The recent tech boom has led to techies and tech companies flooding San Francisco, much to the chagrin of locals. Are geeks getting bullied again?
There is a growing backlash against techies in San Francisco, reports SFGate. Laptop-toting, skinny jeans-wearing techies waiting for their private shuttles to transport them to their Silicon Valley jobs are seeing the angry writing spray-painted on walls. A wood panel in the Mission District, for example, was tagged with the words, “F- your start up.”
Tech has become the scapegoat for soaring rental prices that force out old-timers and drain the neighborhoods of diversity, sending struggling artists and low-income minorities across the Bay Bridge to Oakland. Last month, a group protesting gentrification bashed a piñata of a Google bus.
It’s true that tech workers have flocked to San Francisco’s rental market to enjoy the city’s fun lifestyle, while riding private shuttles down the peninsula to work at Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other tech companies.
Meanwhile, social tech companies have been moving north to the city, thanks to Mayor Ed Lee’s tax breaks. Twitter, Zynga and Yelp now call downtown San Francisco their headquarters, igniting a rental spike at nearby businesses.
“Of course, Twitter is good for the city, but how about me?” Jenny Liu, owner of the Ironwok restaurant, told the New York Times last summer. She said her landlord was raising her monthly rent to $12,000 from $8,000.
The tech startup scene at South Park, a small neighborhood south of Market Street, is once again bustling. Famed Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins told Forbes magazine recently that it has a new point person to work South Park’s cafes and restaurants.
Last summer, techie decadence reached a high point—or is it low point?—when, despite his company’s sagging stock, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus bought a lavish $16 million mansion in the city’s ritzy Pacific Heights neighborhood.
But many say the backlash against techies is grossly unfair.
It wasn’t long ago when South Park was a ghost town, and locals longed for a return to economic prosperity after the dot-com bust. The city benefited greatly during the boom days, from restaurants to retail. San Francisco also revels in its image as a social leader, and technology plays a role in that, too.
In some sense, techies represent the newest San Francisco hipsters—social outcasts with a mainstream voice. Their work is being felt around the world, work that a lot of times brings people together.
“The truth is that a lot of this debate isn’t actually about rent, gentrification or economics, or anything rooted in a real class struggle,” writes James Temple at SFGate. “Some of it is just hipster-on-hipster hatred: Middle-class humanities majors grumbling about middle-class computer science majors.”
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.