3bl logo
Subscribe

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

3p Weekend: 3 Ways #TechTitans Impact the Bay Area

Mary Mazzoni headshotWords by Mary Mazzoni
Leadership & Transparency
hero

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

The presence of large tech firms in the San Francisco Bay Area has skyrocketed in recent years. As tech titans expand their staff and bring more high-value employees to the region, increased stress is placed on the area's infrastructure, including housing and public transportation. Additionally, more highly-paid residents means more shops, restaurants and trendy coffee bars -- all staffed by employees who are quickly being priced out of the area.

The biggest names in tech generally have good reputations as corporate citizens. But many companies fail to go beyond traditional philanthropy in their corporate citizenship. Though philanthropy is all well and good, tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area are often isolated from the communities in which they operate, and in which their employees live and commute.

This constitutes a major blind spot.

These firms remain the largest value-generators in the Bay Area, but their ever-expanding footprint presents significant challenges that must be addressed. The following three issues are the most pronounced and require the most innovation and collaboration between companies and communities. Will tech titans rise to the occasion?

Housing


Along with a booming economy and demand for high-value tech employees have come massive increases in the cost of housing. In the past year alone, rent prices in San Francisco have increased by 15 percent, bringing the median rent price to a staggering $4,195. But that increase is nothing compared to the city's neighbors across the bridge: Rent prices in Berkeley shot up by 31 percent last year, while residents in Oakland and Emeryville saw prices increase by 22 percent and 26 percent respectively.

On average, rent prices in the Bay Area have increased by 15 percent since 2014, while salaries have risen by just 2 percent. In short, residents of all economic levels are feeling the pinch. While tech companies hire like crazy and pressure local municipalities for permission to build office space, there is often no one fighting at the local level for increased housing.

Can tech companies and communities collaborate to bring more affordable housing to the region? Can communities flourish without pricing longtime residents out? We'll address these questions and more in our upcoming multimedia series on tech titans as community citizens.

Transportation


The majority of tech campuses are located outside the city, but many tech employees prefer urban life to the suburbs of Silicon Valley. This leads to congested freeways and overtaxed public transportation, as thousands of tech commuters make hour-long journeys to their isolated office complexes.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s physical geography (a peninsula), and a lack of historical attention to mixed-use urban planning, have constrained affordable and desirable housing near centers of industry.

The result is long commutes that only get longer as populations boom and more workers hit the freeways. Of the staggering 3 million commuters in the Bay Area, only about 10 percent use public transportation.

While tech companies have tried to remedy the issue with solutions like the so-called Google Buses, the need for permanent and inclusive solutions remains. Can industry get there? We'll address this issue and more in our upcoming multimedia series on tech titans as community citizens.

Service economy


While tech company head-counts explode, service economy outfits like restaurants, bars, supermarkets, pharmacies, dry cleaners and coffee shops, as well as support services like landscaping, janitorial and housekeeping staff, come online to meet the daily needs of high-income employees.

While these businesses offer many new jobs, they don’t pay very well. And with the ballooning rent prices in the region, it becomes hard to imagine how minimum-wage employees can manage to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

The numbers don't make the case much better: The living wage in the Bay Area is $13.77 for a single adult, while the minimum wage is still just $9. A service industry employee can expect to take home around $22,000 a year, while the business and financial operations employees to whom they serve lattes rake in nearly $85,000.

Where are the people who have these jobs living, and how are they faring? In our upcoming multimedia series on tech titans as community citizens, we’ll explore the lives of these low-wage workers and tell their stories.

Image credit: Flickr/Jitze Couperus

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious CompanyAlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni

More stories from Leadership & Transparency