Offer from Zapier comes as high-paid tech workers in Bay Area have complained about the cost of living in a region that suffers from a major housing shortage
A Silicon Valley startup is paying employees $10,000 to leave Silicon Valley.
Zapier, an automation company founded in 2011, has announced that it is offering new recruits a hefty de-location package if theyre willing to move away from the Bay Area, an unusual perk that offers yet another sign of the worsening housing crisis in northern California.
Zapier, where all employees work remotely, recently announced that if current Bay Area residents were interested in improving their familys standard of living by relocating, the firm would provide $10,000 in moving reimbursements. Since CEO Wade Foster posted about the package last week, the uptick in applicants has been dramatic, he said in an interview.
A lot of folks just have a difficult time making the Bay Area a long-term home, he said, noting that the firm heard from roughly 150 job applicants over the weekend, including 50 who specifically mentioned the de-location offer. Housing is really challenging.
Recent deaths challenge citys identity as a bastion of humanitarian values and injects urgency into debate on how to address homelessness as rents are soaring
One morning in mid-January, after days of intense rain, Tom White trudged to the back of an empty, muddy lot he owns across from Berkeley high school. He noticed a mound against the fence, next to some old tarps.
At first I thought it was another pile of garbage someone had dumped, White said. Then he looked closer. I realized thats human hair, thats a human shape. I just stood there and noticed there were no signs of life.
A woman, clad in layers of sweaters, was soaked and doubled over in a squat. She held an empty bottle. White called 911 and the body of the woman, later identified as 55-year-old Laura Jadwin, was taken away by the coroner. She was one of at least four homeless people to die in the past few months on the streets of Berkeley, California.
The deaths, in the middle of one of the coldest, wettest winters in years, have challenged Berkeleys idea of itself as a bastion of progressive and humanitarian values. They have also injected fresh urgency into a bitter debate over how to address homelessness when rents are soaring and affordable housing is vanishing.
Literally the soul and the character of our city is at stake, said Jesse Arreguin, Berkeleys recently elected mayor. Homelessness, he said, is a humanitarian crisis and its increasing every week. We have to address this issue more effectively.
For years, Berkeley has been known to locals by one of two nicknames: the Peoples Republic of Berkeley, birthplace of both the free speech movement and the Symbionese Liberation Army; and Berzerkeley, a time capsule of hippies and head shops. A festival named How Berkeley Can You Be?, now defunct, encapsulated the milieu: it brought together naked people, anti-circumcision activists and fire-breathers.
Yet today, Berkeleys values are clashing with unyielding economic realities. In recent years, its downtown has exploded with pricey restaurants and upscale apartment buildings catering to young technologists and researchers. Nearly 900 units are now under construction or approved.
Berkeley median rents have soared more than 40% in the past three years, to $3,483 a month, according to real estate firm Zillow. Meanwhile the homeless population has grown from 680 in 2009 to probably more than 1,000 today, according to the mayor. Strikingly, this is around 1% of the citys population.
There is a direct association between how fast rents are growing and how much homelessness there is in cities, said Svenja Gudell, Zillows chief economist.
Big tech companies pay some of the countrys best salaries. But workers claim the high cost of living in the Bay Area has them feeling financially strained
I didnt become a software engineer to be trying to make ends meet, said a Twitter employee in his early 40s who earns a base salary of $160,000. It is, he added, a pretty bad income for raising a family in the Bay Area.
The biggest cost is his $3,000 rent which he said was ultra cheap for the area for a two-bedroom house in San Francisco, where he lives with his wife and two kids. Hed like a slightly bigger property, but finds himself competing with groups of twentysomethings happy to share accommodation while paying up to $2,000 for a single room.
Families are priced out of the market, he said, adding that family-friendly cafes and restaurants have slowly been replaced by hip coffee shops.
Silicon Valleys latest tech boom, combined with a housing shortage, has caused rents to soar over the last five years. The citys rents, by one measure, are now the highest in the world.
The prohibitive costs have displaced teachers, city workers, firefighters and other members of the middle class, not to mention low-income residents.
Now techies, many of whom are among the highest 1% of earners, are complaining that they, too, are being priced out.
The Twitter employee said he hit a low point in early 2014 when the company changed its payroll schedule, leaving him with a hole in his budget. I had to borrow money to make it through the month.
He was one of several tech workers, earning between $100,000 and $700,000 a year, who vented to the Guardian about their financial situation. Almost all of them spoke only on the condition of anonymity, or agreed only to give their first names, fearing retribution by their employers for speaking publicly about their predicament.
The American dream is not working out here
Complaints from well-compensated tech workers will sound like chutzpah to many of the other 99% who are struggling to get by on a fraction of their income. But there appears to be a growing frustration among tech workers who say that they are struggling to get by.
Facebook engineers last year even raised the issue with founder Mark Zuckerberg, asking whether the company could subsidize their rents to make their living situation more affordable, according to an executive at the company who has since departed.
Tech economy is drawing new inhabitants and businesses but is contributing to dislocation, leaving families, teachers and even principals with housing woes
Every night for the past year or so, Adriana and Omar Chavez have slept in an RV parked in East Palo Alto, a downtrodden community in Silicon Valley.
On a recent morning before sunrise, they emerged on to the empty street. Omar showed his phone to his wife: 7.07am. Shall I wake up the girls? he said, his breath visible in the freezing air.
He headed inside to rouse their three daughters, huddled together in the low-ceilinged bed just above the drivers cab, and ready them for school.
In most places, the Chavez family would be an exception. But in the school district that includes East Palo Alto, located amid the extraordinary wealth generated by the tech industry, their plight is not uncommon.
Remarkably, slightly more than one-third of students or 1,147 children are defined as homeless here, mostly sharing homes with other families because their parents cannot afford one of their own, and also living in RVs and shelters. The district is being squeezed from every side: teachers, administrative staff and even principals have housing woes of their own.
The circumstances of the crisis are striking. Little more than a strip of asphalt separates East Palo Alto from tony Palo Alto, with its startups, venture capitalists, Craftsman homes and Whole Foods.
You used to say youre on the wrong side of the tracks. Now youre on the wrong side of the freeway, said Gloria Hernandez-Goff, the hard-charging superintendent of Ravenswood City school district, which has eight schools and a preschool.
The Martinellis try to preserve their family history and the agricultural spirit of the valley that is now surrounded on all sides by the tech company
A Bay Area family is holding on to its ramshackle farmstead in the heart of Googles sprawling headquarters despite reason to believe it has been offered $5m to $7m by the tech giant for the tiny patch of land.
The land which is home to battered pickups, a crumbling ice house, and a handful of renters is now surrounded on all sides by the tech companys more than 25-acre campus in Mountain View, California.
Measuring less than an acre, the property is also home to fig, tangerine, avocado and ancient pepper trees, many of which were planted and harvested by the late patriarch of the family, Victor Molinari, who died five years ago.
His surviving relatives appear disinclined to sell.
Right now were living, said Leonard Martinelli, 49. We dont need the money. Right now its not for sale. His sister, Sandra Martinelli Bilyeu, 43, added: If we keep it, we keep our history.
But it is not only the familys history that is being preserved.
Silicon Valley may now be synonymous with tech behemoths such as Google, Apple and Facebook, but not so long ago it was miles of lush farm fields where plums, cherries and tomatoes grew in abundance.
Although Silicon Valley has been generous to the point of extravagance in preserving its own history the massive Computer History Museum is almost exactly one mile away from the farmstead the industry and its supporters have been less enthusiastic about memorializing anything before the advent of high tech.
I dont think anyone sees any historic significance in the property, said Mountain View city councilman Leonard Siegel. Eventually all these properties are going to go. Theres nothing unique about them.
Its not as if the Golden Era of Mountain View was when it was agricultural, added Siegel, who describes himself as a professional environmental advocate. Silicon Valleys strength is its permanent sense of evolution.
That sentiment was called unfortunate and not surprising by Brian Grayson of the valleys preservation action council. The fabric of a community comes from what happened here. Newcomers have no connection to why we came here except for more jobs. Thats it for them.
Those newcomers have transformed the agricultural land south of San Francisco into one of the most expensive swaths of real estate in the world, and the Martinelli family has witnessed the value of its land rocket.
That land is worth probably $5m-7m, according to Myron Von Raesfeld, a leading real estate expert in the valley and former president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors. I have reason to believe theyve been offered that kind of money from Google.
Google declined to respond to inquiries about the attempted purchase of the property.
At least 36 died at a Ghost Ship party but survivors are among those who say communal spaces should be cherished in a city where rents have gone sky-high
A devastating warehouse fire that killed at least 36 people has shone a harsh light on a housing crisis in Oakland and its consequences for artists and low-income residents.
The fire, which broke out during a party at the Ghost Ship warehouse on Friday night, sent shockwaves through the underground arts and music scene in the northern California city where rapidly rising rents have forced people to live and make art in shared and sometimes hazardous spaces.
Some reports have cast blame on the artists and residents associated with the warehouse where so many people died, trapped in a building that lacked basic fire safety mechanisms.
Long-time Oaklanders and tenants rights activists, however, said the tragedy was a symptom of a major affordability crisis and the long-term failure of urban housing policy to protect the most vulnerable people.
Grieving artists many still waiting for official news about friends who went missing in the fire said on Sunday the city must find a way to ensure that underground performance spaces, live-work warehouses and overcrowded homes were safe, without shutting down venues and evicting tenants.
The scope of the loss is terrifying, said Sarah Carlberg, assistant director of a local book festival. She was priced out of Oakland last year and had friends who were at the Ghost Ship party.
Each one of these people were only at that venue by virtue of the fact that they were very engaged artists the people who make Oakland what it is.
Vital to the fabric of Oakland
Oakland sits across the bay from San Francisco, the most expensive city in the US. Experimental musicians and independent artists have long made use of its unconventional venues and cooperative living spaces.
Warehouse parties have been a central part of Oakland for decades, said Nihar Bhatt, a DJ and record label owner who survived the Ghost Ship fire.
The citys underground spaces, which may lack traditional permits or business licenses, are particularly vital for LGBT artists and people of color often excluded from the mainstream industry, dominated by white men, he added.
Theres a movement in Oakland of experimental black and brown and queer people who dont necessarily want to be in a bar or a club, Bhatt said.
Russell Butler, a musician who was outside the venue and witnessed the fire, said in an email interview that underground venues were vital to the fabric of Oakland, not only because of the opportunities they provided for under-represented artists, but also because many functioned as welcoming spaces for marginalized people who felt unsafe in licensed clubs where they may be harassed or assaulted for just trying to live their lives.
The Oakwood area of Los Angeless coastal resort is changing fast on the back of the Silicon Valley boom and a gang injunction some say amounts to harassment
African Americans helped to build Venice a century ago, gifting Los Angeles a coastal resort, but were banned from owning homes along the boardwalk and canals, which were reserved for white folk.
Instead a one-square-mile cluster of streets a mile inland, away from tourist view, was set aside for black residents. It was called Oakwood and became a tight-knit community with vibrant street life, neighbours saluting each other from porches.
Its nickname, Ghost Town, possibly alluded to life in the shadows. It was one of the only enclaves for blacks, and later Latinos, close to the ocean on the entire US west coast.
These days Ghost Town has a new meaning.
All the people that used to live here have moved out, said Charles Williamson, 84, a retired clerk. Took the money and run. Or couldnt afford to live here. Or got harassed out of it.
Venice, a chameleon that has been an oil town, bohemian idyll, crumbling ghetto and tourist mecca, is adopting a new guise: tech citadel.
Tech-driven gentrification is also transforming San Francisco, Oakland and other California cities but in Venice there is a twist. A police gang injunction is allegedly accelerating the process by hounding black and Latino residents.
A drastic measure adopted in 1999 to contain gang violence has endured even though Oakwood is now largely peaceful, with gang members dead, retired or dispersed. The injunction covers parts of adjacent Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a parade of chi-chi boutiques, cafes and restaurants which GQ dubbed the coolest block in America.
Members of Oakwoods dwindling population of colour allege police use the injunctions extensive powers to harass them while turning a blind eye to infractions by white arrivals.
Exclusive: lawsuit paints disturbing picture of company that targeted Latinos, low-income tenants and those with mental disabilities in illegal eviction scheme
The Latino families all got the same threat posted on their doors: if their children played in the apartments hallways, they would be evicted. When the Spanish-speaking parents asked the Los Angeles property managers for help reading the notices, they were told: Learn English.
According to a federal discrimination lawsuit filed Thursday against a major California real estate investment firm, when four mothers inquired about the notices, management threatened to call immigration, social services and the police.
I was in shock, said Carmen Castro, one of the mothers. That really created a fear in us.
The complaint against Optimus Properties paints a disturbing picture of a company that has targeted and harassed Latino residents, low-income tenants and renters with mental disabilities as part of an illegal eviction scheme to replace them with wealthier, younger people.
Civil rights advocates said the suit, filed on behalf of 15 tenants and advocacy group Strategic Alliance for a Just Economy, provides a window into the tactics of profit-driven real estate investors who are aggressively purchasing and flipping older buildings, accelerating gentrification, displacement and income inequality in cities across the US.
In November 1966, the birthplace of the hippie movement was shaken by a confrontation that was an early salvo in the culture wars to come
Fifty years ago this week, a riot took place on Los Angeless famous Sunset Boulevard. Bemused reports appeared in the days that followed with headlines like Long Hair Nightmare: Juvenile Violence on Sunset Strip, and Anarchy on Sunset Strip. All of them speculating on why middle-class, mainly white, youths should riot on a street better known for elegant Hollywood nightspots. Although the street cuts through Los Angeles, from Figueroa Street to the Pacific Coast highway, the riot, AKA the hippie riots and the Sunset Strip Curfew Riots, occurred right in its heartland, in and around 8118 Sunset Blvd, just off Crescent Heights. The focal point was Pandoras Box, originally a jazz club but since 1962 an independent music venue and gathering place for long-haired and mini-skirted youths in search of music, recreational drugs and casual sex.
From the perspective of local bankers, restaurateurs and real estate moguls, the alcohol-free, purple and gold Pandoras Box, located on a mid-boulevard traffic island, had become a magnet for an unseemly, ie cash-strapped, possibly subversive, crowd. Business leaders railed against the newcomers, claiming they were causing late-night traffic congestion. Their answer: remove the island, widen the road, put in a three-way traffic signal and turn the locale into a high-rise business area. To facilitate their plan, local businesses pressed the city council to pass ordinances that would ban loitering, establish a 10pm curfew, and demolish the building once and for all.
For those who congregated in the area, their soundtrack consisting of Dylan, the Byrds, Frank Zappa, Buffalo Springfield, Love and the Doors, the curfew was nothing less than an infringement of their civil liberties and right to gather in public. This exacerbated by the fact that over the previous months police had arrested thousands of young hippie-types, most of them guilty of nothing more than hanging out on particular streets. Which is why on 12 November, the Fifth Estate coffee house, located a block from Pandoras Box, printed and passed out flyers that read, Protest Police Mistreatment of Youth on Sunset Blvd. No More Shackling of 14 and 15 year olds. Written by two teenagers, the flyers called for a peaceful protest that night in front of Pandoras Box. Local radio disc jockeys announced the event as well. That night about 3,000 teenagers showed up carrying signs with slogans like Cops Uncouth to Youth and Give Back Our Streets. Also in attendance was a smattering of hip Hollywood, such as Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.
Pro-tenant group says a landlord who has a seat on Oaklands housing cabinet is also the top evictor in the city, where a housing crunch has reached crisis levels
Leketha Williams was out of options. When the Oakland, California, mother was evicted and became homeless in May of 2010, she had just enough money to book a hotel for her and her two sons, then aged seven and 12.
In the following weeks, she worked to get her children to school on time each morning before carrying all of their belongings from one temporary home to the next, often forced to make dinners for the family out of hotel microwaves.
Williams had fallen behind on rent during a difficult financial period and had begged her landlords for mercy, writing in one handwritten letter: Please let us stay for at least a week because my boys do not have anywhere to go Do it for the sake of my boys.
But records show the sheriff ultimatelyforced her to surrender her apartment.
It was horrible, Williams, 47, recalled in a recent interview. I was very shocked They didnt give us no time.
Its possible that Williamss story could have turned out differently had she not lived in a building managed by William Rosetti. A review of public records by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a pro-tenant group, suggests that the Bay Area real estate executive, through his expansive portfolio of property companies and investments, is Oaklands number one mega-evictor.
The organizations research and an analysis by the Guardian reveal that in Oakland, Rosetti and his business firms have filed more than 3,000 eviction notices, which are the first step in removing a tenant. The data, along with accounts from evicted tenants, paint a picture of painful displacement and rising income inequality in Oakland, a city that is rapidly gentrifying amid the tech boom of nearby San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
These evictions and the rent increases are part of an ecosystem thats leading to a massive demographic shift of who can live in Oakland, said Erin McElroy, co-founder of the mapping project and co-author of a new report on displacement in the region.
Evictions arent the only way Rosetti may be having an impact on Oakland. The researchers were particularly shocked to discover that the apparent top evictor has a seat on Mayor Libby Schaafs housing cabinet, a body dedicated to promoting equity and affordable housing in an increasingly unaffordable city.
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