Mission Local's Egregious New Conflict of Interest: Pimping Tech Shuttles

“Genentech Joins Mission Local to Turn Buses Into Art!,” read Mission Local's giddy headline yesterday morning.  While protesters were blocking a Google bus for illegally using a Muni stop and the rest of the city was dumping napalm on the burning debate over technology's impact on San Francisco, UC Berkeley's neighborhood “news lab” was shilling for silicon shuttles.

“Mission Local is still giving a $500 reward for the best entry into our unofficial contest to turn the tech buses into art, [but] what’s better is that it is no longer completely unofficial.  Apart from our prize money, Genentech wants to bedazzle its buses and will select one winner whose art will adorn the side of one of its buses in 2014!”

Okay, fine.  There's nothing fundamentally wrong with dressing-up a bland bus, even if it seems like a completely off-mission initiative for a non-profit “quality journalism” outlet.  However, it's Mission Local's tactical legitimization of the controversial shuttles that grows our suspicions:

Genentech’s interests are similar to ours: community mindfulness. And sustainability themes might also play well.


Doesn't partnering with tech companies create a conflict of interest for the site, especially given those companies' increasing impact on the neighborhood?  We put the question to Lydia Chavez, Mission Local's co-editor and site founder, who emailed back a one-line non sequitur:

I would welcome all of the tech companies to join the contest and hire artists.

Okay, well, does this contest align with the non-profit's original mission of “covering a neighborhood fairly and thoroughly”?

Probably not. But I see the buses every day and I could not stop thinking about how they could be filled.

We're still scratching our heads. Chavez's comment to SFist seems to be her most articulate statement on the matter:

I returned from a year away from the Mission and was surprised to see how many buses were going through the neighborhood, but going through in an oddly anonymous way. But of course they are not anonymous at all. I see the benefits — fewer people in cars and the buses are often getting workers to places where public transportation fails to reach. But they’re so void of beauty and they’re such great canvases.

Those are your two choices? Really?

This is lame.  Mission Local is now giving cover to the very companies they should be holding responsible.  The reason seems unclear—beauty?  The contest was, obviously, poorly thought out; and Chavez herself acknowledges it “probably” doesn't align with the site's mission.

The whole thing stinks of a cynical play to squeeze out some donation dollars from companies worth 47.3 billion dollars 99.9 billion dollars, all on the backs on local artists fighting over a pathetic $500 prize.

Community mindfulness, indeed.

Comments (78)

Wow.. you guys must be a blast to hang out with.

Are you smart-shaming? Go read a coloring book.

I let Google do all my thinking for me.

Yeah man. Class disparity and working class people with a thought out opinion which takes time to express are such a buzz-kill. Want to get a beer and smoke a joint? Check out my new SF logo. I love San Francisco!!!!!!!

Sorry if I sound bitter, but the party is so boring you have to numb yourself to the party.

A thought out opinion on the most useless of debates. Maybe this is why they can’t find jobs? Go save the ocean, it’ll actually have an impact on life.

Class disparity is not a debate. It’s an economic reality. A real life thing. One that you obviously ignore.

In reality the working class and the lower middle-class are having their economic stability (read:lives) eroded hard core. And also our political enfranchisement. In the Bay Area this is going on as families are being turn apart and pushed out. Come back to reality!

Or don’t acknowledge reality… What are you? A Paul Ryan/Mitt Romney Republican? Do you always go all aghast, turn pale and shudder, when people point out reality to you?

Be an adult. Acknowledge reality.

What in the hell did I just read?

If a union jack ass wanted to create some street theater around THIS I’d be supportive.

There’s nothing worse than pseudo “allies” sucking on the teat.

I have a feeling you’re going to get a lot of shit for this. I also have a feeling that’s exactly what you desired and intended.

Ugh you’re right. I’ve been reading UA since it started and so used to love this blog, but I’m just gonna walk away. I’m so sick of having non-stop hatred directed towards me every day I open my news reader, just because I take a fucking bus to work. Keep stirring shit, Kevin, but I’m not leaving San Francisco.

This was strictly a criticism of Mission Local’s journalistic integrity, not the shuttle programs themselves. To say the buses are controversial isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact.

Sure, they’re absolutely controversial, but lamenting that Mission Local is damaging their integrity just by trying to make white, anonymous buses prettier is ridiculous. I fully support the initiative, although I wish the prize was more than $500. That’s not enough to encourage professional artists to give it a shot.

Actually, I’m gonna donate some money to ML right now and encourage them to put it toward a the contest prize.

OK so I don’t find the relationship btw ML and Genentech completely innocuous but I’m not sure it’s a “conflict of interest” either. Not all partnerships constitute a conflict of interest. It would only be a conflict of interest if ML’s interests rely on Genentech’s interests, i.e. they’re getting something from Genentech like cash, and that benefit would deter ML from criticizing Genentech. It seems like the opposite is happening - ML are the ones paying the prize of an art work competition, and Genentech is painting that artwork on its bus. No one is getting any monetary benefit here except for the artist in question.

Now does it reflect solid journalistic neutrality on ML’s part to be partnering with Genentech is a marketing venture? Maybe not. But then again, NYTimes accepts ads from BP.

“but I’m not leaving San Francisco.”

Famous last words.

poor baby you wanna hankie?

uptownalmanac = valleywag junior

The whiny hipster version of Valleywag for unemployed Drupal developers.

I’m employed. I don’t have the slightest idea what a “Drupal” is. I enjoy this site. As you whine about it.

It’s a reference to KevMo.

+ 1.

SFGate, SFist, Mission Mission, etc. Hell, the fucking West Portal Monthly is turning into a version of Valleywag.

None of it, individually, is their fault.
All of it, collectively, is The Point.

Well, this is certain to please those pesky artists whining about getting priced out of their own neighborhood, right?

What a joke.

How come tech workers don’t get to be represented in the mission to “cover the neighborhood fairly and thoroughly”? Sounds one-sided and not-thorough to only cover buses in bad light. I live here too, and at the end of the day, I’m just trying to get to work.

Because many tech workers don’t seem to give a fuck about covering the neighborhood or getting to know it at all. Go look at Greg Gopman, CEO of AngelHack and current Public Enemy #1.

You do realize that Genentech is closer to San Francisco than SFO is, right? The purpose of the shuttles wasn’t to make it easier for employees to live in the city (they already did, they just drove to work unless they lived by CalTrain).

All this hatred directed at people with money moving in is irrelevant. Theres just nothing that can be done short of building the hell out of the city to adsorb everyone. Since people are against building, theres just literally nothing to be done.

It’s all been seen before, the lower east side went through it. Hell people in the early 2000’s still thought they were living in the hip lower east side, oblivious to the fact that gentrification completely altered it a decade earlier. The artists left in the early 90s to Brooklyn.

Here in the mission its the same, the fight against gentrification was lost probably in the late 90s / early 2000s during the first tech wave. You could find people even in the late 90s who thought the mission ‘was already over’. I remember the protests that occurred then (I was in high school), the changing of Clarion, and everything east of Valencia. (Valencia was already rapidly gentrifying in the mid to late 90s). When rents are 2k-3k average its just so wild to imply that somehow fighting a bus is going to solve anything. Rents are high, among the highest in the entire country in fact, Im sorry you didn’t live here in the mid 90s. Time to move to Oakland or Portland ok?

I personally still like the neighborhood, I think many of the wealthy tech people are quite cool. Ive seen some of them play in bands at Knockout, theyre friendly, and they brought interesting restaurants to the neighborhood. Sure theres now a lack of strict artists, but theres just no changing it.

Sure, but the solution is most certainly not to team up with a pseudo-community blog to beg artists for freebies. That’s just adding insult to injury.

I don’t see it that way. There are plenty of people who would love to have their artwork on a bus.

Then they are suckers. Design contests are simply unethical. We keep saying this (AIGA has a well-written statement on the issue http://www.aiga.org/position-spec-work/) and we will keep on until the practice stops.

This is how translators often feel about “translator tests” which are usually thinly disguised ways to get free work out of professionals.

Interesting, I hadn’t thought about it that way.

I once applied for a job at Yelp and they asked candidates to submit thoughts for site improvements. After I found out that the position had been open for over a year, I felt they were using it to extract ideas and mocks from talented people. Scumbaggery.

I’m sure they’d deny it though, like they deny the business extortion schemes year after year after year after…

RiNOs! Err… Wait… Sorry. Wrong tea party.

So, you do know that the tech company buses are a just symbol for what is currently happening in SF but they aren’t the actual problem, right? And if you took away the buses we would just have a parking problem on top of the housing affordability crisis because the tech workers would still live here.

Blaming the tech buses for a lack of affordable housing just obscures the real causes such as Mayor Lee’s tax breaks for businesses, the Planning Department’s byzantine approval process for new housing, and the fact that more and more people want to live in vibrant urban areas instead of boring suburban sprawl.

Paging Supervisor David Campos, are you there? Come in, David! The Mission continues to be decimated through the eviction epidemic, techies moving in and paying big condo fees, and the Mission Local site that kisses your butt biweekly with a silly chat with you is holding a contest to make some of the techie buses pretty. And what is Campos doing? Putting his energy into moving up the political ladder and becoming a state assemblymember.

Campos is both misguided and incompetent. I don’t have much hope for him making any real meaningful contribution to this.

It’s better that he stays away. He’d probably just make things worse.

He’s ugly and frog like too

campos is a piece of shit, period. He opposes the kinds of policies that would make gentrification less of an impact. he’s a short sighted politician from another country who crossed the border as an illegal and thinks he’s another Hugo Chavez. His entire career has been about personal enrichment, and he could give 2 shits about anyone in the Mission. Best of all he hates on things his actual constiuents want and he can go fuck himself, and not in a good way.

The fact so many white liberals fall for his bullshit is a testament to how “tech people” really are not to blame. Campos is , because he opposes development that would fix problems and worships at the altar of the Almighty Car. Fuck you all for sucking off on his political leftist bullshit. LOL!

Isn’t this the same goofy blog that got hoodwinked by a terrible bearded actor that could have been outed as a plant after a few quick internet searches? Just wait an hour and we’ll get a retraction about the journalistic integrity of Mission Local.

All three mission blogs got that one wrong (including mission local). Guess they didn’t make it over to occupy very often.

Petrelis?!? You’ve only been living in SF since 1995??? Some of us have been here since the late 1980’s! We who have rented since 1989 deserve more of a say than you do because we have been here longer!

You fucking do not.

The Mission is growing and changing. He and all the other whiners are not.

It is getting better. I enjoy it more.

Yeah I hate working class Latinos. Fewer the better! I hate good public schools, I don’t see education and social/economic/geographic stability as an answer to poverty. I never give a thought or a word to improving our schools and reforming our economy for stability as our grandparents and great-grandparents did. I don’t get involved in that.

I see no connection between that history and what stability I’ve had in my life.

Those things don’t happen on my internet connection and aren’t a part of real life.

I hate working class Latinos and I love the direction the Mission is going in. Check out my new “SF” logo. I Love San Francisco!!!!!!!!


Get politically involved.

I heard that kevmo also fighting a no fault eviction right now. sounds like he needs a hug

good luck with that. is it an ellis eviction?

quit hating on genentech, WHO MAKES YOUR VALIUM? huh huh?

Oh awesome! Another crowd-sourcing spec work contest! I can’t believe I have this awesome opportunity to spend my time working for something that I might get $500 for! Oh! But think of the exposure!

These contests are the worst. If you really respect artists, pick one and HIRE THEM and pay them a decent wage. $500 is laughable.

Relevant reading: http://www.nospec.com/category/awards-contests


Oh wait, no one’s forcing anyone to do anything. Moving on.

Sigh. You sure are dense.

Nah, just fucking around. People are too serious here.

What’s laughable is how much you pay for a cup of coffee. $500 is better than nothing.. should musicians starting out get top dollar for their work too? How many people do you employ… and what do you pay them?

I don’t drink coffee.

$500 is better than nothing but his contest is asking me to do work for nothing with the slim chance that I might get $500. That’s working for free.

Yes. I think musicians to should be paid for their services. If Mission Local and Genentech announced a BATTLE OF THE BANDS and was soliciting a bunch of bands to play for free and one of them will get paid $500 I’d call bullshit on that too.

I employ one person and I pay her $20 an hour.

So it’s only cool to bitch about the buses instead of embracing them? Got it.

Fuck a bus, I’m gonna fly to work.

Artifying the buses is a good idea. Yeah, $500 is too low, but at least Mission Local motivated and did something.

Uptown swung and missed. And hasn’t been hitting for average recently.

And isn’t the consensus that the buses are just a symbol of the problem.

The buses are only a symbol of the problem, yeah, and that’s why they were targeted. But they’re also filled with young well-healed people who are indeed pumping up the rental market to grotesque heights. It was a direct action too.

You’re young, you think “if I can’t afford to live somewhere I’ll just move”. That’s fine when you’re in your 20’s or early 30’s and don’t have kids. But otherwise, it means a lot of heart break: losing a life you’ve built, and losing a lot of the social contacts/real life social networks you use to keep economically viable and connected to your humanity. I’m sorry, but those things *are* easier to rebuild when you’re 20 to ~35 without kids.

Let’s add middle-class to upper-middle-class to that, and yes, you are privileged with greater social and geographic mobility than most. That’s the real world.

So yes, you are *actually* pushing people out and beyond taking any responsibility for your role, beyond side stepping taking any steps at mitigation, you go all aghast when any of this is pointed out to you.

I’m sorry for your lack of intellectual ability but even more so for your lack of ethical engagement. But I guess “that’s just the way it is, get used to it.”

You think it’s okay that it costs $1000 for a room in a house? You’re a sucker and a detriment.

You make good money from the tech industry and you have problems with class disparity and ripping peoples lives apart? This is what you do:

You think it’s wrong that prices are so high? That the working class and lower middle-class are being pushed out (having our families torn apart)? Then vote, write your elected reps, sign petitions, show up to that renters rally for 45 minutes and stand around awkwardly.

Flex your political muscle instead of being so passive. Think about someone besides yourself Do something!

I meant to say that I have no problem with class disparity, and it is impolite to discuss the subject. It’s something I only read about in the news and in blogs. It only happens somewhere else where I do not live. I make a lot of money and do not engage in local politics to address class disparity because that’s something that only happens somewhere else. I am not a part of causation. I love San Francisco!!!!

54 internet comments that I didn’t read on an internet blog slamming the companies that brought your the internet. Wow!

Oh, wait, it’s about the busses, I guess it’s not slamming the industry that make this blog possible.

Oh, jesus…

Is that anything like a group of people moving to San Francisco because they like how socially progressive it is while at sometime pushing out working class people of color (who come from all over the world), diluting the strength of highly socially progressive unions, and taking no responsibility to mitigate that effect (basically shirking any political action in a progressive area because they want to live in a progressive area)?

The difference is gentrification effects people’s lives deeply and needs political engagement. It requires less selfishness, less irony, less “cleverness”. Get political involved.

Rich, So True. Its like the hypocrite people who used motor vehicles to clean up the oil spill in the gulf caused by a company that had accepted Gillions of dollars in tax breaks. Imagine using the product of a company to correct its behavior. Shame on you.

Or people who write a letter to the editor of a magazine who’s opinion they mostly disagree with. And their letter is in regard to factual errors in a piece. And the letter get’s published. Hypocrites.

You should only ever engage with people and things you agree with, right? Fuck that apathy, get politically and civically involved.

Is it my or your sarcasm detector that needs adjusting?

In all honesty I asked my self the same thing. After I hit reply…

So what’s your point?

People and families who lived in this city for 10, 15, 20+ years are being forced out. Losing friends, real life networks they use and contribute to for economic survival and stay connecte to humanity. By and large these are hard working people, not slackers, young pretty things with just a clever attitude. That’s really going on.

The people who stay here face an unstable life due to an insane rental/real estate market. That’s real life. If you don’t have a lot of money.

It extends from the working poor all the way to the lower middle-class.

Yeah, some of these people use the internet to get awareness out there. Just as once upon a time people used print publications to get awareness out there, they now use the current dominate publishing type. Grow up.

Better yet, get involved with efforts to mitigate these problems. Get involved with efforts to correct them. Don’t be just another apathetic know it all in SF.

My white father brought my white ass here in 1972, am I an San Francisco anchor baby?

Don’t really understand the problem here - Genentech has been around since 1976, why are they being thrown into the fire with the rest of the techies/start ups/google buses? Yeah they have the word “tech” as in biotech, as in SCIENCE, in their name, but what gives?

Good point.

We should add the Mollie Stone shuttles too… vehicle of the elite that are able to afford those grocery store prices.

Can we throw Oracle into the mix? He talked the City into holding a mobile advertising events billboards on catamarans that the big papers are reporting cost the taxpayers 5.3 Million dollars. A 5.3 million dollar in direct taxpayer costs, and millions more in advertising value. Is allowed to blocks Howard Street off for at least a week every year, and hasn’t even been mentioned.

Which would be totally fine if he through more money at the tax base. I don’t hate the rich, they just need to contribute more to society (beyond consumer “product experiences” and money that functions with a tendency to pool, without much release, into wealthy communities).

but that bullshit yacht race did not. so fuck you.

I miss Chris Daly. He could be an asshole to work with, but he was effective at getting money from developers. He honestly did work for his district.