Saturday, October 24, 2020
Uncategorized City Beat: Airbnb, the cost of Google buses --...

City Beat: Airbnb, the cost of Google buses — and was there actually a protest at a Google employee’s house?


I have to admit: As a parent, I would have second thoughts about any kind of a noisy protest in front of the home of someone who has little kids. A certain political activist (who has since apologized) was mad about something I did at the Bay Guardian years ago, when my son was an infant, and he called my home number over and over in the middle of the night to yell at me, waking up the baby and generally making our lives that much more miserable.

So if there really was a serious protest at the home of a Google employee in Berkeley, we should maybe talk about that.

But a lot of people picked up the story of the protest from Indybay, where there were no pictures and just anonymous statements, without checking it out first. I still haven’t seen an eyewitness account from a reporter. Berkeleyside posted the news with the statement that “a group of activists say they went to the street” where Google X engineer Anthony Levandowski lives. Even the LA Times weighed in with the same story – and no additional evidence. Mother Jones said that protests are “getting creepy.” And all of this without any confirmation that it actually happened.

I hate to tell the news media this, but people post all kinds of stuff on Indybay.

The Berkeley Police, according to Susie Cagle, were never called to the scene. (Thanks Julia Wong for the tweets pointing this out). As far as I can tell with this “story,” a bunch of fliers were circulated and protesters with no name or contact information announced that they had been at the guy’s house. That’s it. That’s the basis for this fast-moving news story.

Maybe they did. Maybe a couple of people showed up early in the morning and stood there. The notion that it was a mass event with serious support from more than a tiny number of activists seems quite a stretch. None of the many groups that have worked on the bus protests had anything to do with it.

It’s true that somebody posted fliers with his name and address and some yes, creepy information suggesting they were stalking him. (Although the description of him walking out of his door with a child in one hand and a tablet in the other wearing Google Glasses is almost too much to believe.)

There have been plenty of protests in front of people’s homes; tenants have done it to landlords many times, and unions have picketed in front of the abodes of CEOs, and Code Pink practically has a campground out in front of the mansion of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. So it’s not that unusual or even radical a tactic. But not typically done to someone like this person, who is not an elected official and isn’t a big landlord with tenant issues or a corporate exec. with labor issues. He’s not even a top person at Google.

So I could easily argue that this wasn’t terribly productive strategy. If it turns out to lead to anything that would hurt or threaten his kids, then it’s far, far beyond acceptable.

But right now, other than the fliers, it’s not even a real story.

Except that it reminds everyone how tense the Class War is getting in the Bay Area. And that’s something the tech industry in general ought to be thinking about, and worrying about, and working to avoid (instead of trying to get the cheapest possible rates for its shuttles.)


Could San Francisco charge more than $1 a stop for the tech buses? Of course. A real study of the actual impacts of the corporate shuttles might look at the costs to the city of having Muni buses backed up, and traffic backed up behind them, and the impacts of displacement on car trips by people who work in lower-paid jobs in the city being forced to live far out of town … but no: The city got taken to the cleaners again in a negotiation where it’s clear nobody from the side of the public took a hardline stance.

What’s the cost to the tech companies (and actually, when we talk about Google and Facebook, we ought to be calling them advertising-delivery companies, because that’s what they are) of having protesters block their buses? What’s all the negative public relations worth? Doesn’t the new Ruling Class have any sense at all?

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at), follow @supermarke on Twitter.


  1. Anyone home over there? Your headline doubting whether the demonstration actually happened is still up, and my comment reporting that a credible person witnessed it has not yet been posted. Why?

  2. Does anyone have a story about what calculations led to that $1 figure? Not $1.17, not $0.96, but a nice round dollar?

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