Twitter feeling as cramped as its tweets in San Francisco 

As city officials try to keep Twitter from flying the coop, a plan is beginning to recirculate to keep the entire business community a little happier with its henhouse.

Last week, news reports revealed that Twitter — born and raised in San Francisco — has been quietly considering a move to Brisbane, where it could have more space and pay fewer taxes. While San Francisco charges businesses a 1.5 percent tax on payroll, Brisbane doesn’t and leaders “don’t have any intention of going down that road,” according to Brisbane City Manager Clay Holstine.

Twitter currently has an office in SoMa, but in recent months, as the company has grown, the company has been eyeing other spaces, including a site also occupied by Walmart offices in Brisbane.

In 2009, Twitter moved into two floors of a building on Folsom Street. According to TechCrunch, the company has tripled its staff in the last year to about 350 employees. Late last year, the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development began discussing a deal that might reduce the taxes Twitter must pay and entice them to stay in The City.

Economic and Workforce chief Jennifer Matz said keeping Twitter in town is a “top priority” of Mayor Ed Lee’s administration. The issue has resurrected a discussion about overhauling the payroll tax, which the business community has criticized as discouraging employment. Last year, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu proposed a plan to end that tax, but his proposal never garnered momentum. Chiu said he plans to revisit the issue this year.

“Obviously, during this Great Recession, San Francisco needs to do everything we can to create new jobs and foster economic developments, and the payroll tax has long been known to be a job-killer,” said Chiu, who supports efforts to keep Twitter here. But not everyone agrees that particular businesses deserve a special break to convince them to stay. Gabriel Haaland, political coordinator for Service Employee International Union Local 1021, said that while taxes shouldn’t be so high that they drive away businesses, it’s not unreasonable to expect businesses to support the communities they exist in.

“The residents of San Francisco who use Twitter deserve to have a relationship where the businesses they support help provide the necessary services of our city,” Haaland said.

Meanwhile, Brisbane’s Holstine said that his city would be thrilled to be Twitter’s new home, but admitted the town would not garner much direct tax revenue from Twitter, since the online social-media company does not sell products subject to The City’s sales tax.

“Now if we could figure a tweet tax, we might be in business though,” he joked. “Just one penny a tweet.” Representatives of Twitter did not return calls and e-mails for comment.

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Katie Worth

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