Protesters in front of an Apple bus on December 20. Photo by Dan Hirsch

They’re back again. After attracting the national media spotlight this month by blocking a Google commuter bus in the city’s Mission District, housing rights activists showed up to once again protest a tech bus near the 24th Street BART station in San Francisco Friday morning.

Organizers would only tell Mission Local on Thursday night that they’d target a bus from “one of three” tech companies, and that the protest would be followed by a rally of housing rights activists and displaced residents from across the city. As of 8 a.m. on Friday, protesters had stopped a bus across the bay at MacArthur BART station, holding a banner that said “Love the Bay, Block the Bus,” until police showed up to free the vehicle. A handful of protesters had just started converging at 24th Street BART by 8:30 a.m. with megaphones.

Check out our liveblog of the protest coverage Friday morning here.

Friday’s demonstration in the Mission may look a lot like the December 9 one, in which protesters surrounded a bus, holding barricades that read, “Two-tier system” and “Illegal use of public infrastructure.” A union organizer pretending to be a Google employee yelled at an activist that she should  move somewhere she could afford. (He later told the press it was “political theater.”) The fake techie storyline, combined with the spectacle of activists holding up a double-decker charter bus in San Francisco’s gentrifying Latino neighborhood during a dizzying rent crisis brought tons of press attention to the activists dubbing themselves Heart of the City. (Their website writes up the protest victoriously: “Debates abound, people are talkin.’ The eviction and affordability crisis in SF are at center stage.”)

Mayor Ed Lee directly addressed the housing tension at a press conference earlier this week, promising to prioritize building affordable housing and asking people to stop blaming tech companies for the eviction crisis.

A protest organizer told Mission Local Thursday they’re going to ditch the “street theater” Friday morning to focus on demanding a moratorium on evictions from the city’s rent-controlled housing stock. They want the mayor to pay more attention to the problem, and the tech companies themselves to help offset the effects of their arrival.

“It’s an invitation for them to be part of the solution,” said organizer Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, who talked on the condition that the story wouldn’t be published until Friday morning. (She didn’t want to tip off the police or the buses.)

Sherburn-Zimmer and her collective want to see big tech companies like Google get involved in overthrowing the state’s Ellis Act, which allows a landlord to get out of the rental business and evict all the tenants, usually before or after the sale of the property. Or to somehow help restrict the rise of rents near shuttle stops. Paying for the use of the stops, or donating to the city or to housing rights organizations would also be a step in the right direction, she said. (Sherburn-Zimmer is an organizer with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and a frequent face at eviction protests. But she said that she and all other activists represent themselves and not their organizations.)

Still, one local political analyst was skeptical that targeting a tech bus would help build support for their cause. “I don’t think it would help galvanize people who weren’t already mobilized,” said Corey Cook, an associate professor of political science at the University of San Francisco. “If the goal was to build a movement and get more people supportive and more sympathetic to your views, I don’t think this persuades people.”

He said the protesters ought to look elsewhere for the root of the housing crisis. “It’s a public policy question. If you want to spur action, I’m not sure the action is about the Google employees and the people who ride the buses, because you sure don’t want them in their private cars. The question is really: can you spur policymakers to deal with these broader issues about wages, economic security, and affordability?”

Still, bus blockages make for great theater. And here goes round two.

Follow Us

Courtney Quirin is a trained wildlife ecologist turned environmental journalist with a knack for photography and visual storytelling. Though her interests span many topics and disciplines, she's particularly keen on capturing multimedia stories pertaining to the global wildlife trade, human-wildlife relationships, food security, international development and the effects of global markets on local environments and cultural fabric. Courtney completed a MSc in Wildlife Management at the University of Otago, New Zealand, where she not only learned how to catch and tag fur seals (among many things) but also traveled to the highlands of Ethiopia to identify the nature and extent of farmer-primate conflict and its linkages to changes in political regime, land tenure, food security, and perceptions of risk. From New Zealand Courtney landed at The Ohio State University to investigate urban coyotes for her PhD, but just shy of 2 years deep into the degree, she realized that her true passions lie within investigative journalism. Since moving into the world of journalism, Courtney has been a contributor to Bay Nature Magazine, a ghostwriter for WildAid, and the science writer for While at Berkeley's J-School Courtney will focus on international environmental reporting through the lens of documentary filmmaking and TV.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    1. for john and other selfish people…you are rude!! i feel bad for your parents,if you have family…is this how they taught you to be?it’s about respect !!lets find a solution for everyone!!!

  1. “Mission Local believes that by covering a neighborhood fairly and thoroughly, we can build community and a sustainable model for quality journalism.”


  2. The tech corporations set up the luxury tech bus system without input from Muni or residents in SF neighborhoods.
    The tech buses are the medium that people see day in and day out. The tech corporations don’t seem to be doing to be doing much other than lunches with Mayor Lee.
    There is an urgency and this is one way to get their attention.
    I support tech bus shuttle centers away from the busy streets.

    1. 70 people out of a city of 700,000. That means that one person in ten thousand cares enough about this to show up.

      Why listen to such a small (and rude) minority?

        1. missionite, it’s hardly surprising that a lot of people would prefer their biggest household expense was cheaper.

          You might as well ask people if they’d like more money.

        2. Affordability of local housing is a valid issue. However companies running buses to help their workers get to work and keep cars off the roads is not a cause of this problem and directing retaliation against them is not something most people agree with. The core issue is real. This protest response is not valid.

          1. Affordability may be a concern but it almost definitely cannot be fixed. Sf is expensive because demand exceeds supply.

            Our best bet would be to relax our land use rules, abolish rent control, and engage in a massive building program.

            Nothing else will work and, indeed, everything else has been tried and failed.

  3. The dumping of thousands of relatively wealthier tech workers into an already packed neighborhood is resulting in doubling and tripling of rents.

    This irresponsible behavior by surveillance/advertising corporations, drug profiteering corporations and addictive toy corporations is destroying community – it’s that simple.

    No amount of fees is going to compensate for this impact.

    The tech giants need to step up and either directly or indirectly provide housing for their workers. They have plenty of resources to do so.

    If the tech giants keep this up, it will be the beginning of the end for them. The public is already growing suspicious of their power, and to become known as community destroyers wouldn’t exactly help their carefully-crafted images.

    1. “The tech giants need to step up and either directly or indirectly provide housing for their workers. They have plenty of resources to do so.”

      If they did this, the rents would be 4X instead of 2-3X.

      “The dumping of thousands of relatively wealthier tech workers into an already packed neighborhood is resulting in doubling and tripling of rents.”

      So you’d prefer they pay less? Locate elsewhere? What exactly do you want? Why phrase this as if the tech workers are trash rather than people?

      “This irresponsible behavior by surveillance/advertising corporations, drug profiteering corporations and addictive toy corporations is destroying community – it’s that simple.”

      What irresponsible behavior in particular are you referring to here? Paying their employees well? Not requiring their employees to live in San Jose or MTV? Perhaps the tech companies should build a moon base and locate their workers there?

      It’d be great if you had a constructive suggestion rather than just pointing your unfocused anger at people that have very little to do with your issues. These folks are paid well because, by and large, they’re brilliant people that also work 60-80 hours a week. The buses with wifi give them a chance to spend some of that 60-80 hours during the commute rather than commuting + 60-80 hours a week.

      P.S. these Tech folks largely agree with you on most social issues. Bark somewhere else.

      1. Your comments and questions make no sense to me.

        How do you figure that tech companies providing a housing option for their employees (thus taking the pressure off existing rental markets) would cause rents to go up 4x? It would, in fact, make them go down.

        It is irresponsible for a company to do something that will destroy a community: dumping thousands of highly paid people into tight, overheated rental markets..

        I AM making a constructive suggestion, the only realistic one I’ve seen so far. I’m suggesting that the tech companies build (or have built) enough housing for all their employees in unutilized or underutilized areas in or near SF. This housing would be deluxe, and a perk of employment (just like free health care, free dining, free buses, etc.). It would be a free housing OPTION for each worker, but he wouldn’t be required to live there.

        These would not be “worker camps” as John calls them, conjuring images of ragged tents and food ladled out to lines of shivering people. I’m envisioning something more like a 4 star resort.

        The management of these companies have plenty of money and experience with deluxe accommodations… they can figure out how to house employees in such a way that they’ll WANT to live there.

        In addition to saving the Bay Area from economic cleansing , providing such a housing perk would actually HELP the bottom line of these companies – making it easier to recruit and retain talent.

        We can, of course, expect very loud opposition to such a plan from San Francisco’s many real estate sleazebags and their bribed friends in City Hall, because it is THEY who profit from the current situation of skyrocketing rents.

        1. Why would any employee want to live in a work camp with his work colleagues?

          Evenings and week-end, I do not want to constantly see the folks I work with.

    2. So you are OK with lawyers, doctors, realtors, bankers and hedge fund managers moving to the Mission?

      No employee wants to live in a work camp with the people he spends all day with. Non-starter.

      1. Some doctors would be fine, but bankers by the thousands would not.

        It’s mainly a matter of SCALE, but the value of the work is a factor as well.

        A doctor’s work is valuable because he cures the ill and injured. A coder’s work, software that analyzes emails so as to better target advertising, is less valuable .

          1. Less about you but more about the lack of policy from the Mayor. You could live where ever you want. As a policy, however, the Mayor needs to balance the impact of his tech-friendly decisions on current residents (seniors, middle-class, low-income, etc.).

          2. John the troll – The Mayor may not but he can round up some state legislators that can.

            You’re a real estate speculator so your opinions are biased and full of hot air.

          3. Wrong, Kaliman, I doubt that the Mayor of any CA city can get a law passed in Sac that the majority of Assembleymen do not support.

            Why not lobby State officials instead?

          1. This blog’s technology could have been cooked up by 3 programmers 10 years ago. And Twitter has me scratching my head… how can a program that sends text to a list of recipients constitute a multibillion dollar company?

            But it seems some coders HAVE been productive – for example, the latest murder-simulation games are now very realistic.

    3. These tactics are actually galvanizing people against their cause. It looks extremely petty and misguided to the average person.

  4. I had no idea this was going on. But this morning up on 24th Street, another SF local and I were venting our frustrations at the giant Google bus that was blocking a busy (and not-wide-enough-for-your-privately-funded-Googlebus) 24th Street. It definitely blocked the street at least 5 blocks during its ONE pick up. These companies should invest in PUBLIC services like Muni, Caltrain, etc.! Locals are pissed…I hope they get the clue that they’re extremely unwelcome to OUR home…unless they play an active and conscientious roles in our community.

  5. I’m sure the companies using the muni stops would have no problem contributing a use fee if the city set one up. If they city isn’t asking they have no way to pay for use of the stops. The use of muni stop is a simple city policy issue that the protesters should take up with their city council reps.

    The tech companies have nothing to do with the housing crisis and have no control over it. It seem silly to protest them and alienate people and companies that would be happy to help if the right questions were asked and suggestions made.

    1. No amount of fees will compensate for the doubling and tripling of rents.

      The housing crisis has EVERYTHING to do with tech companies dumping thousands of relatively wealthier workers into already packed-full neighborhoods.

      1. nutrisystem, where is your PROOF that a tech worker has ever evicted someone?

        (Even that assumes that some level of residential turnover isn’t good for social and economic mobility, but I will humor you here),

        Or are they just a convenient scapegoat?

        1. No, the tech workers don’t do the actual evicting. Greedy collaborators like you to do the dirty work for them.

          1. The tech WORKERS are really just corks in the river. The real game is being played between tech company management, city officials, and the ever-greedy real estate business.

          2. Ellis evictions are nothing to do with the city because that is a State law. The city cannot stop them.

            Tech employers also are not evicting anyone. nor are realtors.

            It is individual property owners who are evicting to get back possession of their properties.

    1. This now appears to be a formla admission that the problem is not the sue of Muni bus stops, which was always only a marginal impact anyway.

      And is in fact just another cheap tactic in the favorite tactic of the left – engaging in class warfare.

      The folks on this bus haven’t evicted anyone. They only crime is trying to get to work.

      1. Why block the bus at all?

        Why not just peacefully protest from the sidewalk without stopping people getting to work to support their families?

          1. OK, sjg, so if I want to protest against you protesting, I can block your front door and stop you getting there?

            And that would be OK, right?