Tensions Between “Techies” and Local Kids Spark Gentrification Debate
A recent YouTube video showing a confrontation between local San Franciscans and tech industry employees, has sparked controversy in the City. Many see it as an illustration of the evolving local neighborhood resistance against the tech industry culture and its employees.
Tech tensions high on the field
The video, just under five minutes long, shows what have since been identified as Airbnb and Dropbox employees arguing with a group of local Mission district kids about their right to play soccer at Mission Playground, located on Valencia between 19th and 20th Streets.
The tech employees rented out the field for an hour from the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department at the cost of $27. The youths also using the field argue that the playground has never been rented, and has historically been a “pick-up-and-play” field, (the equivalent of first come first-served).
So far, the video seems to be creating mixed emotions throughout San Francisco, and within online communities. Many see the argument as an illustration of the heightening tensions between some of San Francisco’s long-term residents, and some of the newcomers that are often associated with the tech industry. Others point out that the techies did legally reserve the space and the real fault is with the Recreation and Parks Department, that started the online system. (BREAKING – Rec and Park says today it will end the controversial system). Regardless, tensions in the community still stand.
After the video began to gain primarily negative attention over the weekend, Dropbox employee, Jean-Denis Greze wrote two tweets apologizing for the incident. The first said, “Deeply sorry about the Mission Playground incident. I do care about my community.” This was immediately followed by a second tweet that said, “What I said was insensitive and embarrassing to both Dropbox and me. In case it helps, we worked it out that day so everyone got to play.” This claim holds true in the video, as the last few seconds show the two groups agreeing to both play together on the field.
Dropbox, also issued a formal apology which reads:
“We love San Francisco and are grateful to call it home. That’s why we were disappointed to learn that a couple of our employees weren’t respectful to this community. The employees involved are embarrassed and have apologized. We’re sorry, and we promise to do better.”
No such formal apology has yet been made by Airbnb, where one of the main instigators in the video is employed.
Valleywag and Uptown Almanac originally broke the story and was also the source that discovered that those in the video were Dropbox and Airbnb employees. According to this story, “sources tell Valleywag that Dropbox was playing Airbnb in a corporate league.” The article further reports that Conor Welch, the individual holding the permit and arguing with the youths in the video, works as a “Community Support Lead” for Airbnb.
Local Activists to Protest Thursday
Although the incident sparked tensions and controversial debate between San Franciscans, concerning local communities and the loosely defined “tech” community, much of the frustration from local activists is aimed at San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department.
In 2011, the city put revenue-generating initiatives in place at many of the city’s parks. This meant that vendors could sell goods at Mission-Dolores Park, parts of Golden Gate park, and others, could be rented out for private events, and sports fields could be rented out in time slots, where the city charges per player. This is the legal permit shown in the video by the tech industry employees.
Uptown Almanac and SFist reported that the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club is planning a protest at City Hall for Thursday. According to the articles, they plan to reject Recreation & Parks’ reservation system. The reported demands include:
- An immediate end to the privatization of Mission Playground and for all public access to be restored
- All privatized use for adults of Mission Playground and other youth-used recreation spaces throughout the city undergo community review planned by the neighborhood
- Community customs and park traditions be followed and supported by San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department
- Full-time San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department staff be assigned to monitor Mission Playground
Stay tuned to Reset for updates on this story.