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Phil Matier: Mayor Ed Lee Tries To Defuse City’s Growing Class Conflict

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PhilMatier01-370 Phil Matier
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Amid increased tensions between many long-time San Francisco residents and the technology industry, Mayor Ed Lee plans to meet with tech sector leaders on Monday afternoon.

The invite-only gathering of CEOs and other executives at Salesforce.com headquarters is expected to be accompanied by protesters from the Service Employees International Union.

So what’s Lee going to say?

He’s going to tell them to get involved—that they have to give back to the community. I think in the upcoming weeks and months that we’re going to hear more about this kind of back-and-forth with press conferences and such and the tech business will likely get involved in different projects and events across the city.

There is fundamental rule in politics and governing—even if you can’t solve a problem, you have to look like you are trying. President Bill Clinton was a master of that; he was empathetic to everyone and could sell you on the idea that he really could “feel your pain.”

Former Mayor Willie Brown, on the other hand, built more affordable and low-income housing in the city than, I think, any mayor since or before, but many people took one look at him and didn’t buy the fact that he was doing it—that hounded him throughout his administration.

Lee, however, remains largely undefined; he’s trying to look like a booster for the high-tech economy and bring the Warriors to the city but he also doesn’t want to look like a puppet while he faces an upcoming reelection.

I think he’s going to try and define himself as the mayor in the middle trying to get it done.

And this growing conflict is not without its symbolism. The buses with the blacked-out windows that Google, Apple and other companies use to transport their workers from the city to their campuses along the Peninsula and to the South Bay provide make a convenient and tangible target—something that’s inherent to politics.

But it’s not just San Francisco, it’s the entire Bay Area. It’s about affordability, transportation, education and expenses. Sixty-seven percent of residents in San Francisco said it’s tough just making it day-to-day.

Interestingly, the University of San Francisco recently conducted a poll that found that parking is starting to creep up as top concern because it costs so much—tickets, permits, etc. That’s tough for the city to handle because they live off the revenue that’s collected.

And while there is talk about philanthropy, just getting Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman to start giving away money like Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff will do little to change the image of what’s happening on the street.

That’s the mayors problem.

The charity makes its way down to those of lower income. Those on the high end, are the ones riding on the black buses with the restaurant reservations.

But the bottom line is that people in the middle feel like they are getting the squeeze and the biggest problem for them is rent.

For them, tech is not part of the solution; they are watching the rents go up, and can’t find a place to live where they have been living and working—and there’s no app for that.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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