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Monday, March 3, 2014

Dear Google: Here's How to Make San Francisco Love You Again

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 7:11 AM


Dear Google:

We hope you don't think your recent decision to spend $6 million to give San Francisco kids free Muni rides for two years is actually going to make us like you.

I mean, come on: What kids?

San Franciscans have been diligently working for years to make this town as inhospitable to breeding as a nursing home on a Superfund site. A lot of hard work went into making this a city where it's impossible to raise a family unless you're super wealthy or criminally negligent, and we're pretty proud of it.

You know all that debauchery and needles in the parks? That was us.

But now you want to put more of the kids we've worked so hard to get rid of on Muni where they'll take up all the seats that aren't covered in strange fluids.

Thanks for that.

Besides, you're part of the anti-kid agenda, too, Google, and everybody knows it. Give kids all the free Muni rides you want, it won't make a difference if their family is moving to Nevada because there's a shack there for under $2,600 a month.

So while it's nice of you to give the few remaining kids a farewell tour of the city they can no longer afford to live in ... we're not impressed.

But we know you're paying attention, now. That's a good first step.

We want this to work out, too, you know. Blockading your employees is just our way of saying: "You don't know who you're fucking with." In the most loving way possible.

So if getting more kids we don't care about to ride our dilapidated transit system isn't going make us love you, what will?

The next logical step: Repair the dilapidated transit system.

Two words, Google, and all of San Francisco will fall at your feet: fix Muni.

If you can actually do that, if you can get our transit system running smoothly, safely, on time, under budget, carbon neutral, and with a pleasant smell, then we'll be proud to open the doors of our cardboard boxes and say "That's a Google engineer who took my apartment!"

Fixing Muni is the most concrete way you could realistically make our lives better: it's something that affects the lives of everyone in the city, every day. It meets our ideological goals -- it matters to us that transit works, and that it supports the environment. And it's an issue where everyone who hates you today will be rooting for you tomorrow. Activists can't effectively protest the buses they're absolutely depending on to get them to that meeting in the Mission on boycotting Israel without looking anti-Semitic.

And, frankly, a fight to the death between you and the transit workers union is something we'd all really like to see.

Go ahead. Crush them. Or be crushed. We're good either way.

But if you win, and fix Muni, we will love you. We won't be able to help ourselves. Not only would it return San Francisco to its rightful place as a national leader on urban issues, but effective, affordable, public transportation makes it so much easier to mock Uber -- and we hate those guys.

You've already got a fleet of city buses, just open them to the public. Use city trains to test your automatic driving technology in real life settings. You can't possibly hit more people than Muni already does.

Of course, a public transit system is a commitment to egalitarianism of a kind that Google's never made before -- efficiency has to be combined with a commitment to serve the least among us for the good of all, regardless of how poorly they test. But taking that challenge on will prove that you are a company capable of committing to the public good -- or at least considering that there's more to being a San Francisco resident than offering artsy photos of artisanal food to an uncaring world.

So what do you say, Google? Do you want to think big? To really make a difference? To improve our civic life and win some hearts and minds?

Or do you want to keep throwing piecemeal millions at a poorly thought-out attempt to impress people who culture jam major corporations for fun?

I'm not saying you'll lose. You're a new kind of corporate behemoth, potentially unstoppable. But I am saying that victory would come after a long, protracted, struggle that the whole world will be watching, and that I'm honestly not sure which winning outcome is worse for you: To cause a diaspora of hundreds of thousands of innovative, trend-setting San Franciscans who are scattered to every corner of America to persuade their neighbors of the evil of Google, or to have Google recognized by middle America as the company that stuck them with all those goddamn ex-San Franciscans for new neighbors, and are now demanding vegan pet cafes.

Both, frankly, seem a lot worse than fixing Muni and having everyone love you.

Your call. I'd say I'm confident you'll be a rational actor and make the right choice, but you are still pushing Google+, so maybe you like lost causes.

Let us know when you're ready to get serious. You know where to find us.


San Francisco

Benjamin Wachs is a literary chameleon

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