Google Pays For Two Years Of Muni For Youth, Wants Info About SF’s Other “Affordability Challenges”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced today that Google is donating $6.8 million to fund the next two years of the city’s Free Muni for Youth program amidst ongoing protests against plans to let the company’s private commuter buses use municipal bus stops.

The Free Muni for Youth program started as a 16-month pilot last March, after the San Francisco Unified School District decided to reduce the use of yellow school buses for transporting students to and from school, according to the mayor’s office.

Previously: Google To Fund Next Two Years Of Free Muni for Youth Program

The program currently allows more than 31,000 qualifying low- and moderate-income youth between 5 and 17 years old to ride San Francisco Municipal Railway buses and light-rail vehicles at no cost.

Before today’s announcement of Google’s donation, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors had been considering whether to renew or possibly expand the program.

Mayor Lee said in a statement that, “with this unprecedented gift from Google, we can keep this successful pilot program running for at least two more years at no cost to taxpayers or Muni riders and free up critical funds for other vital Muni maintenance and services.”

Lee said “Google is demonstrating with real action and real resources that they are a true partner in addressing our city’s affordability crisis for lower and middle-income families.”

SFUSD Superintendent Richard A. Carranza said more than 28,000 of the city’s public school students “come from households where their families struggle to make ends meet.”

Carranza said that having free Muni available for low-income youth is a great way for Google to support the city’s children and families.

Lee said he is hopeful that the donation is the first of a number of steps that will make the city “more affordable, more compassionate, more inclusive.”

Mountain View-based Google and other local technology companies have come under criticism recently because of concerns that high tech salaries are driving gentrification and increasing rising costs of living in San Francisco, and for problems related to the companies’ commuter buses.

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, an initial advocate for the Free Muni for Youth program and one of the critics of the so-called “Google buses,” agreed that the donation was a good first step and said it gives him hope that the “tech industry can be a part of the solution.”

Campos said, “I’m looking forward to working with the tech industry in the future on other important issues like housing, jobs, and tenant protections.”

While no Google representatives were at today’s press conferences at City Hall, Lee said that after meeting with the tech company, he was sure that “they do not want to be viewed as some corporate entity in opposite of the values of this city.”

Another Google initiative in the works is creating wi-fi capability in 35 of the city’s parks, Lee said.

Google has also requested additional information about the city’s affordability challenges so as to better work with the city to tackle those issues, according to Lee.

The mayor said that the employees working for Google and other tech companies were attracted to the city’s eclectic neighborhoods and should work to preserve them. While Lee said the city is now known as a tech innovation capital, it should remain true to its roots as a city that is inviting to artists and working class citizens.

Activists who gathered on the steps of City Hall to celebrate the announcement this afternoon urged the public to address related issues.

One of the major problems with the current Free Muni for Youth program highlighted by activists, who support the program, is that many high school students turn 18 years old before graduating and lose their eligibility for the Free Muni for Youth program.

Activists such as Manuela Esteva, a leader in the Free Muni for Youth coalition and a long time Mission District resident who spoke in Spanish with an English-speaking translator said that while the program helps families with their transportation needs, it is still difficult for working-class families to survive in San Francisco.

Esteva said she is facing eviction and that “while I feel grateful to companies like Google for making this type of donation to us, we also exhort them to support us in dealing with this housing crisis,” in which “low-income families are being pushed onto the streets.”

Hannah Albarazi/Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • Oakland Logic

    They aren’t being pushed into the streets. There are options between San Francisco house and street.

  • Michael Cheney

    Something rings hollow here… don’t get me wrong the monies from Google are great, the poorer kids in our City get a much needed break. But let us not forget how it all happened, and take a look at a similar sort of event that took place in another state.

    Republicans were beating their breasts at turning back vicious minded Arizona Legislation that would have made it legal to deny homosexuals full rights.

    Let us not forget… It was the Arizona Republican led State Legislators that put this outrageous act before their Governor. It clearly showed the ugly underbelly of right wingers in the GOP… Probably ill timed considering the 2014 elections drawing near. Probably why the GOP leaders stood up in the 11th hour against it.
    Now… left wing San Francisco hoists it’s own version of political hypocrisy.
    Google has gifted San Francisco $6.8 million to provide two free years of Muni bus rides for low income youth. One of the largest private contributions in our Cities history. Mayor Lee, Supervisor Wiener and others are beating their breast on Googles largesse for the poorest amongst us.
    Let us not forget… It was Google who simply ‘took over’ the bus stops as their own without so much as a ‘by your leave’, setting off a firestorm against these modern day ‘Aristocrats’.
    The press defended Google ‘They are keeping cars off our streets and reducing pollution’.Responding to the growing anger at the outright unfairness… from all sides, Mayor Lee and Supervisor Wiener, amongst others, hiding behind Prop 218, charged $1.00 per stop per use and Google accepted it without question. The press, compliant, including SF Weekly, said essentially “Ok… guess there is nothing to be done, it’s all legal’.
    But the worm has turned, this has been Googles worst PR disaster since cooperating with the Federal Government in turning over our private emails and search patterns.
    Then another shoe dropped… FaceBook bought WhatApp for $19 Billion dollars, a company with less than 50 employees. Unfairness now had a face… and Google had a change of heart.
    $6.8 million from Google, we are not ungrateful, but they can collect this money from beneath the seat cushions in their employee lounge.
    What about the rest of the dotcom bus Yahoo’s? (Pun intended). Time to take them to task. Fine them for illegally parking in Muni bus zones… Or they can do the right thing… contact Googles PR department for instructions.
    Down to brass tacks, the hundreds of high rise office buildings and hotels in San Francisco need to also step up. Hiding in plain sight for years, their workers and even their guests ride on back of Muni, they couldn’t operate without it… But do not pay their fair share.
    While were on the subject of ‘fair’, lets widen the field.

    • Elias Levy

      What an incoherent rant.

      What does the bigoted Arizona law have to do with any of this?

      What does Facebook buying WhatApp have anything to do with this?

      Office buildings and hotels in SF need to step up to pay for Muni? Their employees and patrons already pay for their tickets. Why they should pay more than anyone else using the system?

      If the city needs to increase Muni revenues, they should simply increase the fares. If the fare increases unduly affect impoverished people, then Muni should operate a fare discount program based on financial hardship.

      If you feel Muni should not be financed through fares, then the city should pay for it from the general fund and increase revenue collection, either by increasing the payroll tax and/or the property tax.

      Targeting specific groups is just gibberish.

    • DarksoulLTD

      Arizona is irreverent to San Francisco