Oakland city officials and representatives of tech companies worry that Uber’s arrival in their city heralds a tech influx that could leave Oakland natives behind, much as the tech explosion in the San Francisco area affected the local population and culture.
Speaking to San Jose Mercury News tech columnist Michelle Quinn, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff stated, “We look at San Francisco as a cautionary tale.” Schaff, who has spoken of “techquity,” added, “I’m determined to do everything in my power to demonstrate that we can take this boom in Oakland and use it to lift up rather than push out our longtime vulnerable residents and our unique culture … cities are dynamic places, they are destined to change. I do not believe in building a wall around my city and preventing people from coming here.”
Schaff tweeted in late January:
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) January 31, 2016
Schaff told Katie Couric of Yahoo News that she was determined that tech companies work to avoid displacing Oakland natives, keep the city diverse and be “compassionate neighbors, thinking about their environmental footprint and their charitable work.”
Barbara Leslie, chief executive and president of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, pointed out, “We have an opportunity to move the needle for full and inclusive participation in tech. We can learn from our neighbor’s tech explosion and position Oakland for growth, while at the same time preserving our identity. The techquity conversation is important to have now.”
Oakland city officials estimate that 6,500 tech jobs exist in Oakland. 7.6% of those employees are black, a much higher level than the average for the rest of the industry. Occupy Oakland, upset at the tech incursion into the city, wrote:
Kudos to Elizabeth Schaaf, for bringing into the world yet another ham-fisted buzzword, one which not only embraces and mingles the bleak connotations of ‘tech’ and White Supremacy, but more importantly where these things intersect. It is well apparent, her inner entrepreneurial bureaucrat is unhinged, unchained, and best of all, unchecked! Lizzy modestly describes techquity as mere trickle-down economics, but it is so much more than that …. Now we enter the final phase of this historical process, the complete and permanent removal of the Black population that built the Town, converting Oakland into a boozy playground for White corporate interests, or “Techquity” as Lizzy so cleverly puts it.
Tension from the prospective influx of tech industries was heightened when Uber announced it had acquired the Sears Building and would place 2,000 to 3,000 employees there.
For its part, Uber promises to be a good neighbor.