Jack Halprin, a landlord in the city's gentrifying Mission district,
became the focus of the latest blockade of a tech company commuter
bus, with protesters demanding Google ask Halprin to rescind
eviction notices he has sent his tenants.
Protesters told Reuters they will increasingly target individuals as
part of a strategy to draw attention to the growing divide between
rich and poor in San Francisco, a rift widened by a tech industry
boom that is inflating rents and exacerbating social problems such
"When you put a face on it, it suddenly becomes more real," Erin
McElroy, an organizer at Eviction-Free San Francisco, said of what
she views as a technology-driven housing crunch. About two dozen
protesters took part in Friday's action.
A Google spokeswoman and two lawyers for Halprin didn't immediately
respond for requests for comment. Halprin didn't immediately respond
to an email request for comment.
The prospect of facing protests on their own doorsteps may unnerve
technology industry employees across the Bay Area, many of whom are
becoming increasingly aware of the growing ill-will they face in a
region where housing prices are skyrocketing and salary growth is
anemic outside the tech sector.
While many technology workers say protesters should blame landlords
rather than their industry for rising rents and evictions, tenant
advocates believe the two are tightly linked.
In Halprin's case, court documents show he owns a Victorian-style
house with several apartments occupied by teachers and others.
Occupants say they received eviction notices at the end of February
informing them that Halprin wanted them out within 120 days.
Under a city law known as the Ellis Act, landlords may evict tenants
if they intend to take their units off the market, with plans to
convert rental units to condominiums, for example.
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The total number of Ellis Act evictions in the city jumped 25
percent to 1,716 in the year ended February 2013, according to a
report by San Francisco's budget and legislative analyst.
Late last year, protesters began to block the commuter buses that
ferry employees from San Francisco to the offices of tech companies,
including Facebook, Google and Yahoo, south of the city. The
unmarked, WiFi-equipped buses use public stops and are viewed by
many as a symbol of the industry's disconnect from a broader
community left behind by the tech boom.
Earlier this month, protesters targeted a partner at Google
Ventures, Kevin Rose, by passing out flyers in his neighborhood that
included Rose's address and labeled him a "parasite".
"As a partner venture capitalist at Google Ventures, Kevin directs
the flow of capital from Google into the tech startup bubble that is
destroying San Francisco," the flyers read.
In January, the same group, known as Counterforce, targeted the
suburban Berkeley home of a Google engineer. Flyers passed out in
his neighborhood read "Anthony Levandowski is building an
unconscionable world of surveillance, control and automation. He is
also your neighbor."
The flyers said Levandowski owned the land where a mixed-use housing
development was planned for downtown Berkeley.
(Editing by Edwin Chan; and Peter Galloway)
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