San Francisco Mayor Applauds Tech Industry as Public Concern About Skyrocketing Rents Grows

By Cameron Scott 

san francisco, tech industry, google, apple, facebook, salesforce, twitterSan Francisco mayor Ed Lee today pointed to the growth of the technology industry as a major success of his administration, even as anger in the city has mounted over skyrocketing rents and urban congestion worsened by the fleet of private buses that take workers to and from the campuses of the largest technology companies in Silicon Valley.

San Francisco, with a population of 800,000, is home to more than 1,800 technology businesses that employ 42,000 employees, Lee said. The number of companies is up by a fifth since Lee took office and the number of jobs is up by a third, according to statistics from real estate services firm CBRE.

The city has claimed a larger share of startups since Lee made the controversial move of waiving Twitter’s payroll taxes if it located in the city’s troubled Mid-Market area last year.

Lee said the same pocket of the city is now home to nearly a dozen other companies as well.

But even at the business-friendly Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit in the swank Ritz-Carlton hotel in Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, the interviewer and audience members wondered whether Lee hadn’t been too generous to technology, as skyrocketing rents have spurred an epidemic of evictions. Locals recently protested the private tech buses that deliver the tech workers to their San Francisco homes.

Lee pointed to a recent study that found that four additional jobs are created for each new position in the tech industry, as workers buy lunch and coffee and get haircuts. Unemployment rates have fallen from 9.6 percent to 5.4 percent since he took office in early 2011, he said.

Near Twitter’s offices, some 4,400 rental units are under construction, Lee said.

Asked whether it might be dangerous to bet so heavily on an industry that is notoriously volatile, Lee said, “It’s very critical for any mayor not to put all the eggs in one basket.”

Tourism remains San Francisco’s strongest industry, Lee said. But the policy efforts the mayor cited as a basis for the city’s long-term economic health relied on his partnerships with technology companies, such as his efforts to raise money for the city’s public schools with the help of Salesforce. Lee also recently sponsored a hackathon in search of improvements to city government and bureaucracy.