Monday, February 3, 2014


Some neighborhood disputes are proving to be wonderful witnesses mutations territory . Those who agitate San Francisco for a month now are a perfect example. On December 9 , a handful of protesters san- Franciscans decided to block ... a bus dedicated to Google employees for half an hour. Reason angry demonstrators : Google bus would thus symbols of gentrification affecting San Francisco, margin and in the shadow of the success of Silicon Valley. As expressed essayist Rebecca Solnit in the London Review of Books :

"The Google Bus show how the companies in Silicon Valley are not interested in improving public transport and the fact that many companies provide a service for private transport undermine the financial basis on which regional transport based . "

The intention was, however laudable , according to the original motivations expressed by the managements of these companies. By investing in a network of private transport, these companies contribute to decongest public transport networks and roads, and thus improve the overall flow of the municipality (which is also widely checks ) .

But this is to forget two fundamental factors. First, the economy of public transport is intrinsically linked to the mobility of employees who use by various transfer taxes and other " payments transport." Deprive the public transport systems of this financial windfall may well have short-term benefits ( by reducing flows and maintenance costs ), this can be particularly problematic in the medium and long term ... especially if transmission were partly conceived and designed to support the installation of private companies complained .

The problem is more concrete . By choosing to make use of private bus companies , the giants of Silicon Valley behave intruder within the same territory that welcomes and where most of their employees live .

This is indeed another area of ​​controversy. Municipalities such as San Francisco ( but examples also exist in France , other scales ) are investing huge sums to attract this type of business , and the " creative class " that go with it. In other words , a large part of the budgets of a territory is oriented companies that seem , in turn, spit in the soup of public services offered to them . Not very classy , and always frowned upon by the people " non- privileged" (read: not working in Silicon Valley) .

This situation arise many questions. At the "smart city " seems to be the highest priority on the role of planners, architects and designers in this transformation of the territory. As is the question of " Google Bus " is actually a reflection of a much broader transformation of the Franciscan - san urban ecosystem , especially in real estate ( as witnessed by the " housing Facebook "). In the background , of course, the issue of gentrification and evictions that inevitably generates ( rent increases , disappearance of small businesses in favor of cafes and restaurants , etc.).

Wednesday, January 22 , protesters have also increased the pressure by attacking an employee of the U.S. company because he bought an apartment in a complex under construction in Berkeley , participating " sterilization and the gentrification of Berkeley . "

In this sense, what is happening in San Francisco is "only" a reflection of territorial changes affecting all global cities. For this is the political attractiveness of specific sectors which is the source of these conflicts between neighbors . At a time when most major French and European cities engage in a similar competition for the giants of the digital economy, we must anticipate the sound effects or not that can cause the arrival of the "new rich" within a metropolis.

Philippe Gargov