Google and Facebook may be the brands most associated with America’s “progressive” high-tech elite, but in the left-wing mecca of San Francisco they have become the prime targets of populist outrage. The so-called “Google buses,” which transport tech workers from apartments in San Francisco to corporate campuses in Silicon Valley, have been hit by Occupy-style protests in recent days–and now, by new municipal fees.
On Tuesday, city officials in San Francisco approved a plan to charge tech companies $1 for every stop they make. The estimated cost to a medium-sized company, according to the L.A. Times, would be $80,000 per year. Tech employees often prefer to live in San Francisco to take advantage of a vibrant nightlife and dating scene often lacking in suburban communities near their workplaces, such as Palo Alto and Cupertino.
That, in turn, has driven up housing prices in San Francisco–which has also led to vigorous protests by left-wing groups. In December, protestors stopped a Google bus in a demonstration against such buses using public transport stops, as well as against residential evictions and urban gentrification in general, which has been driving low-income families and minority communities out of San Francisco for several decades.
The irony is that some of the interventions proposed by the left would make the crisis worse. Conservative economist Thomas Sowell noted in 2011 that blacks were being driven out of San Francisco as the result of “building restrictions–and outright bans–resulting from the political crusades of environmentalist zealots.” San Francisco also has the nation’s highest minimum wage ($10.55/hr), which has raised the cost of living.