A Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) employee was followed home by a group of protestors, in the latest escalation from San Francisco residents who say that local techies are driving up real estate prices and driving people out of working class neighborhoods, reports Lindsey Tugman at THV 11.
Levandowski just likes robots
Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who worked on Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s self-driving car and other robotics projects, was followed home by protestors who spent about 45 minutes outside his house, and then left fliers accusing him of “bringing evil into the world” and identifying his address. He told Tugman, “I’m a nice guy. I’m just an engineer who likes robots.”
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While Levandowski says he doesn’t actually feel endangered, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) must be worried about the trend to more provocative measures by protestors, including blocking the company’s private buses and throwing rocks through its windows. Google previously hired security guards for at least one of the bus stops, a move that doesn’t look quite so paranoid with a crowd of angry people outside one of its employee’s homes.
The big question is what happens next. San Francisco is a small city on the end of a peninsula so there is a natural limit to new housing construction, and as with any product with fixed supply and growing demand, the price will only continue to rise.
Google can’t bring down housing prices
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) employees probably contribute to rising prices simply by being able to pay more than other people, but it’s not clear what the protestors actually want to see happen since neither company is likely to move or to interfere with where its employees want to live. So far Google has been focused on how it can prevent its own bus services from interfering with public transportation, which is commendable, though some analysts think it can do more. But controlling rents and real estate prices is clearly beyond Google’s control.
In the long run, the protests will probably calm down as gentrification simply plays itself out. In the near term, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and its employees may need to think about what to do if the name and shame tactics like the one used against Levandowski turn ugly.