Liberal Douchebag vs. Liberal Douchebag: Google Employees Invade San Francisco

This is an article a reader described as being from the "screw them all" category, and I am inclined to agree.  There are many funny bits in the piece, but I particularly liked the San Francisco lefties arguing that these new Google millionaires should act more like the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts.  LOL for sure.

Incredibly, no one asks the obvious question -- why is home supply in San Francisco treated as zero sum, such that a Google millionaire moving in by necessity kicks some  poor people out.  The reason is that no place in the country does more than San Francisco and the Bay Area to make it impossible to build new housing.  San Francisco has some unique geographic constraints but you don't hear people complaining about this in Houston (which is in fact a much larger city).  In fact, I am trying to imagine Houston complaining about too many rich people moving in.  I just can't seem to focus that image in my head.

Actually, the article does very briefly consider the supply side of the equation, but of course no one mentions government development and zoning restrictions -- its the fault of capitalist speculators!  My reader highlights this paragraph:

Though he doesn’t much care for the start-up douchebags, Redmond blames not individual tech workers for the current crisis, but property speculators and the lawmakers who have let them take advantage of their precious commodity: space. “If we had a major earthquake in San Francisco, the water mains all broke, and some guy showed up with a water truck and started selling water for $10 a gallon, people would be pissed,” he says. “That guy would be ridden out of town; he’d be attacked with sticks and pitchforks. But that’s what the real estate people are doing right now – and they’re getting away with it.”

Memo to speculators:  If I have lost all access to water and am dying of thirst, you are welcome to come to my house and sell water to me for $100 a gallon.  I promise no pitchforks at my house.

PS-  One thing I did not know is that tech companies seem to be running large private bus systems

The Google buses, which often stop in spaces supposedly reserved for public transport, are a particular point of contention. This growing fleet of unmarked luxury coaches carries some 14,000 people on their 35-mile trip from the city to Silicon Valley and back. Since the search giant introduced the buses a decade ago, Facebook, Apple, eBay and almost 40 other companies have followed suit. Each new route quickly becomes a corridor of hip clothing stores and restaurants.

This is an interesting exercise in privatization.  For riders, it certainly would be nice to have routes custom designed to match your needs (ie exactly from your origin to your destination without changing trains or busses), something that is often an issue with public transport networks.  Als0- and this is going to sound awful but it is from many public surveys and not my own point of view - these private bus networks get around the social mixing issue that turns a lot of middle class riders off on bus systems.

This is obviously expensive but I understand why some companies do it.  As someone wrote a while back, no one in their right mind would put Silicon Valley in California today if it were not already there.  It is absurdly expensive to do business in CA and it is expensive to live there as an employee.  However, tech companies have found that  a certain good called "access to San Francisco" is quite valuable to the types of young smart employees they want to hire and can overcome these negatives.  So the bus system is a way for companies to better provide this good.  The irony of the article is that as so many tech companies are selling this good (ie access to San Francisco) they may be changing the character of San Francisco in a way that makes the good less valuable over time.


  1. Wilhelm Arcturus:

    Not that I buy into the complaints in that article in the least... the "damn anybody with money for daring to make SF a little less filthy" attitude has been going strong since the 80s... but comparing SF to Houston seems quite inapt. SF is a square, seven miles on a side, on the tip of a peninsula. There is no more land to be had. Houston is a sprawling mass on a plain. There is more land all around it, and the city has grown by annexing that land for year. You could fit about four SFs just inside the 610 loop. There are a number of reasons they don't complain about it in Houston, and one of the is that there is no equivalent constraint on space.

  2. veglibertarian:

    A better comparison may be Manhattan. SF is over twice the size of Manhattan, with roughly half the population. The issue is the regulatory regime, and anti-development mentality. They would like to keep SF this gold rush boom town tourism destination, so you're not going to see high rises. Whenever I drive through SF it amazes me at just how much underutilized land there is, empty industrial land with empty buildings, particularly along the eastern waterfront. There is a lack of good housing stock as well, which is exacerbated by government regulation, including rent control, red tape for development, and prop 13 issues.

  3. fromSeattle:

    Regarding the buses. Microsoft implemented them here in King County because we got tired of waiting for King Country Metro to get their act together. The county would run empty express buses with nobody on them and then leave the routes that were actually used stuffed full of people standing in the aisles. Metro has (and seemingly always will be) run by and for the people who commute to downtown for 9 to 5 jobs. Everyone else has miserable options. Those MS buses have been a great benefit. Too bad its on top of the new $20 county fee to keep the inept Metro buses running.

  4. person:

    San Francisco also has some of the strongest rent control laws in the country - your rent can't go up more than inflation in the Bay Area. I've heard that landlords love tech people because they tend to be young people who are likely to move in the future - if you rent to someone who sticks around, you're charging basically the same when prices double in three years.

  5. Morven:

    Amazon does them too, as shuttles between Amazon's various buildings in the area and to various train & bus terminals. Amazon has the advantage, at least, of being close to Downtown & thus benefiting from that bias.

    King County Metro suffers from the usual disease of preferring to spend money trying to attract young liberals rather than the working people who actually use and rely on the buses. Everything's about "How can we bribe driving commuters to use public transit?" instead of "how can we provide for the people who currently use our services?"

  6. Morven:

    What especially amuses me is that half the people complaining are people who ... moved to the bay area and joined or founded tech startups! Just an older wave of them.

  7. mesocyclone:

    This is the second article I've seen on this, and it induces fits of shadenfreude in me.

    The sad thing is that the lefties have taken over all the nice places. San Francisco is what's left of a once great city - full of lefties and the "homeless" they invite. Sedona, these days, has lost its character and gone lefty boutique (although they can't destroy it's beauty, as Coyote showed). They own all the good beachfront property on the west. They stuff Silicon Valley (a place I lived when it was still livable and affordable). I came here (Phoenix area) from Santa Monica (a long time ago, not bringing liberal attitudes from it), and would love to have a place by the ocean. But not with those clowns running things. Just as we escaped Santa Monica, the vile Jane Fonda and equally vile Tom Hayden took over the place, and it has had rent control ever since. Sigh.

  8. Another_Brian:

    Regarding the buses and privatization, I was amused by the fact that big, sexy, trend-setting companies with boatloads of money like Google, Facebook, and Apple weren't building high speed light rail systems.

  9. irandom419:

    I can't find it now, but there was a story on how many units that are off market in San Francisco due to the laws there.

  10. mahtso:


  11. NRG:

    My BIL lives in San Fran. He worked for yahoo for a bit. He was able to BEGIN HIS WORK DAY on the bus. His 8 hours began the moment he stepped on the bus. They provided free internet (of course!) and the employees all accessed it for one reason or another.

  12. Maria:

    This all started as recruiting problems for the Silicon Valley companies. It's both expensive to live here and basically a bunch of bedroom communities. The college recruits wanted someplace hipper to live and SF seemed cool, so the buses started as a recruiting perk. That blossomed into a glut and gravitation of companies toward SF away from SV, creating a new market/driving up rental/housing costs there (rents go up/middle classes are forced to move). Nothing new to us SV folks, but I understand their point if you change out the word rich to douchebags, young people can be jerks, but give them money and they take it to a whole new level. Plus, they act like short-timers remuddling historic homes into Ikea knock-offs, zero interest in the culture/history/etc. They just aren't good neighbors and in SF there is a concentration of them in certain areas. Just wait till the Tw*tter IPO. Also, we don't have the infrastructure to support some of this growth, one of the few ways a huge housing area that would've filled in the SF bay was stopped was because because the adjoining current town didn't have a water allotment that could cover it.

    I've ridden those buses, yes there is an internet connection, but I assure you - most folks are all sleeping on the way to the office. I got the serious stink-eye for saying hi one morning and learned my lesson, lol.

  13. Maria:

    Not really - many are long time natives not in the tech industry. Start-ups used to be in SV not SF.

  14. Morven:

    At least one of the complainers there, I definitely recall, had moved to SF in the 90s to work at a tech startup and was now complaining about people doing the same thing 15-20 years later.

  15. rst1317:

    Apparently the guy making the water comment in the article doesn't realize there are companies selling water for much more than A$10 / gallon and they're doing it to people who are neither desperate for water nor lacking of a slew of other options.

    In fact, I'm off to do something very similar. This is at least not purely water. But someone will have ran some very hot water over 30 cents of worth of decently roasted coffee beans and will be charging me something in the neighborhood of $25 / gallon for it. At least it's a socially acceptable drug.

  16. Jason:

    Hottest news on the web, latest tech blog you can get up to the hour news and get where you need to be here. See our Iphones today!

  17. Fuque:

    Californication is rotting from the inside out. Google is a government branch of the CIA.