The not so sunny side of Twitter's Street

Summary:Twitter's HQ on mid-Market Street is in one of the poorest of San Francisco's neighborhoods. It gets big tax breaks but must act to gentrify the area.

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Here's a stroll in photos along the south-side of mid-Market Street, where Twitter [$TWTR] HQ sits as part of a gentrification agreement with the city of San Francisco.

Twitter is obligated to actively gentrify the neighborhood — San Francisco's poorest district — in return for lower payroll taxes and IPO stock sales, where by far the largest tax savings will be made.

There was a recent hearing by the city of San Francisco where Twitter was asked what it had done for the community in return for about $22m in tax savings since 2011. Here's some extracts from an excellent report by Justine Sharrock from Buzzfeed, (interspersed between my photos): 

While the world was discussing its IPO, Twitter was making a case to justify massive tax breaks it received from the city of San Francisco.

In a hearing room in San Francisco’s City Hall. The meeting regarded Twitter’s charity work in San Francisco, which the company promised in exchange for large, multi-year tax breaks from the city. It was a six-month checkup, and the mood was less than celebratory.

The question: What has Twitter really done in exchange for the ongoing tax breaks, estimated in 2011 to be worth about $22 million over a multi-year term?

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So far, Twitter’s list of charity efforts includes one mass volunteer day, $75,000 and 40 computers donated to non-profits, scores of summer internships, ongoing one-on-one volunteering and tutoring, legal help for citizens fighting evictions, and personal tech assistance to over 30 local organizations. 

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Four employees joined non-profit boards, while other employees have opted to bike around the neighborhoods, reporting road problems to the city. The company also instituted a street cleaning day.

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And of course, it gave away $60,000 in promoted tweets.

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But giving back, according to Twitter, also includes hosting a sneak peek performance of the Broadway hit, Jersey Boys, for its own employees, as well as giving their workers discount theater tickets. 

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The company also disclosed it spent over $750,000 on food items, all bought within 50 miles of the office in order to support local businesses, which it said constituted a sort of charity. 

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[Twitter's head of public policy] Crowell refused to disclose financial information to the advisory board...“It would be helpful to get a number so we can temper our expectations,” said board member Robert Marquez, last night, pointing out the generous amount of financial information provided to potential investors in the company’s IPO filing.

Twitter responded that quantifying that number was meaningless, since there is also no real way to calculate the value of volunteering...

“It’s not an abstract question about the value of volunteerism. There’s a Federal scale for measuring that,” Marquez later told BuzzFeed.

Read more here: The Twitter Documents You Didn't Hear About Last Night

Not much has changed on Twitter's street that I've seen. There's not much chance for gentrification when all the workers stay inside and Twitter cleans their apartments, and washes their clothes, and feeds them for free. Competing with local services is the opposite of gentrification. For the young engineers it's great it's like being back at mom's, free food and clean laundry, and without having to deal with mom.

Topics: Tech Industry

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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