San Francisco tech workers have no idea why they have become the target of anti-gentrification protests in part because the last time the city went through the creative destruction of a tech boom many of them were still in middle school.
This year, people commuting to jobs at Google and Facebook via corporate shuttle buses have been attacked by protesters blocking the street and in at least one case smashing the vehicle’s windows.
Activists argue that these buses are to blame for increased rents and higher real estate prices in San Francisco — and the displacement of non-tech workers there — because they let high-income workers live in the city instead of the suburbs of Silicon Valley. Now, the rich are living cheek-by-jowl with the poor.
Late last year, AngelHack founder Greg Gopman had a big rant about how San Francisco is overrun by “homeless, drug dealers,” and “trash.” He later apologized, but by that time he had become the poster-boy for clueless young techies who didn’t understand the economic effect they having on the city.
Then protesters stopped a Google bus in the street and smashed its windows: Inside the bus, was Adelle McElveen, who moved to the Bay Area six years ago. She didn’t know what was going on:
“We pretty much just sat there,” McElveen said. “I couldn’t see anything because I didn’t have a window seat, and even if I did, they were at the front of the bus. We just didn’t understand what they were doing, what they were saying, what they wanted.”
The city has been through this before: In the boom of 1999, startups in San Francisco turned warehouses into offices, and venture capitalists poured money into companies with no revenue, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
But because the dot-com bust was so sudden, zoning laws weren’t revamped, and the city went into the current tech boom largely unchanged.
A lot of people on both the activist side and the tech side are too young to remember any of this: “A high percentage of activists are people in their 20s,” dot-com era housing activist told the Chronicle. “And if you’re in your 20s, you weren’t very old 15 years ago.”