November 10, 2013
Impacted by sky-rocketing rents and evictions, San Francisco residents demonstrated Thursday outside Twitter headquarters following the social media company’s highly anticipated first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The noon rally – co-organized by a coalition of groups including SOMCAN, Bill Sorro Housing Program, SEIU, Senior and Disability Action, Eviction Free San Francisco, and the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee – was held to protest what some are calling “corporate welfare” in the form of payroll and stock-option tax breaks worth as much as $56 million gifted by the city to Twitter and other tech companies in an effort to spur economic growth, while displacement and gentrification impacts to residents, including low-income seniors and disabled tenants, have been largely overlooked.
Initially offered at $26 per share, Twitter’s share price almost doubled at the end of Thursday’s trading session, closing at $44.90 per share and creating as many as 1,600 new millionaires and an $18 billion company market valuation.
Demonstrators chanted slogans and held signs that read, “#gentrification,” “People over profit”, “No to evictions,” and “$56 million in tax breaks – Are you Twittin’ me?”
The influx of high-income tech workers to San Francisco has resulted in an eviction and affordability crisis resulting in a 170 percent increase in evictions since February 2010, and a median monthly apartment rental rate of $3,414.
“Evictions have been going up exponentially every month,” said SF Tenants Union Executive Director Ted Gullikson. “Each month is bigger than the last month and over the last year they’ve gone up well over 100 percent.”
“It’s a huge problem, right now,” Gullikson added. “It’s a crisis.”
Gullickson said though the city is bound by state law including the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict tenants on the basis of repurposing a building’s use including tenancy-in-common conversations – efforts are underway to implement city policy to discourage evictions by mandating increased relocation benefits as well as prohibiting TIC conversions following an Ellis Act eviction.
“We are able to go after the motives of the Ellis Act and that’s what we’re going to be trying to do,” Gullickson said.