Local residents demand that Twitter pay it forward

Janina Glasov

When the Bay Area’s techie-elite got richer yesterday, its poor refused to get poorer.

San Francisco-based technology company Twitter went public. By the time the New York Stock Exchange closed yesterday, more than 13 million shares of the online social networking and microblogging company had been traded, bringing Twitter’s value up to $31 billion.

But there are serious doubts those riches will make it out of the company’s office at 1355 Market St., as expressed by the nearly 100 local workers and residents who gathered outside the Mid-Market office building to express their outrage at this possibility.

 The rally was organized by a coalition of activist groups including South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), Senior and Disability Action, Eviction Free San Francisco, and the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee. At noon, the protestors held a press conference to articulate their concerns.

“We are here today to ask Twitter, ‘What is their public offering to San Francisco?’” organizer Angelica Cabande from SOMCAN said as she opened the press conference.

It is a reasonable question, considering Twitter’s relationship with the city in recent years. When the company threatened to relocate to Brisbane in the spring of 2011, Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors approved the Central Market/Tenderloin Payroll Expense Tax Exclusion—or the “Twitter Tax Break” as it came to be called. The tax incentive offered companies that moved to the neighborhood a six-year break from paying the city’s 1.5 percent payroll tax for all employees hired after the move. It was estimated that it would save Twitter $22 million in corporate taxes, lost city revenue that could have been used to fund things like public transportation, education, health, safety and social services. So, the only moving the company did was to Market.

“We have Twitter on a tax-free perch,” organizer Tony Robles from Senior and Disability Action explained, “not engaged in the community they’ve set up shop in. It’s like a virtual thing—they’re here, but they’re not here.”

It was recently discovered that the Twitter Tax Break might have actually cost the city as much as $56 million, when you add in the city’s decision to stop taxing stock options shortly after its based the Mid-Market tax break. This news and Twitter’s coinciding decision to go public have incensed much of the public.

“Can you imagine a company with all that money getting welfare from San Francisco?” exclaimed speaker Tommi Avicolli Mecca from the SF Housing Rights Committee.

The various speakers at the press conference all voiced the same demand—that Twitter be here if it’s going to be here, by reinvesting some of its profits into San Francisco and its communities. Many went on to link Twitter’s presence to the recent rash of evictions and the escalating affordable housing crisis in the city.

“We know why the evictions are happening a few blocks from here,” Avicolli Mecca announced, referencing the impending eviction of all 60 tenants from the 1049 Market Street building. “Because companies like this are moving in.”

Twitter’s decision to relocate to the Mid-Market area, with its abundance of liquor stores and dilapidated hotels, might have seemed questionable at first. However, 15 other technology companies have followed its lead since, to occupy a total of 1.3 million square feet of commercial office space in the neighborhood. The tech industry’s continued demand for office space has grown so great that owners of residential buildings like 1049 Market are converting their properties to meet this need. As tech companies flood the area, the well-paid employees they bring with them are also creating a new market for housing that is attracting real estate developers to the neighborhood and instigating more evictions.

“Evictions are up 81 percent this year in this neighborhood alone, and it’s because of this company,” surmised Erin McElroy from Eviction Free San Francisco. “Twitter, the tech industry, gentrification—they’re all connected.”

“I have been living here in SOMA for over 40 years,” stated speaker Teresa Dulalas, who is being evicted from her home of 30 years. “I have never seen such a massive displacement of residents until now. Twitter, I want you to hear this—we are victims because of you!” she screamed up at the office floors above the crowd’s heads.

The protest continued at the Central Market/Tenderloin Citizen’s Advisory Committee meeting that evening. As Robles informed us, they will not rest until city officials and tech companies recognize the negative effects of their presence in San Francisco and take actions to constrain and correct them. Until then, people like Teresa are not safe in this city.

Meanwhile, the remaining shares of Twitter went onto the stock exchange today. And when Twitter’s valuation is way up, its stock has fallen since it opening at $45.10, closing the day at $44.90 and now standing at $42.30 at this story is being posted at 11:15am PT.


Nor are they on a "tax-free perch"

They are simply paying less tax than they otherwise would have done.

This kind of journalistic dishonesty will not find you many converts.

And of course Twitter hasn't evicted anyone. That is pure conjecture without a shred of evidence to back it up.

Explain to me how the city would have been better off if Twitter had decamped off to Brisbane?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 11:46 am

Tell me why a company valued at $31 billion needed a $56 million tax break from San Francisco? Or wait, I know: Because it had enough leverage to extort that money from city taxpayers with the help of bought-off politicians, and perhaps also because the $31 billion is an illusion, spun by a company that has never shown a profit in its life. But hey, at least we're helping a few rich speculators get even richer, and that means something right?

Posted by steven on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

informed adults freely negotiating a consensual agreement. Happens all the time in business and politics. You might as well say the BART unions extort a raise by going on strike, or the city extorts all companies in SF by taxing them.

And how much would SF have lost if Twitter had moved to Brisbane, which they were perfectly entitled to do? Maybe more tech successes would be in SF if we didn't tax them so much?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

I don't think San Francisco can handle any more "tech successes" like this. BTW, Twitter stock has fallen more than 8 percent today. The casino economy isn't the same thing as the real economy

Posted by steven on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

own fellow residents.

Oh, and Twitter is still WAY ahead of it's IPO price while all major markets are at or near their all-time highs. Your constant hoping for collapse and misery is amusing but clearly has no impact on the real world.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

Not that buying twitter at $20 a share would be a smart move.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 1:00 am

Or are you all mouth and no pants?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:01 am

I made a prediction. I didn't talk about where I invest my money, because my own investments have little bearing on the truth of my statement, as does your snide and meaningless remark.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:06 am

happy if they fail. And yet you presented the possibility of them failing as somehow a bad thing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

>"BTW, Twitter stock has fallen more than 8 percent today. The casino economy isn't the same thing as the real economy"

Steven, Steven...you did the same thing with Facebook, gloating about the depressed stock price when it was down, you don't have much to say now that it is much much higher than the offering price.

Or what about your masterpiece, the hilarious premature gloating about Oracle loosing the America's Cup.

And now you are doing the same thing with Twitter. Do you like looking stupid? Because if you just said less it would not be as obvious.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

Web 1.0: we learned it.

Of course, we actually live here. Where do you live?

Posted by marke on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 2:26 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

So please. Teach us, teacher.

Posted by marke on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

Good (and gay) enough for you?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

Let's see: Do you live between Noe and Castro, or Noe and Mission.

In any event none of these north/south streets cross. So what's you're east/west cross street?

Castro runs from Lower Haight to Glen Park, Mission runs from the Bay to DC, and Noe is the main drag of the Noe Valley neighborhood.

Castro is only sort of Gay anymore. Noe Valley is anything but Gay, and the Mission is, well, The Mission, you got a little of everything.

From your short random list of street names it seems most like you just looked at a map and typed whatever you saw 1st.

Hope all this background helps next time you need to pretend you actually live in SF.

Posted by pete moss on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

Mission Dolores and Dolores Heights are between Castro, Noe and Mission neighborhoods.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

I suppose the Dubose Triangle is a possibility as well.

Posted by pete moss on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

regard as the heart of Noe, Mission and Castro. I've heard people describe it as all three of those. Maybe I should call it Baja Dolores.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

make a lot of money by doing the exact opposite.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

I agree, Twitter did not extort anything from San Francisco. They did not have to. Ed Lee offered up concessions on bended knee of his own volition, willingly. He is a well trained monkey.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

They figured that some tax is better than no tax.

Effectively Twitter threatened to go on strike. Strikes work, right?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

In the case of Twitter, relocating would have added friction to the business model while the BART unions just had to sit pat and wait out the fumbling management.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

I'm not sure why one is extortion and the other is social justice.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

Because one had negotiating power that it needed to use and the other did not have negotiating power and it did not need it.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

The city could withhold a location and Twitter could move.

Likewise the BART unions could withhold labor and the management could fire them all and re-hire.

The only difference between the two cases is that in one case the extortion is from the left and with the other it is from the right.

More generally, however, every business is free to leave SF and they should and will if SF over-taxes and over-regulates. So Twitter actually acted as a safety valve, much like the Ellis Act.

The city needs businesses more than business need the city.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

Envious of all those stock options guys just like you (only younger) are getting?

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

If my aim was enrichment, I'd have led a very different life so far. But I grew up for a time in a very wealthy neighborhood, was up close and personal with some fabulously wealthy families, saw how dehumanizing that lifestyle was for many.

Instead of pulling up the ladder and kicking down everyone below me, I'm more concerned with using that which could have made me rich if I had different values for bending the arc so that there is equitable opportunity and guaranteed dignified subsistence-plus outcomes for all who don't succeed.

I am quite happy with where I am right now, thanks given what's going on around me. I'm fortunate to have seen and done more in this life than you could possibly imagine, have this intuition to be in the right place in the right time. I've got as much headwind and resistance as I have tail wind and inertia right now.

To the left, this makes me rich and uncaring about the poor because I don't offer direct service, to the right, this makes me a communist who incrementally fucks them over in local politics. You're both wrong as usual.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

Since you do not know your audience, you cannot know much richer the lives of others might be.

But yes, you should do more to help the poor tangibly than you do, if you seriously want us to believe that you care. Anyone can whine on the internet, but it takes courage and commitment to get off your ass and help the homeless etc.

And being wealthy doesn't make anyone "dehumanizing". If it does, then you have problems that will hose you rich or poor regardless. Sounds like you just didn't mix with good role models and so came away with an unfounded prejudice against the successful. Too bad, because some wealthy people are real role models.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

I don't give a rat's ass what your sorry ass cares.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

Shows weakness and lack of confidence.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:03 am

I contest your propaganda.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:01 am

You do offer direct service in local gym steam rooms though.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:32 am

Most people assume bought off means being paid off with cash, ala my hero Spiro Agnew.

Steve, do you have any proof of any money changing hands over any of this? Or is this just more hysterical rhetoric?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

Bought off as in a Mayor, Planning Department and Commission and Board of Supervisors approving a project that 3/5/-2/3 of voters rejected, that kind of bought off.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

The fact that you don't agree with them re Twitter doesn't matter, except perhaps to confirm that they were right.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

acts shocked when the policies he enacts are, er, pro-business.

Most people do not see business as the problem and government as the solution.They see government as the problem and business as the solution. The best government can do is encourage business to build prosperity and wealth.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

Measure B
Ballots cast Percentage
No 75661 62.51%
Yes 45369 37.49%
Total 121030 100%

Measure C
Ballots cast Percentage
No 79856 66.72%
Yes 39826 33.28%
Total 119682 100%

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

and I would explain them to you but you are too jaundiced to take them in.

But any politician isn't going to score 100% with the voters, especially with a one-off outlier project like this. But the massive landslide victory Lee got standing on a pro-development platform shows clearly that the people are happy with the other 99 condo projects going up right now.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

Two to one and three to two.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

I guess you need a billionaire on your side to stop just one.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:04 am

We have only just begun to fight. Natch, everyone else has just realized that what I've been saying about regulatory captured land use planning is spinning out of control like I said it would.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:41 am

And now you're claiming that you influenced this result? Horsecrap - B/C lost despite you, not because of you.

And every side claims that a win is the "beginning", but it never is.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 8:17 am

Not at all. I'm saying that I accurately predicted that there was increasing daylight between government policy on land use and where the voters are.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:00 am

Wow. That's statistically insignificant.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

I'll remember that the next time you cite a public opinion poll based on a sample of 500.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

crow when you do get the odd rare victory.

Not that it had anything to do with you anyway.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:07 am

Only about 8% of SF voters voted for Ed Lie -even more statistically insignificant.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

That's because there so many candidates.

Three people voted for Lee for every two who voted for Avalos. That's called a landslide.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 7:06 am

That's called a landslide.

I'm willing to use any kind of math you are and compare the results of the two elections. Just decide already what kind of math you're using!

Posted by Greg on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:56 am

Greg, voters repudiated Ed Lee, that is for sure, but the voters also repudiated the elite dominated pay-to-play planning process that cuts the crappiest of deals for us.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 09, 2013 @ 11:46 am

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