Individuals targeted as San Francisco tech money protests intensify

Fri Apr 11, 2014 2:47pm EDT
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By Sarah McBride

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Demonstrations against the grip on San Francisco held by wealthy technology workers took a personal turn on Friday with protesters taking aim at a Google lawyer they say personifies the tensions being stirred by abundant tech money.

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 as evictions.

"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.   Continued...

Demonstrators shout during a rally in the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 11, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith