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Yet Another Protest Against Tech Buses as San Francisco Adopts Shuttle Plan

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In a December protest, activists surround a Google bus at 24th and Valencia streets Monday in protest aimed at evictions and displacement in San Francisco's Mission District. (Steve Rhodes via Flickr)
In a December protest, activists surround a Google bus at 24th and Valencia streets Monday in protest aimed at evictions and displacement in San Francisco's Mission District. (Steve Rhodes via Flickr)

Update, 4:25 p.m.: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors has just approved a pilot program to begin regulating employee shuttles in the city.

The proposal was passed by a unanimous voice vote that came after two hours of sometimes angry public comment.

The hearing took place after anti-displacement protesters held another in a series of protests against the buses, which are used by Google, Facebook, Apple and other tech firms to transport workers to the South Bay. In today's action, marchers blocked buses reportedly headed for Google and Facebook at 8th and Market Streets for about 30 minutes during the morning rush hour. The activists, who are demanding the city take action to slow the pace of evictions and limit rent increases, then marched to the San Francisco Association of Realtors before holding a rally at City Hall.

The SFMTA's pilot program would cover shuttles for UCSF and other colleges in the city as well as bus services operated on behalf of large office buildings and the Silicon Valley technology companies. If approved, the SFMTA proposal would:

  • Require shuttle operators — both bus firms and companies that set up shuttles for workers — to get permits to operate in San Francisco.
  • Designate 200 stops for shuttle use, many of which are Muni bus stops.
  • Impose rules to prevent shuttles from blocking Muni vehicles or other traffic.
  • Charge buses $1 for every stop they make. SFMTA planners say that will raise $1.5 million over the life of the 18-month pilot and defray the program 's costs.

The SFMTA board heard about two hours of public comment on the proposal. On the anti-side, residents and activists said the $1 per stop price was too low, that the buses are out of control on the streets, that they pose a danger to pedestrians and cyclists, and that they're helping fuel the displacement of tenants unable to pay rents driven upward by the influx of highly paid tech workers.


"Nothing's going to change until people rise up and do something, and stopping these buses would be a step in the right direction," one speaker said.

On the other side, several tech company and bus service employees said they supported both the shuttles and the pilot program. They said the buses reduce car trips, cut pollution and provide economic benefits to the city both by fostering the current tech boom and by encouraging those who commute to Silicon Valley via bus to spend more in the city.

A speaker who identified herself as Krista Jones, an employee of bus service Bauer's Transportation, said activists were indulging in "misplaced hostility" by blaming the buses for the city's housing and displacement issues. "Wake the hell up to what's really going on," she said.

KQED's Mina Kim talks with News Fix editor Dan Brekke about the details of the pilot program:

Update, 2 p.m.: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board meeting has started. On the agenda: a pilot program under which shuttle operators would pay for using city-owned and -maintained stops. (Before that item came up, the MTA board heard public comments calling on the agency to do something to respond to a rising number of pedestrians being struck and killed by cars in the city.)

KQED News reporter Alex Emslie is at the meeting:

Update, Noon:

Bay City News

Rebecca Solnit, a local author and historian who has written  extensively about the impact of tech workers moving into San Francisco, said  today's protest is about fighting for the "San Francisco dream."

"It's the dream that you can be idealistic, that you can lead a  really meaningful life ... that you can live in a city that has room for everyone," she told the crowd gathered at City Hall this morning.

"I think the reason a lot of us were out there blockading this morning is that we're looking at a city that could become homogeneous, that could become a very dense suburb ... as it becomes a bedroom community for the Silicon Valley," Solnit said.

Update 10:30 a.m.

Bay City News

A group of several dozen protesters briefly blocked two tech buses  at Market and Eighth streets in San Francisco this morning.  As of 10 a.m., the buses had been allowed to leave and the  protesters had marched up Market Street to the offices of the San Francisco  Association of Realtors at Grove and Franklin streets.

"This is ground zero for the battle of renters in San Francisco,"  a woman yelled through a bullhorn while gesturing at the building.

Other protesters played musical instruments including drums, a  saxophone, a trombone and a clarinet. The crowd chanted, "What do we want?  Stop the evictions!"

Bernal Heights resident Amanda Ream, 38, said she is participating  in today's protest because she wants San Francisco to "maintain the diversity  and culture that I love about it."

Protester Barry Hermanson, 62, a homeowner in the Sunset District,  said, "The eviction crisis is out of hand...The gentrification in this city  is incredible." Hermanson said he is running for Congress, in part because he says  he is concerned about a lack of affordable housing.

The group protested outside the Realtors' office for about 10  minutes before heading back toward Civic Center.


[Picking up with our original post:]
Reports via Twitter showed dozens of protesters stopped two buses at 8th and Market streets. It's unknown right now which tech companies are connected to the vehicles:


Here's a press release from the anti-eviction/anti-displacement group that organized this morning's protest:

Subject: Embargoed Press Release: Anti-Displacement Action Against the Relationship of Tech, Real Estate Speculation, and City Politics

Embargoed Press Release (keep embargo until 9am PST on 1/21/14).

Press Contacts:
Rebecca Gourevitch (650)248-1295
Roberto Hernandez (415)206-0577

What: Anti-Displacement Action Against the Impacts of the Tech Boom, Real Estate Speculation and City Politics

Where: Beginning at UN Plaza, marching to three locations

When: 8:30am, Tuesday 1/21/14. We will conclude by 11am. Some of us will reconvene at City Hall at 1pm for the SFMTA Hearing on the Tech Bus Pilot Program

On Tuesday 1/21/14 at 8:30am, a group of activists, organizers, and community members will join together at UN Plaza to protest the augmenting levels of displacement shattering the heart of San Francisco.

The three target locations will highlight what we see as the main causal relationship of displacement in San Francisco: real estate speculators and investors are capitalizing on the tech class that big tech corporations are inputting into the city. The city gives the tech industry major incentives to move in, be they tax breaks or practically free use of public bus stops and other infrastructure. Real estate speculators take advantage of this, abusing state laws such as the Ellis Act to displace longtime residents, disproportionately those who are elderly, disabled, and/or in other ways marginalized. This industry too has long had its hands in the pockets of politicians. The collusion between tech, real estate, and city/state politics is responsible for the unprecedented levels of displacement. Ellis Act evictions have gone up 170% over the last 12 months; no-fault evictions are up 83% over the last three years. Rents are up 20% along tech bus routes, and evictions have skyrocketed in SOMA directly correlating to Twitter settling.

We will march to three locations and will have speakers at each one, including community leaders, writers, and tenants who are being displaced.

We will reconvene at City Hall at 1pm for the SFMTA Board meeting on the $1/bus stop proposal. We maintain that $1 doesn't stop displacement.

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