Senior and disability advocates blocked two tech buses for half an hour in the Mission District this morning to protest rising eviction rates of vulnerable San Francisco residents.
Holding banners sporting phrases like “Eviction Free San Francisco,” protestors said the tech buses, which transport employees of companies like Google, Apple and Facebook from San Francisco to their campuses in Silicon Valley, have caused property values to skyrocket, leading to a sharp increase in evictions of people who can least afford them.
“They’re a symbol of the arrogance and takeover of the city,” said Tony Robles, 50, a housing organizer with Senior & Disability Action, which organized the protest.
“The techies come and say, ‘We’ve got the money, you’ve got to go,” said Rene Yañez, 71, an esteemed Mission artist who is facing eviction from his home of 36 years. “We have to resist the situation.”
Sixty-nine percent of no-fault evictions happen within four blocks of a tech bus stop, according to data compiled by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.
Evictions under the Ellis Act, which allows a property owner to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business, have gone up markedly over the last several years. Seventy-two percent of people evicted under the Ellis Act in 2012 were seniors and people with disabilities, according to Senior & Disability Action.
“Techies, techies, tell your friend: don’t rent where Ellis has been,” chanted dozens of people in front of the two large white buses at today’s protest.
Protestors managed to position themselves in front of the two buses heading south on Valencia Street just past the 24th Street intersection at 9 a.m. One bus was for Apple employees; the other couldn’t be identified.
“The Google bus slipped by,” Robles said. “The driver was an eel.”
Today is the first day tech shuttles will begin paying a fee of $3.55 per stop per day to use Muni bus stops. Previously, tech buses have been using the stops for free.
One disabled protestor said the tech buses make it difficult for her to access public transportation.
“I can’t get to the bus in my wheelchair when the Muni bus can’t pull up to the curb” because a tech bus is in the way, said Mira Ingram, 45, a Tenderloin resident who was evicted from her home in 1997.
Fran Taylor, 64, said she was there protesting at the age of 27 in 1977 when elderly residents were famously evicted from the International Hotel in old Manilatown almost exactly 37 years ago.
“We invite the 27-year-olds on these buses to do something,” Taylor said. “They’re going to be old, too.”
Would-be tech bus passengers sat in the buses as they stood immobile at the stop or paced the intersection to see if another bus was on its way. They were close-lipped about the protest.
San Francisco police officers stood nearby the protest but did not intervene. At 9:24 a.m., protestors called an end to the action, and a few minutes later, police officers asked stragglers to clear the street.
The two buses were on their way by 9:30 a.m.
Drew Himmelstein, Bay City News