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San Francisco's guerrilla protest at Google buses swells into revolt (theguardian.com)
38 points by Cbasedlifeform on Jan 26, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 101 comments



The real problem is not Google (or Apple, FB, etc) but the limits on development of new housing and rent control. I live in London, and outside of my window I can see now 5 new huge developments. Because of massive influx of people prices are increasing, but at much slower rate.

I lived for 4 months in SF last year, and my crappy flat was more expensive then in London. What is worse, I rented it in a sketchy deal from a woman, who wasn't even an owner. She rented a flat for a long time, and due to rent control she was paying probably a fraction of what she should be. So she lived in Oakland and sublet flat in Mission.

I understand that people don't want 'character of city' to change, but with gentrification it is changing anyway. Best cities in the world are always growing, but SF seems to be very stubborn and want's to be a kid forever.


People need to stop with this. Higher urban density is "not" the answer. It puts an incredible amount of strain on every other service around it from roads, education, sewage, water, police, hospitals etc. It never ends (or doesn't end well) It's the velocity of change, not change itself, that's the problem for SF. Not sure about your dodgy rent controlled landlord but sounds like without here you can't afford to have experienced 4 months of SF.


Gumby already said it but it's worth repeating: there is economics research out there that shows that as density increases, a bunch of things you mention (roads, sewage, water) actually become more efficient, and that the gain in efficiency outpaces the growth in density.


So if you triple the population of SF without any updates things will work more smoothly? I use an extreme example to highlight the fact that those studies talk about incremental gains not hyper growth that SF is or will experience (if all this new housing was approved)


Actually higher densities are more efficient in terms of land use, energy use and the cost of providing services (transportation etc). People aggregate in cities for a reason.

More sprawl stresses the environment far more.


There are two different stresses. In terms of long-term maintenance of infrastructure, it's generally cheaper in denser areas. However, if you try to build up a medium density area to high density, then it can take tremendous capital costs to re-scale the infrastructure, since a) You're not just paying for the new one, you have to tear the old one out b) The old one is probably full of nasty surprises that'll drive your cost and time up in unpredictable ways c) Since it's already fairly built up, it's going to really disruptive.


Your comment refers to only a few of the factors. Yes you have to tear down old city buildings to make new ones, but your alternative is to tear up virgin land. In addition you only look at capex (the capital cost of building new housing). Don't forget the opex -- transportation, heating, etc. Finally there are the externalities: the loss of open space, the environmental impact of sprawl, the roads needed to reach these distributed communities.

So the cool thing is we have a field called "economics" which is not always right but does have a framework for discussing these issues. And economics, along with city planning, architecture, environmental science and plenty of other fields have been brought to bear on this problem. I would give you some links, but there is so much literature on this field that it's not even worth it. If you'd like to make a fact-based, rather than emotion-based, decision, do a bit of research on your own.


I am trying to make a fact based observation of how actual decision making is done, not on what the best decisions to actually make are. My point is that is many cities cannot afford the capital expenditures, or are unwilling to take them on, but would rather accept the higher operating costs in the long run. I agree that increasing density is a sensible thing to do in general.

My point was that the city of San Francisco's specific situation, which must also include political realities may prevent it from taking the best course of action as dictated by all the fields that you mention.

After all, we are talking about a country that likes to skimp on infrastructure maintenance costs until they nearly reach disaster situations, and then forced to shell out way more in rushed emergency maintenance, and then rushed infrastructure upgrade - hardly the most sensible decisions.


> Higher urban density is "not" the answer.

In the larger picture, that's totally correct, but that is something that the governments should sort out, e.g. by incentivising the corporations to start opening offices in less dense areas. As long as the largest quantity of available jobs and the best paying jobs (the former is in part a consequence of the latter) are available in the biggest cities (London, New York, LA, SF, Hong Kong, Tokyo, ...) it will be in every person's individual interest to move there.


Seems kind of silly to me, yes this means that many people have to leave the city, but there really is not much that they can do about it. San Francisco's city government is not going to be able to either (a) kick out the tech people nor (b) figure out a way to lower rent (and in turn tax revenue). It's in the cities interest to keep the rent/cost per home as high as possible and in turn keep the tech people around.

I really don't understand why this bothers the others in the city. If they do not own where they live (and chose to rent) then they don't OWN their home and in turn have no right to live there. Rather, it makes much more sense that they should live somewhere within their means. If they are angry about that, it seems to me that they are just throwing a fit.

I personally am from Chicago, and I know there is a similar situation there. Most of the city (even for high paying jobs) commute in because there is a fairly decent train system, but also the prices are 10 times higher per square foot in the city. The people who do live in the city are wealthy or homeless. Though San Francisco's rent is twice as high as Chicago's on average, no one near Chicago wants to waste their money living in the city unless they want to be in the heart of the city and enjoy the scene. If you can't afford that, then perhaps you didn't make very good choices in your life (aka didn't make enough money to obtain what you want) and you should try and find a way to achieve that goal without inflicting pain (stress, wasted time, etc.) on others.


That is probably the most condescending thing I've seen on hacker news (and I've seen a lot of that).

The protesters may be wrong in their methods and they are probably fighting for a losing cause. But to say people made bad decisions in their life because they are not earning twice or thrice the national median income is just ignorant.

You compare SFO wit Chicago. But I am guessing the high earners living in the city also work there, unlike SFO where they commute OUT to work.

There are no easy solutions to this problem. But please do not straight up dismiss it.

Disclaimer: I do not live in the region so I have no idea about the specifics. I just felt the parent comment was wrong.


I think the reason why people don't live in Silicon Valley is that it's even more expensive to live there.

I'm also kind of skeptical toward the protestors, mostly because it's confusing to me that people actually expect living in the city to be cheap. Big cities have lots of people and very little space. Therefore, space is in high demand and is really expensive. If you don't want to live in a shoebox, don't live in the city.

California is even more expensive because it's in even higher demand. It has a burgeoning culture scene, a large tech scene, and is a desirable retirement spot. All of these things are pretty much beyond the protestors' control.

Not only that, let's look at their endgame. There are two ways for rent to be lowered:

1. Subsidized housing.

2. Make fewer people want to live in San Francisco.

The first will work in the short term, but it will also drive up taxes in the area. Businesses will then raise their prices. The rich guys will be unaffected - what do they care if eggs now cost $3.00 instead of $2.00? The poor guys will, again, be unable to make ends meet. But at least their housing is affordable!

The second makes me think of cities where no one wants to live like Flint and Camden. I'm sure there's very cheap real estate there, but I wouldn't want my city to turn into it.


3. Allow for the construction of many more housing units.

This allows supply to help satisfy the demand, and is preferable to #1 or #2 by miles. The main objection, it seems, is that people fear that the character of the city will change (at least, so I hear--but is that true?).


Oh, it will definitely change, and I think that a lot of people will view the changes as negative. It means that more lower-class people will live there.

I think that these same people who are conducting protests toward Google would throw a fit if it was suggested. They want affordable housing and the exclusivity that comes with living in an affluent city. They don't want to live in Oakland; they want to live in San Francisco.


Price-rising effects of a subsidy depend on how you do it. Ideally what you'd want is something quasi-Georgist -- you tax rentier profits progressively up to a limit.


  > You compare SFO wit Chicago. But I am guessing the high
  > earners living in the city also work there, unlike SFO
  > where they commute OUT to work.
If all the tech workers living in SF were forced to actually work in SF, that would only make the problem worse. The city is undergoing a crisis because the voters refuse to build enough residential capacity to house its population; what would be fixed by adding more demand for office buildings?


I was not supporting the protesters. That was not my intention. I was trying to point out what was wrong in the parent comment. i.e. comparing SFO to Chicago is wrong for the reasons he mentioned. From your comment and others I have seen, it looks like the problem is the lack of sufficient supply of housing rather than that of high demand.


[deleted]


There's a difference between asserting anyone has a right to live in any community at any time no matter what the price is, and asserting that people who have made a specific community their home and participated socially and economically for many years (perhaps decades) have some claim on a right to remain even when they begin to be priced out of the housing market (particularly one rising at exponential rates).


One easy solution is to make it legal to build more apartments.


Didn't help Brooklyn.


Can you post more info about this?


I'm a software engineer who lives in San Francisco, and pretty much agree with everything you say in your response, pavanky. No disclaimer :-)


(b) figure out a way to lower rent (and in turn tax revenue).

This isn't mysterious or hard, and I've written comments about it before (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7073079). There are two ways to lower the cost of something: increase the supply or decrease demand. It's quite easy to build more units on a given parcel of land but SF has mostly chosen not to do so (http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2013/10/san-francis...).

The real problem starts with voters, since they're the ones electing the mayor, city council, and other officials, who respond to voter preferences against building stuff but who also deal with voters complaining about high rents. They're in a situation similar to the ones Bryan Caplan describes in The Myth of the Rational Voter, which is a fascinating book that deserves not just to be read but reread (http://www.amazon.com/The-Myth-Rational-Voter-Democracies/dp...).


Can you point to an example of a place/time where a housing supply increase alone (no economic weakness or other drop in demand) has led to decreased prices?


Yeah—Houston and Dallas, today. See also Matt Yglesias's The Rent is Too Damn High.

More generally, if you get more supply in the face of increasing demand, but not enough to lead to actual decreases, you still get smaller increases, per basic micro econ.


Smaller increases I might believe, but after watching buildouts rent above market (sometimes much more so) in around a dozen areas (and average prices continue to rise), I strongly suspect the simple micro econ story is wrong.

About Houston: is Iglesias the source for that? If not, where would I read more? and is the buildout preceeding reduced prices post 2008?


My girlfriend's experience is that rental prices have been rising sharply in Houston for Montrose and the Heights. There are bargains to be had in East End district, but that's too edgy for her. There are cheaper places to live, but you end up driving everywhere.


So there's a piece of land at 22nd and Folsom. It is currently owned by Steve Johnson. He bought it from a guy named Mark, who bough it from a guy named William, who inherited it from his father, who bought it from a guy named Sam, who bought it from a guy named John who inherited it from his grandfather who purchased it from a rancher named James.

James was given the land by deed of the Unites States after it's previous tenant, also a rancher, was forced out as a result of a war between Mexico and the US and given a small amount of gold.

This rancher was named Julio and his family had been on the land for 2 generations.

Previous to that a native people had lived there for many hundreds of years until being forcibly removed by a band of Spaniards waving a piece of paper.

Now, please tell me more about property rights and justice.


> If they do not own where they live (and chose to rent) then they don't OWN their home and in turn have no right to live there.

I don't know if this is an American thing or not, but to a Dutch person this remark is rather revolting.

In The Netherlands, if you pay for your home it is your right to live there, regardless of how you finance it. Home owners are not somehow more privileged than renters are.

> no one near Chicago wants to waste their money living in the city unless they want to be in the heart of the city and enjoy the scene.

As I understand it, the problem in San Francisco is not just about the city center, it's the entire 40 miles radius around the Google campus and other SV hotspots where rents and housing prices have increased so much young adults can't afford in the areas they grew up in anymore.

> If you can't afford that, then perhaps you didn't make very good choices in your life

You are a disgusting person.

> you should try and find a way to achieve that goal without inflicting pain (stress, wasted time, etc.) on others

This would be nice in an ideal society, but in a liberal society like the U.S., this simply isn't an option for many people.


Sadly many homeowners in the US look down upon renters. I have personally encountered this at least a couple times in my life. Generally it comes with situations where a neighborhood sees a mix of homeowners and renters, which is generally things like town-home or condominium developments.

I even once had a shouting match with an 'owner' which ended with them saying I didn't deserve to live their because they were an owner and I was 'just a renter' (Note: I was in the right in this argument).


Most of the owners of rental property I know are usually very happy with, and encouraging of, the renters of their units.

One of the issues with renting is that you DO end up paying for the owners property taxes, not directly, but it is factored into the cost of running the rental. If the local government decides to increase property taxes, or housing appraisals increase in the area, then rent may increase. This is often seen as "bad" by the renters, but really there is nothing an owner can do about it.


"I don't know if this is an American thing or not, but to a Dutch person this remark is rather revolting. In The Netherlands, if you pay for your home it is your right to live there, regardless of how you finance it. Home owners are not somehow more privileged than renters are."

Can you elaborate on this more? Does a tenant have the right to force an owner to extend a lease, perhaps? From my experience, an owner does have more rights to the property and its use, purely because they are the owner. If a lease ends, they can increase the lease payment[1], and if the current tenant cannot afford it, they have to move. Is this not how it works in your country?

[1] Many (most?) places here do have a limit on how fast you can increase rent prices to help alleviate the problem of kicking someone out by pricing the unit out of their reach all of the sudden.


> Can you elaborate on this more? Does a tenant have the right to force an owner to extend a lease, perhaps?

What is a lease? In The Netherlands a tenant has a rent contract with the owner, which by law may not be restricted in term, and which the owner can not break the contract. (the tenant can break it unwillingly by failing to pay rent of course). There's a small exception for when there is a bigger interest, for example, if you rent a flat, and the entire building is scheduled to be demolished. But still the owner is then obligated to either compensate you or find you a new comparable home.

It is also not allowed to increase the rent more than some number having to do with the inflation rate (I believe it's 2-5% per year).

I know a person who lives in the 'Oud-West' district of Amsterdam for 500 euro per month, just because he started renting over 30 years ago. The owner has offered him thousands just to move out so he can rent the place out for the ~2000/m that location usually fetches.


If they do not own where they live (and chose to rent) then they don't OWN their home and in turn have no right to live there. Rather, it makes much more sense that they should live somewhere within their means. If they are angry about that, it seems to me that they are just throwing a fit.

Ah, it's clear that you're being a little small-minded and looking at things at a micro-level, at the scale of the person. In startup terms, be more disruptive, think 30,000ft, not 6'.

An argument like the one you mentioned above is one of complacency and inaction that originates around a tautology. "If they can't afford it, they shouldn't be there." = "If they don't like the status quo, they shouldn't protest the status quo." Other similar arguments could be formulated; "If you don't like the NSA, move to a different country", "If you don't have high speed internet because you can't pay $200/mo for fiber, you should cope with slow internet."

Note that the arguments I give are not actually constructive criticism or logical arguments, but tautological loops that leave people in positions of complacency.

I will offer that the better position to take is: "We should all have inexpensive high-speed internet. How can we get there?" "The USA should not spy on its citizens. What can we do to change that?" And correspondingly: "We should have a stable and healthy housing situation for all, what can we do to change this?"

Now, it sounds like you most certainly don't agree with that last question, since you mention: It's in the cities interest to keep the rent/cost per home as high as possible and in turn keep the tech people around.

I wonder if you feel the same way about the USA: "It's in the US's interest to keep the rent/cost per home as high as possible and in turn keep the high-income individuals around"?


>>If you can't afford that, then perhaps you didn't make very good choices in your life (aka didn't make enough money to obtain what you want) and you should try and find a way to achieve that goal without inflicting pain (stress, wasted time, etc.) on others.

This is the most insensitive, privileged comment on this issue yet.


You're right that they don't own their home. The key is that they feel entitled to living there anyway, as the commie leftists whose ideology defines the city's politics do not respect capital, like the capital that goes into building homes, or the right of the owner of that capital to make a profit. Rather, the landlord is treated as an invalid actor and a cartoonish villain.

That's why there's rent control, it's also why the housing stock is so poorly maintained, and one important reason why no one's built middle-class housing in the city for decades (though other anti-development sentiment also exists).


one important reason why no one's built middle-class housing in the city for decades

You think that the lack of middle-class housing is because of commie leftists? Really? This makes no economic sense - maybe review some of your logic?

I live in NYC, where the lack of middle-class housing is because real estate developers flock towards luxury residential condominiums (oriented towards the upper class), since that's the ideal way to maximize IRR.

I would maintain that a healthy regulation of capital usage creates a healthy middle class. I offer you to suggest coherent arguments otherwise.


> You think that the lack of middle-class housing is because of commie leftists? Really? This makes no economic sense

Of course it makes economic sense. Commie leftists empowered by the legislature brought you rent control. Rent control means onerous limitations on what the property-owner can do with the property, directly reducing his ability to earn money off it and reducing the incentives to build new apartments. It's a wealth transfer from landlords to tenants, and no one invests in anything with the goal of having their wealth transferred away. Granted, it's certainly not the only thing that stands in the way of new development (but I already mentioned that). Impeding new development means less housing overall, which in turn means more-expensive housing for everyone. --

But you live in New York. New York City's own flirtations with rent control under the War Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1943 are even better studied. Yes, the war emergency is WWII. Yes, that law still governs rent control in New York. (Yes, the DeBlasio would like to see more rent control in more places in practice, as well). And yes, it was destructive. Hell, it's the textbook case -- literally, dozens of Intro-to-Econ textbooks. At one point in the 1970s the Department of Buildings noted that over one-third of the buildings in Harlem had abandoned by their landlords. You may also be familiar with the Bronx, burning.

If the first paragraph by itself is too tendentious for you, I can also offer you information on the consensus of economists. If you think Milton Friedman and Fredrick Hayek are too capitalist, maybe I could quote Gunnar Myrdal -- a chief architect of Sweden's welfare state. "Rent control has in certain Western countries constituted, maybe, the worst example of poor planning by governments lacking courage and vision." Or Assar Lindbeck, noted socialist: "In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing."

I will also refer you to papers like Alson, Kearl and Vaughn's "Is There a Consensus Among Economists in the 1990’s?" and Block and Walker's "Entropy in the Canadian Economics Profession: Sampling Consensus on the Major Issues". 93% of the American economists and 95% of Canadian economists endorsed the statement that "a ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available."

IN SUMMARY. To deny that rent control is destructive is as intelligent and scientific a statement as endorsing homeopathy, saying vaccines cause autism, and that global warming is caused primarily by sunspots: It's a false statement that is at odds with the scientific consensus, and it leads to destructive public policies.


I appreciate that you took the time to plagarize from http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/RentControl.html, as can be deduced by the fact that you mention Friedman, Hayek, Myrdal, and Lindbeck -- and that the website in question also does the same, in the exact order, with the exact same quotes by Mydral and Lindbeck. Also, the two papers that you refer to are the first two papers in the footnotes of said website.

If you're going to offer a rebuttal, may I ask that you perform some original thought, rather than doing a copy-paste from a website? Unless, of course, you are Prof. Block himself.


No, you may not.

First: This is XKCD 386 here. There are limits to how much I care about you. http://xkcd.com/386/

Second: it's a dispute about matters of fact. Originality per se has no meaning here. Accuracy does.

Now, what you may ask is that I issue better citations in the future. Of course, in this case a citation is just a courtesy, since we're in an two-bit good-for-nothing zero-impact argument on stinkin' Hacker News which no one will care about in a week. But there's no reason to be discourteous if you can help it. So apologies, Walter.


Logic would say that unoriginal direct plagiarism, from a strongly biased source, without referencing the citation in question, is indication of an argument that is actually not very coherent or cogent -- but one that rather parrots certain established mindsets.

In other words; your lack of transparency about your citations is a signal that you lack both originality and accuracy.

Finally; the page you link to is created/funded by an organization that Al Gore had this to say about: "These groups are not providing unbiased judicial education. They are giving multithousand-dollar vacations to federal judges to promote their radical right-wing agenda at the expense of the public interest."


Right, so everyone who is in opposition to Google is a "commie leftist". What, is this McCarthyist America again?


More like "San Francisco, for historical reasons related to the 1960s and the Summer of Love, is a city which has attracted and retained a substantial number of people whose culture of political beliefs dictate that the community ought to have substantial influence over a variety of processes, such as the process of obtaining housing. They believe that this control will help effect social justice. As a result of this world view, these people have reacted to the influence of Google and other technology companies by protesting it and its employees. Central to the protests is the fact that said employees are willing and able to pay more for apartments (and other services) than the protestors would like, thus inhibiting the ability of the protestors (or people the protestors sympathize with) to obtain apartments or services for a low price. Moreover, these protestors substantially comprise the set of individuals who have engaged in such protests."

I am aware of people who are opposed to Google for other reasons - e.g. privacy advocates. I am not aware of substantial numbers of them engaging in anti-Google-bus protests in San Francisco; their protests have different characteristics.

And yes, I called them both "leftist" and "commie". I contend that this summary is accurate, and that many of these protestors would gladly admit to embracing leftism and either support or express sympathy for communism. As the US remains substantially a free country, these are positions that they may legitimately hold while remaining political actors, regardless of the accuracy of the world-view that these actors hold, and regardless of the potential negative impact of these policies if implemented.

If you're really interested in people who are impugning others as invalid political actors, you should complain about Cuomo and Bill de Blasio for overtly saying that conservatives aren't welcome in the state of New York.


All we know about the Google protestors (as a collective) is that they're opposed to increasing housing prices which make it difficult for them to continue living where they used to live. There's nothing to suggest that this is a communist movement: you're making a generalization, and making unbacked generalizations is never helpful, it only leads to divisiveness. You're using the term as a derogatory statement and a scare tactic, and your point would be stronger without it. Also, using the argument "Oh politicians do it, so that means it's okay for me to do it" is a pretty slippery slope.


McCarthysism involved persecution.

I think what the OP is saying is that people who oppose Google are also opposing the rights of landlords and other renters to get into free agreements. The fair market price of apartments in SF has been kept artificially low via legislation and gradually this is changing.


My objection is his use of the term "commie leftist", using a tactic that undermines the credibility of these people's concerns analogous to the sentiments Red Scare. Of course he isn't persecuting them, but he's using the term "commie leftist" as a derogatory scare tactic.

If he wants to be taken seriously he should avoid using those terms in that manner.


Poe's Law at work here.


Two things:

1) They want Google to have to pay the city a reasonable fee to operate buses.

2) It's easy to say, "they're renting and have no right to live there." To throw people out because they no longer make enough money to keep up with skyrocketing rent costs is to say that you care more about money than community. It's very close minded and expressly business oriented to think that there's no reason people should have living situation security.


The thing is the "reasonable fee" for using the curb is bullshit, for two reasons. Reason the first, if curbside space is oh ever so precious, why can you rent it at the rate of $109/year in the form of a residential parking permit? I'm sure Google would be willing to pay $1000/year to designate a half block of RPP spaces to bus loading, and the city would get more money out of it than they get out of the RPP program.

Secondly, where are all the protests against Twitters highly subsidized dedicated Muni bus? That's costing an arm and a leg, on top of the huge payroll tax break the city threw at Twitter so they wouldn't leave. Twitter people get paid, too (although God knows why; the company barely has any revenue), and are running up the rents in the Mission just as much as anyone else.


A few points:

1) The decision to rent vs own is not as clear cut as you are making it. Google a bit - there is actually a lot of debate on this, because it makes a lot of financial sense.

2) If you feel that people deserve the fruits of their labor, this statement is hypocritical. Perhaps there is some assumption that this literally only means dollars - but I don't actually think so. A sense of home, a community, and personally satisfying lifestyle all require effort and work. They are hard or impossible to just purchase with dollars, but they are the fruits of labor none-the-less. This is being disrupted and taken on a mass scale by those who have more resources in dollars. I don't have a solution, but saying "fuck you i have more money and therefore you don't deserve those things you worked for" is not it.

3) Chicago has a lot of high rent/value property. It also has plenty of places one can live reasonably well on salary that isn't "tech worker" high. In fact those places are even cheaper than a lot of the suburbs. Those places aren't impossible to find either. On top of that there is a good public transit system that actually makes getting around the city pretty easy.


> I really don't understand why this bothers the others in the city. If they do not own where they live (and chose to rent) then they don't OWN their home and in turn have no right to live there.

First: choose to rent? You're suggesting that they've just decided to gamble away their savings on questionable investments, rather than choosing to purchase an apartment in San Francisco?

Second: As for "having no right to live there" if you don't own the home -- I don't think that's legally accurate even in the US? AFAIK most modern states give a considerable amount of weight to the idea that where you actually live, is considered your home/residence, and that "your home is your castle".

That said, it does sound strange to me. The idea that infrastructure (roads) should somehow be free to private citizens but not corporations strikes me as very peculiar. Isn't the whole idea of government infrastructure that it's collectively financed (by taxes and fees)?

Seems like there's two sides to the protests: A frustration with rising prices for housing, and a frustration with Google (and other tech companies) for their role in enabling the public-private monitoring complex and emerging police state.

I can understand both of these grievances, but taking them out on the buses still strikes me as odd. I suppose it's an efficient way to get media coverage and get noticed by the companies -- but without a plan for change (going back to one-person, one-car commutes sounds rather reactionary) -- I don't see it helping much.

The logical next step for Google would probably be to buy land and build company housing? Much like the industrial giants of old.


There are legitimate reasons for having certain infrastructure priced differently to corporations and private citizens, most especially in situations where costs scale super-linearly. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to make the argument from extremes here.

For example, roads. Say there's only one road in and out of town. It can sustain V volume of traffic, where V was initially sized for its population of size P. Now, corporation sets up a factory in town, employing say 0.05P (does not change the overall population). Factory drives traffic volume to 2V. However, the corporation itself doesn't do so hot, so the increase in revenue from corporate taxes are not enough to pay for the infrastructure changes required. In this position, I think it would be fair and sensible to somehow directly levy a charge on the corporation - with all the possible negative side effects that that would entail.


> there really is not much that they can do about it

Protest?

> San Francisco's city government is not going to be able to [...] figure out a way to lower rent

Allow more homes built?

> (and in turn tax revenue)

Why would lower rent mean lower tax revenue? They could tax paycheques instead.

> It's in the cities interest

But not in the citizens' interest, which vote the city leaders.

> I really don't understand why this bothers the others in the city.

Because they can't afford to live anymore in a city where they have lived their whole life.

> If they do not own where they live (and chose to rent) then they don't OWN their home and in turn have no right to live there.

Maybe they "chose to buy" but could not afford to. And to phrase your sentence correctly, the landlord has legal right to evict the renters, but that says nothing about the renters' moral right to live there. Remember, everything Hitler did was legal.

> If they are angry about that, it seems to me that they are just throwing a fit.

By the same logic, if the Jews were angry about the German's confiscating their property and killing them, they were just trowing a fit... What a perverted logic!

> If you can't afford that, then perhaps you didn't make very good choices in your life (aka didn't make enough money to obtain what you want)

Maybe that does not neatly fit into your worldview and maybe it even directly threatens your idea of how good and moral person you are, but the truth is that most poor(-er) people are not poor because of their own "wrong" choices, but because of external circumstances they had no influence on. Likewise, the fact that you have access to the internet is almost in no way due to your own ingenuity, goodness or hard work, and mainly the consequence of hard-working people that came before you and invented and built the infrastructure, and gave you the opportunity to freely enjoy it.

> you should try and find a way to achieve that goal without inflicting pain (stress, wasted time, etc.) on others.

While it is perfectly fine, of course, for the others to inflict pain/stress/wasted time on them.

Congratulations, your logic is irrefutable!


> Protest?

I'm confused by what they're protesting. I do know what their stated aim is - driving Google and other tech companies out of San Francisco. I just don't think that it's the right thing to be protesting. There's a shortage of housing because of rent control, restrictions on building new housing, and the fact that San Francisco is a really desirable place to live. The first two are pretty easy to solve - just repeal the laws (The second would be much easier to repeal). I wouldn't want to mess with the third.

Yelling at tech companies will not do very much. Even if they leave, other rich people will replace them.

> Because they can't afford to live anymore in a city where they have lived their whole life.

It's difficult for me to say much other than "Shit happens." The city is really expensive. Space is scarce, and people are willing to pay a premium for it. I don't think that "But I've lived here for my whole life" gives people the right to tell other people, "Sorry, you can't live here." If they owned the land, that would be one thing. But they've rented there for their entire lives. If someone else is willing to pay a higher rent than you, that's the way it goes. And that brings us to this:

> Maybe they "chose to buy" but could not afford to. And to phrase your sentence correctly, the landlord has legal right to evict the renters, but that says nothing about the renters' moral right to live there.

I could also "choose to buy" a 70-inch television for every room in my house and a new Mercedes-Benz every two years. Just because I make that choice doesn't make it a good one. And if the price of a new Mercedes-Benz goes out of my price range, I'd be on pretty shady ground trying to say, "But I've bought a new Mercedes-Benz every two years for the last thirty years! I have a moral right to get this car!"

Lastly, on your comment that people don't choose to be poor - this is definitely true. But it just seems so ridiculous that people would defend buying a luxury (in this case, it's living in an expensive city) and then accuse their detractors of infringing on some moral right to that luxury. You'd laugh in my face if I told you that I had a moral right to have that new Mercedes, right? But for some reason we give these people a free pass when they say, "This apartment is worth millions of dollars, and people are willing to pay $1500 a month to live here. I am entitled to live here for less than that."

I can choose not to buy a new Mercedes... which is why I chose instead to drive a shitty Civic. I can also choose not to live in a city where rent is more than half of my salary.


If they do not own where they live (and chose to rent) then they don't OWN their home and in turn have no right to live there

This is not quite the view of the law. This is why there are quite involved and drawn out eviction proceedings in California and the Bay Area. Under the law, even people who do not own their home have some right to live somewhere and not be made homeless arbitrarily.

In fact, in Texas and other states, the fact of living somewhere can magically establish your ownership of a neglected property without your paying money for it.


Sounds like you were at Davos while Kyiv, Damascus, Cairo, etc.


As someone who's on the other side of the world - is this real? I mean, seriously?

How many of these "protestors" are there? I haven't seen any pictures of huge crowds. The only photo I have seen showed about 4 or 5 cranky looking people standing in front of a bus.

The whole thing smells like news media being a) lazy and b) hungry for a "conflict" story and so playing right into the protestors' hands. From what I can see, this shouldn't be a story at all.


It's the Guardian. They tend to the sensationalist. These events are small but they are most likely the canary in the mine.


I usually like the Guardian, but yeah, they've dropped the ball on this one. "Revolt"? In what possible sense could this be even compared to a popular revolt?


> They tend to the sensationalist.

Really? Any arguments/examples to back that up?


Well I can think of one fairly recent example....... ;)


There is a lot of misdirected anger in this world and attacks upon symptoms of problems instead of their underlying causes.


Actually "symptoms" become "symbols" that people rally around. Sitting at the front of the bus instead of the back was a symptom of racism not the cause. You can't "attack" an underlying cause but you can attack a physical manifestation/symptom of the problem.


Yeah, but when attacking a symptom becomes directing your hatred at a group of people, you have a problem.


The unfortunate fact is that some of the people protesting have been the originators of the underlying causes via voting and legislation.


Well said.


The thing I find interesting about attacking the Google buses is that South Bay/Peninsula companies aren't really the problem. What's changed in the last 5 - 7 years is how many startups are in San Francisco. So it's the abundance of well paid jobs in the City (along a little with the ability to work remotely) that's dramatically changed the situation. That's why there wasn't this sort of intense dynamic in the 90's up to the dot com bust. The Google buses are more just salt on the wounds. Even if they stopped it wouldn't change the dynamics very much. However, I understand the source of the frustration. Of course, like all markets, the problem may solve itself over time. After all, many of the unique aspects of SF that draws tech workers there or stay there will get priced out of the market making it much less appealing.


What'll happen is that it'll just be a bland yuppie city. The damage will have been done, and with no real reason to ever return to the way it was.


Googlers, what is your opinion on relaxing the remote work rules? Seems like a very direct way to ease this tension, but I have no perspective on how detrimental it would be to Google's culture.


There's that as well.

As I understand, Googlers "work remotely" already, meaning, no development is done in their desktop machine, but on remote servers, maybe someone can confirm.

EDIT: I am apparently wrong as some mentioned, so I would expect a more detailed explanation.


Detailed explanation, as requested: Most coding at Google is done on local workstations, and even if it weren't, it's totally irrelevant because the benefits of working in-office have everything to do with where your body is, and almost nothing to do with where your shell is running.


I will confirm that you are incorrect.


[I do not work at google.]

When I work remotely, I work on my desktop machine, via my laptop. SSH works just fine on desktop machines; desktop vs server really has nothing to do with working remotely.


I mean the machine sitting at their desks, regardless of it being a "desktop" machine or a laptop, it should have been clear from the context


I... what?

I mean that my work is done on a tower pc sitting under my desk in the office, whether I am in the office, or at home. When at home, I just log into my desktop.

"no development is done in their desktop machine, but on remote servers" has nothing to do with working remotely.


False.


Why would that help, when the core of the issue is that Googlers live in SF but work in Mountain View? It's not like they will move to less desirable locations just because they can.


Because they can live in SF and work in SF without needing to end-run around public transportation.


I didn't get the protests until I realized that the higher rent is dramatically changing the character of the city. You won't find cheap ethnic food or eclectic family run businesses much longer if The valley keeps exporting its housing problem.


People have been saying that for decades, and yet the cheap ethnic food and eclectic family-run businesses still remain.


At rent increases like the city is seeing, I don't see how the primary customers of those establishments can remain in the city.


And yet they do, year after year. Try getting a parking space anywhere near 5th and Clement on a Saturday night if you don't believe me. The neighborhood is packed with people going out to eat at cheap ethnic restaurants.


Hating techies (and the target of hate, make no mistake, is all tech workers) is easy, convenient, misguided and counterproductive. it is easy, because hatred is a simple, attractive emotion. It is convenient, because it requires no thought about policy changes, urban planning, zoning, transportation, density, parking or anything else that makes a city. It is misguided because it fails to take into account the lack of development in this city that lead to this crisis -- essentially, SF's residents forced SF to be an exclusive enclave, and are now surprised it's becoming an exclusive enclave for someone else. Finally, it is counterproductive because the tech population is not going to leave the city, and the more hate you lob in their direction, the less willing they will be to cooperate in making the city affordable -- why collaborate with the people who actively vilify us?


Are they specifically targeting Google and not other big companies ? Or is it just the article baiting for clicks ?


Yes, those darn buses keeping so many cars off our roads! They can't have buses! How terrible of them.


meanwhile, in Ukraine...


> meanwhile, in Ukraine...

Agreed, the hyperbole in the headline and text is rather distasteful, considering what's happening in Ukraine (and Egypt, and...).


I don't understand what this comment has to do with the article.


Priorities, apparently. Of course, Ukraine being on fire right now doesn't make all other news disappear, but perhaps we should be paying more attention to the actual revolt.


Priorities, and making fun of San Francisco's "revolt" for not actually being a revolt.


WorldwarP.pl

s/Z/P/g; # P(p) = poverty, wealth disparity

" ...This goes way, way beyond a cheap bus ride - although the public transport scene in Brazil’s big cities would star in Dante’s ninth circle of hell. A manual worker, a student, a maid usually spend up to four hours a day back-and-forth in appalling conditions. And these are private transport rackets controlled by a small group of businessmen embedded with local politicians, who they obviously own."

http://rt.com/op-edge/brazil-protests-world-cup-014/


If the city really wanted to stop the rising rent they could just implement rent-control, and do it on a block by block basis, so you don't have the same issues that exist in NY.


Gosh what a great idea: rent control in San Francisco. You should send this new and brilliant idea to the board of supervisors immediately.


I wonder if they're ever tried that one before.


No need for the sarcasm, I was just adding this idea to the table bec it hadn't been mentioned here yet and I wanted to hear the community's reaction...

I didn't think I was offering up anything new or non-obvious, but thanks for being so odious.


you had better believe that this 'grass roots' protest is funded by people with fat fat wallets. They are making tech workers into the New Jew using propaganda. Propaganda is the hidden force behind all of modern politics.

If you go back and look at the rise of hitler and the nazis, it becomes clear that the upper class needed a scapegoat to preserve their wealth from the inevitable oncoming swell of populist-leftist politics coming up from the working class. The upper class knew what was coming, so they found a scapegoat and subverted the working class populist sentiment, diverting working class anger onto the scapegoat, the jews. If you want references for this idea, see the article "I was Hitler's Boss" by Karl Mayr and also the new book _Hitler's_ _First_ _War_.

Anyway, the same thing is happening now--the elite are pushing the idea that tech workers are to blame for rising prices.

They are demonizing tech workers so that populist anger is directed away from themselves. It is also possible that this anger in SF against tech workers is actually in fact anger against cheap import H1b labor scabs from overseas, but the media is altering and changing the actual tenor and content of the protest to make it looks as if it is a protest against tech workers in general.

Also, as a side effect of demonizing tech workers, they can get more cheap labor H1Bs into america because the tech worker will then be an unsympathetic figure.


You are out of your mind.


and i went right into yours, sweetie!


I agree - the protesters are revolting.


Hear Hear - let them ride public buses (and eat cake).

Hate it when the great unwashed get uppity.


If only Google was actually oppressing them, then this comment might make sense.




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