Bus Vandalized as Protesters in S.F., Oakland Target Silicon Valley Shuttles

Anti-eviction protesters block a Silicon Valley bus -- this one carrying Apple employees -- at 24th and Valencia streets in San Francisco's Mission District (Vinnee Tong/KQED)
Anti-eviction protesters block a Silicon Valley bus — this one carrying Apple employees — at 24th and Valencia streets in San Francisco’s Mission District (Vinnee Tong/KQED)

Update 2 p.m.: Our local “Google bus” protests took a turn today as a total of three buses were stopped in actions in San Francisco and Oakland, where one of the vehicles was vandalized.

In San Francisco, a bus carrying Apple employees was blocked during the morning rush hour by protesters at 24th and Valencia streets. The action, carried out by activists seeking city action to halt evictions in the Mission District and elsewhere amid an influx of technology workers, was a sequel to one on Dec. 9 in which a Google bus was halted at the same corner.

In Oakland, one bus was stopped at the MacArthur BART station. The second incident happened at 7th and Adeline streets near the West Oakland BART station. Demonstrators there not only displayed banners, including one that said “F*** Off Google,” but also broke windows on one bus and caused other damage. Google confirmed the West Oakland incident to KQED News reporter Sam Harnett.

The character of the West Oakland incident seems much more aggressive and hostile toward Google and its employees than bus-related protests in San Francisco, which have been nonviolent and focused specifically on the displacement of residents from the Mission District as employees of technology firms bid up rents and home prices. During this morning’s San Francisco action, demonstrators went through the motions, at least, of reaching out to Apple employees inside the bus, urging them to join the protest. (None did, so far as we’ve heard.)

The Bay Area Council, a business group that reportedly represents 30 of the shuttle bus operators in their dealings with San Francisco officials, issued a statement saying “the vandalism and violence against employee shuttles and the workers who ride them is unfortunate and unacceptable.”

Activist media site IndyBay carried this rather impressionistic account of what happened at 7th and Adeline:

At 8:15, a small group of people met at 7th and Adeline in West Oakland. Down the street, over 20 employees of Google were queued up, waiting for their giant white bus to take them to their Mountain View headquarters. When it arrived, a kind young man, homeless and unemployed, boarded the bus with the employees.

While they took their seats, several people unfurled two giant banners reading “TECHIES: Your World Is Not Welcome Here” and “F*** OFF GOOGLE.” They offered fliers to the passengers but they were refused. One passenger tried to take someone’s bicycle, but they were repelled. Inside the bus, the other passengers slowly became aware of what was happening outside. One female passenger suddenly remarked, “The protesters are at it again.” The kind young man on the bus urgently approached the bus driver and began asking,

“Bus driver, what are you gonna do, man? What are you gonna do?” “Don’t worry. It’s freedom of speech, freedom of speech.” The kind young man then walked to the rear of the bus, saying, “Oh my god! What’s gonna happen next?” The same female passenger took out her phone and began filming the blockade. “At least we’re warm in here and they’re cold out there,” she said.

Almost on cue, a person appeared from behind the bus and quickly smashed the whole of the rear window, making glass rain down on the street. Cold air blew inside the bus and the blockaders with their banners departed. The kind young man left the bus and outside someone threw fliers with a smiley face logo and the message ‘disrupt google’ into the air.

After this the bus remained where it was, blocked for the time being. Several more people arrived while the stranded Google employees began collecting the fliers off the street. The bus remained where it was, the thought of driving to Mountain View with a broken window and flooded with cold air an unthinkable horror they could not endure. Another crowd assembled near the bus pickup zone and within the hour the blockade began again.

Here’s a link to a Twitter image of the protest as seen from inside the Google bus:

And here’s the beginning of the text of the flyer the West Oakland protesters were distributing:

“In case you’re wondering why this happened, we’ll be extremely clear. The people outside your Google bus serve you coffee, watch your kids, have sex with you for money, make you food, and are being driven out of their neighborhoods. While you guys live fat as hogs with your free 24/7 buffets, everyone else is scraping the bottom of their wallets, b arely existing in this expensive world that you and your chums have helped create.

(Full text of the flyer: Google Bus Protesters’ Manifesto: ‘Get Out of Oakland!’)

In its statement on today’s bus incidents, the Bay Area Council said the protests do nothing to address the underlying causes of the housing challenges facing the region:

The anger and frustration that some residents feel about rising home prices and rents, growing evictions, increasing traffic is understandable. But blaming a single industry and a single group of workers is unfair, misguided and misdirected. Many of these problems are directly related to the simple fact that the Bay Area over the past 30 years has failed to produce sufficient housing across all income levels to meet the needs of our growing economy. We also have failed to invest adequately to expand and maintain our transportation infrastructure. We must acknowledge the pain that many residents are feeling as our economy grows, but the solution to these issues resides in working together to expand our housing supply, invest in transit and transportation and helping those who are directly affected by the changes we’re experiencing.”

Original post: San Francisco anti-eviction activists have taken to the streets to block Silicon Valley-bound buses this morning. Several dozen protesters at 24th and Valencia streets in San Francisco blocked a bus carrying Apple employees. A protest at the same corner on Dec. 9 targeted a Google bus. (That action featured an apparently impromptu performance by an Oakland labor activist who, suggesting he was a Google employee enraged at the delay in getting to work, told the protesters they needed to get out of San Francisco and find someplace they could afford to live.)

Some of those in this morning’s crowd carried banners, including one urging passengers to get off the bus and join the protest. The picture above is from KQED News producer Vinnee Tong, who just happened to be passing the corner of 24th and Valencia while the protest was under way.

A second bus, this one headed for Google’s Mountain View campus, was blocked this morning by protesters at Oakland’s MacArthur BART station. Here’s a picture of that from KQED News reporter Grace Rubenstein:

A Google bus halted by protesters Friday morning at Oakland's MacArthur BART station. (Grace Rubenstein/KQED)
A Google bus halted by protesters Friday morning at Oakland’s MacArthur BART station. (Grace Rubenstein/KQED)

This month’s protests have carried a double-edged message. They’re focused partly on the displacement of apartment tenants across the city as well-paid technology sector workers crowding into the city drive up rental prices. And the actions are also targeting the fact that fleets of Silicon Valley buses are using Muni bus stops and other infrastructure without paying for it. Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle’s Kurtis Alexander on today’s protest and the background context:

Friday’s action, taken by a few dozen demonstrators, began shortly before 9 a.m. on southbound Valencia Street at 24th Street. It wasn’t immediately clear which company the shuttle belonged to. The blockade didn’t last long, as police soon arrived and protesters followed their orders to move to the sidewalk. The bus departed at 9:20 a.m.

This time, nobody pretended to be an entitled techie.

Tony Robles, who works for a nonprofit group that advocates for seniors and the disabled , said he joined the rally to call attention to rising rents that displaced vulnerable residents. “We’re here to send a message to the rich tech companies that their business has ramifications and consequences,” he said.

Efforts to talk to the bus riders were unsuccessful.

Business leaders have said the backlash against the tech buses doesn’t make sense, as the buses take solo drivers off the roads. According to the Bay Area Council, a business group that represents the shuttle operators, 30 companies run the buses and make a combined total of 4,000 stops across San Francisco every weekday.

Currently, those buses are using Muni stops without permission and without paying a cent.

Related

  • Autonomedia

    Two Google Buses were blocked at two separate Oakland locations.
    West Oakland: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/12/20/18748143.php
    and MacArthur BART: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/12/20/18748125.php

    • Dan Brekke

      Hey, Autonomedia, thanks for the heads-up.

  • Tony

    Normally when you protest something it’s to fight someone who’s against you. Tech companies are just operating a businesses which bring a lot of money into the city, and tech workers have no ill will against anyone.

    Follow the money! Cities usually love when there is a population boom because it allows for growth that benefits everyone. These newspapers have been running stories demonizing the tech workers meanwhile political mess between city hall, developers, and rich land owners hasn’t changed one bit. They’re cashing out big time on the real estate pains of everyone else. Doesn’t this seem suspicious to anyone?

    • srcarruth

      growth that benefits everyone? except the people being kicked out so landlords can raise the rents for the new influx of tech workers

      • Tony

        My point is if the city government was doing its job in getting things moving there wouldn’t be evictions. When housing demand rises that generates tons of new tax revenue and land value increases can be used to fund new development for the incoming population and improve city infrastructure for everyone.

        What we have right now are wealthy property owners doing everything they can to block progress, developers focusing on cashing out by building luxury properties, and newspapers running stories blaming it on tech workers because they’re the new guys in town. We’re in a situation where the people with money have tricked the protestors to fight for them to protect the status quo that these guys are making bank off of.

        • yourdoingitwrong

          nope. fighting eviction and displacement is NOT the same as “fund[ing] new development for the incoming population.”

          you sound like a privileged jerk who understands little about how gentrification, eviction, and displacement take place. capitalist.

          • Phil DiNuzzo

            You sound so angry – you called that person a jerk without even responding to the content of the post. The content is good, and actually hits the nail on the head.

          • Tony

            You must be mistaking me for one of those idiots arguing for the “free market” to resolve things magically. I’m saying that the tech companies don’t have the power to fix this problem. The city government needs to use its resources and city planners to find a working solution for all of it’s people.

            Eviction and displacement happen when growth occurs without responsible planning and control. Uncontrolled gentrification will indeed cause displacement, but blocking development will also cause displacement. As it stands right now there are massive profits being made off of displacing the existing population.

            I’m arguing the city government needs to carefully examine their regulations to ensure that the wealth entering the city benefits the population as a whole rather than allowing a few property owners rake in obscene profits while everyone else gets screwed by high rent.

          • James Clayton Bowman

            Without further stoking anger, I’d like to ask: what kind of solution you feel would be appropriate? Banning tech workers from moving into certain neighborhoods? That seems to be housing discrimination. Forbidding those who own rent-controlled buildings from selling their property (thusly nullifying rent control for the next owner)? I suppose if one believes that the idea of owning (and freely selling) property is in and of itself theft against the people, then yes, such a proposal may seem agreeable, but I think most people would disagree with you, even in the uber-liberal Bay Area. In light of that inconvenient truth, perhaps it may be effective too wage a campaign of intimidation that starts with angry people carrying signs and obstructing people trying to go to work, and escalates to breaking windows and maybe following people home after they get off the bus. If that doesn’t stop the flow of unwanted immigrants, perhaps it can be ratcheted up a bit more… (“Don’t worry, it’s just free speech.” – is that what the guy said just before the window on that bus was broken out?) Is be willing to bet the even fewer people would find that tactit to be helpful. Tony’s comments are by far the most constructive I’ve heard in this matter – the entire Bay Area has a housing crunch, and it needs to be addressed at the civic and regional levels of governance.

          • qnetter

            The first, and smallest, is banning the running of private scheduled transportation systems in competition with licensed mass transit. As a first step, governments should stop looking the other way and should prohibit them from delaying public transit by using public bus stops, requiring them to stop off-street on private property.

            But the next and obvious one is strict zoning, rent, and eviction controls. There are limits to how far one can go in rebuilding San Francisco to support the growth of business; the ecosystem cannot expand infinitely without changing the nature of the City, and that needs to be preserved.

          • James Clayton Bowman

            With respect to the use of public bus stops, I agree that the city needs to stop looking the other way on this matter. I disagree on the notion of banning their use outright. I can certainly advocate restricting their frequency as well as the # of locations they can operate from, but foremost, I feel the city would be remiss in failing to reap large sums of money from these mega-rich corporations using their infrastructure.

          • James Clayton Bowman

            As to the idea of zoning, rent, and eviction controls, are they not already in place? As I understand it, rent control evaporates (or rather, resets to current market conditions) with the sale of the property to a new owner. Are you saying that all residential property values (and rents) should be permanently fixed? Also, I hope that your reference to zoning restrictions applies strictly to the of the what’s being built on a property, rather than restrictions on who is allowed to live in a certain neighborhood.

          • George Sabastian

            You fail to recognize that these private buss’ are run as a courtesy. They offer no charge to the city or its residents. Yet they reduce traffic and its environmental impacts, free up parking spaces for employees who would need then need cars, and reduce an already congested muni / caltrain.

          • WeAreMany

            If public transit options are congested, the answer isn’t to add a brand new fleet of diesel-powered, emission-spewing buses to cramped city streets but to improve Caltrain. There is nothing green about a huge fleet of diesel buses that act as a SUBSTITUTE for public transit. Compared to the public, zero emissions, electric buses, these buses are absolutely not “green”. It is also not “green” to encourage your employees to live 40 miles from their jobs and commute 80 miles every day. If you really want to be environmentally friendly, you live closer to work and reduce commute distances….

            “Many will probably opt to leave the city” – Exactly. These companies are enabling people to live farther from work than is logical.

          • mamiel

            Interesting how building more housing in the city is not part of your solution to the problem. Unless we build more housing in the city we will have a disgusting sprawl of suburbs and sky-high rents. Eviction controls will help some, but we need a much higher stock of housing.

          • WeAreMany

            You love to talk about building more housing, but never mention a single place where this might happen.

            Do you even live in the city? Because I do and I see development all over the place. Every piece of empty land has luxury condos that were either recently finished or are in progress.

          • mamiel

            I’ve lived in the city for nearly 20 years and I see tons of places to build everywhere, including over existing low rise structures.

      • Phil DiNuzzo

        It’s possible to both wield the benefits of growth for broad based prosperity while simultaneously protecting those on the margins. If you don’t think that is happening – and I sure don’t – you should take it up with the local government and their wealthy partners who are having a field day building luxury condos while ignoring evictions and failing to develop middle class housing.

    • WeAreMany

      Tech workers may not be directly to blame, but the companies deserve some criticism (from the public and from their workers). These companies get huge tax breaks and like to hold the city hostage by threatening to move if they don’t get them. Part of the problem is the city/state caving into the pressure, but part of it is that the companies effectively bribe public officials to get what they want. If the city/state didn’t kiss their corporate butts and give them preferential treatment, we could have more money to use for improving public transit that benefits everyone. Instead of paying taxes that could fund public projects, these companies are paying for private transportation that gives tech workers an advantage that others don’t get.

      It’s also rather arrogant that these companies started using public bus stops illegally without asking first or trying to work something out. Our tax dollars pay to maintain those bus stops and to fund muni service. It’s a real slap in the face to non tech residents every time one of those enormous buses blocks a muni bus out of the stop, leaving it in the middle of the street where it blocks traffic, cross walks, and bike lanes. You may be too busy working on the bus to take notice, but those buses create a lot of traffic messes, especially in the dense parts of the city.

  • Bostonbruen

    Would you prefer Oakland to be like Detroit? Plenty of housing in Detroit. I’m guessing the downtrodden of Detroit would gladly trade places with Oakland. As always , these protests are filled with spoiled rich white kids living off their parents. Trust fund liberal bastards. Give true liberals a bad name

    • Robert

      You forget they’re filled with hypocrites too.

      Where do they think Google, Apple, Facebook, and the like get the money to pay their employees with? I’m willing to bet if you stop the protesters and look at their possessions, you will find iPhones, Android phones, iPads, and MacBooks that were used to visit Google, Facebook, and every other tech company they’re blaming in the past.

    • 81chains

      Funny, I was reading thru these comments, and kept thinking to myself, we’d love to have Google and Apple move to Detroit. Plenty of room for the businesses, and for the people working in those businesses. We’d also gladly accept the additional tax revenues, and the additional other jobs that would be created due to the need to serve the techie population.

  • Carol Wright

    Proably the guy I bought my car from was on one of those buses…takes it from Mtn View headquarters up to SF where he has an apt. “I like living there better,” he said.

  • Carol Wright

    This is partially a problem because there are two peninsulas, SF and Marin, and you cannot expand easily…you are trapped in by water, and much of both cities is protected wild land…reserves, and you cannot build on it. so, try going either way out of SF, and you are in to two very expensive areas, silicon valley and then Marin county to the north. One has to get way way far away to start getting some decent prices for housing, but then there is “no there there.” By the time you pay for parking, bridges, Bart or train… you might as well live in the city in some pocket apt. or start sharing. I made mistake of looking to move right as college started…I found some people wanting to share a studio apt, and one place was renting out a closet the size of a cot.

    I think old cruise ships or Navy transport ships should be brought in and docked at the piers. Homeless solution as well…

    • mamiel

      Why not start building denser housing as well?

      • WeAreMany

        Where?

        • mamiel

          Everywhere in San Francisco. I can turn my one-family San Francisco home into a 4 unit building if I have the permission from the planning boards. Single-family housing is incredibly wasteful in a place like SF, all new construction should be higher and denser and house more people but the SF NIMBYS won’t allow it.

  • The 5TH Estate

    It would be interesting to know what the rents are on the Google barge in the SF Bay.

    Robert S. Finnegan
    Former SF Resident

  • Jeff Bottaro

    1. The wealth of an individual is not necessarily the wealth of a community.
    2. The wealth of a community is not necessarily the wealth of an individual.
    3. Wealth is experienced as BEING SHARED only when the MATERIAL EFFECTS of that wealth are equitably distributed AND the PURPOSE AND USE of those material effects is ALSO shared.
    4. In a scenario of opposing values, ONE MAN’S WEALTH IS ANOTHER MAN’S POVERTY.
    5. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY enabled this present experience of social and moral transgression; INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY also enabled its presently depicted FIRST STEPS IN THE PROCESS OF REDRESS.
    6. COMFORT is the instrument by which governments and corporations extort the masses, and reduce them to a hoard of whining sheep, placating their neuroses with corporate drugs (the street variety are illegal, but no more toxic).
    7. Until we create a culture where the value of DIRECT INDIVIDUAL EXPLORATION supersedes the value of COMPETITIVE AND COMPARATIVE STRUGGLE, we will be condemned to an escalating hell of SOCIAL STRATIFICATION & OPPRESSION DRIVEN BY THE IMPULSE OF SCHADENFREUDE
    8. When a threshold population of you have reached the point on your inescapable evolutionary path WHERE DEATH HAS AN ECONOMIC VALUE COMPETITIVE WITH THE VALUE OF LIFE (the unknown becomes more attractive than the known), I will appear in your world as the dew upon your meadows and the sun upon your fields.
    9. I am known in the literary underworld as the TEN OF WANDS.
    10. You have probably never heard of me because THE PERFECT ANARCHIST MUST RENOUNCE ALL BUT THE LIFE OF THE LONE WOLF.
    11. NAMASTE’

  • dickiewad

    Where the heck were the police? Donut run? Giving out speeding tickets for going 5mph over the limit. Only in CA!

  • Schweinhund

    It’s basically the same in Berlin – rich young qualified assholes with shiny eyes moving into the trendy districts and displacing the people who made em trendy. Gentrification 101. Violence is a solution though, as soon as a few cars burn, they usually pick a different neighbourhood~

    Not saying this is a nice solution, in fact there is no nice solution at all.

    • Schweinhund

      Also I might add – the car burning and such isn’t really a long-term solution either. The rent will probably rise if you’re not ready to keep your places name as bad as the Balkans.

  • mamiel

    Funny, here are the same people who have blocked nearly every attempt to build more dense housing in the city, now evicted due to lack of housing driving up prices. They blame google but have no one to blame but themselves.

    • WeAreMany

      Do you know of any particular projects that were stopped? I haven’t heard of any. Every available scrap of land is being developed. Where do you suggest they build? All the people who keep crying that we need to build more make it sound so easy, yet I’ve heard no suggestions of where all this building should take place or how it might happen without mass evictions and demolitions, like what happened in the Fillmore district.

      • mamiel

        Yes, a neighborhood association on Valencia street just got a development that was proposed to scale down the number of units, thus chopping 2 below market rate units from the plan.

        http://missionlocal.org/2013/12/1050-valencia-development-must-scale-back/

        • mamiel

          Also, look up Gavin Newsom’s “Workforce Housing Plan” which was bitterly opposed by housing activists and scrapped. It would have provided housing for middle class families. It’s absolutely untrue that every available scrap of land is developed. You can build up! Single family homes can add levels! 2 story apartment building should be converted to 6 story buildings. Single family homes can often add in-laws downstairs.

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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