San Franciscans picked up picket signs emblazoned with “Shame on You!” and converged on Twitter HQ at 795 Folsom Street Tuesday morning to voice their displeasure at proposed tax breaks for the company. The company had asked for local tax exemptions to stay in San Francisco, and signed a letter of intent to do so earlier this month when the incentives were promised. The 50 or so protesters, according to reports, were not from any one group, but comprised a broad coalition of (hyper) local activists.
The South of Market Community Action Network (or SOMCAN), a local activist group devoted mostly to helping lower-income residents, had called for the demonstration with an exhortation to community leaders to “Stop Corporate Hustling! Stop the Land Grab!” and join it in marching on the building currently housing Twitter.
As a condition of staying in San Francisco, Twitter said it would need tax incentives, stating that it could save $30 million over 5 years by going elsewhere. The city, in turn, proposed an exemption from the city’s 1.5% payroll tax for any new workers hired in the next 6 years if the company relocated to the depressed Mid-Market neighborhood, an area city leaders are working to revitalize.
The proposed exemption is likely a driving force behind Twitter’s recent hiring spree. San Francisco is the only city in California that levies such a tax, and as Yelp spokesman Vince Sollitto told Bloomberg, “the payroll tax is a powerful disincentive to hiring.” Yelp and social gaming company Zynga, both based in San Francisco have also asked for the exemption in the weeks since Twitter signed its letter of intent.
And though San Francisco seems desperate to keep Twitter in the city, activists outside Twitter HQ Tuesday morning expressed skepticism that the company’s move to Mid-Market would help the neighborhood in meaningful ways. Further, the group found fault with Twitter’s request for mini-bus lines and increased police foot patrol as another condition of relocation. “Those things cost money!” said SOMCAN’s organizational director Angelica Cabande in a statement. “Who will pay those cops and bus drivers? The City — well really us since our money goes into the City!”