TechCrunch writer Kim-Mai Cutler, who was responsible for the widely shared April piece "How Burrowing Owls Lead To Vomiting Anarchists (Or SF’s Housing Crisis Explained)," is back with a new piece that's all about the Mission's "digital divide" between young tech workers and poor Latinos. She blames this issue, in part, on the tensions over housing development that she discussed in the earlier piece, though this is a bit of a stretch.
Just to back up, Cutler, while mildly sensitive to the city's progressive politics, believes she has the solution to all of our housing-deficit issues, which sounds a little something like this (though her extremely long and fairly well informed earlier essay was long on background and short on solutions): Embrace the laws of supply and demand, alleviate some of the bureaucracy around development, and stop blaming the tech industry for the current housing crisis, because the city should have known to build much more housing in previous decades to anticipate current demand.
But it's hard not to see a cause and effect here, with rising rents and evictions, when she cites the estimate that 32,207 moved into S.F. between 2010 and 2013, and quickly notes that "we have several companies right now headquartered in San Francisco that will need to grow their headcount by a significant amount over the next five years... Dropbox. Square. Salesforce. Twitter. Uber. Airbnb. Stripe. Not to mention all of Y Combinator’s other up-and-comers, many of which want to be headquartered in San Francisco."
Her advice right now is for the tech industry generally to court better press by alleviating the "digital divide" that is keeping lower-income residents disenfranchised in our currently booming economy. Cutler cites a figure from the Mission Economic Development Agency which says that a fourth of the schoolchildren in the neighborhood don't have internet access at home. She also notes that the tech industry is notoriously male-dominated and white, and that all these "young techies" are increasingly seen as interlopers in a community they don't take part in.
As of February, a bunch of big tech companies had pledged donations to schools to help bridge this divide, as President Obama discussed in his State of the Union.
All of that being true, it's definitely over-reaching to say that more participation by tech volunteers in after-school programs and more tech money funding outreach to close the digital divide is going to result in more housing and more affordable rents.
But yes, it will probably result in better PR for the companies who do it.