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by Cody Wright
Tech giant Google once used the slogan “don’t be evil” as a company motto. Coined to project its corporate values, the slogan has since been retired. Now it has returned with a twist, as a rallying cry to San Franciscans who believe the mega-firm is failing to take responsibility for negative changes it is bringing about in their city.
As the Google I/O developers conference got underway inside of San Francisco’s Moscone Center Wednesday, a crowd of several dozen protesters gathered outside chanting “Be a force for good. Treat your workers like you should.”
Supervisor John Avalos stood with the protestors, drawing cheers as he addressed the crowd.
“You have companies like Google that have lots of wealth,” said Avalos “They can’t just keep that wealth in their hands. You can’t just have winners and losers, its unsustainable.”
Google sustained a public relations black eye after news emerged that its attorney, Jack Halprin, bought a seven-unit flat on Guerrero Street and used the Ellis Act to evict all the tenants and create a spacious private home for himself.
As evictions continue to rise, many residents of San Francisco are pointing their fingers at the tech boom that has swept the city. According to the San Francisco Rent Board annual report, from March 1,2013 to Feb. 28, 2014, landlords filed nearly 2,000 eviction notices, up 220 since 2013 and climbing.
Claudia Tirado, one of the Guerrero tenants, is fighting back. The mother of a 31-week-old son, Tirado said she was devastated to lose her home.
“I wanna play in my city, I want to stay in my city,” Tirado told the crowd. “This guy is all about money. He has no compassion.”
Shanell Williams, a 26-year resident of San Francisco and Jobs For Justice activist, says the situation is not hopeless.
“I believe we have the resources for our city to remain diverse,” Williams said.
“I want Google to be a good neighbor. I want them to use the resources they have to support more affordable housing and diversity.”
Google released a statement regarding the protest.
“Thousands of Googlers call the Bay Area home, and we want to be good neighbors,” it reads. “Since 2011 we’ve given more than $70 million to local projects and employees have volunteered thousands of hours in the community. We’re excited to be expanding that work in 2014 with the recent Bay Area Impact Challenge winners–several of them have even joined us at I/O.”
Additionally, Mission Local reports that the tech giant’s vice president of communications, Rachel Whetstone, has promised to “help out” Tirado.
The plea for a change in San Francisco is only getting growing louder.
“We have all this wealth that going to the wealthy, not going back into our neighborhoods,” Avalos said. Avalos and others want to see more community investment by the many tech firms that have set up shop in the bay area.
“We have a few years left to be able (to steer) this city in a direction that supports working people,” Avalos said, “maybe two or three years. And then it gets so much more challenging to shift things back.”