About a dozen housing activists gathered at a designated commuter shuttle bus stop near 24th and Valencia streets this morning to protest against soaring rents and displacement that they say have been perpetuated by the shuttle buses that serve employees of Silicon Valley-based tech companies.
The shuttle bus program, whose pilot expired February 1, was scheduled to be voted on at the Board of Supervisors meeting today. However, KQED reports that Mission Supervisor David Campos, along with supervisors London Breed and Norman Yee, came to an agreement last night with shuttle bus operators that would extend the program for another year. The extension would allow the buses to continue using Muni bus stops and give the city more time to study the program’s impacts over the next six months, including air quality and accelerated gentrification near the shuttle bus stops. The issue will come in front of the board again on February 23, when Campos will propose the compromise to the board.
At about 8:45 a.m. today, a group that included organizers from the San Francisco Tenants Union, The Housing Rights Committee, as well as members from the “Last 3 Percent” movement, which refers to San Francisco’s dwindling black population, effectively blocked some five buses that transport Facebook and Yahoo employees from their Mission District homes to Silicon Valley, leaving workers stranded for about 45 minutes.
To the sound of drumming and carrying signs that read “Save Our Homes,” “Reclaim The City,” and “Fire Ed Lee,” they protested an uptick of evictions, displacement, and skyrocketing housing prices in San Francisco neighborhoods that they say the commuter shuttle program fails to recognize and address.
This morning’s protest was the first time in months that opponents rallied publicly around the issues. An 18-month commuter shuttle pilot program aiming to regulate the some 200 buses that operate on San Francisco’s streets fueled a lawsuit last November. The Board of Supervisors postponed a vote two weeks ago that would have made a decision on the permanent adoption of the program.
Opponents of the shuttles have criticized city leaders and transportation officials for allowing the program to forego an Environmental Impact Review. Residents of neighborhoods in which the shuttle buses operate have said that the vehicles congest streets and pose danger to pedestrians and bicyclists.
A shuttle bus enforcement official who declined to be named and was present at the intersection after the protest had concluded around 11:00 a.m. said that his job is to ticket shuttle drivers who illegally pull into bus stops to park and pick up passengers. The penalty citations run upwards of $300 but are rarely issued, according to this official, who added that shuttle operators “don’t always play by the rules,” despite the program’s regulations.
“They are still parking in the bus zones,” the transit agency employee said.
While an evaluation of the pilot program by the transit agency concluded that the shuttle service successfully reduced cars and congestion on the city’s streets, opponents point to the program’s negative impacts on public transportation and changes to the city’s demographics.
A man who lives near the 24th Street shuttle stop said he sympathizes with the protesters, but has friends who use the shuttle service and added that he feels it’s benefits “outweigh the negatives.”
“It allows people to get to work, and it takes cars off the roads,” said the man, declining to give his name. “The stops should be pre-arranged with the city so that they are not clogging up streets.”
The man added that many of his friends, who work at Facebook, Apple and Google, do not own cars because of the shuttle program. “They would still live in the city, with or without the program, particularly the younger people because they like it here,” he said.
Scene at the Google bus protest: At least the employees are getting some entertainment? pic.twitter.com/1t9ySz5BW0
— Jon Steinberg (@jonsteinberg31) February 9, 2016
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