Senior Citizens Are The Latest Group To Protest Tech Commuters

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency more than tripled fees for tech buses from $1 to $3.55 per stop today. The Agency says the increase is to cover the costs of less than anticipated bus usage. However, this fee increase is not a solution to collective activist groups who would like to stop the shuttle buses from using Muni stops altogether.

Multiple groups representing seniors and the disabled claim that these tech buses increase rent rates near each stop, forcing them out of their homes. Those groups, which include Senior and Disability Action, the Grey Panthers, Eviction Free San Francisco, and the San Francisco Tenants Union, staged a protest at 24th and Mission to get that point across this morning.

Several seniors and group members held up two unmarked buses that were scheduled to take tech workers from San Francisco’s Mission district down to Silicon Valley.

A recent report from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project says 69 percent of no-fault evictions have occurred within four blocks of private tech bus stops in the last three years. They also say rent has increased by at least 20 percent in proximity to private tech buses. Under city rent control laws, landlords are only allowed to increase rent by approximately 1 percent each year, however, those laws don’t apply to new leases. The collective action committee says this makes it impossible for these marginalized groups to find affordable housing once forced out of their original dwellings.

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Mary Elizabeth Phillips, the 98-year-old woman at the heart of San Francisco’s ongoing anti-eviction and tech protests, was threatened with eviction under a legal loophole called the Ellis Act. The Act provides landlords in California with a legal way to “go out of business” short of selling the property to another landlord. According to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project numbers, 72% of Ellis Act evictions in 2012 impacted seniors and people with disabilities.

Phillips seems to be able to stay in her home for now, though her caretaker and friend, Sarah Brandt, is being actively evicted from the building, which would leave Phillips without anyone to look after her.

Patricia Kerman, a senior currently being evicted from her home at 20th and Folsom by landlord Kaushik Dattani explains, “What’s happening to seniors and the disabled and other displaced residents of the city is immoral and criminal. And this is not the city that I knew and came to love.”

We’ve reached out to SFMTA for comment but have not heard back yet.
Update with comment from SFMTA spokesperson Kristen Holland:

The SFMTA’s Commuter Shuttles Policy and Pilot Program aims to minimize impacts of commuter shuttles on San Francisco’s transportation system, especially Muni, while supporting the beneficial operations of shuttles. The pilot addresses commuter shuttles that operate within San Francisco and between San Francisco and jobs in other cities.

While some are engaged in a larger public policy discussion on the presence of commuter shuttles in San Francisco, and more specifically their use by tech companies, the focus of the pilot is improving management of our city’s transportation system.