Facebook Wants to Lure Workers into the Suburbs With a $10,000 Bonus

Looking to alleviate some of the pressures of San Francisco’s cutthroat housing market — long commutes, anti-tech sentiment, and costly private shuttle services — Facebook is offering employees a $10,000 or more payment to move within 10 miles of its Menlo Park campus.

As Reuters reported on Thursday:

To qualify for the payment, which the social networking firm started offering in the last 12 months, according to current and former Facebook workers, employees must buy or rent a home within 10 miles of the Facebook campus at One Hacker Way, a desolate strip of road overlooking a marsh about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

Nor is Facebook the only tech behemoth trying to lure city dwellers into the suburbs. According to Reuters, investment management company Addepar, data company Palantir, and SalesforceIQ, a division of Salesforce, have started offering similar incentives.

It’s a nice idea, but as it stands, it’s an offer most tech workers would — and can afford to — refuse.

[jump] “It would have to be a lot more than $10K. Like considerably more,” one six-digit-earning employee at NetApp, a tech company headquartered in Sunnyvale, told SF Weekly without hesitation.

It’s also not a proposition many non-tech workers living in Silicon Valley necessarily support. Dorsey Nunn, the executive director of legal services for Prisoners with Children, an SF-based nonprofit that supports people coming out of prison, commutes to the city everyday from East Palo Alto. His home is just a few minutes’ drive from Facebook’s HQ.

“I don’t think my children are going to be living in that neighborhood, or my grandchildren, because they’re priced out because of Facebook,” Nunn said, indicating the extent to which SF-style skirmishes over tech “gentrifiers” have spread into the South Bay. As Reuters notes, an average rental in Menlo Park is already $3,500 a month.

The new owners of the building Nunn works in at Market and Van Ness streets have started conversations about raising rents.

“I work less than a mile from Twitter. They done ran McDonald’s from off the next block. So if McDonald’s can’t hold on, how the fuck am I supposed to?” (The McDonald's at 600 Van Ness shuttered in January after 36 years in business. Curbed SF reports that plans were filed to turn the location into a nine-story residential building with 150 units.)

Nunn, like many San Franciscans, blames tech for the city’s astronomical rents, and for a displacement crisis that has pushed more than 2,000 nonprofits out of the city, according to an October 2013 report from the Budget & Legislative Analyst’s Office. Needless to say, such stats haven’t engendered much goodwill towards tech companies or those who work for them.

Nunn says that more than once he’s tried to meet with Twitter to talk about how the company can help nonprofits that are being affected by displacement. “We went to deliver a letter [to schedule] a meeting — the assholes don’t even take hand-delivered mail,” he said.

Andrew Szeto, a native San Franciscan who organizes with the SF Tenants Union, is likewise unimpressed with tech companies’ attempts to lure workers into the suburbs as a means of massaging public sentiment, however covertly.  

“All this shows is how ridiculous it is that their employees were being shuttled 40 miles away each day in private buses in the first place,” he said, adding, “If Facebook were serious about addressing the housing crisis, they would be organizing for rent control in places like East Palo Alto, where their employees will [also] likely drive people out .”

Beyond that, Szeto suggested that tech companies should also “pay $10,000 to each person displaced from San Francisco who…[doesn’t] have the luxury of a tech company to subsidize their living and commuting costs.”

For their part, Facebook claims the $10K incentive isn’t about social engineering or defusing gentrification standoffs. “Our benefits…are designed to support our employees and the people who matter most to them at all stages of life,” a Facebook spokesman told Reuters.

Looks like the public relations team at Facebook is going to have to go back to the drawing board. Or Slack. (Is that still a thing?) Whatever it is the kids are using these days.

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