When San Francisco offered Twitter a six-year suspension of its payroll tax, many local residents groaned at the loss of revenue suffered by the city. Even more residents bemoaned the fact that they’d be required to pick up the tax slack, but there was a point in the disagreement that went largely overlooked.
The reason San Francisco lawmakers were willing to forgo tens-of-millions in tax revenue is because they were desperate to clean up an area of the city known as the Tenderloin. It’s one thing to say any section of a large metropolitan city is worse than another, but the Tenderloin is actually 35 times worse than the rest of the city when it comes to violent crime.
The Tenderloin block that inspired that statistic saw 248 crimes from 2010 to 2011, before Twitter arrived, among a population of only 438 people. Twitter’s HQ, at 1355 Market Street is in a sprawling 1937 Art Deco building in a sub-section of the Tenderloin called Mid-Market.
When Business Insider visited Twitter on March 6, it was 10 a.m. Walking from the subway I saw a couple dozen apparently homeless people, several others who seemed drunk, and witnessed a possible drug deal. Maybe it was something less sinister, but as one seven-year Tenderloin resident told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked right through a drug deal. You see people shooting up [on the street]. They don’t care.”
It’s easy to believe. When I stopped to take a picture near City Hall, crouched down on the cobblestone walkway, a woman stumbled toward me carrying a large backpack, an umbrella and a water jug.
A cigarette dangling from her mouth she was lost in searching her pockets for a light when she nearly walked into me, before I called out. Her eyes were red and watery. She was very polite. “So sorry,” she said, before weaving around me. My eyes were level with her waist and clipped to her front left pocket was a large folding knife. Within easy reach.
Tech workers at Twitter and elsewhere in the area have been pretty tight-lipped when it comes to what must be an interesting daily commute. The prostitution, drugs, and violence surround them but the city experience is part of the reason workers choose Twitter and San Fran’ over Facebook and Google, father south in the hills.
That said, the contrast between classes here is stark, if not potentially dangerous.