Portesters hold a sign in front of Apple bus at event on December 20. A bit more of a collaborative approach than in Oakland.

For about 30 minutes Friday morning, around 100 anti-gentrification protesters blocked a commuter bus of Apple employees on the Western corner of Valencia and 24th streets from making its way to its Cupertino campus. As the crowd shouted, “Get off the bus, join us!” and “Whose city, our city,” one organizer admitted she wasn’t sure which company the protest was targeting.

“We want to make it clear that we’re not just targeting Google, we’re targeting the systematic use of these shuttles and their impact on this city,” said the protest’s leader Fred Sherburn-Zimmer of Heart of the City, a coalition of housing rights activists.

“I hope that we will be able to redirect the message today,” echoed organizer Erin McElroy. “This protest is about gentrification and people being displaced. We’re not necessarily against tech. We’re against tech’s effect on speculation and evictions.”


The protesters started chanting at 8:45 a.m. at the BART plaza on 24th Street and Mission and strode over to Valencia Street to surround the idling bus. Protesters carried a coffin that read “Affordable Housing” and some stuck their heads through gigantic Google pinpoint cutouts scrawled with the word “Evicted.”

A pickup truck was already parked in front of the bus with amps and a megaphone, handed off among a lineup of the arriving speakers, many of whom had experienced firsthand the rising cost of living in San Francisco. The speakers focused less on the tech buses themselves — a departure from the protest earlier this month which targeted the charter vehicles’ use of Muni stops — and instead spoke against the displacement of lower income tenants in the Bay Area. Among their demands were a moratorium on no-fault evictions and preservation of rent-controlled housing.

“It’s wrong, wrong what’s happening in San Francisco,” said Paula Tejeda to the crowd. Owner of Chile Lindo, Tejeda herself has battled an eviction. “We have the ability to stand up, we’re not going to take this lying down.”

One man claiming to be an Apple employee said he had been too late to his bus to get on before the protest started, and watched from the sidelines. Though he wasn’t sure how he was going to get to work, he seemed to sympathize with the protesters. (At the last protest on December 9, a housing activist impersonated a Google employee and yelled at the protesters.)

“Ultimately, the theme of this is correct,” said the employee who asked not to be identified. “But sometimes the enormity of the companies we work for make us as anonymous as the people being displaced….Do I think there should be some regulation on these buses? Absolutely. Should longtime residents that don’t make tech salaries have help staying in their homes? Yes, definitely.”

One passerby mockingly shouted to the crowd, “Free the tech bus!” as he stepped into Muddy Waters Coffee House. After about 30 minutes, the San Francisco Police Department did just that. As officers moved protesters off the street, the Apple bus was able to steer around the crowd and onto Valencia Street — off to Cupertino.

Sherburn-Zimmer said the protest was “loosely coordinated” with protests of Google and Apple commuter buses in the East Bay, one near the MacArthur BART and another at 7th and Adeline. She says the Oakland protesters were a separate group.

Prior to today’s protest, Mission Local talked to political scientist Corey Cook at the University of San Francisco about whether he thought the tech bus protesters’ tactics were effective.

“It’s really about what the goal is,” Cook said. “If the goal is to spark conversation it certainly did that. If it is to persuade people — not successful. What’s the message? What’s the intended reaction?”

Still, McElroy tallied the day’s protest as a success. With reporters from Reuters, Al Jazeera, and a host of local outlets covering the protest, the media is still interested in how San Francisco’s activists are denouncing the side effects of the tech boom for now.

“People should see that we are an anti-gentrification movement that’s only at the beginning,” said McElroy, as the protest wrapped up at the BART plaza. She said the group is planning another action in January that could involve a tech bus again, or divert to a completely different tactic. “We’ll keep it creative until evictions stop. Watch out for more.”

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. Bus hijack #2, and this is already getting old fast. But the root problems don’t change: There is not enough new building in the city, and rent control is too restrictive. Combine the two, with the desirability of SF and the tech boom and this is what you get. The protestors will never get all their wishes: RC, no Ellis, and NIMBY style limited new construction. Will. Not. Happen. Get. Over. It.

  2. “We want to make it clear that we’re not just targeting Google, we’re targeting the systematic use of these shuttles and their impact on this city,”

    Yah, go out and buy cars and park them on the street, you assholes.

    Oh, and stay home all day so you can hop on the curb while the street cleaners drive by, you look-at-me-i-have-to-go-to-an-office snobs!

  3. Tech buses are not the problem, and evictions will continue because the Ellis Act is state law and is not going away. These people should be protesting at city hall to get more market rate housing built.

    1. I agree that the buses

      MORE market rate housing??!! You’re mad. An excess of market rate housing is the cause of skyrocketing housing cost feedback loop.

      Your “law” of supply and demand only obtains under a given certain circumstances (e.g.product must be fungible, seller is obligated to sell even if his price isn’t met, entry into and exit from the market are free of cost, etc etc). Smith and Ricardo understood this, but this unpleasant bit of truth has been expunged from the neo-classical texts. Building expensive housing does not lower the cost of housing. It raises the median price, the average price, the price per square foot.

      More market rate housing will lead to more evictions.

      1. Building new homes for the rich doesn’t not affect the availability of housing for the poor.

        At worst, it makes no difference because of the segmentation of the market

        At best it relieves the demand for housing at all levels.

        1. With the vast majority of the finite resources being utilized for luxury housing, of course it negatively affects the supply of affordable housing. As does the Ellis Act.

          Contrary to relieving “the demand for housing at all levels,” building luxury housing makes _all_ housing more expensive.

          Apart from the obvious effects of raising median and average price per ft,, building luxury housing creates its own demand, because, instead of a home for someone to live in, it becomes an asset for Wall St to speculate on, and everyone piles in: hedge-funds, REI trusts,and capital fleeing from mainland China. Those new condos on Market St are another Wall St Ponzi scheme.

          If there is such a great demand for all these luxurylofts, why not put your money where your mouth is and limit purchases to owner-occupancy?

          1. Those “finite resources” that go to build market-rate homes do not take away any resources to build BMR’s because, if the market-rate homes could not be built, those resources would be diverted to other cities.

            So it’s highly misleading to suggest that less luxury homes means more BMR’s. In fact, due to setasides, more luxury homes means more BMR’s as well.