Tension is growing in San Francisco and surrounding areas between the well-paid employees of technology companies and the long-term, middle-class city residents who are being evicted because they can no longer afford rising rent prices.
To raise awareness of this gentrification of the city, protestors have staged events targeting the shuttle buses that technology companies use to bring their workers to their corporate offices. These corporate buses use the public bus stops to shuttle their workers, but are not part of the public bus system.
Though earlier protests have been peaceful, the most recent protest in West Oakland turned violent with protestors slashing the tires and breaking the windows of a Google shuttle bus, says a report by KQED news. A flyer circulating at the event ended with an all caps ultimatum telling Google to “Get the F$*@ out of Oakland.” At a separate protest on the same day, an Apple shuttle was also detained in San Francisco for over 30 minutes by protestors who refused to move out of the way of the bus.
Part of the issue with technology workers stems from rising rent prices resulting from an influx of technology professionals into the city. As noted by USA Today, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2800, a 27% increase over the past two years.
“I hope that we will be able to redirect the message today,” said organizer Erin McElroy. “This protest is about gentrification and people being displaced. We’re not necessarily against tech. We’re against tech’s effect on speculation and evictions.”
Another part of the problem involves the corporate limousine buses, which are crowding out the riders of the public transit system and blocking streets by using public bus stops. It’s a growing problem with more than 40 companies using luxury buses in the city. Google alone has over 100 buses and makes 380 trips through the Bay Area each day. Google and other tech companies are working out a system to pay the city for their use of public bus stops, but that likely won’t ease the tensions between the tech workers and some city residents.
You can read more about incident and the underlying issues in these articles at Mission Local and SF Examiner. It’s an interesting look at how technology is affecting our world in a way that goes beyond the phones we hold in our hands.