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

Is Segregation The New 'Gentrification'? SF Sweeps Locals From Twitter's Doorstep

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 17, 2014

Locals

Heather Knight’s report on SFGate.com highlights the plight of local people forced off Mid-Market Street by police. 

Swept off Mid-Market, S.F.'s homeless cluster nearby - SFGate

Police Chief Greg Suhr said the influx of homeless people into neighborhoods around Market Street is to be expected - if they're moved off the main drag, they have to go somewhere.

"I get my marching orders from the mayor that Mid-Market is a priority," he said, noting that Lee stresses that point every time the two men talk. Suhr said he plans to double the number of beat officers patrolling Mid-Market in the next few months at the mayor's request.

Foremski’s Take: This looks like segregation to me and not gentrification. 

There are good lessons in gentrification to be had from San Francisco’s Gay population, which led the gentrification of the Castro and Haight Street neighborhoods.

Much of Haight Street area and parts of the Castro became very run-down and very dangerous in the 1970s, following the Summer of Love era in the late 1960s.

Gentrification took a long time but it worked because it put the community to work. People were hired for manual and skilled work. The gentrifiers went out to the local restaurants and bars, they made use of local small businesses  such as dry cleaning and hardware stores.

The Gay way is best…

I saw the  gentrification in progress when I arrived in SF in the mid-1980s and moved into an apartment on the corner of Haight-Ashbury.

Gradually, a whole community was built back up, and many new jobs were created. It was done through a process of integration and not segregation. 

That’s not what’s happening here in Mid-Market where Twitter keeps its people inside all day and competes against local businesses by providing thousands of its workers with free food, and a rainbow of free services such as laundry and apartment cleaning.

TwitterDoors  1 of 1

On the streets outside the golden doors of Twitter’s HQ,  hundreds of local residents line up for their free food and free services from the many charities operating in the Tenderloin, one of the poorest areas of the City.

Brisbane or bust…

Twitter won its demand for city tax relief, now valued at more than $56m, after it threatened to move its HQ to a strip mall in Brisbane.  

The city should have called its bluff – Twitter knew it would have struggled in its recruitment of top talent if it were in Brisbane, and it would have stayed in San Francisco and accepted less. Now it gets extra city services for free as police double up on their sweeps. 

Segregation should not be the new gentrification. The city should help integrate Twitter and the other tech companies. Sweep the homeless towards mid-Market Street and not away.

The tech startups are innovative, they’ll come up with an app for helping the helpless, and they’ll come up with other bright ideas.

But if the problems of the neighborhood are segregated away — they won’t see a problem that needs solving.

Integrate San Francisco’s startups and they’ll be part of the solution.

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Please see: Segregation Of Tech Workers Leads To Mistrust And Conflict

 

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