We thought about bringing up the Google Gossip about Sergey leaving his wife for Google Glass Gal, but we thought better of it. Nothing more predictable than yet another dude with too much money having a midlife crisis and discovering the joys of a relationship with a younger woman. Instead, we bring you a different Google story, which is actually real-estate related.
Digital flows of information and the capital that it’s generating are having a material input on the physical landscape.
Here’s an ironic thing: I spend a good part of my day designing maps and data visualizations that represent change, while working out of one of the most change-resistant corners in the city of San Francisco.
For the past dozen or so years, the 16th and Mission Street BART plaza below the studio where we work has steadfastly hosted a diverse, rotating cast of characters — from drug dealers and preachers to musicians and hipsters, cheek by jowl with families, social activists, Social Security poets (sadly a shrinking population), and, increasingly but haltingly, young workers in the great technology fields to the south.
It’s proven a remarkably resilient situation: It was this way when I watched it in 2001, at the nadir of the dot-com crash. And it’s this way in 2013, at the mid-point of what some are calling the next big tech boom, the bastard love child of late 1990s Delusion 1.0. Yet the city is just bursting with change these days, if construction is an indicator. When I look out my window, I see at least nine active construction cranes at any given time (and that number would be even higher if it weren’t for the new scaffolding blocking my view of the rest of the city).
Neighborhoods that just 10 years ago were once written off as un-developable are seeing barriers to change break down every day. Why? It’s tough to point to a single cause, but it seems abundantly clear that digital flows of information and the attendant capital that it’s generating are having a material input on the physical urban landscape.
Now, the title above is completely off the mark. This article isn’t in any way about Silicon Valley’s gentrification problem. It’s about San Francisco’s gentrification problem because of those high paying jobs in Silicon Valley. You would never know from reading the Wired piece that there are “Google buses” all throughout Silicon Valley and its exurbs, not just running various SF to Mountain View routes. We’ve seen the luxury shuttle buses in San Ramon, in Los Gatos, and in Scotts Valley. Every one of those buses means the employees onboard are not driving their own vehicles to work, and they are free to come up with brilliant ideas during the commute thanks to onboard WiFi.
They’re also free to play video poker, just like hardworking Senator John McCain. And like Senators, taking private shuttle buses insulates tech workers from having to deal with ordinary people on public transit. You would be amazed at all the resentment there is toward the Google buses. Maybe it’s because all those highly-paid tech workers are driving up rents and sales prices, forcing everyone else to move to the East Bay.
Meanwhile, in order to figure out the unpublished list of private shuttle bus stops, Wired had to hire a bunch of bike messengers to follow the buses… and scribble notes on paper.