On December 13th the New York Times published the following Op-Ed / marketing piece by Allison Arieff, editor and content strategist for SPUR:

What Tech Hasn’t Learned From Urban Planning by Allison Arieff

SAN FRANCISCO — The tech sector is, increasingly, embracing the language of urban planning — town hall, public square, civic hackathons, community engagement. So why are tech companies such bad urbanists?

Tech companies are scrambling to move into cities — Google will have a larger presence here. VISA and Akamai have ditched the suburbs to come here. Tech tenants now fill 22 percent of all occupied office space in San Francisco — and represented a whopping 61 percent of all office leasing in the city last year. But they might as well have stayed in their suburban corporate settings for all the interacting they do with the outside world. The oft-referred-to “serendipitous encounters” that supposedly drive the engine of innovation tend to happen only with others who work for the same company. Which is weird.   Read more ….


1) The piece is an Op-Ed by the author Allison Arieff who works for SPUR, a pro-development, pro-gentrification organization;

2) Arieff devotes a good portion of her op-ed to highlight 5M Project: “a mixed-use project at San Francisco’s 5th and Mission that is determined to be a public asset as much as a private sector one. 5M shows that tech (and non-tech) companies can become an essential part of the urban fabric in a way that satisfies employees and their neighbors. The project houses tech companies (most recently, the mobile payment company, Square, which is moving down the street; their space will be taken over by Yahoo engineers) but also The San Francisco Chronicle. This is a much more outward-facing endeavor: With weekly food trucks at lunchtime, numerous public events hosted by their tenants, which include TechShop, HubSoma (a co-working space/tech incubator), and Intersection for the Arts (a gallery), 5M builds on the vitality of public space and the people who activate it.”

3) 5M Project is Forest City Enterprises, a $9-billion publicly traded corporation that often uses eminent domain to displace residents, including the infamous Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Check out one of the trailers for the film “Battle For Brooklyn” about the project here:

4) Alexa Arena, director of Forest City Enterprises / 5M Project in San Francisco is a Vice Chair on the Board at SPUR where the author of this op-ed, Allison Arieff works – so this article appears to really be part of 5M / Forest City Enterprises’ marketing campaign.

5) While Arieff makes some good, valid points regarding the tech sector’s colonization of public space, her op-ed lacks a deeper analysis of the overall impact on the greater community – those who are housing unstable and who are low- and middle- income and how projects such as 5M Project/ Forest City are actually a considerable part of the problem and the colonization of public space, helping to displace longtime residents – especially communities of color and immigrant populations and strongly contributing to the gentrification of San Francisco.

6) In addition to the South of Market neighborhood Forest City is also working to gentrify the Bayview / Hunter’s Point neighborhood through the same tactics that Afieff outlines here – by appearing to be a part of the community and investing in it, when in fact the ultimate goal is pure profit for the corporation’s stock holders.

Rigo 23, 2012

Several folks have contacted Clarion Alley Mural Project in the last few months to let us know that they had been harassed on the alley for money by guys with “druggie auras” – and in some cases paint cans, and who at times have become verbally aggressive and have made visitors to the alley nervous and uncomfortable.

CAMP is, and has been aware of this situation for sometime. Here’s the deal – these guys (and so far, all we know of and have heard about are men) are homeless or housing unstable and part of the street community. They really aren’t “bad people,” rather the opposite – at heart they’re very kind and really do care about the alley and the murals – as the space is part of their home and it is their community. However, they’re struggling and often desperate because they are in pain – physically, emotionally, and/or mentally … or they’re hungry … or cold … or in desperate need of medical care. Some are addicted to drugs/alcohol … and some are recovering from addiction … or are seriously trying to get help. So far we aren’t aware of any incidents in which anyone has become physically violent. At least one of them is formally part of CAMP – and often helps with maintaining the murals on the alley. In fact, he’s one of the primary folks who regularly repairs murals and cleans up tags – as he’s an artist and he cares about the alley because it is his home/community.

However, from a broader perspective, these guys reflect a much deeper concern – one that’s become especially glaring in San Francisco – the growing divide and disparity between the rich and everyone else. San Francisco’s “leadership” is catering heavily to the wealthy – in every way, shape, and form – and leaving everyone else struggling, and often desperate, and many on the street with NO alternatives. Many of the city’s services have been closed, or whittled way down. There’s a sit/lie ordinance in place, which is a direct attack on the homeless/housing unstable. The city supervisors recently voted to close the parks at night; they’ve voted to give huge tax breaks/exemptions to the very companies who are in part responsible for driving housing costs way beyond what middle and lower income people can afford – driving many folks to housing instability; they did nothing to oppose the closure of the chess games in mid-market; and most have supported (directly or indirectly) the developers and corporate interests that are destroying San Francisco’s middle and lower income residents, its longstanding creative culture, its non-profits, its city services, its infrastructure … its soul.

Sadly, San Francisco is becoming a city that invests heavily in shit – literally – as it continues to cultivate a culture that spends much of its money on high-end restaurants and boutique foodie ventures so that its new 1% residents are blowing hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars in an hour or less – so they can just shit on the rest of the city … while many of the folks they’re pushing out are on the streets and starving …