The of effects tech company shuttle buses from San Francisco to Silicon Valley

A number of Silicon Valley workers live in San Francisco and a number of the biggest tech companies offer private shuttle buses for employees. This has led to changes in a number of San Francisco neighborhoods:

Take the public transportation provided by corporate shuttle buses from the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook, and others. It’s not news that these shuttles, and the big digital tech companies that run them, are changing the fabric of San Francisco as we’ve known it. What feels new is that it’s not enough to say that change is coming soon. It’s already, very much here

On one hand, some have called the shuttles “a vivid emblem of the tech boom’s stratifying effect in the Bay Area” because they allow the “techy progeny” of Silicon Valley to be “launched into SF proper.” That the shuttles are “alienating everyone who isn’t in technology” — or that there’s simply too much tech for one city to take.

Others are of the mind that it’s simply time to get over it and recognize a new reality; cities change, neighborhoods rise and fall. That in fact a paradox of Silicon Valley is in its “distributing meaningful equity” to ordinary people who wouldn’t otherwise access such wealth. (And then there’s the logic that wonders whether public transportation is yet another bit of infrastructure that should be upended by the Valley’s “meritocratic“ spirit.)…

What we’re talking about isn’t simply the replacement of presumably authentic recent immigrants by their presumably younger, whiter, or better educated new neighbors. What we’re talking about is the replacement of an entire system of urban inter-relationships, built up over generations and stratified in ways that make sense within an urban context — now short-circuited by the inexorable demands of the (suburban) digital technology landscape.

This is a reminder of a few things:

1. The arrival of “the creative class” is not just a positive occurrence. This is a group many big cities would love to have for their wealth (think of the tax money!) as well as their innovative and creative spirits. Yet, as the term gentrification describes, this group can at the least change the character of places and more problematically push out existing residents.

2. This hints at the interdependence within metropolitan regions. Tech workers may like their jobs in Silicon Valley but San Francisco offers a more exciting, urban, and cultured place to live. And, San Francisco benefits from its business connections to Silicon Valley. It would also be interesting to consider the role of San Jose which offers a bigger city closer to Silicon Valley but one that has less of a reputation for social life.

With these changes, it puts officials in San Francisco in an interesting position. Existing urban residents tend to resist major changes to their neighborhoods. But, as noted above, cities have a hard time turning down new money.

Silicon Valley to eventually lose out to cities?

An urbanist argues that Silicon Valley will die out because workers want to be in cities:

Why is Silicon Valley in Silicon Valley?

“You’ve got Stanford, you’ve got federal expenditures, and you’ve got an ecosystem” of start-up mentors and established institutions, said Bruce Katz, the founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. But Silicon Valley’s stranglehold on West Coast innovation is in danger, he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Friday. The main problem?

It’s no fun to live in Silicon Valley.

“What’s happening now is workers want to be in Oakland and San Francisco,” he told Walter Isaacson. Young workers want to live in a city — somewhere they can ride bikes, shop locally, walk to their favorite restaurants and bars, and live in a dense urban or urban-lite environment with nearby amenities. But Silicon Valley isn’t like a city. It’s like a suburb. “Silicon Valley is going to have to urbanize,” Katz said. “[There is a] migration out of Silicon Valley to places where people really want to live.”

This sounds like Richard Florida’s arguments about the creative class: a younger generation of educated workers want to be in thriving urban environments. However, I’m not sure Katz’s arguments are consistent – at least as presented in this article. He suggests that groups of politicians and business leaders help create certain environments. Hence, an area like Silicon Valley exists because there was a concentration of investment and infrastructure. Yet, Florida’s argument emphasizes more the individual desires of the creative class (or perhaps some sort of class consciousness). If Silicon Valley was indeed losing workers to cities (not just the Bay Area but places like Austin or Chicago or Manhattan), it could respond by creating more urban environments. This is a popular idea these days in more suburban settings: retrofit older developments like strip malls, shopping centers, office parks, and tract home developments into something denser and mixed use. Young workers may want a certain kind of environment but business leaders and politicians can help create and develop such areas, whether in Silicon Valley or somewhere else.

Another interpretation of Katz’s arguments is that corporate efforts to build all-inclusive work campuses (like with Facebook recently building a Main Street) just isn’t as appealing as the more “authentic” urban life.

Kenya plans new Konza Technology City dubbed “Africa’s Silicon Savannah”

Kenya is planning an ambitious new city intended to be a technology center:

Located almost 40 miles south-east of the capital Nairobi, Konza Technology City is expected to create more than 20,000 IT jobs by 2015, and around 200,000 jobs by the time it’s completed in 2030.

The 2011-hectare site will have a residential area comprising around 37,000 homes to accommodate 185,000 people…

“It is expected to spur massive trade and investment as well as create thousands of employment opportunities for young Kenyans,” said Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The project, which is part of the government’s Vision 2030 initiative to improve the Kenya’s infrastructure, is also set to include a university campus, hotels, schools, hospitals and research facilities.

Sounds impressive. See more at the city’s official website which includes this overview of the history of the project:

The idea and interest for an African Silicon Savannah in Kenya was first inspired by trends in Business Processing Outsourcing and Information Technology Enabled Services (BPO/ITES), which showed a global offshore BPO/ITES revenue estimated at US$ 110 billion in 2010 and a projected three fold growth to reach US$ 300 billion by 2015.

Currently there over 2.8 million people employed in this sub-sector world wide, however, statistics show that Africa only attracts about 1 % of the total revenues accruing from this growing industry. Only a few African countries have made effort to develop this industry; South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana and Mauritius have each launched national programs to grow BPO/ITES.

It became clear that Kenya stood a good chance to attract a sizeable chunk of the expected growth in the off shoring BPO/ITES trade revenues if the Government took lead in the development of this industry.

Now we just have to wait a while to see how it all turns out. I’m not saying it will turn out badly but what if it does – who is responsible for the costs and how might this affect the technology sector in Africa?

While the term “Silicon Savannah” sounds catchy, does having such a name help the prospects for the project? I imagine it could appeal to some with the imagery of connecting Silicon Valley and Africa but it also seems derivative and something plenty of other places have tried.

All those new Facebook millionaries won’t be buying McMansions

As Facebook prepares its IPO, you might not have considered how it would affect the real estate market in Silicon Valley:

Typically clients pay cash for the homes, he said, which can range anywhere from 4,000 to 15,000 square feet (372 to 1,393 square meters) depending on the size of the family.

Real estate agent Dawn Thomas said she is already seeing home prices rise in areas surrounding Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters and expects that to continue…

Thomas described her tech-savvy homebuyers as “very, very green-minded” and in search of smaller, tech-equipped, energy-efficient homes with high-end amenities.

“They don’t want ‘McMansions,'” she said, referring to super-sized houses that can gobble up energy.

The implication: the young and wealthy wouldn’t be caught dead buying a home that could be considered a McMansion. If the home is indeed big, and I would say 4,000 square feet is McMansion territory and 15,000 square feet is a just a plain mansion, it has to be green and energy-efficient. Is this the same argument that Gisele Bunchen tried to make recently?

This makes me think that we might need a new term to describe an abnormally large home that is intentionally not a McMansion. A “green home” or “eco-home” doesn’t cut it because these homes are still much larger than the average size of the new American home (around 2,400 square feet). A “greenwashed mansion” but be more accurate but I don’t think these tech-savvy buyers would like the connotations of this term either. Playing off the “Not So Big House,” how about the “not so polluting house”?