Do the Tech Protests Accomplish Anything?

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Uptown Almanac raises the question in a compendium of posts elsewhere:

If you read the criticisms, the protests over tech shuttles and the industry’s impact on housing costs are pointless and misdirected, if not worse.

“The protests are xenophobic and illogical,” wrote Rodrigo Guzman, CTO of iDoneThis, in an essay that was passed around Reddit and other like-minded echo chambers. “They do serve a useful purpose in sparking discussion about important issues (e.g. the Ellis Act, housing, cultural change in SF, etc), but the impact of that is very limited when there isn’t coherence about the issues and the desired changes. The protests may even be counter-productive to their cause.”

Read more here. 

Filed under: Mobile, Today's Mission

20 Comments

  1. John

    The protesters cannot even decide what they oppose. Is it shuttle buses using Muni stops? Is it a sloppy strike against gentrification? Is it opposition to the Ellis Act? (not that there is any tangible link between tech employees and Ellis evictions anyway, as very few SF LL’s are also tech workers.

    To me it smells more like a vague, generalized disenchantment among a small segment of the community who have not adapted well to SF’s transition to the leading center of the knowledge economy, with all that that implies.

    It must be sad to an unskilled minimum wage worker in an affluent city to feel ever increasing amounts of irrelevance, but is lashing out at a soft target really an appropriate and mature response to that realization?

    I see little evidence that this any more than just a fringe element, just like the Occupy farce that even the article draws parallels to. This might make good copy but it is hardly a peoples’ revolution. More a whiney self-pity fest.

    • C. Russo

      It’s ALL the things you mention up front–thanks for the elucidation. (I know it’s difficult to understand something more complex than a soundbite or a slogan, JJ.)

      No matter how one tries to marginalize this symbolic street theater, the discontent is Bay Area-wide. It has also captured the attention of the international press. I predict such protests are only the opening salvos.

      • John

        Where is your evidence that the discontent is “BayArea-wide”?

        A few dozen people whining is public and trying to stop hard-working people getting to work is hardly a massive populist movement.

        I predict it fizzles out quickly, just like the much bigger but equally useless Occupy fiasco.

    • Let’s marginalize the oppressed and disadvantaged, all together now John. You show a clinical lack of compassion and immunity to human narratives. I can’t imagine how the many people dedicated to serving the disadvantaged make you feel, what a waste of life and resources!

      • John

        The fact that housing is expensive affects everyone in SF. Even if you have a spare million lying around, all that buys you is an average home. Two million? You get a 3BR house in a decent area but, again, nothing special.

        While I might feel sorry for someone who gets Ellis’ed, they probably enjoyed a stupidly cheap rent for decades, and choose to live in one of the most expensive, desirable places on the planet.

        I think there are more suitable objects for my pity. And particularly if these same people think it appropriate to stop innocent people getting to work.

  2. Kaliman

    It’s definitely causing a big stir so yeah it’s working. Ok to predict movement to build affordable housing and changes to -if not eliminating – the Ellis act.

    • Kaliman

      In San Francisco.

      • John

        The Ellis Act isn’t a city matter.

        It’s State law.

        Where are the anti-Ellis protests ANYWHERE else in the State?

    • John

      I don’t see a “big stir” at all. Nobody I know personally has spoken about it and nor have I heard anyone talking about it.

      It is a cute story for the press, so it’s the kind of thing you read about rather than hear about.

      Anyway, Ellis isn’t a city issue at all. And affordable housing needs money to build, and we don’t have a lot.

      Seems to me more that a bunch of people are just expressing misery at their own lack of achievement by targeting people who are succeeding, and that doesn’t strike most people as a meaningful or appropriate activity.

      Remember also that this was less than 100 people out of a city of 3/4 million. And many of them are “usual suspect” protesters who turn out for everything.

  3. Landlords have the right to do as they please with their property. Ellis Act evictions support the rule of law. Tenants aren’t being penalized in any way. They are free to live anywhere else they can afford to live. There is no such thing as an unrestricted right to live on someone else’s private property. Progressive activists sound like conservatives by mindlessly opposing the good things gentrification does for San Francisco: http://alfidicapitalblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/san-franciscos-anti-progress-factions.html

    • John

      True, Anthony, and that is why rent control has been made illegal in more than 30 States – because it is essentially a form of theft.

      And even where rent control is not yet illegal, such as in California, the State takes prudent steps to limit how punitive and confiscatory it can be, via such over-riding State laws as the Ellis Act and the Costa-Hawkins Act.

      Those in SF who wish to immunize the city against State laws specifically designed to prevent municipal excess and abuse are completely missing the point.

    • Rent control is a regulatory tool that protects average people from economic speculation, which SF has a long history of. Today it is needed more than ever, the city’s fabric is disintegrating. Every day there are news about people with key skills and contributions having to relocate out of SF. Teachers and chefs are some latest high profile examples … Of course there needs to be more housing and city officials have slept on this, but ejecting existing residents is heartless and sad (and advocating for this is even worse).

      All the free market advocates prosteletyzing here are effectively suggesting that of the 66% of people renting in SF, about half of whom have rent control, move out and make room for high value tenants or buyers. They are saying that hundreds of thousands Of people, including the elderly, sick, kids, need to move to make way for a ‘higher’ class. Forced economic displacement is not a crime? Hmm, well maybe it will be after all this. Looking back In history there are plenty of such examples that have ended badly: native Americans, Jews, Armenians, and many other minorities, most often economically challenged, come to mind,

      Moreover landlords are not naive, they know the law and the risks of owning property in SF. I’m always amazed at landlords complaining about rent control. Really? It’s like buying a weak risky stock and complaint that it yields no profit. On the other hand buying rental property with the intent of evicting is a slimy, morally evil action. And clearly this is happening, the city government is finally reacting.

      What will these few pro eviction and anti ‘lower value citizien’ voices accomplish? They are just feeding the flames of a crisis that is rather unexpectedly a major theme in national and international news. Only a few people are protesting? Everyone is affected by the cost of housing, this is THE issue defining SF today. Like it or not …

      • John

        Your big assumption here is that rent control helps tenants. The problem, self-evidently, is that it has not done that, given the amount of complaining from you and others about displacement, gentrification and so on.

        Rent control deters people from deploying their capital in the provision of housing, leading to artificial shortages and systematic changes of use. You cannot keep closing every loophole that you think exists because there is always another one. And, in the case of Ellis, it is sanctioned by law as well as being constitutionally founded.

        Yes, it’s possible that some teachers might find living a few miles outside the city makes sense for their wallet, but that is hardly a problem except insofar as people do not realize that SF is really just part of a much larger urban area.

        Most of the Bay Area does not have rent control. And housing is cheaper and more available there. It’s not a coincidence. The current system is a lottery, rewarding some tenants who sit tight while punishing the rest. Paradoxically, it also rewards landlords who know how to work the system.

        It’s a total mess and the politicians who introduced RC in 1979 would surely not have done so if they could see the shocking results 25 years later.

      • John

        Oh, B2B, another thing. If landlords should not complain about rent control because they knew about it when they bought the building and so knew what they were getting into then:

        Why isn’t the same true for tenants, who knew about the possibility of an Ellis eviction when they rented?

        Ellis came along just 6 years after rent control, and of course as a direct response to it. So both LL’s and TT’s know the deal – rent increases and evictions are restricted by landlords can Ellis at any time for any reason.

        Sounds like a balanced policy to me, but of course you do not want balance. You want outright victory for “your side”.

    • landline

      I took the time to read the linked blog entry. Paragraphs of insulting name calling of people with whom the author disagrees capped off by this gem: “Now I think I’ll go look at some pictures of attractive women who aren’t wearing any clothing.”

      As a middle-aged married guy, I guess I don’t get the appeal of putting one’s every thought, however misogynist, on the internet for posterity, especially as a dating strategy.

      From the author’s home page(http://www.alfidicapital.com/founder.html):

      “I’m more than happy to meet in person with members of the media, corporate leaders, other assorted big-shots, and attractive women. Especially attractive women. See ya!”

      Yeah, good luck with that. Should these “attractive women” send you naked pictures before you meet them?

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