Twitter to stay in SF if tax exemption OK

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March 16, 2011 7:07:28 PM PDT
Tweet this! Twitter has signed a Letter of Intent to stay in San Francisco and lease property in the blighted Mid-Market street area. For months, the company has been threatening to pull up stakes at its South of Market location and head for the hills -- or at least the Peninsula.

Twitter needs more space for a growing workforce and has said staying in San Francisco would cost "more than $30 million over five years in incremental rent, taxes, and other expenses compared to moving the company out to the Peninsula." But in a letter to Mayor Ed Lee , the company now says it will stay if the Board of Supervisors approves a proposed payroll tax exemption.

"We know data shows enterprise tax breaks frequently don't work, but we don't usually have a company that's going to grow 650 percent from 400 to close to 3,000 employees. And we think attracting a company like Twitter is going to revitalize the Mid-Market Street area," SF Supervisor Jane Kim said.

The proposed measure would exclude businesses which locate in the central Market Street area and the Tenderloin from paying the city's 1.5 percent payroll tax for new workers they hire. The exemption would last for six years. Critics say that amounts to a corporate giveaway. Supporters say it is a way to revitalize a downtrodden area.

" If Twitter comes in, it will send a signal of neighborhood transformation to other businesses," Amy Cohen from the San Francisco Office of Economic Development said.

But there is growing opposition from some who consider it a corporate giveaway.

"This is a far reaching deal with unknown fiscal impacts," Alysabeth Alexander from SEIU 1021 said.

"It's going to push poor people out of the area. The place is going to gentrify, rents are going to skyrocket," housing activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca said.

But a long-time tenderloin activist disputes that.

"People throw that out as a way to keep the status quo and the status quo is unacceptable," Tenderloin activist Andy Shaw said.

The supervisors will hold another hearing later this month.

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