This weekend a taxi driver dropped me off at Twitter HQ and, as I paid my $7 fare with Square, he asked me if I worked at Twitter. When I responded “No,” he said, “Ok, I usually charge those people more.”
Depending on who you ask, tech’s hyper-gentrification is either causing an economic cold war, or is blown out of proportion. Any way you slice it, the tech industry, paying proportionally higher salaries because of VC funding and creating millionaires through lucrative IPOs, has caused housing prices and everything else influenced by housing prices in the Bay Area to skyrocket.
And it’s spreading.
The rising housing prices and sense of inequity led to community protests this morning at Valencia and 24th Street, with the intent of blocking a Google private bus, for many a symbol for all that is wrong with the tech bubble. The protestors demanded $1 billion dollars from the tech giants in order to fund affordable housing.
Of course, no one, tech rich or not, wants to pay $3,000 in rent for a one-bedroom apartment. The collective startup world cringed as news broke of a particularly insensitive response to the protestors: “Why don’t you go to a city where you can afford it? This is a city for the right people,” screamed someone who purported themselves to be a Googler.
According to the reporter who originally uploaded the video, the confrontation was actually a staged performance by who looks to be University of California union organizer Max Alper. (Update: Alpers confirms it was a stunt.)
The most comical part of Alper’s act was his declaration that he had been living in SF for six months! Honestly, if he really wanted to piss people off, he should have borrowed a pair of Google Glass.
Despite the myths, oblivious outliers and dumb Op-Eds, few people working in tech think that tech is a meritocracy. Sergey Brin has been secretly buying up property and engaging in a sort of private rent control down South. And Google, Facebook, Apple and Genentech are working with the City of San Francisco to pay for permits to use the MUNI stops, taking their proposal to the MTA board in January.
You don’t need Glass to see there’s a problem, and the solution isn’t Social Darwinism.