San Francisco protesters blockade another tech company bus

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:39pm EST

SAN FRANCISCO Dec 20 (Reuters) - About 40 protesters in San Francisco blocked a technology company's employee bus on Friday to demonstrate resentment towards the booming tech industry's impact on the city.

Protesters surrounded the corporate bus in the Mission district as it was picking up employees for the morning commute.

The company for which they were headed was not immediately clear. A small sign in the front window said only "Main Campus, Ridgeview." An Internet search showed that Apple Inc has offices on Ridgeview Court, not far from its headquarters in Cupertino, California, 40 miles south of San Francisco.

Apple declined to comment.

"We want the ruling class, which is becoming the tech class, to listen to our voices and listen the voices of folks that are being displaced," said a protester who addressed the crowd from the back of a pickup truck parked in front of the bus.

Protesters, who prevented the bus from leaving for about 30 minutes, unfurled a banner that read "Eviction Free San Francisco" and distributed flyers titled "San Francisco: A tale of two cities."

The buses have become one of the most visible symbols of what some complain is a tech-driven gentrification of San Francisco, with young, well-paid tech workers forcing out less affluent residents, and city policies that some critics have said are too generous to the tech industry.

Twitter Inc, which won an exemption on the city's 1.5 percent payroll tax after it threatened to leave San Francisco in 2011, has been a frequent target of critics.

Advocates of the buses have said they ease traffic on already clogged highways as workers give up driving individual cars to ride the buses, which usually have plush seats and WiFi.

Opponents have said the buses crowd municipal bus stops and remove potential customers from cash-strapped public transportation systems, including regional rail service.

Earlier this month, protesters blocked a Google Inc bus in the same neighborhood.

Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, one of the organizers of Friday's demonstration, said a different tech company's bus had been targeted to show that protests are not aimed specifically at Google but at the broader technology industry and its impact on San Francisco.

Rents in San Francisco have surged. The median rent on a two-bedroom apartment rose 10 percent over the last year to $3,250, according to online real-estate company Trulia.

Evictions rose 25 percent to 1,716 in the 12 months ending in February 2013, according to a report by San Francisco's budget and legislative analyst.

A recent study by Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that for each job created in the tech industry, roughly 4.3 other jobs are created, such as dentists, teachers and cooks. That statistic was questioned by some of the protesters.

"The one thing that I do see is actually less people making more money, and they're not from here," said Lisa Garcia, who works with Poor magazine and participated in Friday's protest.

Tech workers have been good for business, said a man who identified himself Hishal and owner of Muddy's Coffee House, which is near a bus stop used by tech buses. "They are good people." But, he said, tech companies should pay the city when their buses use public bus stops.

"It's not fair that a lot of companies are using the infrastructure of the city without having to pay," he said.

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