Silicon Valley De-Bug Writes To Oppose The Sale Of Precious Land to Google

Silicon Valley De-Bug conducted a survey of more than 500 residents to ask the basic question that has been deliberately left out of the conversation.



December 3, 2018

To the Mayor and City Council Members of San Jose

Mayor Sam Liccardo

Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, District 5

City Council Member Charles Jones, District 1

City Council Member Sergio Jimenez, District 2

City Council Member Raul Peralez, District 3

City Council Member Lan Diep, District 4

City Council Member Dev Davis, District 6

City Council Member Tam Nguyen, District 7

City Council Member Sylvia Arenas, District 8

City Council Member Donald Rocha, District 9

City Council Member Johnny Khamis, District 10



Dear Mayor and City Council Members of San Jose,


Silicon Valley De-Bug writes to oppose the sale of our precious city land to Google.  


De-Bug’s founders were young people who were temp workers in Silicon Valley in 2000 – young people who cleaned the factory shop floors, assembled printers, answered telephones.  We were who Silicon Valley labeled as “expendable,” and offered no vertical mobility -- except for the illusion of it. But De-Bug gave us a space to explore more than that – to think, create, organize, build community, and lead. We started out by simply telling the stories that were in the shadows of San Jose and our magazine became our organizing tool that allowed people to see the reflections of who they are and what they can become. In the last 18 years, we have evolved into an organization that walks with individuals through the peaks and valleys of our lives. Guided by the principle that we are stronger together than alone, we have forged various campaigns to make our homes, neighborhoods, and communities better and more whole – whether it’s tackling the courts and criminal justice system, police accountability, immigration, rights in the workplace, or improving our schools.


And it is from that spirit, experience, and real-time proximity that we take this position.


We have learned from being at the center of Silicon Valley that the tech in our backyard excludes our families from all of its prosperity, of all its advancements and staves off any obligation to the local community by keeping us at arms length. We have witnessed the devastating effects on our most vulnerable in San Jose and the entire Bay Area when tech moves in and consumes a city.

With an incoming paradigm shifting project like Google in downtown San Jose – the first instinct of any respectable public servant should be to ask their residents, constituents, and neighbors about whether that possibility would benefit the city as a whole, ask if it where a good idea. The first instinct of any respectable public servant would be to consider their most vulnerable communities and include them in the decision making process of something that could change the course of their lives and livelihoods.

Instead our city elected officials along with city staff has closed door meetings, signed non-disclosure agreements (uncommon for democratic city governments) and shut out real and meaningful community input from the process.  

Silicon Valley De-Bug conducted a survey of more than 500 residents of our city to ask the basic question that has been deliberately left out of the conversation: Do you want Google in San Jose?  We asked families barely making ends meet, unhoused individuals struggling to find shelter, young people who dream of staying here in San Jose, formerly incarcerated loved ones trying to find their footing. These are the people who also belong to San Jose and have been left out of public dialogue.  These were our findings: 

  • More than 60 % of the respondents have lived in our community over 20 years and nearly 20% more have lived in San Jose more than a decade.

  • More than half of the respondents said No to a Google campus. A quarter of those surveyed said they weren’t sure.  
  • An overwhelming amount of residents – more than 90% - want to live in San Jose, but more than 60% don’t think they or their family will be able to afford San Jose in 5 years. 
  • Just above 20% report they can afford to live in San Jose now
  • 75% of respondents do not feel included in the vision of the city.
  • What keeps them in San Jose:                                     

The Memorandum of Understanding between Google and the City of San Jose is too vague and in your own words, not legally binding.  They are ‘aspirations’ and ‘intentions’ and lack teeth and accountability. Through laws like CEQA, there are policies in place that can guide – and have guided – responsible development that takes into account community input. Instead of utilizing this important opportunity to secure much needed housing and community needs that have been echoed over and over again by residents threatened with displacement, the City has chosen to sell our land first without any real provisions for implementations. In the last year, the City has handed over planning to a corporation, to people who neither live here nor have the knowledge of what is significant to the people of San Jose. Our survey showed that what our community wants to see on our land…

               

The damage done to the community with the Council's conscious decision to give into Google’s interest in San Jose ignores our very own communities’ deep commitment and interest in the city. As if the people who grew up here and were shut out from opportunities don’t deserve to have open and beautiful spaces, places to spend time with friends and family. The city residents have long had an interest too in San Jose – in being able to enjoy spaces equally, in feeling a sense of belonging and like spaces invite and reflect who we are. No one said they wanted a company to displace us.

And with the City’s track record of veiling secrecy through the non-disclosure agreements, the community has little to no confidence that we will be included in future discussions. Even some members of the SAAG – arguably the closest city body outside of the City Council who should be privy to discussions of what should happen in the area – have voiced the lack of transparency in this process. These were not just community members at the margins providing comment. These were organizations the City Council appointed. Labeling this as an “extensive community process” is deceptive if it is designed away from impactful decision-making points; it is equally as deceptive as the City claiming this is a “transparent process.” Our survey shows that

  • Only a third of respondents felt they could voice their opinions to the City and more than half felt they were not heard by the City of San Jose. 

Google has had 20 years to show us what it is willing to do and has demonstrated exactly what kind of neighbor it is. A snapshot of Mountain View: Google moved into its current headquarters in 2004 and bought the property in 2006. From 2,000,000 sq. feet the complex has grown to 3,100,000 sq. ft. in 2015. In the period of 2000-2010 while the median household income increased from $69,362 to $88,244 the number of individuals in poverty actually increased.1 By the end of 2010, almost 90% of tenants earning minimum wage in Mountain View were rent burdened.2

From 2009 to 2016, average asking rents increased by 80% in Mountain View.3 So even with the newly increased minimum wage in 2016 ($11), working residents continued to be rent burdened because costs were increasing higher than wages. In that same year, the numbers of people living in RVs has risen to 126 vehicles; a number projected to continue growing.4 From 2015–2017 alone, there was a 51% increase of people experiencing homelessness on the night of the Point-in-Time Count in Mountain View.5 And just this year, Google employees staged worldwide protests over claims of sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism.6

We, the residents of San Jose deserve better, we deserve to determine the future of our city to be included in decision making and our well being needs to be put over the profit of a multinational corporation.


[1] U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2006–2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table DP03; generated by Jocelin Hernandez; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (January 2017).

[2] U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2006–2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table DP03; generated by Jocelin Hernandez; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (January 2017).


[3] “Research and Resources,” Mountain View Tenants Coalition, August 08, 2016, accessed December 2017, https://mvtenantscoalition.org/research-and-resources/.


[4] Wendy Lee, “Battle over RVs in Mountain View Is Latest Sign of Housing Crisis,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 2016, accessed December 2017, https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Battle-over-RVs-in-Mountain-View-is-latest-sign-9961268.php.

[5] Mark Noack, “New Census Shows Mountain View Homeless Population Growing,” Mountain View Online, July 05, 2017, accessed December 2017, https://www.mv-voice.com/news/2017/06/30/new-census-shows-mountain-view-homeless-population-growing.


[6] Matthew Weaver and Alex Hern in London, Victoria Bekiempis in New York, Lauren Hepler in Mountain View and Jose Fermoso in San Francisco, Nov 1, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/nov/01/google-walkout-global-protests-employees-sexual-harassment-scandals

* Illo by FreeRolando.



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