real answer is better truly public infrastructure for the city / peninsula flow, but that's a long term answer even assuming the various transit agencies get their heads out of their asses, which, um.)

But of course the buses aren't really the issue, they're symbolic of the big issue which is rents. Absent the rent crisis the gentrification complaints would be a big pile of "wah, wah, stuff changes and I don't like it." The rent issue, on the other hand, breaks people and ruins lives and will ruin the city in time if not addressed.

If taking on the buses (symbolically) will somehow lead to addressing the rent issue, then yay, but while I see the connection at a symbolic level, I don't see the connection on a "and this is the public policy we need to fix it" level.
posted by feckless at 2:21 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with the private shuttles (and any other vehicle) using bus stops is that it sort of defeats the purpose of dedicated public bus stops. They want the reliability of knowing that when the bus arrives they have somewhere to pull over and onboard/offboard passengers.

OK - when we say "bus stop", are we thinking of the same thing? I'm thinking of an area in the road where large vehicles can pull over and disembark/load passengers. In DC we often have two buses using a stop at the same time (and occasionally one of them is a dreaded private bus). What happens then is...the other bus pulls behind the other one, and unloads their passengers a bus-length away from the stop. Even if there are parked cars behind the stop, and the stop is occupied, the second bus just pulls up just past the first one, blocking the right lane, and disembarks passengers there. It's annoying when this happens as a driver, but it takes like five seconds.

This is what confuses me so much. On preview it looks like folks agree that this is more about "symbolism", which, I guess, whatever. I'm not much for symbolism.
posted by downing street memo at 2:28 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read that article, sparklemotion, and I guess I'm just sort of skeptical that the private buses represent any serious fraction of the municipal ones. WMATA, another terrible transit agency, makes up dumb excuses like this all the time to account for their terrible performance. And, in any case, it sounds like the evil Google and MUNI are working out a better way forward (this article is from 4 days ago).

I can absolutely see why these things might occasionally be a nuisance. But I'm having trouble thinking of them as anything approaching a systemic problem.
posted by downing street memo at 2:32 PM on December 10, 2013


You asked for an argument about how private buses were a "rivalrous use" of public infrastructure, not for an argument about how they were a systemic problem.

I (as someone who lives in a place where there are no private buses) pretty much agree with you that they are a net positive as far as efficient use of infrastructure goes. But I also agree with the idea that the private use needs to be regulated to be compatible with the public use and the actual costs/benefits of the private use should be properly accounted for.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:37 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The stops are generally only large enough to accommodate one bus. There is very little available street parking in SF due to density, driveways, and underpriced street parking (which when SF tries to deal with via variable meter rates all car drivers whine.)

The shuttle buses sit at a stop for up to several minute, unlike Muni buses, which stop only momentarily even if there is a potential passenger trying to catch the bus.
posted by larrybob at 2:38 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK - when we say "bus stop", are we thinking of the same thing? I'm thinking of an area in the road where large vehicles can pull over and disembark/load passengers.

I don't think we are exactly. The big distinction (which usually comes with curb paint and a sign on a pole, maybe a bus shelter or bench) is regulation. Bus stops, in my mind, are reserved for the local public transit buses and allocated through a regular planning process with traffic studies and public hearings. The placement takes into account frequency of use.

Some areas have designated areas for private coaches (there's a whole block on the southside of UC Berkeley for shuttles/tour buses to drop-off/pick-up/wait), but they do not compete with the public bus stops.

larrybob's point about dwell time is also important, and is a factor in planning bus routes, schedules, and stops.
posted by kendrak at 2:46 PM on December 10, 2013


Which is cause for sitting down and figuring things out, as is indeed happening, not freaking out or making weird demands for nonexistent billions.
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Good. Now they should introduce congestion pricing and toll the interstates and bridges. Seattle's traffic is ridiculous.

They do. It's only on 167 and the 520 bridge right now, but they have both. On 167 you can pay a(at times, fairly large) premium to drive in the bus/carpool lane as a single driver. On 520 you're billed no matter what and the price is congestion+time+day adjusted.

Do they need it on more roads? yea. Are they slapping it in as fast as they can get away with it? i think so, yea.

Can anybody point to an example of some place/time where housing prices actually decreased when additional supply was built?

God, i've engaged with so many trolls and assholes on this one locally. Rents in seattle have practically trippled in ten years, and in a lot of cases pretty much doubled on average since 2009. When i got out of highschool it seemed realistic to work a part time job and go to college and have my own studio. When i was in college that was possible if you got lucky or lived in a shitty place, and it was EXTREMELY cheap to have a nice place with roommates. Now, it's just kinda... fucked. People pay $600+ a month for a room in a shared place even if it's in a crappy part of town. There's exceptions, but they're rare.

Meanwhile, minimum wage has gone up like a dollar and a half. Cool. a lot of places won't even rent to you if you don't make 3x the rent in income(this didn't used to exist. if you had income and had the deposit no one cares). It seems like they borrowed this wonderful chestnut of an idea from NYC and other places. It's funny that they pretend most of the young working poor don't spent 50% of their income on rent.

Meanwhile, there is a construction boom going on here that's insane. And it's been going on for many years, starting in the 90s even. Right now within a couple blocks of my office there's at least 9 residential complexes under constrution.

Every new building i've seen, including the(ugh) apodments are essentially renting at slightly above market rate. And to expand on the apodments, they're like 200sf studios with shared kitchens for 600-1200 a month depending on where they are in town. Anyone who asks about affordable housing gets pointed to those as an "option".

The apartment i lived at in college was around $1200 for a one bedroom when i moved in, which at the time was near the upper end unless you were living in a glass condo tower downtown. Now it's like... almost 2000. For a beat up old apartment with fucked up plaster and flaky heat in a semi-nice building. that's close to a 50% increase.

Meanwhile, all the new buildings sit empty. Most i see are maybe at most 40% rented/leased/sold out even if they've been finished for 2+ years. They just sit there empty while the rest of the housing stock creeps up to meet their prices.

The grossest thing this has done honestly is push the really crappy ugly 50s-70s apartment buildings that were built like garbage, and some of the similar ones from the 80s or early 90s in to exactly the same price bracket as the older, nice buildings with "charm" and the brand new stuff. Housing is housing, and the price per square foot is king. There's no real price variation for quality or seemingly even all that much for location anymore unless you get in to the ultra high end stuff. A crappy apartment in a shitty building up north of the city right off the freeway is only a hundred or at most $200 bucks a month less than a halfway decent one in a nicer area closer to the core of town.

It all fills from the bottom up, even when the people renting can afford more. And then the only stuff left empty are the overpriced new buildings.

I don't know what the solution is, but building more housing only seems like one half of it or less. As it is it feels like pouring oil on a grease fire or something. Because i really can't escape the feeling that there isn't some dearth of supply, but just that the landlords have realized that there's so many out of towners moving in who don't actually know what the going rate is that they can just jack up their prices in unison. There's plenty of empty places, and it's not at all like SF where if you don't have the check in your hand when you do a walk through you're not getting the place. The prices have just shot way the fuck up.

What does surprise me though, is how much that kind of stuff is going on with people buying places. Apparently all cash offers above the asking price have become very common.
posted by emptythought at 2:59 PM on December 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's worth pointing out that Google and Facebook and other employers that run private shuttles are entering into partnerships with the local transit agencies to make their shuttles available to the public.

The article is here, and here are a few significant paragraphs:
On Oct. 24, Google is expected to join Intuit, Samsung and two developers for the first meeting of the Mountain View Transportation Management Association, a City Council-created requirement for several new office developments in Mountain View. The agency will collectively run shuttles for major employers in the city, and run a new publicly accessible route between corporate campuses and downtown.

Aside from keeping solo car drivers off the road, the association's effectiveness will be in reducing the number of nearly empty employee shuttles in town, while potentially coordinating other efforts to reduce car trips.

Possibilities include paying for a new shared parking garage that keeps North Bayshore employees from driving on an increasingly gridlocked Shoreline Boulevard, or new bike-share facilities. Such measures will be increasingly important as the city is now requiring "mode share" targets for new offices -- on Tuesday, Intuit promised to the City Council that only 45 percent of its employees would drive alone to a new campus at 2600 Marine Way.

[...]

Intuit officials told the City Council on Tuesday that its shuttles to and from Marine Way, near Shoreline Park's West entrance, are open to the public, though Siegel
(ed. note: Jac Siegel, Mountain View City Council member) expressed concern about whether the public knew this.
posted by scrump at 3:06 PM on December 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Whereas lack of rent control prices out the existing residents. Exciting!

So the existing residents should get to stay no matter what, and the newcomers should foot the bill to allow that to happen. Got it.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:16 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mostly just that glib anti-rent control one liners have equal and opposing glib pro-rent control one-liners.

If you actually want to solve a problem, though, maybe glib one-liners ain't the right method ...
posted by feckless at 3:20 PM on December 10, 2013


Mostly just that glib anti-rent control one liners have equal and opposing glib pro-rent control one-liners.

Well, other than the "no matter what" in my comment above, it's totally true. Rent control is a transfer of wealth from newcomers to long-term residents. The former pay more so that the latter can pay less. If rent increases are held below inflation in the long term, the discrepancy gets larger. This is basically what's happened with Proposition 13, which creates a barrier to entry for would-be homeowners throughout California.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:38 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vibrissae: Everytime you complain about the "tasteless nouveau riche" I imagine some late 1800s duchess having fainting spells on the couch because of Those People and Their Ways. Also your complaining about lattes and "effete 'fusion food'" is right out of some early nineties rightwing blowhard on talk radio. (And honestly, the $4.50 cupcake rant isn't far away...)

Then again, crazy reactionary ranting is crazy reactionary ranting, even with couched in the language of the left.
posted by aspo at 3:39 PM on December 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have yet to hear - in this long, tedious thread - a cogent argument about how, exactly, a Google bus' use of a public bus stop (which is not a major piece of infrastructure, but rather a signpost and perhaps a shelter on the sidewalk) represents a rivalrous use of such infrastructure.

Okay, fine. Google is a private entity and therefore its use of public resources has been no different from any other private entity driving up their car to a bus stop and dropping off or picking up someone.

The usual 'but, it's different this time, because of reasons' doesn't fly. Having a larger vehicle pull up to a public-use public bus stop made for and paid by the public does not change one iota the fact that the larger vehicle is operated by a non-public entity which does not legally have any right to use that public resource.

There isn't some magic seat count that absolves Google of having to follow the same laws as every other private entity, even if the only reason they have gotten away with these illegal activities is that no one in a position of power to fix the problem has had the balls to step up and finally call them out on it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:44 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rent control is a transfer of wealth from newcomers to long-term residents. The former pay more so that the latter can pay less. If rent increases are held below inflation in the long term, the discrepancy gets larger. This is basically what's happened with Proposition 13, which creates a barrier to entry for would-be homeowners throughout California.

Exactly. I have seen the effects of Prop 13 up close and personally and they are terrible. That gives me, rightly I think, an inherent distrust of the societal effects of rent control. Because Prop 13 is essentially a form of rent control writ large.

I'm willing to listen to reasons why Prop 13 is abysmal but rent control is good. But they better be damn good reasons because Prop 13 is so very, very bad. And those reasons are not apparent to me... or perhaps more accurately those reasons seem considerably less convincing to me given that people made exactly the same arguments in favor of Prop 13 and Prop 13 turned out to be a terrible thing.

I simply do not believe that transferring wealth from younger people to older people makes sense as governmental policy.
posted by Justinian at 4:50 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rent control is a transfer of wealth from newcomers to long-term residents.

This is absolutely true. It's just not the only thing that is true about rent control.

It's also true that, in the absence of any form of rent control, massive rental increases in a short period of time (which can happen anyway) can suddenly push massive numbers of existing renters out, which is brutal for those people and their communities.

(And if that increase is attached to a bubble, as it was with commercial rentals in the first dot com bubble, then you first get a wave of existing renters forced out, and then when the bubble bursts, the properties end up vacant when the market dries up. Bad for everybody.)

Luckily there are many, many, many options between "no rent control at all" and "every single property is rent-controlled into oblivion and half the apartments are rented at 1964 prices" which may be able to balance these issues.
posted by feckless at 4:51 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


(And yeah, the same is true of Prop 13. Prop 13 is awful, one of the worst things that ever happened to California. But the horror stories of granny being forced out of her house by sudden huge spikes in real estate tax, while obviously used rhetorically to cover no end of sins, did also actually happen.

Any attempt to fix Prop 13, which I would emphatically support, would have to address those kinds of situations -- for political reasons, but also because, y'know, poor granny!)
posted by feckless at 4:55 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


It isn't clear to me that the occasional granny being forced to move (NOT end up homeless; simply moving to a different home) isn't the cost of a functioning real estate market which does not transfer massive amounts of wealth from young brown people to old white people.
posted by Justinian at 4:57 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


New buildings won't rent for less than the existing units in most cases. A unit constructed last year at more than $100 a square foot isn't going to be cheaper to rent than some 40 year old unit that has to a of equity for its owner. The only way to alter this is to directly subsidize some of the units through government policy. For example where I live developers get extra density as a bonus if those units are set aside for lower income occupants. So they get to add 20% more units to the building (taller, higher parking ratios, etc).
posted by humanfont at 5:00 PM on December 10, 2013


In Massachusetts, rent control was repealed in part with the idea that high housing prices would go down. It hasn't worked out that way.

The biggest impact of Proposition 13 has been on tax revenues from commercial properties which are not reassessed unless a building is sold. There are shell games played with ownership shares to avoid reassessment, and also it discourages new development since replacing a building or erecting a new one would trigger reassessment.
posted by larrybob at 5:06 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, maybe it is the inevitable price (the granny-tossing). But since I'm an optimistic person, I'd like to think there's something we can do about it.

San Francisco is (slowly) moving from a rent control model to a ... less rent control but good tenant protections model. Our current tenant protections aren't perfect (and boy you should hear owners bitch about them), but they do start making it a little easier for folks who get Ellis Act evicted or similar to move to a new place with some help. They also add a little friction to the process of condo conversions or whatever which I think is healthy in that it slows the whole process down without stopping it.

I don't have a magic single answer because I don't think there is one. The balance you strike between tenant protections and a free enough market that you don't get the weird splits you get with full rent control is hard, and it probably isn't the same balance in a stable market as it is in a rapidly rising one like we have now. In fact it's clearly insufficient in our current case, which is why we're even talking about it.

If I had a magic wand, a task force of smart people, and a month to think about it, I'd probably try to solve the problem with a combination of short-term market-restrictive policies (designed to bandage the wound and slow the evictions, especially if we're actually in a bubble situation) with a longer-term balance of market-friendly policies (less rent control, easier zoning for development, bennies for dense development aimed at families) and public improvements (transit especially).

Don't have a magic wand tho.
posted by feckless at 5:07 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your inability to come up instantly with a perfect solution to a difficult and perhaps intractable problem makes me question your commitment to metafilter!
posted by Justinian at 5:09 PM on December 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


About buses taking over public space, in the past few years the number of tech buses (there's Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Genetech, and Google buses that I know of, I suspect there's more out there too) has grown rapidly, and traffic has gotten a lot worse (not because of the buses) as well.

The city really doesn't want to shut down the buses. Seriously, if you threw, what, 20-30k new drivers on the road overnight it be chaos. The buses are doing a good job at keeping traffic better for everyone. However as the number grows, a system in place to regulate and track and respond do issues is a good thing. I have no problem with that, it's totally reasonable to expect small unregulated systems to get regulated as they grow. And if the buses they really are becoming a problem (and honestly, I'm not sure they are, but there's a lot of noise being generated from angry people like this Max guy) well, regulation is a good way to be aware and fix things.
posted by aspo at 5:17 PM on December 10, 2013


Everytime you complain about the "tasteless nouveau riche" I imagine some late 1800s duchess having fainting spells on the couch because of Those People and Their Ways. Also your complaining about lattes and "effete 'fusion food'" is right out of some early nineties rightwing blowhard on talk radio. (And honestly, the $4.50 cupcake rant isn't far away...)

Then again, crazy reactionary ranting is crazy reactionary ranting, even with couched in the language of the left


No doubt all typed into your Google phone while noshing on a $4.50 cupcake. The problem is that the types I"m complaining about are the ones you're defending. What gets me is STILL no responsibility taken by those who have come into their wealth and made this place unaffordable. It's not just techies; it's the newly minted financial types; foreign investors (mostly, Chinese, who are buying property that their darlings can live in as they send them to college here).

The only scrap of admission in the direction of taking some responsibility has been by feckless (up thread). btw, I'd love to see your reactionary restraint if it was your brother or sister that got tossed out of their apartment to make way for a conversion. Enjoy your cupcake.


feckless: It's a puzzle! It's ... almost as if this is a structural class issue having to do with the vast income inequality built into our current capitalist system, rather than a product of the individual moral failings of rank-and-file Google employees.

feckless: The first poster in this thread to cop to being part of the problem. btw, thanks for putting a human touch on all of this.

PEOPLE are part of structural class issues. "Haves" have the means to reinforce structural constraints - and in this case, that's what has been going on. It's only now that people are beginning to speak out and act out. What I see around here is a lot of token "help" coming from the newly minted rich and their "do no harm", phoney PR campaigns... while they take over San Francisco and the Bay Area and turn it into a fairly one-dimensional place, excluding the middle classes. Families are leaving this city in droves. You can't even find a room to rent for less than $800 (in a decent neighborhood). It's absurd, and it's wrong.

Sure, change is difficult; most people resist change; I'm resisting change instead of quietly, with as much political correctness as possible, 'adapting" to it - and why shouldn't I? What really galls me is the sheer hubris that money makes possible - and I find it especially aggravating when I see newly minted foreign investors, techies, and financial types pushing up the cost of an essential human need (shelter) in ways that causes others to be displaced.

Why doesn't Google argue for more affordable housing and maybe even BUILD it - in significant quantity? That would be a good investment. Why doesn't Zuckerberg do the same thing *in the cities that his rich, connected employees have completely priced the middle classes out of*? Zuckerberg is building an apartment complex right next to the Menlo Park headquarters, but that's too little, too late. Heck, Zuckerberg just bought up 5 houses adjacent to his property at wildly inflated prices (5x current value) - further upsetting the already out-of-sight real estate in Palo Alto. I'm a capitalist, but Zuckerberg is a capitalist pig.

The only "solution" I see for the middle class is out-migration to places that are still affordable; that's the way these things usually turn out. Money talks and the moneyless walk. The sheer speed at which these developments have altered the Bay Area is stunning.

Nelson:Maybe you should leave?

You first. I'm going to hang in and do everything I can to make sure that every swallow of a $4.50 cupcake by the people who are ruining this city gets washed down with a shot of well-aged ire.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:57 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well I guess someone has to add the bitterness to my $4 latté.
posted by Nelson at 6:14 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


So I'm kind of curious, what is an acceptable price for The Worker's Cupcake? Is three dollars ruining this city as well? Maybe $2.50 is an acceptable price for the baker's struggle? Are the $4.50 cupcake vendors destroying the city as well, or is it just the people who are buying them? Are you going to interview the consumers of said cupcakes? Make sure they are ideologically pure enough to eat them without facing your RIGHTEOUS IRE?
posted by aspo at 6:44 PM on December 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


btw, I'd love to see your reactionary restraint if it was your brother or sister that got tossed out of their apartment to make way for a conversion.

Depends on who they displaced/priced out when they scored their SF apartment in the first place. A labourer? A single mother? A family of illegal immigrants?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 7:02 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm going to hang in and do everything I can to make sure that every swallow of a $4.50 cupcake by the people who are ruining this city gets washed down with a shot of well-aged ire.

Not to be overly literal here, but let's talk about that cupcake, and its cousin, the $3.50 coffee.

I buy two cappuccinos every morning. On weekend, we sometimes get a mini pie (yum) or shortbread cookie or whatever to go with. And maybe toast and a coconut. (Now you know where I get my coffee.) But I know exactly where the money I pay for my coffee and dessert goes. It pays the expenses of a small business run by a friend who lives in the neighborhood, and is raising two kids here. It also pays the wages of the people who work there every day: a mix of folks, artists, musicians, students, and just local folks. The mini-pies are made by a local baker. All of our kids go to the same school, that one that's been here for 60 years.

For us, that coffee is a luxury, and if we had to, we could do without it. Some of the other folks who buy coffee there are as fortunate as I am. Many aren't -- you might be surprised at how many working class people are willing to pay a little extra for a small luxury like a good coffee, especially if they know the people making it and selling it.

This isn't an argument for trickle-down economics or any such idiocy. I worry about my friends, some of whom don't have any healthcare, or only have Healthy SF (which is better than nothing, but only just.). I wish that none of them had been forced to move to Oakland because they couldn't afford to live here. I'd be happy to pay higher taxes to support single payer health coverage in California. I'd be happy to have a higher minimum wage. I'd be happy to be done with Prop 13, if only for businesses. I'll fight for all of these things, and more. We need a fundamental restructuring of how things are set up in San Francisco, in California, and in the US.

But raging against newcomers and their fancy cupcakes is frankly raging against the wrong fucking target, and it's a distraction. And we should have fancy cupcakes, and those cupcakes should cost $4.00, since they should be made by people with decent wages and healthcare and working conditions, as well as being delicious.

(And raging against foreign Chinese investors is ... Jesus, can we not? This is fucking San Francisco. Those investors are probably my neighbors and have lived here longer than you or me.)
posted by feckless at 7:27 PM on December 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


If you are railing against 26-year-olds with more money than an entire small town will see in their lifetimes, and *you* seem like the unsympathetic asshole who is out of touch with reality, you might be doing something wrong. Maybe you need to work on your comic-book villain monologue a bit more: "I just wanted them to see themselves for what they truly were, bwahaha!" Maybe sprinkle in some references to the Volk, that always seems like a crowd-pleaser.

Or maybe it's too late: maybe everyone reading here is wolfing down a $4.50 cupcake as we speak, co-opted by tasteless scumbags, leaving our hero all alone without any allies.
posted by leopard at 8:11 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't even find a room to rent for less than $800 (in a decent neighborhood).

The jokes seriously just write themselves. How you can't see that you're someone else's tasteless nouveau riche asshole, I'm not sure.

Many aren't -- you might be surprised at how many working class people are willing to pay a little extra for a small luxury like a good coffee, especially if they know the people making it and selling it.

Yes, for the love of Christ, this. Vibrissae, your nonsense about lattes and $4 cupcakes makes me seriously question how much actual experience you have being with or knowing working-class people.

My parents had me when they were 19. My mother was a clerk at a retail store and later, a call center worker and a medical transcriptionist; my father worked in the same store as my mom, and had two part-time jobs, at a dry-cleaners and driving a limo on the weekends. Neither went to college. Eventually - after a very long time - my dad became manager of another retail store. My mom's still a transcriptionist. The rest of my family, without a doubt, are members of the southern white working class, a group that's perhaps the last acceptable one out there to make jokes about, a group that sees your hometown as the most effete place in the universe even without the $4 cupcakes.

I didn't grow up being told that I was a special flower and that I'd get everything I wanted in life. I got parented in the exact way you might expect working class southerners to parent their kids. My parents paid as much as they could of my college education - a few thousand a year. I worked - construction during the summer, and waiting tables and working in kitchens all year round - to cover every penny of the rest. I am the first and only person with my last name to go to, and graduate from, a university. I couldn't get a job after college so I kept doing blue-collar labor. I took a chance, moved to the big city, got lucky, and got a job. Then I got even luckier, and got a better job. And now, at 28, I'm financially secure for probably the first time in my life. ("Financially secure" means I have a few month's salary in the bank and can afford my very own, 500sqft, prewar, renovated-in-the-70's one bedroom apartment, by the way.)

I say this not to convince you of my working-class bona fides, because fuck that; they're obvious as soon as I open my mouth and speak. Rather, I say it because in all that time, I never drank shit coffee. I don't drink shit coffee. Even when I was at my absolute poorest - when my tuition had just been paid and my bank account was in the double digits - I'd rather down a 5-hour energy that I scrounged up the money for under the seats of my car than drink shit coffee.

I worked and grew up with hundreds of other working-class people and every single one has a little vice, a little "tasteless" luxury they love that would surely offend your more proletarian sensibilities. I worked with Mexican and Salvadoran line cooks who'd open the garde manger fridge and say "mierda de Folgers" when they saw the shit the boss had bought for staff that week. (They usually drank from a Moka pot that I'm sure you'd be horrified by). My aunt loves your hideous $4 cupcakes. Seriously, once a week she goes to the fancy cupcake shop they built in my hometown.

Let's see. I worked with a guy - a welder, if I'm remembering right - who had the biggest jazz record collection I had ever seen. He lived in a small ranch house and every wall in the place except the kitchen, the bathroom, and his kids' room was covered in shelves filled with music. I took my grandparents to a French restaurant when they came to visit me here once - nothing too fancy, more bistro than haute cuisine. My grandfather was skeptical, but now this dude - a Korean War veteran, a lifelong mechanic, and avid maker of "freedom fries" jokes in 2003 - cannot stop making French food (well, making my grandma make it, mostly). They're on fixed a fixed income but lots of whatever extra money they have goes to trying new recipes and buying better ingredients. They called last week and told me about the mussels they'd just made.

The working class isn't the one-dimensional, Bud-drinking, bacon-n-eggs eating caricature that you've painted. They like nice things too. And to enlist people you seem not to be too familiar with, in service of your hatred, is super-inappropriate.
posted by downing street memo at 8:46 PM on December 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


humanfont: "Google and its employees pay the same local taxes for the use of municipal services that everyone else does."

Foolish human. Google barely pays any Sovereign taxes - you can hardly expect Google to start paying local municipal taxes instead, can you? It's been on this since the early days.
posted by meehawl at 8:51 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


aspo: "You can't just create a subway system."

Why not?
posted by meehawl at 9:02 PM on December 10, 2013


It's been on this since the early days.

Wow, that's atrocious. And people are apologists for this shit. Disgraceful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:07 PM on December 10, 2013


You know, maybe the solution to all this is some kind of organization, call it Tech Corps or something, where engineers and other "techies" could donate their time working on some app or service that helps area middle/low income families in some way. Like, you could put in 80 hours of work, over the course of the year. There could even be some aspect where you could tutor/mentor young people from tough backgrounds in the ways of software engineering. And as an added bonus, you could make the software open-source. The people of the city would get a useful service, the "techies" would get to give back in some way, free software would be created, and who knows, maybe it would even be fun. Wouldn't be a bad way to meet people in the industry, either.
posted by evil otto at 9:20 PM on December 10, 2013


See also, this.
posted by evil otto at 9:28 PM on December 10, 2013


Wow, that's atrocious. And people are apologists for this shit. Disgraceful.

That's Prop 13 dude. It's the One Ring of California politics.

(I do kinda want to point out that tech folks do pay a lot of taxes in other ways, and indeed are partly responsible for the current surplus, along with other cupcake-eating class enemies. The problem is that those taxes are mostly income and capital gains, which are super volatile, so you can't do any long-term planning based on that stuff. You need the stable tax base, which means land, which means Prop 13 again.)
posted by feckless at 9:32 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Prop 13 certainly looks horrid and unworkable.

Maybe the bus time travels and it's what let Googlr get back to 1978 to create it?
posted by Artw at 9:44 PM on December 10, 2013


Meehawl: Because it's expensive as hell, and slow to build.

Seriously, San Francisco has been trying to build a better system. The T line is above ground light rail and that took seven years to build... after ten years to plan. Oh and about 2/3rds of a billion dollars for a little over 5 miles of track. And that was much line through relatively sparsely built neighborhoods that were desperate for light rail.

The new Central Subway on the other hand, is going to cost 1 1/2 billion dollars, for a 1.7 mile tunnel that can't even directly connect with the other muni tunnel. And it started building in 2010 and isn't supposed to be done till 2019 (and you know that's going to be delayed). I forget how long planning has been for that one, but there's been fight after fight after lawsuit over it.

Meanwhile BART I think has a plan for an infill station between the 24th and Glen Park stations, and it's supposed to cost 1/2 a billion, and who knows when or if it will happen. I know recently they floated some idea about lines to the Richmond and another line in the San Francisco, but I think the idea was for a 2035 time frame? And the chances of it happening are tiny at best.
posted by aspo at 9:45 PM on December 10, 2013


That's Prop 13 dude. It's the One Ring of California politics.

Good analogy. It seems like it's going to be great but it ends up corrupting everything in sight and turns even otherwise good and intelligent people into gibbering wrecks with no thought to long term consequence.
posted by Justinian at 9:52 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, just imagine how awesome San Francisco would be if this plan had actually been implemented. It's not perfect, but wow would it be awesome compared to what there is today. I wonder how differently San Francisco would have grown.
posted by aspo at 10:02 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"techies" could donate their time working on some app or service that helps area middle/low income families in some way.

Google already does this.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:15 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, the one thing Vibrissae said that made any sense was the part about the Central Subway. Does anybody know if he's right? Like, in terms of how much congestion that will actually alleviate? I mean, Chinatown is crowded for sure, and what's the one bus that goes through there? The 22? The 30? Like the one bus that goes to North Beach? Takes for fucking ever to get through Chinatown. But is that really the busiest transportation corridor in the city? Aren't there higher-volume corridors that could better benefit from a MUNI line? I don't know, so I'm asking here.
posted by evil otto at 10:15 PM on December 10, 2013


Google already does this.

Heh. Like a thing they are doing actually counts.
posted by Artw at 10:22 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fake Google employee's fight with protesters we wish was true

You know, I'm beginning to think San Francisco sounds like a flat out horrible, toxic place.
posted by Artw at 10:30 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Spiced Out Calvin Coolidge: "This article in the New Yorker is interesting"

Thanks for that hilarious article. It's like Nathan Barley Heller is channeling Tom Friedman to sketch out a barely coherent series of Manfred Macx composites. To channel Hunter Thompson, when guff like this runs in mags like the New Yorker, this may be it. We may be near the end of this cycle. You can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back:
What’s going to happen to these serial entrepreneurs when they’re forty-five and have two kids—especially if they don’t have a hit company? This seemed a window onto the Bay Area’s future, so I asked a lot of people. No one knew. The consensus was that people like this go to work for Google.
Maybe in another 20 years a typical 45-year-old mid-level coder with a couple of failed projects behind them might have a reasonable chance of getting hired at Google. Today? Not so much.
posted by meehawl at 10:49 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know why in the argument about Google buses people always respond as if the alternative would be to have all those same people driving a car through SF. Surely some of them would instead choose to live closer to their jobs, in places where having a car means you don't have to circle the block for half an hour to find parking and still have to move your car at 7am for street cleaning. Plenty of people who might not otherwise live in the City do so because they have a private shuttle to work in the South Bay.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:13 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know, I'm beginning to think San Francisco sounds like a flat out horrible, toxic place.

That's what it's becoming. There is a real hard-on for rapid development here; the City Council is besieged by developers and landlords who want to rake in $$$ because now that there there are literally thousands of newly minted millionaires in the Bay Area, they want something more than the suburban malaise of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Los Gatos; they want to live in a city.

Up until 15 years ago this was a pretty affordable place; a middle class family could make it, and if they saved they could buy a home. No more. The things about San Francisco - the main draws - are its legacy of being a cool place; and the sheer physical beauty of its built architecture; unique neighborhoods; and access to outstanding natural environments (coast, ocean, etc.).

Every neighborhood here used to have a sense of community spirit; people hung together. Then, the first tech boom happened and landlords started thinking about getting rich, fast. The first boom crashed and a lot of landlords who were flipping properties took it on the chin. Just 4 years ago you could find a nice studio for $1000 in a decent part of town. No more. Now, double that, plus.

Now we have this second gold rush - fueled mostly by the SOMA tech craze. Thousands of newly minted finance and tech types are paying whatever the market will bear. The degree and speed of change is palpable - almost stunning. Many young couples with kids have left the city; they can't afford to live here. Along with that there are new enclaves of newly minted wealth in SOMA, the Marina, the Mission and a few other places. 14,000 people have been thrown out of their domiciles since 1997 due to Ellis Act evictions! That's tragic. Just last month a landlord evicted a Chinese couple and their disabled daughter; they had lived in one place for 30 years; they were surrounded by their community - now they're on their own; they're gone. The landlord that did that should lose his home, and be forced to experience homelessness. I hope it happens!

This is a small city, so news of the gold rush has spread. There are lots of older generation folks here who own their homes. But if you are a renter, or a middle-class aspiring buyer, it's tense.

What is happening to this city is a gutting of the middle-middle class. They're leaving. That leaves drive-in service workers, the upper-middles, and the super rich. When you lose the middle class buffer, tensions rise. When a long time resident sees her neighborhood go from old friends to upper-middle-class culture in a few years, it's unsettling. Tensions are rising but there is no clear "go-to" place for solutions. All you hear are homilies from our Puppet Mayor, Ed Lee.

Times change, San Francisco will change, but this change is like a social earthquake that will displace a significant number of San Franciscans, and keep out the middle-middle and lower-middle classes. San Francisco is becoming more boring, than toxic. There is a lot of anger, but it's mostly wielded by those without access to power. All they can do is watch it happen. Not cool.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:24 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know why in the argument about Google buses people always respond as if the alternative would be to have all those same people driving a car through SF. Surely some of them would instead choose to live closer to their jobs

Thing is, people had that option before, and they chose instead to live in SF and commute to Mountain View. That's why the Google Bus was invented in the first place. I don't think anybody at Google really sees the Google Bus as a major selling point for working there. It's more like something that makes their commute suck less. In fact, if ending the Google Bus had any effect at all, it would be to make Google less attractive as an employer. The people who take the Google Bus would just find jobs with tech companies in the city.

In fact, I heard rumors about Google opening a big office in the city. I wouldn't be surprised if all this nonsense over the Google Bus accelerated that process.
posted by evil otto at 11:48 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


14,000 people have been thrown out of their domiciles since 1997 due to Ellis Act evictions! That's tragic. Just last month a landlord evicted a Chinese couple and their disabled daughter; they had lived in one place for 30 years; they were surrounded by their community - now they're on their own; they're gone. The landlord that did that should lose his home, and be forced to experience homelessness. I hope it happens!

So you don't like Ellis Act evictions. What is your proposed solution? Should landlords be forced to remain landlords for the remainder of their natural lives? Should they be forced to find an heir that will agree to keep the property a rental property? It's not like people are choosing to evict solitary people they don't like - under the Ellis Act, they have to evict everyone, and can't re-rent for at least 5 years except at the same price they offered, and it's binding not just on the original owners but the new ones.

Also, your constant wishing of ill-fortune on other people is kind of disgusting.
posted by corb at 3:09 AM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


The landlord that did that should lose his home, and be forced to experience homelessness.

Why?

Oh. I forgot. Because of reasons.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:19 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vibrissae, I'm a little confused - earlier on you made a dig at Chinese investors being part of what's ruining the city as far as you're concerned. You mentioned that in addition to techies, there are other groups of newly wealthy folks who are moving into the city and driving up real estate prices, and specifically mentioned "foreign investors (mostly, Chinese, who are buying property that their darlings can live in as they send them to college here)". Between that and your earlier ranting about tech companies hiring supposedly incompetent (not sure how you know their level of competency) H1-B workers really smacks of xenophobia to me. I grew up in the Bay Area and part of what made the area so interesting and enriching to experience as a child was the intersection and influence of many different global cultures in the region - foreign (Chinese) investors and H1-B workers contribute to that varied ethnic makeup. I am surprised that one of the things you seem most passionate about in your defense of San Francisco's character involves such disdain towards immigrants moving to the region. I mean, you're being snide about people's children when you refer to them sarcastically as "little darlings". You're objecting to foreign investors wanting to educate their children in the country and city in which they have chosen to live. What? I literally don't understand how you could be so lacking in compassion in this regard.

And now you are using the example of a Chinese family with a disabled daughter being evicted as an example of a family being wronged by the Ellis Act. While I don't disagree with you that it is awful that this family was evicted, I am confused as to what makes this Chinese family okay in your eyes versus the Chinese investors you derided upthread. Is it that this family is (as far as you can tell) middle class while the Chinese investors are presumably more wealthy? So in your eyes, only one type of immigrant family, who fits into a specific income bracket, is deemed worthy of living in San Francisco while those immigrants who come from wealthier means are interlopers who are ruining the city with their tasteless nouveau-rich ways and their disgusting temerity to want to educate their children here? I really don't get this at all.

And this really sticks in my craw because while my father doesn't work in the tech sector (he works in banking), he came here on an H1-B visa originally and then obtained his green card; he has worked hard all his life to provide for my family, he busted his ass to make sure I, growing up in the Bay Area, was being educated well and prepared for college and yes, then he paid for me to attend a fancy east coast liberal arts school (which apparently you have problems with as well for reasons beyond my comprehension). And occasionally he enjoys himself a nice cupcake (because who doesn't love cupcakes). Is he not worthy of living in the city - where he has lived for the past 20 years, I might add - because his executive banking salary puts him in a higher income bracket and because he must be incompetent because he came to this country on an H1-B visa? This is patently absurd.

I understand being upset about factors that are making SF harder to live in for people without means. I don't understand the xenophobia towards wealthier immigrant populations, nor do I understand the vitriol you are leveling towards other people to the point where you are wishing ill-fortune and ruin on them. As a touchy-feely hippie child of San Francisco I've gotta say that kind of rage and lack of compassion is completely antithetical to the values I was raised with growing up and living in that city.

Yes, there are problems of the cost of living and housing being untenable for people who want to live in SF. But this kind of ugly anger is not a solution. Sorry.
posted by thereemix at 6:19 AM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


thereemix, the recent trend in H-1Bs seems to be that they're used in the tech world to bring in people who will work for below-market wages because that's still far more than they could make in their countries of origin. Mark Zuckerberg and the like are clamoring for more H-1Bs not because there's a shortage of tech workers, but because they're trying to drive down wages. Issuing more H-1Bs is a pretty effective thumb on the scale.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:27 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mark Zuckerberg and the like are clamoring for more H-1Bs not because there's a shortage of tech workers, but because they're trying to drive down wages.

This hypothesis means that you think there are plenty of talented American engineers who just can't stand Facebook and Google's poor compensation plan. Is that what you really think?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:31 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This hypothesis means that you think there are plenty of talented American engineers who just can't stand Facebook and Google's poor compensation plan.

It means nothing of the sort. It means exactly what it says.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:37 AM on December 11, 2013


Fair enough, one more dead town - I agree with you that that's a gross way to go about hiring.

Still doesn't change the fact that I don't think it's possible to gauge H1-Bs' level of competency (or lack thereof) compared to American tech sector employees, and it's patently absurd to claim that H1-Bs are less qualified for jobs they are hired for simply by virtue of their being H1-Bs.
posted by thereemix at 6:50 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This hypothesis means that you think there are plenty of talented American engineers who just can't stand Facebook and Google's poor compensation plan.

It means nothing of the sort. It means exactly what it says.


No, of course it does. If you think they're trying to increase supply in order to drive down wages, you are hypothesizing that there exist people whose wages are being driven down. All that would happen with the elimination of H1Bs is that top companies would have larger foreign offices and they would lose some of these employees to foreign companies.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:55 AM on December 11, 2013


that there exist people whose wages are being driven down

So, because Google and Facebook pay a lot, increasing the supply of labor doesn't decrease the price at a given level of demand? What?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:11 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're right that it might have a downward pressure on wages, but are you really upset about how little their employees make?

It's not as if they're hiring foreign workers instead of domestic ones.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:18 AM on December 11, 2013


There is a tech industry outside of the app icons on your phone, you know. Just because it may not affect wages much at Google doesn't mean it doesn't affect industry wages.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:26 AM on December 11, 2013


Right, and… ? You think that Google employees having their wages (hypothetically) pushed down means that other workers also have their wages pushed down?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:38 AM on December 11, 2013


Google already has a big office in downtown San Francisco, has for years. I wouldn't be surprised if they're planning to expand it. Many of the tech companies are finding that their employees like living in San Francisco. Because, despite the whining above, it's actually a really nice place to live.

Which is why the moaning about the character of the city changing, and $4 cupcakes, and evil immigrants (as opposed to nice immigrants) and all that is bunk, and a distraction.

The central, big problem is that middle and working class people are finding they can't afford to live here. That's it. That's the problem. It's a huge problem. The railing against developers is worse than a distraction, because it is actively counterproductive. We need more development. Lot's of it. Just not limited to fancy condos for folks without kids, which is the main kind that's being built right now.

The rent is too damn high. How do you fix that? You give working folks more money by raising the minimum wage. You work on healthcare, which is the second biggest cost for people after rent. And you do something, probably a lot of different things, to encourage a LOT more building, especially of multi-family apartment buildings that have at least 3 bedrooms. And then you work on transit to support that development.

That last two are the hardest, and probably the most important. I don't have a clear idea of how you incent it, and you will get people trying to block any development on the grounds that it's changing the character of the city. But those people? They're hurting the middle class, whether or not they know it.
posted by feckless at 8:20 AM on December 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


My general impression It's not the dot com years - companies are a lot less likely to go through the steps required to get someone in on a visa and certainly wouldn't do it just to make up numbers. The relief is palpable when I talk to a recruiter and I let them know I'm a permenant resident.

(that's right, I'm a foreigner, here to take your jobs and women)
posted by Artw at 8:25 AM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


San Francisco is a city that, despite years of hundreds of units being taken off the rental market via Ellis Act evictions, still has a majority of residents who are renters (64% as of the 2010 Census, though not all those may be eligible to vote.)

And yet we continue to elect officials who are not pro-tenant.
posted by larrybob at 8:57 AM on December 11, 2013


The problem with raising the California minimum wage is that you might cause unemployment in other parts of California. A better way to address economic upheaval in SF is to make California (or federal) taxation more progressive and fund education, health care, and public transit. These benefits help people who are making more than minimum wage as well.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:36 AM on December 11, 2013




Actually for a lot of positions, Google pays about 20% under the rest of the industry. Source: actual Google employees. They also have a significant number of contractors who are placed through agencies. The agencies take a cut of the pay before they pass it to the contractors too. Also, H1b wage depression is real and happens. If you spent enough time talking to people in the Valley you would know these two facts; if you don't know those two facts, you're just not plugged in.
posted by wuwei at 10:05 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually for a lot of positions, Google pays about 20% under the rest of the industry.

Is that still true after the raises in 2010?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:11 AM on December 11, 2013


Yes. My data points were from 2012. A friend of mine did the math and said the 20% covers the buses, food, gym and other ancillary benefits.
posted by wuwei at 10:16 AM on December 11, 2013


Well then they're not underpaid…
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:18 AM on December 11, 2013


esprit de l'escalier, San Francisco has a local minimum wage thanks to Tom Ammiano (which is indexed to rise annually - the SFGOV page on the Minimum Wage Ordinance has historical data on what it has been.)

In order to have more progressive taxation, that would require changing Prop 13 (preferably to target reassessment of commercial property without hurting residential property), but since that was passed by the initiative and referendum process, it can only be changed by that same process, not by the legislature. Because the state, counties and municipalities don't get as much property tax, they are more dependent on income tax, which fluctuates more than property tax would. So California has a great deal of tax income volatility, and there is less money during recessions, when more is needed for safety net spending. San Francisco does have a Rainy Day Fund, once again in part in thanks to Tom Ammiano who crafted 2003's Prop G. It has been suggested that the California state fund, which was created via 2004's Prop 58, could be strengthened.
posted by larrybob at 10:19 AM on December 11, 2013


"Paid" refers to the receipt of money for work. The word you are looking for is "compensation."
posted by wuwei at 10:33 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


(preferably to target reassessment of commercial property without hurting residential property)

A couple people have said this. I would like to point out that prop 13 for residential properties is just as much of a wealth transfer from younger, poorer, browner, single people to older, richer, whiter, married people. Perhaps the scale is less because it is more difficult for a residential property owner to jump through the hoops necessary to transfer ownership in effect without doing so legally such that the tax assessment resets, but it's still a problem.

I do not think young middle class (or lower) immigrants should have their wealth transferred to, for example, my parents. The young people need it much more than my parents do. So prop 13 needs to be repealed in full and not just amended. I support amending it to exclude commercial properties but only as a stepping stone to getting rid of the whole rotten edifice.

(sorry mom and dad)
posted by Justinian at 11:51 AM on December 11, 2013


I agree, Justinian, that full-scale repeal of Prop 13 would be better, but I think it's much less likely to pass than one that just addresses commercial property. And even that would face a great deal of opposition from the Howard Jarvis people.
posted by larrybob at 12:35 PM on December 11, 2013


If I could retroactively make prop 13 have never happened, that would be great, but a flat repeal would be devastating to housing prices, and even though people say that's what they want, I suspect they would not be happy with the results. (Are people's memories really that short? It's not like this didn't just happen 3-5 years ago... and it wasn't the rich who suffered.) And the people who would be hurt most are people who've lived in their places for a long time, more likely to be on a fixed budget and have a financial plan that depends on prop 13 tax rates.

Commercial property though? Hell yeah, get rid of that shit, especially considering how rarely commercial property changes hands.
posted by aspo at 12:46 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would a drop in housing prices from a repeal hurt? A drop in housing prices only hurts people looking to sell in the short term, a fairly small slice of the population. The reason the housing market crash in 2007 hurt everyone so badly was because of the subprime mess leading to a general recession, not the fall in housing prices alone.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:42 PM on December 11, 2013


corb: So you don't like Ellis Act evictions. What is your proposed solution? Should landlords be forced to remain landlords for the remainder of their natural lives? Should they be forced to find an heir that will agree to keep the property a rental property? It's not like people are choosing to evict solitary people they don't like - under the Ellis Act, they have to evict everyone, and can't re-rent for at least 5 years except at the same price they offered, and it's binding not just on the original owners but the new ones.

Also, your constant wishing of ill-fortune on other people is kind of disgusting


Do you live here? Have you experienced how landlords manipulate the Ellis Act? How they lie and cheat and steal and pay off anyone they have to in order to have their way? How they intimidate their renters? Frankly, you don't know what you're talking about. Landlords are supposed to be a PART of the community; they don't own that community. As for wishing ill-fortune on those who wield power and hurt over/on the unfortunate, I wish them double that, because they deserve it! Political correctness be damned! Hand-wringing doesn't work. These people deserve a justice equal in pain to that they cause others.

thereemix: H1-B workers really smacks of xenophobia to me. I grew up in the Bay Area and part of what made the area so interesting and enriching to experience as a child was the intersection and influence of many different global cultures in the region - foreign (Chinese) investors and H1-B workers contribute to that varied ethnic makeup. I am surprised that one of the things you seem most passionate about in your defense of San Francisco's character involves such disdain towards immigrants moving to the region. I mean, you're being snide about people's children when you refer to them sarcastically as "little darlings". You're objecting to foreign investors wanting to educate their children in the country and city in which they have chosen to live. What? I literally don't understand how you could be so lacking in compassion in this regard.

There is no xenophobia. I'm referring to the *recent* (last 10 years) phenomena of abuse that has happened in the H1_B sector. I would never blame an immigrant for coming here to better himself. I DO blame policy makers and greedy corporate leaders for lying about the need for H1_B's and policy makers for taking the campaign bribes necessary to help support this abuse. There is NO STEM worker shortage in the US! Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, John Chambers, etc. etc are all lying through their teeth! They want lower wages. And, lest you misunderstand about competence, the largest H1_B groups these days is from India. Go ask ANY competent developer what their experience is with Indian H1_B that are from schools other that India's ITT (that graduates generally superb developers with real skills and intelligence). A large % of grads from other schools are mostly incompetent! I have been in development shops where these types play on nepotism to absurd extremes; where student visas are used to slip people in; where they don't even QA projects before they go out the door, for crying out loud! (in some cases these projects were transport and medical infrastructure projects!) You need to get some facts and stop accusing people of being xenophobic. 1000's of well-qualified American developers of all ethnic backgrounds in the Bay Area who are unemployed due to H1_B abuse.

As for the fact that Chinese investors are the largest offshore investing group in San Francisco - that's a fact. There are also Russian and Latin American investors. I don't like the fact that these investors bidding the prices of our housing stock way up; I don't like the fact that they're absentee; I don't like the fact that their dollars are responsible for getting people thrown out of their homes.

espitit de escalier: All that would happen with the elimination of H1Bs is that top companies would have larger foreign offices and they would lose some of these employees to foreign companies.

You need to read up about the facts on H1B abuse in America. It appears that you are resigned to let corporate liars rule the game - i.e. either we replace qualified American workers with H1-B's (many of whom have been clearly shown to be *not* qualified), or we let our corporate overlords offshore work. In other words what you're supporting is H1-B abuse, and "fuck the American worker". There have been some really good studies showing NO shortage of STEM workers or talent in America -so why is Zuckerberg, Gates, etc. etc clamoring to vastly increase H1_B quotes (under cover of a larger immigration bill). People need to open their eyes!

feckless: The railing against developers is worse than a distraction, because it is actively counterproductive. We need more development. Lot's of it. Just not limited to fancy condos for folks without kids, which is the main kind that's being built right now.

Good point. That said, show me just ONE developer that has pushed hard for this. What's wrong with real estate in San Francisco is that its a monopoly game, and the whole goddamn city has turned into Park Place. Developers - as a professional class - are into profit at any cost. They have inside tracks to start projects; they know how to play the game; they know how to approach landlords and make them drool over conversion projects. You tell me how we're supposed to change that scenario. It would take guts from policy makers. In San Francisco, policy making guts are in short supply.

What needs to happen here is some kind of government effort to seriously increase affordable housing for middle income persons. The problem is that nobody in government will support that because they can't get any developers to go along. Thus, this city is now officially "over" for the middle class. It's maddening to see.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So Bill Gates wants incompetent Indian developers so he can reduce wages? Or wait, H1-B visas are being used for nepotistic reasons to get crappy developers to work on medical infrastructure projects? Because of Mark Zuckerberg?

But somehow H1-Bs decreasing tech worker wages is bad because tech workers make too much money and are driving the taxi drivers out of work. And are evicting grandma while drinking unmanly coffee drinks.

Dude, you are all over the place.
posted by aspo at 2:10 PM on December 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I too am having trouble with this sudden concern for the tech workers who you hate.
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


So Bill Gates wants incompetent Indian developers so he can reduce wages? Or wait, H1-B visas are being used for nepotistic reasons to get crappy developers to work on medical infrastructure projects? Because of Mark Zuckerberg?

In fact, your snark is all over the place. I was addressing an item that someone brought yp re: comments on H1-B abuse. I'll take the high road and answer your questions: Yes, Bill Gates wants to reduce wages by importing H1_B workers, which further challenges the middle classes in the Bat Area. This keeps many people from being able to afford to live in San Francisco, or the Bay Area. Is that clear? Have you done ANY research on this topic and its relation to the challenges faced by long time Bay Area tech workers? Even though I provided you a link? (many more are available).
posted by Vibrissae at 2:23 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Vibrissae, I don't know what's going on with you and this thread but you are not engaging well and need to give it a pass at this point.]
posted by cortex at 2:36 PM on December 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


challenges faced by long time Bay Area tech workers

I'm just guessing on what's motivating this, but I think you must realize that many of these "long time Bay Area tech workers" (along with the surfeit of STEM workers noted in your linked article) may not be qualified to work at Google and Facebook regardless of H1Bs.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:35 PM on December 11, 2013


a flat repeal would be devastating to housing prices

High housing prices are not synonymous with economic prosperity.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:40 PM on December 11, 2013


One can't simultaneously argue that it is a disaster when housing and rental prices are too high for middle class people to afford but also that reducing housing prices would be devastating...
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on December 11, 2013


Standing on a high cliff isn't synonymous with good health, but falling off the same cliff tends to lead to serious health problems.
posted by aspo at 4:57 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just guessing on what's motivating this, but I think you must realize that many of these "long time Bay Area tech workers" (along with the surfeit of STEM workers noted in your linked article) may not be qualified to work at Google and Facebook regardless of H1Bs

You're not aware of the fact that many of the the H1_B workers at Facebook and Google were *trained* by the people they replaced. You haven't read the link I put up or done any research on the H1B issue that conflicts with your preconceptions about it - in addition to how that issue has impacted middle class tech workers in the Bay Area, and elsewhere. What you are unwittingly defending is blatant abuse that has been clearly shown, but our paid off policy makers have done nothing about. This has contributed to significant unemployment of highly experienced and competent developers in the Bay Area, many who have lost homes as a result, or find themselves not able to compete in the housing marketplace as a result. Look at the links.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:14 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're not aware of the fact that many of the the H1_B workers at Facebook and Google were *trained* by the people they replaced.

Honestly, this is laughable. You should take a look at the interview process. None of the interviewers are aware of the candidate's immigration status. Foreign workers at top tech companies are not replacing domestic ones for less pay. It's simply a case of top tech companies needing to hire the best in the world.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:25 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm just glad most of the folks in San Francisco I know don't hate immigrant tech workers, all tech workers, Chinese people, all immigrants to San Francisco, and cupcakes.
posted by Nelson at 5:31 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


You're not aware of the fact that many of the the H1_B workers at Facebook and Google were *trained* by the people they replaced.

Great, I hope those tasteless overpaid scumbags became homeless after they lost their jobs!

Wait, what were we talking about again?
posted by leopard at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I curious how one arrives at the conclusion that there is significant unemployment of software engineers in the Bay Area. It does not seem to be supported by labor department data or other statistics. My own experience is that for smaller companies it takes a long time to fill positions in the Bay Area.
posted by humanfont at 5:34 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's really too bad that we can't harness snark to solve all our problems. Just such a shame.
posted by wuwei at 5:55 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which Side Are You On
Our job as activists and organizers is to not just to shine a light on the straw man that is the privileged tech worker destroying a community but to also see how we can organize together. I am not saying I did not love what Max Alper did but in the longer term fight gentrification is not the same as a picket line. The complexity creates a situation where the question of “which side are you on” does not apply in the same way. It is not boss vs worker. Often times the opposition of landlord vs tenant fails as well, as long time owners who are working class and Latino or African American want to cash out. I have seen my white activist friends get in legal battles with their Latino working class landlords.

We all need to acknowledge that this issue is complex and that it is not someone’s fault, but the fault of a fucked up system that everyone other than the super rich are trapped within.
Really a great post. The whole thing is worth your time.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:56 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


You should take a look at the interview process. None of the interviewers are aware of the candidate's immigration status. Foreign workers at top tech companies are not replacing domestic ones for less pay. It's simply a case of top tech companies needing to hire the best in the world

I don't know where you're getting your information, but you appear completely (willfully?) ignorant about the reality of the H1-B abuse situation in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, in general. Do you even have a clue about where a lot (probably most) of the *contract* interviewers at Google come from? Are you aware that *most* of the contract recruiters are themselves H1-B or former H1-B's? Do you have ANY idea about the quality of graduates that come from universities in India that are not a part of the IIT brand (where the quality is very high)? Do you know how many employees at Google, Facebook, etc started with L1 (basically,a student visa)visas and were hired by family members or friends or friends-of-friends after their required 6 months of schooling in the US - many without even a clue about software development, or even QA? You might look into these things. While you're at it, you might look at the links I posted up-thread, especially the IEEE link, put up by one of the most respected engineering trade organizations in America.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:27 PM on December 11, 2013


Vibrissae it's clear others are operating with different knowledge than you. That's pretty standard in any discussion … anywhere … with anybody — yelling at them for not already knowing what you know is bad tactics, bad communication skills, and bad manners.

I'd love if you could take a break from your belligerence to give us some insight into and more data about the H-1B abuses, the home countries of contract interviewers at Google, the quality of graduates from universities in India etc etc.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:50 PM on December 11, 2013


it's clear others are operating with different knowledge than you. That's pretty standard in any discussion … anywhere … with anybody — yelling at them for not already knowing what you know is bad tactics, bad communication skills, and bad manners.

I'd love if you could take a break from your belligerence to give us some insight into and more data about the H-1B abuses, the home countries of contract interviewers at Google, the quality of graduates from universities in India etc etc


With respect, I find your characterizations belligerent. Who's yelling? I'm offering counterarguments, with data. And, I put up links. I have not called anyone a name, or attacked their person. I wish I could say the same about certain others. Did you look up thread? Did you read the references I already put up? I'm trying to be polite. You appear to have your mind already made up.

I have several acquaintances who have had experiences with Google's contract interviewers (you'll have to ask Google for their ethnicity). As for the quality fo graduates from India, it's very well known that IIT graduates are top notch - with the rest falling way below the IIT standard in general. Read the IEEE report I linked to. Google "H1-B abuses"; there's a ton of information. H1-B abuse is rampant in the Bay Area, and nationally. Companies like Infosys, Cognizant, Tata, etc. etc have been abusing the system for a long time. This is well know in Silicon Valley. Ask around. Try applying for a Bay Area developers job, or a QA job - the vast majority of times you will be talking to someone who came here as an H1-B. Have you ever known a QA employee to need to know how to program in C++, or Perl, or Ruby? Many RFAs for QA workers in the Bay Area ask for those qualifications. They're bogus. Why are they bogus? Because recent graduates from India - most NOT from ITT - claim these skills on their resumes. They are leveraged into the system, and oft-times trained by a more experienced American developer and later replace that developer, or go back to India to do that developer's job. There are several cases about this abuse. I personally know 15-20 highly skilled software developers who have struggled to find work - they are all current in their skills, but they are over 35-40 and get priced out by H1-Bs.

Anyway, this is common knowledge around here. H1-B abuse has cheapened entry level wages; it has actually abuses the H1-B workers who come here for opportunity, etc. etc. Google, Facebook, MSFT, Cisco all know EXACTLY what they are doing when claiming their is a shortage of STEM workers. Please look atthe links I put up and go from there. You will better understand the problem, and see why so many mid-career developers are unemployed in the Bay Area. This is from corporate greed and corrupt policy making. It is helping to hollow out wages and hurting chances to afford a home in the Bay area, or keep a home.

Last, I don't have anything against the H1-B worker. That person is coming here to better herself. What bothers me is the strategy used by the tech sector to abuse the H1-B worker quotas to replace qualified American workers. This abuse is legion. My beef is against the people who make the abuse *possible*.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:17 PM on December 11, 2013


The reason that vibrissae went from arguing that tech employees should have their houses taken from them to decrying (the fantasy) that tech company employees are being replaced and are losing their houses is this: He has decided who the "right people" he wants to live with and everyone else can take a hike.

I know that this idea that employees at Google or Facebook are hiring their family members is an invention. After the battery of multiple interviewers, there is a hiring committee that assesses the candidate's performance. No one in this process has any idea what kind of visa the candidate would be on, or even if they would be working in Mountain View.

I looked at the links you posted upthread, and one of them suggested that there are plenty of STEM workers in the US, but we both know that most of those STEM workers are not qualified to work at Google or Facebook.

If there were so much qualified domestic talent, why isn't Google and Facebook hiring that talent? So far you've suggested two reasons: (a) that domestic workers won't work at the cut-rate salaries Google pays, and (b) nepotism. I don't find either reason credible.

Where is this vitriol coming from? It sounds like you know someone who feels stepped over by an economic boom and has recounted to you injustices to vindicate him or herself in the face of an army of intruders.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:17 PM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


they are all current in their skills, but they are over 35-40 and get priced out by H1-Bs.


With all due respect, maybe they're just not very smart engineers?

Have you ever known a QA employee to need to know how to program in C++, or Perl, or Ruby?

I would guess a scripting language like Python would be required?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:28 PM on December 11, 2013


"That which side are you on" article mentions the Rebecca Solnit piece that was a strong salvo in the anti-bus/tech fight. And jesus I read it again and remembered why this stuff gets me so mad.

Fundamentally she sold her apartment to a Google engineer, cashing out when the getting was good, cashing out when people were everyone knew for the past several years that there was a serious housing crunch, and yet she was amazed that a woman of her connections had to struggle to find a place. And so she writes a screed about how the tech workers aren't Real San Franciscans, how they are destroying San Francisco turning into a bedroom community for the south bay (uhh, sorry but... no) and how the tech workers think they are "too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves" with never even a thought that many of the younger generation have really taken to heart the idea that wasting fossil fuels is bad and that ride sharing is a good thing that people should be cheering. No, because she sold her place and then couldn't easily find an apartment, obviously the tech workers are destroying her city, and everything they do is bad and they don't belong here.

And that article has been so internalized by a certain activist part of San Francisco that the other article calls the buses an existential threat to the city. An existential threat! Yup that's right, a few buses is an existential threat to our way of life.
posted by aspo at 10:29 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


The IEEE-USA is not an objective or particularly credible source on the h1-b issue. Their role in the debate is to argue a specific position, not present an objective assessment. You also link to a Lou Dobbs video. These are not the strong sources you think they are.
posted by humanfont at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know that this idea that employees at Google or Facebook are hiring their family members is an invention. After the battery of multiple interviewers, there is a hiring committee that assesses the candidate's performance. No one in this process has any idea what kind of visa the candidate would be on, or even if they would be working in Mountain View.

Really? You then appear not to be aware of the FIRST rung that people have to get through to get into further interviews. Who is that person? Who are most of the contract interviewers that work at Google? Next, are you aware of the FACT that requests can be (and are) made of contract interviewers by Google (Facebook, etc.) employees to get "this or that" person through the first rung. Do you really think that personal networking and influence don't play in hiring at Google? Seriously?


I looked at the links you posted upthread, and one of them suggested that there are plenty of STEM workers in the US, but we both know that most of those STEM workers are not qualified to work at Google or Facebook.

Really? How do you know that? Do you know more than the IEEE. Are you aware of the ABYSMAL quality of post-graduate education in India (excepting ITT), where professors don't show, and charge students "tuitions" for private lessons they should be giving in class. Corruption is rampant!

Also, I know more than a few HIGHLY qualified persons who were aced out of jobs by H1-B's. Are you aware of the age discrimination lawsuits brought against Google?

If there were so much qualified domestic talent, why isn't Google and Facebook hiring that talent? So far you've suggested two reasons: (a) that domestic workers won't work at the cut-rate salaries Google pays, and (b) nepotism. I don't find either reason credible.

I never suggested that domestic talent won't work for Google wages, which are generous. I'm claiming (from known acquaintance's experience) that a lot of domestic workers - especially of they're over 35, will not get a crack at a Google job. Google was prosecuted for giving nlarger bonuses to their younger workers. It's a fact.

Nepotism. Yup, it exists. When an L1 visa student who doesn't know squat about programming comes in to a Silicon Valley development environment and gets assigned to an experienced American (of any ethnicity) developer, and at the end of the first day gets a big hug from the general manager of the division, as someone clearly known to that manager (a former H1-B), you know something is up. I have seen this, first hand, and known others who have experienced it. Large companies around here have been sued for this. Example: When one of America's largest corporations opens up a 300 person software division in Silicon Valley and 292 employees are H1-B's, does that get your attention? Does it get your attention that the other 8 people find themselves training a lot of the H1-B's and when they are done are uniformly harassed out of their positions (they sued, and settled). Again, this is one of the top 10 corporations in America.

Where is this vitriol coming from? It sounds like you know someone who feels stepped over by an economic boom and has recounted to you injustices to vindicate him or herself in the face of an army of intruders.

I have several friends who have really been trampled by what's going on in the Valley. One of these guys is a Stanford PhD! The fact is that Facebook, Google, Cisco, Intel, hp, etc. etc. are all racing to the bottom. They all have some top talent - some more than others. It's a known fact that if you're over 35-40 in Silicon Valley - regardless of skill level - you are expendable. Add to that the fact that consulting companies like Cogizant, etc. have been using H1-B's to assist American corporate greedballs to lower entry level wages for developers, which creates a disincentive for young Americans to enter those fields. Currently, there is no STEM worker shortage. When you hear companies say "I can find qualified workers", you need to translate to "I don't want to pay top dollar for qualified workers, so I'll pay a little less for less qualified workers and fix the mistakes on the back end". That's reality.

I am weary of watching the gutting of the middle class; I am weary of the lies propounded by both parties; I am weary of the insensitivity to community that the leaders of the tech sector show; I am weary of watching hard-working people displaced for no other reason than greed;I am weary of watching the "top graduates from the top 20 schools" selectively exclude anyone but their own from opportunity at places like Google, Facebook, and other startups around here. It's sick; I don't like it. Sorry if you disagree. Maybe its a changing of the guard - so be it. I don't have to like it.

Last, listen up, because your corporate overlords - if you work for Google Facebook, etc. will do the same to YOU as soon as the opportunity presents itself. That's one of the hidden ironies, and tragedies in a time when profit rules over all - including decency.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm confused. Is it Indians that are the problem? Or Chinese? Or nouveau riche, the ones that make you sick? Is that earthquake you're praying for going to destroy the immigrants' houses? Or just the citizens?
posted by Nelson at 10:49 PM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Okay, Vibrissae, you've had your say and then some. And then some more. Now, as cortex asked above, you need to let this thread breathe a little.]
posted by taz at 10:50 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


evil otto: "I'd be interested to hear you make your case."

NYC's five boroughs include Staten Island and some basically rural-reclaimed brownfield lands in Queens and Brooklyn. And also vast tracts of suburb. You want to create a metropolis with the economy of scale to tackle hard problems like financing and building a rail network that is multi-zoned, multiple Bay crossings, etc, you're going to have to vacuum up whole swathes of the Bay into a single entity. Otherwise there's this stop-start patchy development that is unintegrated, proceeds incredibly slowly, and fails to link meaningfully to existing transit. The bizarre Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit being a classic example.
posted by meehawl at 10:51 PM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well I was going to keep engaging with the issues but … congrats Vibirassae you've managed to suck up all the air in the room and I've no more energy for it.

You have a tone problem, friend, and it's alienating more folks than it's convincing. Good luck.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:55 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you, meehawl. That was one of the most insightful observations in this thread. Honestly, I was just spitballing when I suggested a grand multi-borough Bay Area city, but the more I think about it, the more I believe the idea has merit. I mean, put aside for the moment the political will it would take to make that sort of thing happen. Let's look again at the contrast between NYC and cities like St. Louis and Baltimore. It would seem arbitrary boundary freezes are just plain bad for regions that are seriously interdependent. You're right -- if you want the kind of economies of scale it takes to make a truly great city, you've got to pull in the whole area.

It just makes me think, what was so different about America back when NYC was forming? That people could see forming one big city would make life better for everyone? That you could gather the political will to make something like that happen, and then do things like dig massive subways and put in water mains you could drive a semi truck through?

What's happened to us since then? And how do we get it back?
posted by evil otto at 1:25 AM on December 12, 2013


I agree with meehawl, but the danger of amalgamating the bay area is that suburban voters who have different concerns than sf voters will impose their will on the city. This is part of the disaster that is happening in Toronto right now.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:34 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bay Area Millennials are Flocking to Communes
Very cool way for younger people to afford to live there. And communal living might help lower America's birth rate slightly since people living there know they cannot afford to raise kids in the same city.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:04 AM on December 12, 2013


Oh God, there's so much wrong with the Solnit piece it makes me crazy, from "bemoan the fate of the $17-30 an hour worker" to the fact that she found it necessary to point out a couple evicting her was a /gay/ couple, to the "don't you know who I am/these are important people" of her talk of who w getting evicted, and oh god she actually had to look hard for an apartment!

There's something really ugly and nativist deep at the root of the Google hate, as was made explicit here and implicit by Solnit, but it's making me really, really uncomfortable.
posted by corb at 3:52 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Getting evicted is psychologically traumatic, especially for people for whom it has happened multiple times. I haven't actually been evicted in my over 20 years of living in San Francisco, but the closest call came when the building I used to rent an apartment in, which had been owned by elderly people I never met and managed by a real estate company, went into probate when the last of the elderly owners died. I suddenly realized that the stability I'd been depending on was based on the continuation of life of someone I'd never met. The new owner who bought the building at least initially seemed ok, but eventually started clearing the building of some fellow tenants who had not been as careful at respecting the terms of their lease (subletting, etc.) I left of my own accord, and I'm sure the apartment now rents for considerably more than I was paying.
posted by larrybob at 7:56 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


More housing? Lots more housing! Studios start at $1950/mo.
posted by rtha at 8:20 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]




And fair play to Firesticks McYurt there -for all that his specific complaints might be childish gibberish he got the underlying issue of SF rents on to national news there.
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, agitprop is gonna agitate. Sadly I don't think it advances much useful discussion. The terrible cost of housing in San Francisco is not exactly a surprise and there's been plenty of national media attention to it for at least the last fifteen years. Conflating housing costs with Google's use of public bus stops doesn't really illuminate. But who knows, maybe they'll get their demand for one beelyun dollars. That would buy a lot of cupcakes.
posted by Nelson at 8:47 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


You have to let it play out, though. While I naturally ridiculed Firesticks when it happened, it does seem to have brought a certain element out of the woodwork, and turns out to have begun some discussions. Being of the mind that direct action's heyday is in the past, it's useful and interesting to see instances where it does do more than give people a reason to drag out the Che shirt.
posted by rhizome at 9:52 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The NEMA building in rtha's link has been the subject of a parody twitter feed, RentENEMA.
posted by larrybob at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bay Area Millennials are Flocking to Communes

Ah, not my thing but very cool if it means affordable living!

"Upward of $1,200 a month in rent."

Uh, hm. Well that's depressing.
posted by naju at 9:56 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


While I naturally ridiculed Firesticks when it happened, it does seem to have brought a certain element out of the woodwork, and turns out to have begun some discussions.

Yeah, and when the discussions went "well he may have made it all up but you had to admit his arguement had a point" was when it became obvious that these "activists" are about as worthy of respect as James O'Keefe.
posted by aspo at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


And related, the fact that the organizers of the protest, who knew full well that Max Alper was one of them, didn't try to correct the media when that became the story tells you quite a bit about how worthwhile it is to engage them on their terms.
posted by aspo at 10:16 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


it became obvious that these "activists" are about as worthy of respect as James O'Keefe.

True, underlying my comment was an agreement with the outcome. I certainly don't think he had much of a "point," but direct action can sometimes be that way. That's why I don't think it's a particularly effective strategy in general.
posted by rhizome at 11:25 AM on December 12, 2013


More housing? Lots more housing! Studios start at $1950/mo.

There's several conflicting economic pressures here. Firstly, newer construction tends to rent at higher prices per square foot, and in older cities your new construction comes at the expense of older rent. So when you build a new highrise in downtown, it could raise overall rents. Especially if you limit yourself to observing the new rent vs rents in the building it replaced, this seems obvious.

The less obvious pressure is increased housing supply. Every tenant in the new building is leaving a "hole" in the housing supply to fill, and that space is only getting older. Probably that space is a bit newer / more expensive than the new house supplied, so the poorest can't move into the space directly freed up by the nouveau rich, but whoever does take it over leaves a hole themselves, propagating downwards and eventually distributing the increased supply across all rent levels. So replacing 200 low income family occupied units with 700 high income units should, All Else Being Equal, this effect should help cancel out the other effect a bit.

The challenge is, "All Else" is never Equal. Those "holes" are disbursed not only across the bay area, but across the united states as tech employment continues to draw people away from smaller cities. And at a certain income level, which I presume to be far above the tech worker caricature in the OP, people are able to lease 'second homes' for their own marginal gain. And there's probably a set of people leasing space with the intent to resell via sites like AirBnB, further reducing available housing stock. And it seems housing stock could grow for quite a while and still not meet the demands for people moving to the area; if there's enough Google/Mozilla/Facebook/Rackspace interns sleeping on someone's couch, space may not have a chance to trickle down to the most vulnerable.

I think the more interesting question is why startups and tech companies keep clustering around San Fran. Portland comes to mind as an alternative location to run a startup successfully, with slightly better public transit, a vibrant downtown, and stable suburbs. Is Stanford so critical to the Bay Area's success?
posted by pwnguin at 11:28 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nope. But VC is.
posted by evil otto at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2013


but whoever does take it over leaves a hole themselves, propagating downwards and eventually distributing the increased supply across all rent levels.

But the hole they leave may not be in San Francisco. It might not even be in California. And that doesn't do any good for the teacher or secretary at the Department of Public Health, who can't just up and move to [empty cheap apartment in different city or state], nor can they move their spouse and kid into the windowless room in the group house that was opened up by that person moving into more expensive digs. Not to mention that when rents "crashed" during the the last dotbomb, they didn't actually crash all that much. I moved here right about then, and was paying $800/mo for a room in the house of friends of friends. Nice room, nice house, nice friends of friends - and it was $200/mo more than I was paying for a 1 BR in an expensive DC suburb.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the interest of advancing the discussion of market-solutions, vice collective action, I'm just going to leave this here:
That while collective action and public institutions are never able to ‘get it right’, the unfettered operations of decentralised private interest generates a kind of secular-cum-divine providence that is guaranteed to produce not only the right outcomes but also the right desires, character, ethos even. The best example of neoliberal crassness is, of course, the debate on climate change and what to do about it. Neoliberals have rushed in to argue that, if anything is to be done, it must take the form of creating a quasi-market for ‘bads’ (e.g. an emissions’ trading scheme) since only markets ‘know’ how to price goods and bads appropriately. To understand both why such a quasi-market solution is bound to fail and, more importantly, where the motivation comes from for such ‘solutions’, one can do much worse than to become acquainted with logic of capital accumulation....
Link
posted by wuwei at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the more interesting question is why startups and tech companies keep clustering around San Fran. Portland comes to mind as an alternative location to run a startup successfully, with slightly better public transit, a vibrant downtown, and stable suburbs. Is Stanford so critical to the Bay Area's success?

It's really interesting because there's basically a perfect storm of factors--Stanford, Berkeley, the Apple and Google campuses, venture capitalists latching on to the area during the 1980s bubble, the way that San Francisco has maintained a relatively sterling reputation for a solid 100 years (all of the upheaval that most other major cities went through at various points in the 20th century was mainly associated with Oakland--and even if it's just across a bridge, that seems to be enough separation that people don't balk at SF), the transit system. There are like 3 or 4 places that lay claim to the term Silicon Prarie. The Chicago/Urbana-Champaign corridor seems like the most likely challenger--several top universities, decent public transit, nice shiny city with cool stuff, a fairly large finance sector, but it's still not quite there for whatever reason.
posted by kagredon at 11:51 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


And fair play to Firesticks McYurt there -for all that his specific complaints might be childish gibberish he got the underlying issue of SF rents on to national news there.

Yeah, but they did it in a way that poisoned the well and made the problem worse. The rest of the world sees this "political theater" and echoes the sentiment I've seen a few places in this thread : "SF is a fucked-up, toxic place to live." All the people spewing hatred at tech workers are doing just that -- spewing hatred. They're certainly not trying very hard to persuade anybody. If they really want to accomplish their putative objectives, they should reach out to the tech community and try to win us over to their side. Wouldn't be that hard, if they were willing to drop the hatred and cultural snobbery. I mean, tenant protection, more low-income housing, abolishing the Ellis Act; who could possibly disagree with these things? Most of the tech people I know would totally support these initiatives.

But I'm so incredibly sick of the tenor of the conversation. For example, I've completely stopped reading SFist, even though it used to be my favorite area blog. Now they run 1-2 angry, hate-filled anti-gentrification screeds a day. I don't need that in my life. In most venues, I don't even engage with the topic anymore. I have no sympathy at all for the Google Bus protesters. None at all. Their us-vs-them mentality will not win them converts, accomplish their objectives, or improve the city in any way.
posted by evil otto at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


From my small understanding of the tech scene, the VCs are really the crucial factor in companies congregating in the Bay Area. The company that I was working for until recently was founded here in Pittsburgh, PA by a CMU professor but shortly after founding, the headquarters was moved out to California because that's where the funding is. In fact three years ago they moved again from Fremont over to Sunnyvale just because the CEO felt that they could attract more funding if they were actually inside Silicon Valley.
posted by octothorpe at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a whole lot written about why Silicon Valley is this uniquely successful thing; see for example Why Silicon Valley Can't be Copied. The simple answer is the network effect; it's already here, so it keeps accreting. Stanford and Berkeley, good weather, an existing network of venture capital, the history going back to Hewlett-Packard, etc etc all contribute.

The interesting thing to me is how the tech center has shifted a bit from Silicon Valley into San Francisco. It's an hour away, that's a big change. Since at least 1996 there's been some tech in SF, the old Wired office near South Park was a huge center back in the day. And most of the young / hip folks I know who worked in Silicon Valley companies 2000-2010 either lived in SF or else wanted to move there and just accept the commute. But the companies were always down in Silicon Valley, partly for real estate, partly for the perception quality of life was better there for employees.

But now Salesforce, Twitter, Zynga, Square, etc are firmly San Francisco companies. And they have a slightly different feel, urban instead of suburban. A big enabler for that was San Francisco normalizing its payroll taxes and not charging unique taxes on stock options, etc. I'm hopeful this shift will ultimately make the whole city a better place to be and I think we're already seeing evidence of that in mid-Market. It's definitely raising the cost of living though and I don't think we as a city have dealt with that effectively.
posted by Nelson at 12:32 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


A big enabler for that was San Francisco normalizing its payroll taxes and not charging unique taxes on stock options, etc.

This is actually one of the big contention points. Broadly speaking, anti-gentrification folks saw that as a giant payoff to tech companies, similar to the ugly "put your factory here and you'll never pay taxes" race to the bottom in many industries. So the big companies -- who are hardly short of cash -- are getting all the benefits of San Francisco and not paying their fair share.

The tech folks, who pay close attention to the details of stock option tax minutiae, liked the deal because there are weird situations you can get in where you (J. Random Employee) can end up paying huge amounts of tax even while your stock options end up being worth nothing. They wanted a deal that avoided that stuff for their employees.

As far as I can tell ... they're both right? The weird stock option situation was real, but the deal seemed to me (I should look back at the details) to be kind of a "OK, so don't pay anything!" situation rather than a more nuanced "We'd like you to pay payroll taxes like everyone else, but we'll make sure there's no nasty loopholes."
posted by feckless at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2013


In most circumstances when you exercise stock options you have to pay ordinary income tax on the profits from the transaction. The government ends up taking about half.
posted by humanfont at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2013


All the people spewing hatred at tech workers are doing just that -- spewing hatred.

Some of them are doing a damn fine job of spewing it right back, like the most recent startup a-hole who went on a rant about degenerates at Mid-Market and yadda yadda and his fauxpology. I ain't linking to it because it's been everywhere and should be easy enough to find. I mean, at least the people protesting skyrocketing rents and such are trying to also come up with solutions. Startup dude like this latest one and like Peter Shih before him and whomever comes after just want to sneer at the gross people who have the temerity to continue living in neighborhoods that Mister Douchey just moved into ten minutes ago. It gets old.
posted by rtha at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


rtha: No disagreement there. Douchebags of gonna douche. And if anyone feels like defending those idiots with a "well, he might have said it badly, but you know he has a point" they also get the douchebag label. And for good fucking reason.
posted by aspo at 1:20 PM on December 12, 2013


Startup dude like this latest one and like Peter Shih

Yes, those people exist, but what good are we doing by showering them with attention? SFist loves to "report" on people like this, and it all seems very "Two Minutes Hate" to me. I mean, before the blogs had a field day with Peter Shih, he was just another clueless dumbass who wrote a dumb thing on the internet. I'm offended by the very idea that I owe people like him my attention. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the tech hate brings in the pageviews. People like to get all worked up over stuff. Doesn't make it constructive.

The constructive thing would be to engage the tech community in a positive way, show us opportunities to give back, and invite us to be part of making SF a better, more equitable city. In an atmosphere where tech workers see ourselves as positively engaged in civic life, it would become far less socially acceptable to voice the kind of opinions you and I find contemptible. And we don't have to pillory people on blogs in order to accomplish that. All it takes is hearing somebody voice an offensive opinion and saying, "Hey man, that's not cool. That homeless dude can't take care of himself and nobody's taking care him. Dude is in some serious pain -- have a fucking heart!"
posted by evil otto at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2013


Yes, those people exist, but what good are we doing by showering them with attention?

What, so they're like trolls on the internet and if we ignore them they'll just go away? They're real people with actual power and money and influence (not all of them, obviously). Ignoring them will not make them go away. Lighting up the stupid that they put out there publicly and without shame at least has the benefit of maybe making some people think before they talk or hit "post."

The constructive thing would be to engage the tech community in a positive way, show us opportunities to give back, and invite us to be part of making SF a better, more equitable city.

Honestly, it's really not that hard, and if you (general you) are smart enough to have landed a job at a hotshit startup in SOMA or down the Peninsula, you can surely figure out how to volunteer and for whom, who your local town/city rep is, and you can look up when there are hearings at City Hall (for example) about changing bus routes, or more affordable housing units, or increasing hours at a local health clinic. Y'all live here now. You don't actually need an invitation to act like it. I know that a lot of the bigger tech companies that have hundreds of workers South of and Mid-Market have volunteer opportunities posted/list-served etc., for example.
posted by rtha at 1:42 PM on December 12, 2013


Startup dude like this latest one and like Peter Shih before him and whomever comes after just want to sneer at the gross people who have the temerity to continue living in neighborhoods that Mister Douchey just moved into ten minutes ago.

What strikes me about those types of idiotic whines is that what those people really want is a city just like Palo Alto. Not knocking it, I have spent much time there, but it has a very well-off and (aesthetically) clean living, homogeneous demographic. So why the heck do they move to the City and then get annoyed about city life?
posted by oneirodynia at 2:01 PM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


What, so they're like trolls on the internet and if we ignore them they'll just go away?

No, I'm saying we should create an atmosphere where saying offensive shit is not considered acceptable, even in a casual context. I don't think these random pillory blog posts do that. I think it contributes to an us-vs-them mentality that makes the situation worse. Perhaps if Shih and the other dude's friends/coworkers had called them on their bullshit earlier, it wouldn't have made it as far as the internet. So no, we shouldn't "ignore" people like that. We should call them on their bullshit if we know them personally, and then go on with our lives, doing positive things to improve the city.

That's not to say that we shouldn't call people on their bullshit when they make a bullshit public statement. But that Peter Shih thing was a totally created issue. He self-published a dumb attempt at humor on medium.com. People write all kinds of crap on there and nobody notices, because it's just a random place for random people to write random crap. SFist and the other blogs dredged up his piece and paraded it around because it helped them make a point. Totally "Two Minutes Hate".

Honestly, it's really not that hard

Never said it was. A lot of people (such as myself) do things to make the city a better place because it's important to us personally. But if you (general you) are making the case that SF tech workers aren't doing enough to make the city a better, more equitable place, then the question is, how to engage them? I would argue the Google Bus protest did the opposite. It was the kind of thing that makes people draw battle lines and dig in their heels, not come around to an opposing point of view.

Again, the vast majority of tech workers are not Peter Shih. Most of them work for a living because they've never gotten an IPO payout, and rent an apartment because they can't afford to buy one. And if they live in the city, it's because they like it here. It's not like there's any shortage of jobs on the Peninsula. I really do think most tech workers in the city would support most of the aims of the Google Bus protesters. But as long as it's us-vs-them, nobody is going to win. Except for the super-rich, which most tech workers aren't.
posted by evil otto at 2:04 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


The notion that as soon as you take a non-management developer job you instantly become a bloated plutocrat is a somewhat odd one.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


New thread on H1-Bs
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on December 12, 2013


Perhaps if Shih and the other dude's friends/coworkers had called them on their bullshit earlier, it wouldn't have made it as far as the internet.

But why would they? I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Shih and otherdude's friends were already familiar with these rants, and maybe even agree with them a lot or a little, and they didn't call them out. If you live and work in a particular bubble (which we all do, that bubble is not restricted to the tech industry), I don't think it's weird that the call-out is not going to come from inside the house, if you will.

I don't know people like this personally. I do know plenty of people who work in tech, and none of them say dumb shit like this in public. Maybe they know people like that? I don't know. But I, personally, do not have the opportunity to friend-call-out people like Shih. Do you? Do you call them out? My only way to tell guys like this that what they're saying is unacceptable bullshit is on the internet.
posted by rtha at 2:37 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


But why would they? I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Shih and otherdude's friends were already familiar with these rants, and maybe even agree with them a lot or a little, and they didn't call them out.

And that is entirely my point. Let's envision a future where more tech workers were directly involved in, say, making life better for the city's homeless. In that future, I think tech workers would be a lot less likely to tolerate someone like Shih making asshole statements.

I, personally, do not have the opportunity to friend-call-out people like Shih. Do you? Do you call them out?

My friends and coworkers are generally more socially conscious than Shih, but I do hear people say insensitive things about homeless people, and yes, I do call them out. I often make the point that homeless people aren't the problem; it's the people who will beat you within an inch of your life to get your cell phone who are the problem. (and really, I wish they'd just ask for the damn phones, like proper muggers. it's just a phone, it's not worth anybody's ass)

My only way to tell guys like this that what they're saying is unacceptable bullshit is on the internet.

And I'm not saying people shouldn't call them out. People totally should. When non-tech people (like Mel Gibson) say stupid shit, they get called out on it. However, I'm specifically bothered by how Shih and that other guy have become sort of an obsession for the anti-gentrification movement. You are not the first person who I've seen make a statement like "People like Peter Shih are real and they are out there." Yes, they're real and they're out there, but they don't represent the majority (or even a plurality) of tech workers. So it annoys me to see people use "because Peter Shih" as an argument. Obsessing over mean, stupid people like him will not make the city a better place. Engaging with each other and working towards positive solutions will.
posted by evil otto at 3:04 PM on December 12, 2013


And people like Shih exist outside of tech as well. Hell the person who worse fit this stereotype was an old money San Franciscan financial type, born and bred here (two guesses what neighborhood he lived in) who was the kind of asshole who would buy a rent controlled apartment building, Ellis evict everyone and let it sit for 5 (10? I forget) at which point it could be rented again! At market rate. (And this was before the last boom.) He was proud of i toot, he'd figured out that he could make money that way and would brag about it. It was Enron level of evil, except instead of cackling about granny losing her heat it was cackling about granny losing her apartment.

I'll let you guess how nice and enlightened the dude was about the homeless or mentally ill.
posted by aspo at 3:17 PM on December 12, 2013


Did he ride the bus often?
posted by Artw at 3:30 PM on December 12, 2013


The less obvious pressure is increased housing supply. Every tenant in the new building is leaving a "hole" in the housing supply to fill, and that space is only getting older. Probably that space is a bit newer / more expensive than the new house supplied, so the poorest can't move into the space directly freed up by the nouveau rich, but whoever does take it over leaves a hole themselves, propagating downwards and eventually distributing the increased supply across all rent levels. So replacing 200 low income family occupied units with 700 high income units should, All Else Being Equal, this effect should help cancel out the other effect a bit.

This isn't happening though. I've never seen this happen anywhere. I've never heard of it happening. It's a pipe dream brought up to shore up the side of the argument of people who generally say that rent control is bad, and new building is good, and then they segway in to this as the main chorus of their song.

What really happens is that those tenants, (a lot of whom didn't even leave a hole in town, but lets pretend they did for the sake of this) move out, and move in to the new Expensive Fancy Tower Place.

Now the landlord at the old place is free to raise the rent WAY more than they legally can with a tenant in the space, and possibly as much as they want depending on the local rules/landlord tenant act/city ordinances/etc.

So lets say they move out of their 1500 a month one bedroom and into a new "luxury" apartment that's like $3000+ a month in one of these towers after they got a new job, promotion, or the place they could afford already they really wanted finally opened up or finished construction or whatever.

Now the landlord at the old place jacks it up to like $2800 a month because available space is tight and they know it'll get rented very quickly.

Opening these "holes" doesn't do shit. The holes are quickly repurposed to be nearly indistinguishable from the new places.

It can't propogate downwards because rungs are being sawed off the ladder. The poorest people are incredibly afraid to even TRY to move because nothing is as cheap or even slightly more than what they currently have, and new rules about incomeXrent ratios and extreme strictness about credit(because they can, why not?) locks them in place.

like, 99% of the churn is at the top end. Everyone at the bottom is stuck in molasses if they can even move.

The solution IMO is not necessarily strictly low income, but just income restricted new housing that locks out anyone who's making a tech company salary. Let them fight over the scraps at the mid-high and top end, and create actual competition at the low-mid and bottom end. As it is, landlords are getting away with murder at that end and totally slumlording it up because everyone knows they're fucking trapped.

I will note i'm writing this from and about seattle, but besides some bits shaved off the price everything seems to apply here. Tech companies, h1b workers, tons of people moving in from elsewhere in the country CONSTANTLY, working class and poor people and even the lower-middle class being shoved out of the city at warp speed, etc.
posted by emptythought at 6:10 PM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


In theory more apartments means a higher vacancy rate, which should help keep prices down, or at the very least stop them from raising so damn fast. Right now every open house is mobbed, which means landlords can get away with pricing out most of their market. I actually don't think you'll see much of a downward trend, but at the very least I hope that the new construction will help keep prices steady.

Oh and California made vacancy rent control illegal at the state level 15 years ago or so, and San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland all had to get rid of theirs.
posted by aspo at 7:10 PM on December 12, 2013




"Human trash"? That headline really isn't fair, larrybob. Sure, Greg Gopman called the people who hang out on Market Street "trash" – but he never said they were human.
posted by koeselitz at 11:40 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Question: When is violence the answer?
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:15 PM on December 13, 2013


In theory more apartments means a higher vacancy rate, which should help keep prices down, or at the very least stop them from raising so damn fast. Right now every open house is mobbed, which means landlords can get away with pricing out most of their market. I actually don't think you'll see much of a downward trend, but at the very least I hope that the new construction will help keep prices steady.

It's funny too, How this argument has evolved. A year or so ago it was always that it would make rents drop eventually. Before that it was that it would, and now we're here.

The thing is, if it's stopping them from raising faster than i can't even imagine how much more quickly they could rise. You can look at charts for SF, and i already gave some examples for seattle. I seriously wouldn't be uncomfortable saying rents have gone up nearly 100% from september 2009 to may 2013(two different times i was moving, and very actively looking at apartments all over town). $1150 places are now $1900, $650 butthole places are now >$1200. In between these two times, in 2012 when not quite every landlord had "gotten the message" i looked at a place that was below market rate by a bit. Not ZOMG BLACK FRIDAY INSANELY CHEAP, but a good deal. It was so incredibly mobbed that the landlord couldn't even really talk about the apartment, he kept having to pull out his phone to buzz more people in.

The place was beat to shit. There were holes in the floor near the baseboards big enough to stick your foot through in a couple places, and the walls were fucked up. There was also the kitchen exhaust for a gyro shop loudly blasting right outside the kitchen window making the counter vibrate. Like 50 people showed up, and all of them applied. The guy apparently showed the place for 3 days, which was what the owners wanted him to do and ran out of applications(and he had an "entire tray from a large office printer" amount). People were like, printing their own generic ones and handing them in.

If the construction is limiting the insanity, it's not doing it in any meaningful way from a "boots on the ground" perspective.

It's a bit like a couple guys with fire extinguishers and a garden hose trying to put out a house fire, honestly. I can't wait until the significantly more aggressive people presenting the same argument as yourself finally throw in the towel and admit that shit is fucked yo.

I think the #1 issue here is that a significant percentage of the people competing for places are from out of town. My uncle, who is in some upper echelon of the upscale residential real estate market as an appraiser/analyst/some crap along those lines has been buying up houses that won't sell quickly but are in decent areas for dirt cheap since the 90s. I forget how many he owns, but it's probably around 30. He used to just rent them out to families long term. You know what he does with them now? They're essentially extended stay hotels for couples and families to live in while they house or apartment/condo shop in the area. No one rents them for more than a few months, and he charges a significant premium. They're barely empty long enough for him to do maintenance and repairs on stuff. One of his long term tenants moved out and he realized that he could raise the rent like 200% and the place would still be grabbed instantly.

The fact that this is even necessary, or a marketable thing kinda shows how ridiculous the market is. Even people with money realize it's unrealistic to just show up, go view a couple places and count on moving in. I'm pretty sure he's expanding, too.

Meanwhile plenty of people i know have ended up crashing at their parents house, SO's house/apartment, staying at a friends, or just couch surfing while they found a place. The first time i experienced this was in 2012 when i ended up staying with my girlfriend because i just couldn't land the hook on an apartment. It was like i was proverbially trying to play that silly sega fishing game while i was shitfaced drunk or something... And it took so long, that's how we ended up moving in together.

So yea, sorry if it seems like i'm being a dick or belaboring my point or something... but i've watched nothing but new places that "add stock to the housing market" go up as fast as they could build them since pretty much 1995. It hasn't done shit.
posted by emptythought at 1:26 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


2012 was the absolute worst for construction. When the housing crash happened construction pretty much stopped in this city. And stopped for long enough that when they market started to uptick the permits were all out of date and the whole process had to start over. (While at the same time, rental demand actually went up.) That's why you had something like 200 units of construction a year for several years, and the crazypants pricing. (And from my guess it's closer to 50% raise since 2009, which is horrible, but not 100%.)

I do feel like a bunch of large developments are just about finishing up right now, and hopefully that will help.

And as for people moving in, yes, people move into the city. It's not so crazy that many of the people looking for a new apartment are from outside of San Francisco. Every one of those people needs an apartment, and don't have the luxury of looking for a long time. Long time residents, most of them have a place and don't have a looming deadline to move. That's why vacancy rates are important. You really just need enough vacancy to fit everyone who is looking. (You probably remember seeing the same damn people at the same damn showings, 100 people showing up is crazy, but if there were just 100 more apartments for rent in the city at reasonable rates, most of those people wouldn't be looking. Or ok, probably more like 300 or even a 1000, but that's under the scale of new development.)
posted by aspo at 2:36 PM on December 13, 2013


Yeah, I feel like I've already said too much here, and fear I may have monopolized the discussion. But if there's any point I'd like to belabor, it's "make more of the good stuff!" It's not a bad thing that we have a booming tech economy. It's not a bad thing that people want to live here. It's not a bad thing that we have a population of artists and activists that love the city and can't stand the idea of it becoming less than what it is. Make more of the good stuff. Find a way to do it. The best for the most people. That's what we should be trying for here. A zero-sum game is one where everyone loses.
posted by evil otto at 6:55 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you income limit housing how will you enforce it. What happens when someone gets that big promotion or raise that pushes them just over the limit do you then make them homeless? Is the landlord going to check your w2 every year or just the city?
posted by humanfont at 8:33 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


In "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," Jane Jacobs wrote, "Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody." We’re losing that here. The further the tech sector gets from the reality of the problems it’s engaging with, the smaller piece of the problem they’ll end up actually fixing.

From "What Tech Hasn’t Learned From Urban Planning," an NYT Op-Ed from an editor at SPUR.
posted by whir at 11:38 AM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, someone is bemoaning the Gordon Beirch going away? Really? An giant empty chain restaurant of overpriced mediocre beer, hamburgers, and pizza surrounded by successful restaurants and bars? (And in the same building a Palamino that for reasons unexplained does booming business.) And yes, that plaza is a bit of a strange building. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. Not only is an awkward block, the storefronts are hidden in a way that doesn't invite foot traffic, as well as being sort of on the edge of where downtown workers congregate. You go two blocks inward or towards market and the number of stores and amount of foot traffic goes way up.

And oh no, a Starbucks closed. Maybe you'll have to go to the 3-4 other Starbucks in a two block radius. Or possibly all the many other non chain coffee shops. Talking of coffee, it's funny to hear someone talk up Sightglass as an example of the right thing tech companies do. I enjoy coffee. I enjoy spending money on expensive coffee, pour overs or espresso. Good coffee is good stuff. Sightglass is pricey even by expensive coffee places, bad coffee and prime example of style over substance. When people are attacking spending too much on coffee as conspicuous consumption, and I'm defending it as worth it if you actually enjoy coffee, Sightglass is always the one place I'm quick to acknowledge is bullshit.

As for Twitter, I know there's a lot of controversy about the tax breaks they got. I'm not sure how I feel about them, but I can see both sides. However that block of Market has been a cesspool for decades. And not in a "well, poor people have to live too" kind of way, but really a blighted block (which in classic San Francisco is much nicer just a block or two away). It's the block you go to see if you can pick up your stolen bike for cheap, etc. To blame Twitter for not revitalizing the block in a year seems a bit much. (I know a year feels like a long time, but in urban planning sense that's practically nothing). And I feel it HAS made some difference, with the jury still out.

I will give the author the point that the trend of tech companies serving their employees lunch does hurt businesses that can't exist without lunchtime traffic. And I remember when Google started feeding their employees, as it was one of those rumors that went through the tech world. "At Google someone MAKES YOU AN OMELETTE! They have chefs in house!" It was unheard of. And while it's true that Square and Twitter and Google all have in house lunches, it's also true that manylarge companies have in house cafeterias as well, they just aren't free or nearly as healthy. It is, however, a bit odd for an urban company, and by now I suspect it's a perk that's almost expected for the more successful tech companies. I would be curious to see what percentage of tech employees in the area get free lunches.
posted by aspo at 4:02 PM on December 15, 2013




RidePal and the Private Bus Wars: Q&A with Founder Nathalie Criou

"The San Francisco startup, a 2012 graduate of the Greenstart accelerator and venture fund, has jokingly called itself “the Google bus for the rest of us.”"
posted by larrybob at 1:51 PM on December 18, 2013


Audio: Mayor Ed Lee answers Q: "Should Muni make money off tech buses using public transit stops?"
posted by larrybob at 9:49 AM on December 19, 2013


Protesters block Google bus in Oakland.

I dunno. I still think this is a misplaced protest. A few hundred Google employees in Oakland don't have a huge impact on the rents there. And it's not like google employees are causing unemployment or something.
posted by GuyZero at 12:08 PM on December 20, 2013


File under "Occupy are useless counterproductive idiots".
posted by Artw at 12:24 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The buses today weren't just blocked--one had its tires slashed and another had a window smashed out (according to a friend who was on one).
posted by jjwiseman at 12:57 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imagine if the African Americans they displaced had done that to their cars.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:00 PM on December 20, 2013








The funny thing is that after a certain point, Google or Facebook could have easily built campuses in Richmond or Oakland (et al) where housing is affordable and local economies could use a boost. Not as much discount jet fuel in those places, though, I guess.
posted by rhizome at 2:42 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure the Oakland protestors would be against that too.
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on December 20, 2013


While Google is a big company, they're just one company out of hundreds, if not thousands, in the bay area. Those protesters have a lot of employees left to harass.
posted by GuyZero at 5:26 PM on December 20, 2013


In case you’re wondering why this happened, we’ll be extremely clear. The people outside your Google bus serve you coffee, watch your kids, have sex with you for money, make you food, and are being driven out of their neighborhoods. While you guys live fat as hogs with your free 24/7 buffets, everyone else is scraping the bottom of their wallets, barely existing in this expensive world that you and your chums have helped create.

You are not innocent victims. Without you, the housing prices would not be rising and we would not be facing eviction and foreclosure. You, your employers, and the housing speculators are to blame for this new crisis, so much more awful than the last one. You live your comfortable lives surrounded by poverty, homelessness, and death, seemingly oblivious to everything around you, lost in the big bucks and success. But look around, see the violence and degradation out there? This is the world that you have created, and you are clearly on the wrong side.

Predictably, you might even believe that the technologies you create serve the betterment of all humans. But in reality, the benefactors of technological development are advertisers, the wealthy, the powerful, and the NSA analysts running dragnet surveillance over email, phone calls, and social media.

If you want a Bay Area where the ultra-rich are pitted against hundreds of thousands of poor people, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll have a nice revolution outside your door. But if you want out then you should quit your jobs, cash out, and go live a life that doesn’t completely fuck up someone else’s.

GET THE FUCK OUT OF OAKLAND!


Outside of sex worker the list of acceptable professions is interesting - basically all the kind of service industry jobs slumming kids of middle class people take. There's no dock workers or plumbers or even janitors here, this is a barista revolution.
posted by Artw at 11:13 AM on December 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


what a ridiculous suggestion: "get…out of oakland". Really? Many many people in Oakland benefit from the tech workers: people in service, business owners, and property-owners. The people whose situation is worsened: renteres who work fixed wage jobs (or don't work). But you don't see the benefitters protesting…
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:21 AM on December 21, 2013


Maybe it's an elaborate false flag operation to... no, wait, we've done that one...
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


honestly, I think the best solution is a fair land value tax (as wuwei said) and more progressive taxation to fund infrastructure. This is a de facto wealth transfer from rich to poor.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:30 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]






Tech's culture war just hit rock bottom

A response to the "satirical" Young techies, know your place

(and what's up with not title-casing titles? Has that been the e-norm for a while?)
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:26 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


There is no end to the articles about this. Crazy.

See every third post on reddit's /r/urbanplanning for more.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:01 PM on January 4




The agreement had been in the works for months

"Someone got smacked down for raising the idea in December, and now that it's January we get to use a plural!"

Sounds like Mayor Lee's kneepads gave out.
posted by rhizome at 4:53 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Hey, problem solved, everybody happy, right?
posted by Artw at 5:01 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


The snark about "months" is completely misplaced; the discussion to pay for the bus stops goes back to at least last July.

The payment is about $100,000/year for each company. I'm sure the guy pretending to be a Google employee will be disappointed he's not getting his beelyun dollars.

No update on the price of cupcakes.
posted by Nelson at 5:25 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


The agreement had been in the works for months but took on added urgency in recent weeks as tenant advocates and other protesters blocked Google buses in San Francisco and Oakland

Lets hope they didn't put too much weight on hurrying things up to please Firesticks since he will be no doubt be out protesting again as soon as he's made minor modifications to his placards.
posted by Artw at 5:35 PM on January 6


Rebecca Solnit: Resisting Monoculture, in Guernica Magazine.

"A response to Grist: It's not about the buses, or, why San Franciscans don't love Silicon Valley." This refers to Ben Adler's piece Hey, protester, leave those Google buses alone.
posted by larrybob at 11:43 AM on January 7


SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi crunches some numbers on SF's recent agreement regarding private shuttles and SF Muni bus stops: Corporate Shuttles Must "Pay" $1 Per Bus Stop.
posted by larrybob at 12:51 PM on January 7




I felt certain that article on the Google catamaran was a parody, but it's not. And it's not just to get out to the Google Barges.
posted by larrybob at 7:00 PM on January 7


So... it's a water taxi?
posted by Artw at 7:19 PM on January 7


It's a seahorse of the techpocalypse, Artw. You should hear what the cupcakes on board cost.
posted by Nelson at 8:27 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


It's a water taxi. It doesn't even go all the way to Google since the south bay shoreline is too shallow and mostly protected sloughs. I don't even think it's that much faster than a bus on the 101, it just has a lower variability in travel time. Plus I guess some people live close to the ferry building where it starts from.

But seriously, I'm not sure what all the shock and outrage in the blogosphere about a water taxi is.
posted by GuyZero at 1:36 PM on January 8


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