Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Twitter Congratulates Itself For Its Role In The "Renewal" Of San Francisco

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 25, 2011

After months of negotiations, late last week Twitter said it would stay in San Francisco, thanks to a multi-year cut in its payroll taxes on new hires.

The issue has been a controversial one within many quarters in San Francisco, and various groups have criticized Twitter for threatening to walk unless it got a special deal.

I've taken Twitter to task for publicly talking about social corporate responsibility as being important to the company and then seeking tax cuts from the very local community where they live and work.

How is removing resources from your own community an act of social responsibility?

Twitter, however has no problem with talking about social responsibility, and acting otherwise. It seems oblivious to connecting talk, with walk.

In a new blog post, Twitter gives itself a big fat pat on the back for its role in helping to "renew" the mid-Market Street neighborhood, placing itself in the same company as community organizations that have been at work for years.

Sean Garrett, head of corporate spin, writes:

We are proud that Twitter will be among the first companies moving into the Central Market area and will be playing a role in its renewal with the city and with other businesses, arts organizations, and the numerous community organizations that have been doing hard work in the neighborhood for many years.

Twitter has been keen to promote the idea that it is helping to clean up a bad neighborhood. In a Techcrunch article, the area is described as having "immediate physical access to prostitutes, drugs and weapons...(it) isn’t exactly an up and coming neighborhood."

There's more prostitution and drugs in the lobbies of San Francisco's high class hotels than along that part of Market Street, which is better described as a poor neighborhood with many elderly and newly immigrant residents, simply struggling to survive.

Mr Garrett writes that Twitter will remain in San Francisco because of its "unique creativity and inventiveness is a part of Twitter’s DNA."

Yet Twitter was prepared to rip that DNA out of its core and move outside the city, to a strip mall in Brisbane, a suburb.

Twitter seeks credit for the fact that 75% of its employees, "who live in San Francisco are involved in causes and charities in the city."

Notice that there is nothing about Twitter, the employer, becoming a good citizen, actively involved in the renewal of the neighborhood, everything is expected of the staff.

What's interesting is that most of Twitter's San Francisco based employees are deeply involved in social responsibility. You would think that Twitter might notice that these are important issues to its staff and thus seek to emulate them and support their work.

Yet they work for a company that has invested considerable time and resources into trying to pull money out of its community, through lengthy lobbying at City Hall. That must sting.


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