Herald Sun and News.com.au
By Victoria Craw
On Monday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee made a quiet, but crucial announcement.
Private shuttle buses, used by tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter to take workers to offices just beyond the city limits, will have to pay for using city bus stops.
The seemingly insignificant statement was seen as a win by protest groups angry over the influx of young, entrepreneurial money makers who are pushing up property prices and gentrifying parts of the inner city.
The huge gleaming buses equipped with wi-fi, coffee and newspapers that ferry young tech workers to their jobs have become a symbol of the divide, with residents furious they're blocking streets and forcing people onto the road in order to catch public transport.
Late last year, protest group Heart of the City blocked and boarded a Google bus, issuing a fake ordinance saying the tech industry should pay the price for sucking up resources in the city.
Another bus had a window broken, while mystified employees live tweeted the protest.
"In case you're wondering why this is happening, we'll be extremely clear," read a piece of protest literature posted on Twitter by Google employee Craig Frost.
"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 neighbourhoods.
"While you guys live fat as hogs with your free 24/7 buffets, everyone else is scraping the bottom of their wallets, barely existing in this expensive world that you and your chums have helped create."
United States Studies Centre Urban Policy professor Ed Blakely has lived in the area for 30 years and said long-term residents are being 'squeezed out' of the city as wealthy workers move in.
"It's not just the companies coming in but the workers have more to spend and they're buying up property in low income areas. They're making the city much less diverse income wise. It's becoming a city of only the well to do."
He said the traditionally liberal city is facing a politically 'dynamite' situation as those with modest incomes are being pushed to the periphery.
"They're going to be the only ones left, the token poor, but what can you do? The market is hot from the dotcoms, San Francisco is small, water bound. God only knows where this is going to end up but not very well for San Francisco."
Tech workers themselves aren't doing much to help the situation.
Entrepreneur Greg Gopman slammed residents for being "crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash" who didn't know how to stay out of the way in a Facebook rant late last year.
"In other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realise it's a privilege to be in the civilised part of town and view themselves as guests," he posted online.
He later apologised and deleted the piece, however there is also the view that people shouldn't be slammed simply for doing their jobs.
The city's Board of Supervisors president David Chiu said the latest move will help restore order in streets that had become like the "wild wild West."
"This is an important first step in bringing some order and rules to our roads, as well as asking our companies to pay a fair share of what it costs the city to maintain our streets."
Google also claim to be keen to make transport more efficient.
"We believe the pilot program is an important step in that direction," read a statement.
"Google's Bay Area shuttles result in net annual savings of more than 20,000 metric tons of CO2. That's like taking about 4,000 cars off the road every day. "
This article was originally published at Herald Sun and News.com.au