Tech Shuttle Shutdowns Spread to Oakland, Promise to Become More Frequent

In a clear sign that the protests over tech shuttles aren't going way—despite their hiccups—housing activists this morning hit the Bay Area with a three-pronged protest; shutting down an Apple Shuttle outside of Muddy Waters at 24th and Valencia, holding court at the 24th and Mission BART Plaza, and blockading a Google Bus outside the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland:

As the Oakland contingent wrote on Indybay:

At 7:45am, over 50 protesters swarmed a Google bus picking up highly-paid tech workers at MacArthur BART station in Oakland. They successfully blocked it for over half an hour before OPD arrived and cleared the street, allowing the bus to continue on to the Google HQ in Mountain View as it does every day. An Apple bus was also temporarily blocked during the action and hundreds of flyers were passed out to those on the street who were overwhelmingly supportive. The action was planned to coincide with other Google Bus blockades across the Bay this morning as an escalation in the fight against gentrification and the rapid transformation of our cities into playgrounds for the super rich.

Onlookers seemed supportive—even another passing shuttle bus driver at 24th and Mission honked his horn in an apparent sign of solidarity.

However, one Dogpatch-based activist told us that SFPD responded more aggressively to this morning's protests, demanding that everyone move onto the sidewalk and let the captured bus go free.  And eventually they did leave the street, just as the news helicopters began swarming above.

But it's all but guaranteed that we're just now seeing the beginnings of the backlash.  “This is gonna be a pretty regular thing,” a protester told freelance reporter Chris Roberts.  And as the blockaders left the Mission scene, they chanted their warnings: “we'll be back.”

It seems 2014 will be the year the trains buses will not run on time.

Update from Oakland:

[First photo by Chris Roberts, Oakland Photo via Indybay]

Comments (61)

1. Massive, wealthy tech companies breaking the law and getting away with it, when you or I would get a $200 ticket for idling in a bus stop. I want to see this enforced. Letter/e-mailing campaign to SFMTA to complain about blocked bus stops, it’s an ADA violation that the city ignores. Regulate it. Make them pay A LOT to use the bus stops for their private fleet– which funnels 30K+ employees daily!!– and use that money to fund public transit programs. This is incredibly sensible.

2. Pass legislation that reduces incentive for landlords to evict tenants. Raise relocation fees to around $8k-$10k per person for no-fault evictions. This solves the eviction crisis.

3. Build, build, build. Relax restrictions and/or offer tax breaks to contractors/developers to build sensible, high-density housing. It needs to be done.

1. This is already in progress and should go live early 2014.…

2. This will not solve the eviction crisis. That $8k-$10k is a drop in the bucket compared to how much landlords will make from the sale of the building, which could be up to $2.5 MILLION. We need to rethink rent control altogether if we want to address the eviction crisis. Everything else is a bandaid solution.

3. Agree with you complete here, except that I’d also say we need to incentivize the building of AFFORDABLE housing in particular.

1. Heavy, sustained pressure from the public is absolutely necessary to ensure these “regulations” have teeth.

2. It’s $8k-$10k per resident. Meaning some of those buildings would cost an owner a lump sum of $50,000 or more to clear out. That might not stop a giant real estate holding company, but it’s WAY more than most landlords in the city could afford.

3. We need all housing. Obviously I don’t want to only see high rise luxury condos being built (this is currently the case, sadly)

That $50,000 is just passed along to the buyer. It won’t stop anything.

The incentive for landlords to evict and exit the rental business is the demand for homeownership. The reality is that rentals can’t even be converted fast enough to meet demand.

I understand your point, but for $10k I’d leave SF and start a business!

My point is, raising the relocation fee to a very high amount is a de-incentive for most landlords, and where it’s not, the tenant receives a small share of the profit, hah.

I saw this building this morning at 24th St BART.

This tactic is a slippery slope. What about the tech workers, or 1% types, who ride MUNI, BART? Are they going to block the 14L or blockade BART stations? How many people use MUNI-BART to ride into DT tech offices?

The real topic is the buses (google, yahoo, Genetech, Giliad, UCSF) use of bus stops that potentially blocks/delays MUNI use.

The issues are related:

Google, et al, run a massive private transportation fleet that shuttles over 30,000 workers from SF to Silicon Valley every day, in blatant violation of established city laws regarding use of public infrastructure. First of all, they’re breaking the law it’s not being enforced. Second, the fleet makes it possible for tens of thousands of people who work in Silicon Valley, who would probably otherwise live closer to where they work, to commute for free from San Francisco. There is no way to prove this, but the recent establishment of these shuttle lines has probably driven thousands of highly paid tech workers to San Francisco, which plays a huge role in the housing/gentrification crisis.

Anyone who is irritated by SFMTA’s selective enforcement of the law, file a complaint here…

Andy, if these shuttles were eliminated, most tech workers would either drive to Silicon Valley (more traffic on 10½80, no easing of the housing crisis), or find comparable jobs in the City (again, no easing of the housing crisis). These people are qualified and not necessarily attached to their current jobs; they wouldn’t have much trouble finding alternate means of work in the City if they were forced to.

I believe that some informal polling confirmed that, but I don’t have any handy.

I don’t care if they work here, that would be better! Maybe they’d interact with the community a little more instead of hopping in their little cocoons and riding down to silicon valley.

The extent of these buses impacts quality of life. Really it does. They’re so huge practically crush you if you’re on the curb and they’re trying to turn. They’re ugly. They’re an insulting display of privilege in a time when many in the city are struggling. And of course they break the law, threaten safety and cause congestion. If they’re gonna exist, the city should get a LOT of money from it so that money can be put toward public transit.

Compromises could be made as well: Fewer lines, only using major streets at least 2-lanes wide in each direction, fewer stops, central locations where there is room for bigger pickups of employees. Or, why can’t they just take Cal Train or BART and have a bus pick them up in suburbia silicon valley closer to where they work, and drive them to their campuses?

It is time to pass a civic engagment proposition. Fuck these people who aren’t engaging in the community. Yeah they shop here spend their money and aren’t breaking any laws ***YET***! They probably go out at night, frequent local bars but, whatever who cares. Obviously the community does. It is high time we dictate how people should spend their free time. Who is with me?

1. They should existing public transportation, e.g. CalTrain

2. Google, Facebook, et al, should be heavily taxed to fund BART expansion south.

You can tax Google and Facebook until the end of time, and it’s not gonna make San Mateo country re-join the BART district.

And yet there’s BART to Millbrae.

They’re also a young demographic who wants to live in the city for obvious reasons. They’re not moving to mountain view.

Google tried to build more housing in Mountain View so their employees could walk to work instead of taking a private bus.

The City of Mountain View blocked it entirely. Most peninsula cities refuse to allow for more density, or even more housing. They simply won’t allow it to happen.

yes, it’s fucked up, and bullshit, but the insular mentality of those cities ensures that they do not absorb a growing population, meaning displacement elsewhere.

facts, they’re kinda fun instead of your bullshit conjecture.

“blatant violation of established city laws regarding use of public infrastructure”?

You know that in the last decade, the BAAQMD (the Spare the Air people) had been passing regulations requiring businesses to get their people out of cars and in to busses and van pools?

There are companies all over SF running shuttle vans and who have been doing so for the last 15+ years. As the programs have been more successful, they’ve enlarged from vans to mini-busses now to full-sized busses.

I don’t see you protesting Bart or Caltrain about allowing tens of thousands of people to work in San Francisco and live other places.

Obligatory comment about the “ellis act eviction map” in the third photo being a google maps map.

Irony? Cluelessness? Or using the man’s own tools to stick it to him?

Pretty sure they’re not protesting Google’s products.

I work at a tech company and ride one of these buses to work each day. I’d rather my company open office space in the city so I wouldn’t have to do this. However, I will not move out of San Francisco because I value living in the City more than I value working in the South Bay. I lived here before I worked in tech and I moved to San Francisco for San Francisco, not for a job.

There is a lot more hatred being directed towards tech workers than there is coming from tech workers, and this hatred doesn’t sound like the San Francisco way. Most tech workers are low-level employees for whom San Francisco is also becoming less and less affordable. Yes, I am able to afford it now. But for how long? I’d much rather the City be more affordable for me and my neighbors, and yet those same neighbors yell in my face every morning about how I’m the problem and I need to get out of the City because - to borrow one protestor’s words - I’m “not the right kind of person.”

We need to rethink our development policy, housing policy, and mass transportation system. Everyone in this city, no matter where they choose to work and live, would benefit from improvements to all of these. The scapegoating, harassment, and general us vs. them attitude is completely contrary the principles of San Francisco, and it’s contributing to the destruction the City’s character. A more constructive solution is to protest city policy and come up with real solutions. That’s the San Francisco way - or so I thought.


I think people would appreciate tech workers more if they would contribute more to the city they live in. This city is known as a place where weird things happen, much more than any other city in the country. Ive helped organize a few random little things around the Mission, including a random concert on 22nd street between Mission and Valencia. Id love to see some tech workers doing things that only they know how to do. Create weird robots that walk around and fuck with people, create weird light shows down the sides of buildings (for example see at MIT where they made a huge tetris on a building), and etc…

Im not saying they have to or anything, but if we made SF not only continue having the weirdness its classically known for, but also a whole new breed of tech bizarre antics this city would really benefit.

To earn those high incomes, most of them work ALL THE TIME. For them, there’s no time left to engage in the outside community. It’s sad.

SF, as i’ve known it, has always had a bit of a slacker quality. Not really the case anymore. Maybe weirdness is a luxury.

The slacker mentality just moved online – now software company employees spend all day commenting on blog posts, Twitter, and Reddit.

says the guy that comments on every blog in the bay area.

An acquaintance of mine worked on exactly such a thing – a robotic nun, with a screen where you can confess your sins, which are then aggregated and statistics published. However, being this “kind of person” myself, alot of it is just the personality types of engineers and scientists. Many people like myself are comfortable in this type of work precisely because machines are not people. When I was in grad school, we joked an autistic spectrum disorder was a job requirement to work in our lab. People who are very smart and comfortable with people and social situations end up in careers in law, medicine, finance, art, etc. Those of us whose minds just don’t mesh with the gears of social convention gravitate towards scientific and engineering disciplines. It’s just the natural order, and I don’t see such a fundamental thing changing anytime soon.

I do think, sometimes is a tech voice, that sounds real and I’d like as a neighbor.

Sorry, but these protestors are chickenshits. Seriously. Want to really disrupt and fuck with the people who are in charge? Don’t block a bus full of employees who have no say in how their companies operate - instead go to the offices of Mayor Ed Lee, the homes of tech CEOs, the Board of Supervisors, and so on. In other words, the people who create the laws and policies that have led us to the disastrous state of affairs we are in now.

Wanna know WHY these protestors wont do so? Because they are chicken shits. They do not want to risk much, rather they are into playing politics and running around like a mini Burning Man art installation, instead of actually fucking up the system that created the situation we have now.

Also, seriously, protest the SFMTA. They were supposed to have a regulatory plan that would end the free public subsides for these buses which also slow Muni down when they block Muni stops. Instead, in typical SF fashion, they sit on their asses and do nothing, while the city burns.

Ah but that might mean taking a risk right? Better to run around the mission in costumes and yell!

You have a point, there should also be an effort to put pressure on SFMTA to pass the right kind of regulation, not some pork-belly bull shit, but part of the incentive for SFMTA to pass the correct kind of legislation is the threat of this kind of civil disobedience, come on man…

If they tried to do do those things, there would be no publicity, and they would be ignored (which would no doubt please you). The buses are just the most visible symptom of a deeper problem, but notice how everyone’s talking about it now, and the media is interested, too? Successful non-violent protest has to engage on a theatrical level, or it ceases to engage at all. Or are you suggesting that violence would be a better approach?

Also, isn’t ironic this happens in the neighborhood where people burned a million dollar publicly owned Muni bus in the name of a local sports team, yet when it comes to the allegedly satanic private buses, it’s a little min circus minus calliope?

I guess the Mission really does have its priorities straight.

The Muni bus burned near AT&T Park, not in the Mission. Perhaps you can share your tactical wisdom with the organizers of the campaign. That would be more productive than keyboard warrior backseat driving.

Yes, everyone who is fighting gentrification is a hypocrite because a bus was burned by other people. Makes sense to me!

Nope, the bus burning after winning the baseball world championship didn’t happen in the Mission. We burned recycling toters.

But Rosa Parks, Montgomery bus boycott and all, there is something special about buses and protests. Usually they are part symbol and part an embodiment of the problem.

If any area of the bay area is going to take things too far, its definitely going to be Oakland. Hopefully they can keep violence out of these protests. I’m actually surprised the buses go all the way to Oakland.

Umm, that’s like only 30% readable. Don’t you know how to take a proper fucking photo?

I love that the protestor in the glasses and colorful jacket in the top photo is holding an “Evicted” sign with one hand and a Vente Starbucks holiday cup in the other.

Even the evicted have the right to drink shitty coffee….

Def don’t want to be seen protesting with coffee and a jacket. She should be drinking beer and wearing a bikini instead.

I really disagree with this.

If you look at what is happening in the central valley, you’ll see an example of how terrible the economy still is for most of the country. Chasing out the tech companies would likely lead to lower housing costs, yes. But any benefits from that would be far outweighed by the bad consequences: financially strapped local government, less resources for public transit, cutbacks for public employees, & less money to help out the truly less fortunate.

The solution is to build more housing, even luxury housing. Today’s luxury housing is tomorrow’s working class housing. For every brand-new expensive condo tower being built, that means an older condo complex or Victorian apartment building is comparatively less appealing to the wealthy renter or owner, and more available to someone else. If we, as a city, make an effort to remove some of the obstacles to new housing, it will eventually get cheaper.

I was thinking along similar lines recently while contemplating the 3500 19th Street condos. That was a parking lot. Who knows when the previous owner purchased it, but it could well have been in the 70’s, for, say $10k. Thanks to Prop. 13, that would produce about $100 a year in property taxes. Now, with (approximating here) 20 units on sale for $2 mil., the City will see $400,000 a year in property taxes from that former parking lot. Say what you will about gentrification, but it’s certainly going to make the City’s coffers grow, which should allow the City to continue be very benevolent, which has been an SF hallmark for decades. Now, maybe that windfall should be redirected from services for the poor to the needs of working class in some way, since they’re (theoretically) suffering the brunt of the boom, but that’s another discussion.

This is right on (except for the 2% annual prop 13 assessment inflator which is the difference between $100 bucks and $220ish). This is why private developers pay taxes: they follow the market and the government, which collects and spends those dollars, fills in the gaps, which in this case is affordable housing.

Yeah, I have always thought of Prop 13 as oddly similar to rent control. Both were sold to the voters as a protection for the vulnerable. And I suppose that they do have that effect sometimes. But they both also always privilege the current residents over newcomers, regardless of means. It seems unjust that the Gettys and Aliotos living in their Victorian mansions in Pac Heights would pay less in property taxes than a guy who bought a one room studio condo in the Bayview last year. Likewise, the distorting effect of rent control protects and benefits current tenants (rich or poor), but it raises the rents on the remaining housing stock so high that it prevents a newcomer from moving to SF unless s/he is wealthy.

Prop. 13 is an evil beast. Rent control, I’m more and more convinced, is necessary for the well-being of communities like ours. SF is becoming/has become an international destination, like a New York, London, or Tokyo. That, combined with its limited space, makes it permanently valuable going forward. The demand is and will be so high that getting rid of rent control would only push people out, it would not bring prices down significantly.

KevMo posted something a couple weeks ago about (if I’m remembering correctly) a city planner in NYC saying, “we built 30k units, but prices never came down.” I think the same will happen here with all our new construction, and I think that eliminating rent control, similarly, would not have the economic effect people fantasize it would. Now, that’s not saying there couldn’t be some tweaks to rent control, but the social upheaval that would accompany eliminating it would be intense, and would not create affordability.

KevMo posted something a couple weeks ago…

For reference, here is the comment and original article.

A great tragedy has been the common acceptance of calling it the “Law of Supply and Demand,” instead of the more accurate “Theory of Supply and Demand.” The theory works well in certain situations with specific attributes (e.g. product/service fungibility, free entry and exit, obligation to sell, freedom not to buy, etc.). The theory breaks down to different extents depending on how the situation veers from those required attributes.

Housing supply and demand veer drastically from the model, for many reasons. For example, housing now functions as an investment asset, so it draws in hedgefunds, REIs, and foreign capital speculation. Another, the market is propped up by explicit and implicit government mechanisms; there is no such thing as true price discovery when you know the government is going to bail you out. Further, people have to have a place to live, so they are forced to buy the product somehow. Simple supply and demand (build more and prices come down!) simply doesn’t apply.

Housing generates its own demand. If you build one house in a desert, there isn’t much demand, and you probably couldn’t sell it for much. Build 30,000, and now you have a community, with more people moving in. More housing has to be built to accommodate the new people moving in, which raises home prices even more. But if you _don’t_ build more housing, fewer people come, community growth stabilizes, and prices level off. Building creates its own bubble. In a way, building IS a bubble, and it needs to be managed so that growth doesn’t spiral out of control.

So, yeah, building 30,000 units in NYC not only isn’t going to bring prices down, it would likely increase them overall.

And when the vast majority of new housing is very expensive, it really skews the market.

All of those new units on Market Street are only going to raise the cost of housing even more. Prices won’t stabilize until the bubble pops, and investors flee. Or until Twitter goes bankrupt (which won’t happen if/when the Federal Reserve stops propping up Wall St, but that’s another story…).

Good but long and too serious, one more beer please.

about the 30,000 house in the desert, what say you to the “ghost cities” in China?

Thank you Faceword – someone said something rational at last!

But, if rent control , in your words, “raises the rents on the remaining housing stock so high” doesn’t that also mean that the people who moved into San Francisco when they paid cowboys a dollar of silver for a hard days work, when dinosaurs walked the earth, and disco lived, have a claim because the overpaid at the start. And now that the contract is on their side, should they get the benefit of overpaying at the start of recorded history.

There are lots of places with cheap houses.

Tech is king of the economy these days and probably for the next decade. ,Downgrading San Francisco infrastructure and housing to a place to tick tacky little boxes all in a row, isn’t the solution.


Terrific, let’s get another 2000 cars & associated emissions on the road everyday, that will help provide rent money to those who can’t afford it.

The dogs bark, but the caravan rolls on.

oh my god. not like this.

listen, I’ve been freaked out as much as anybody, however I do not think violence is the way.

Fuck. I am without words.

SF I can understand. But Oakland? Sure, rents have increased in places like Temescal and Rockridge, but they were expensive to begin with. Uptown had nothing there prior to the condo developments so not sure what the gripe is there. There have been some changes in West Oakland but, c’mon, there’s a reason why Wild Wild Willow is still named as such and the two largest public housing developments in Oakland aren’t going anywhere. In all seriousness, if you’re looking for an area in Oakland with cheap rents and people of color, you really don’t need to look too hard. And trust the “Google Buses” won’t be heading to those areas anytime soon.

It seems as with many things over here, a legitimate gripe about a real socioeconomic issue gets compromised by a minority who just want an excuse to complain and smash stuff up.

bunch of jokers…

Get a good patient rock band come and play at a one of these ‘stoppings’. At 8am. It’ll cure all. Rock here Rock now And the Battles Won.

L7, Fugazi, I dunno recruit recruit.

From time to time I’m still up or just waking up and would listen.

Get the job done. An amp, a plug and a guitar will do for now.