Hearts and Minds

Google to Fund Free Muni Bus Program for SF Youth

Today, the proletariat faction of San Francisco’s Great Class War claimed another victory as Google announced a plan to fund San Francisco’s Free Muni for Youth program at a cost of $6.8 million.  Via the Chronicle:

The donation is enough to cover the projected cost of the program for two years. It comes as tech companies are facing a steady backlash from city residents upset about rising housing costs and gentrification, which are often blamed on the large numbers technology workers living in the city but commuting to Silicon Valley on corporate shuttles.

The program, pushed forward by Supervisor David Campos and the Free Muni for Youth Coalition, gives San Franciscans ages 5 to 17 from low and moderate income families free Muni passes.

Of course, this is gravy for Google’s PR team. As Muni has, ahem, struggled with its finances over the years, the program has been criticized for its cost.  Now Google can come in and celebrate funding a program that directly helps the city’s poor.  What’s more?  They’re children!

But let’s not be too cynical here.  Good on Google for listening to their critics and stepping up—this program is good for San Francisco, and the money will undeniably help SFMTA’s budgetary woes.  As the Chronicle summed up the collective reaction from the city’s leaders and activists, “they are happy to see the tech company getting involved but hope it’s just the first step in an ongoing dialogue with those most impacted by the city’s tech boom.”  Word.

Comments (30)

credit where credit is due.  + 1.  

This is nice. This is obviously PR. This is not going to help them. The people who go on and on about “they need to contribute to the community!” are not as interested in their contributions to the community, as in having a bête noire to rail against.

Doesn’t matter. This is still great and shows that Google is being the bigger “person” in this debate.

so you think corporations are people?

you are a fucking idiot


What?  Look, I think what Google did today is great, but a $6.8m donation doesn’t give anybody a pass–and doesn’t oblige protesters to mute their (legitimate) points about the growing inequality that these companies help perpetrate.

At some point the complaint merely turns into a complaint at the average salary of employees.  That stops being a legitimate complaint to me

The economic changes SF is experiencing cannot be remediated by one company, or one industry. The problem with SF is capitalism. Since that’s not going to be undone anytime soon, we turn to identifying individual “perpetrators” and raise our voices against their crimes (“they park in bus zones!!”). We then propose minor salves, to address the identifiable crimes (“make them pay!”). When that salve is applied, as it has been here (presumably $6.8 mil covers quite a few bus parking tickets), we’re still left with the underlying problem of capitalism, and we’re still mad. We then have to either: (1) admit we didn’t care about the buses at all, or (2) say “still not enough!”. I think it will be (2). So much of this reminds me of the old breakup canard of “It’s not that you broke up with me, it’s *how* you did.” Always bullshit. We raise procedural complaints because we can’t address the substantive ones. I can’t make you love me, so I complain that you broke up with me on a Friday, when you knew I had fun weekend plans. I can’t stop capitalism, so I complain about bus parking. Anyhow, I hope we can figure everything out in this comment section.

I think this is great! More of this!

Maybe its so obvious that it doesn’t need being stated, but the donation is specific to the buses rather than just a worthy cause.    Good job Google.

This is a joke. And i can already see that the Google PR team is flooding the comment threads here in this section.  They are a laugh a minute.

What Google and the other greedy tech companies need to do is to start making efforts to relocate their workers outside of SF.  Once that plan is in place, they can begin working towards making contributions to funding city transit and paying arrears to the disenfranchised residents of SF who have been negatively affected by the tech industry of these last few years. 

Please, people, when it comes to the tech industry’s so-called charity,  in the words of public enemy, ‘Don’t believe the hype’.

Facebook tried bribing their employees to live closer to the office, remember how that worked out?  It sounds like your actual complaint is that taxes are too low, which isn’t something private companies are generally inclined to reverse.

exactly. that’s why I respect when companies realize this and ‘voluntarily’ pay taxes, aka philanthropy, to offset the inequality. Of course, they get a tax break on that too I imagine, but here in America, the people can’t have everything.

Instead of ‘voluntarily’ paying taxes, maybe they should stop lobbying for tax breaks and using off shore tax shelters?  Afterall, $3.4m/year for busing is a whole lot cheaper than the $2 billion they save by parking their money overseas….

hear hear, Kevin,

These silicon valley fat cats have no heart, have no soul. they love tax breaks above all else.

The bottom line is that if they cashed in their Cayman funny money accounts they could afford to subsidize housing for lower income San Fransicans, yet they hand us bus fare when what we need is a rent subsidy.

These companies don’t share San Francisco values and don’t belong here. Bottom line.

Relying on corporate charity is never going to create a sustainable housing or transit situation.  Taxes exist for this very reason.

And rent subsidies?  Nooooo nooo no.  That’s a guaranteed way to end up with higher rents.


Ha, absurd on many levels.  I’ll attmept to list them

1.) Telling people where they can live.  That shouldn’t really need more explanation, but if it does…freedom of movement and location is one of the fundamental rights that citizens have.  Not living in the company town was a major complaint of workers in the past century, I asusme its different now that they are tech workers?

2.)  Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale all refuse to build housing.  Google has tried time and again to build dense new apartment buildings in Mountain View where the city council has shut them down literally every single time.  Seen the craigslist prices for a rental in MV and Palo Alto recently? As amazing as it sounds those cities are literally physically incapable of holding all the workers that actually work there.  The wealthy cities of silicon valley are ruining an entire region so workers live in San Francisco where rent is the same, they get bussed to work for free, and have actual walkable neighborhoods.  Thank Mountain View for not creating new housing and walkable neighborhoods.

3.) Ignoring that thousands of underprivileged youth now have access to every part of the city for free.  This may sound meaningless to someone like you, but having lived in cities without public transportation I can tell you its a major impediment to people ascending the social ladder.  If you live in the poor sections of Atlanta and can’t afford a car you literally can’t get to areas of the city that might hold jobs for you (yes Im aware of marta).  Be thankful we live in the city we do and are helping people move around it for free.

Crack a newspaper occasionally.  Google for the last year or more has been trying to get approval to build a housing complex on a vacant lot that they own adjacent to their Mountain View offices.  They have been repeatedly and successfully blocked by the city of Mountain View.  (A city which in the last year has been running a rental vacancy rate of under two percent.)

The peninsula burbclaves play the NIMBY game faster, harder and better than anyone in SF or Oakland.

The frustrating thing is that the lesson SF activists will probably take from this may well be “We need to be even more pig-headed about new development - let’s out-NIMBY the South Bay.”

People who move to SF aren’t looking to kick anyone out; they’re just interested in finding a place to live without a fight to the death. Affordable housing activists say they want more housing built, but then do very little to try to encourage that, or even actively discourage it. “New development isn’t affordable enough! It’s not for us!” they say. Ok, but building it in the first place is too expensive right now - so what are you doing to help make affordable housing feasible as well?

Maybe better-off new arrivals to SF would come more easily to your side on the Ellis Act fight if you were less inclined to extend a giant middle finger to them when it comes to this issue.

(And by “you” I obviously don’t mean you, Dr. Memory.)

Yeah, I feel like a major flaw with the housing activism movement in SF is that they’re focused on keeping existing residents here to such a degree that it starts working against newcomers (both present and in the future).

The mechanics of gentrification are often oversimplified to “people with money displace those without”. More accurately, there’s always inmigration and outmigration over time. Gentrification as we usually discuss it happens when the only inmigration is people with money. Not to downplay the destructive effects of displacement but if you can’t keep the replacement rate balanced, you might win the battle but you’re going to lose the war. Worth noting that rent control is not helpful in this context.

Mabye you should move out of the city instead.

Why should Google relocate their workers outside of SF? That is ludicrous. People can live wherever they choose. Would you ever tell an Asian or African American they can’t live in SF???

I’m surprised UA even covered this as it defies their droning narrative about the evils of tech.  

You can’t demand that firms give back, and when they make an effort immediately paint it as hush money, calculated PR, or capitulation.  If you create a game that’s unwinnable, tech companies simply won’t engage at all and the opportunity to forge better public/private cooperation is lost.  But maybe that’s the true objective of these “activists”.

Google is now paying for David Campos’s bid for the assembly instead of the taxpayers? sounds great to me.

I wonder though how he can reconcile his socialism with the fact that it was Google that funded his dream, not taxpayers who work for a living….

The activists are already drooling for the next handout.

do you not support this donation because activists wanted it?

Supply issues aside, there is a simple mechanism to make the competition for the limited housing farer to low-income people without vilifying specific parts of society. Institute a local progressive income/capital gains tax. This being a liberal town, it sounds pretty obvious. Prop 13 can be reformed very NARROWLY to allow municipalities to institute a local income tax for residents/workers with a ⅔ vote (just like all taxes require based on Prop 13). It could kick in on incomes above $100,000 and grow progressively. It would reduce the disposal income of the wealthy and reduce the price they are willing to pay in rent. The tax revenue can be used to build public housing or improve education and public transportation, all policies that provide more opportunities to low-income people. If the underlying problem is extreme income inequality, there is no point attacking the upper middle-class and leaving the mega-rich intact. Just tax progressively and avoid personal attacks.

I think an income tax, as in NYC, makes good sense. The problem, to me, would be how the City would spend that revenue. It’s relatively easy to use money to take care of the poor. It’s less easy to figure out how to use revenues to do what many folks currently want - keep lower-to-middle income people in the City.  Build a lot of middle-income affordable housing? Maybe.