Ed Lee praises San Francisco's tech boom amid talk of culture clash 

click to enlarge May Ed Lee at Monday's TechCrunch conference. - COURTESY TECHCRUNCH
  • Courtesy TechCrunch
  • May Ed Lee at Monday's TechCrunch conference.

At a tech conference Monday, Mayor Ed Lee celebrated the tens of thousands of technology jobs created during his time in office, but was pressed by his host about some negative impacts of the tech boom that are rapidly changing San Francisco.

The mayor began his presentation at the TechCrunch conference by crediting The City's 1,892 technology companies with creating 45,493 tech jobs.

"That is wonderful," he told the crowd while seated next to tech investor and political backer Ron Conway. "That's what we really call economic recovery. Every city in the country is attempting to do what we're already accomplishing."

Scroll down to see video of Mayor Ed Lee at the TechCrunch conference.

But TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington pressed the mayor about some of the tech boom's affects: "So this is all great, but what about the people that are complaining that all of this is ruining San Francisco's affordability, creating gridlock, generally want it gone," Arrington said. "Do you just say screw those people, face the future?"

Lee acknowledged that San Francisco faces the challenge to "accommodate 100 percent of everybody that wants to be here." Toward that end, he pointed to his 30-year, $1.5 billion housing construction fund that was approved by voters last year.

"Building more housing is one of those great solutions," Lee said.

The brief exchange highlighted a growing tension within The City. While the technology boom has helped San Francisco's economy rebound far more quickly than in most other parts of the country, the toll it's having on San Francisco is becoming increasingly clear.

Ted Gullickson, the director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, believes the mayor doesn't understand the impact that his focus on job creation and the tech industry is having on renters in San Francisco. Gullickson said as many or more renters are facing evictions, buyouts and harassment today as did during the first dot-com boom of the late 1990s.

Nonprofits are being squeezed out of the red-hot real estate market; the cost of living has increased while rents have grown more than any other major U.S. city; shuttle buses ferrying tech workers to out-of-town jobs are disrupting transit; and commercial corridors are filling up with more expensive restaurants.

In short, the army of tech workers has created a culture clash. And some political leaders believe The City isn't doing enough to address the impacts of the flourishing technology industry.

"The City just has a blind faith in supporting the tech industry and believing that that is going to lift all boats in San Francisco," said Supervisor John Avalos, reacting later to the mayor's comments. "It's not."

Avalos questioned Lee's exuberance over the tech job growth. "Because everyone I talk to doesn't feel like they are doing very well in this city."

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