Mayor, Twitter exec. take tour of mid-Market area

April 6, 2011 6:41:59 PM PDT
One day after San Francisco lawmakers approved a tax break for Twitter, the city's mayor and a company executive toured the mid-Market corridor where Twitter plans to relocate.

Mayor Ed Lee acknowledged that this is yet another effort to revitalize the economically depressed corridor, saying, "It has been a challenge for everybody to activate this area and now I think we have a powerful tool."

Twitter is expected to sign a long-term lease on a building at 9th and Market and become an anchor tenant for the area, bringing at least 450 employees with promises of hundreds more as the company grows. They will not have to pay payroll taxes on new hires for six years.

Since this controversy began, Twitter has never gone on camera to address critics who complain the tax break amounts to a corporate giveaway. Today I asked Twitter Vice President Sean Garrett why the company should receive the tax cut. Garrett says, "The city has laid it out very cleanly the benefits that this will have for the entire community, the benefits for all businesses that move into the area and add new employees. It's not about a single company but everyone that moves into the mid-Market area."

And in fact, another tenant is moving in. Burning Man, known for an amazing, annual spectacle in the Nevada desert, is signing a lease for a 19,000-square foot building at 6th and Market. Burning Man founder Larry Harvey says the organization is all about "urbanism" and this is the perfect fit. Burning Man is moving from the current location near the Bayview area, and Harvey says they expect to also receive a tax break.

"That was the cherry on the top of the sundae," said Harvey. "But really, we're moving here for the neighborhood, not for the tax break,"

Several nearby businesses, like Passion Cafe, can't wait for the new energy.

"Since they've made public announcements, they can't go back on their word," said Steve Barton of Passion Café. "I really believe what they have been promising is going to happen."

And another sign of the revitalization -- a police substation will open on 6th Street just off Market within the next six months.

The Twitter exec. checked that out and talked with some of the new neighbors, including the South of Market Community Action Network.

"Of course, there is still fear of displacement and gentrification, and we want to ensure that the city is protecting its existing residents," said the network's Angelica Cabande.

Supervisor David Campos is calling for a closer look.

"Before we give a corporate tax break, we have to know whether or not it's actually going to work," he said.

Twitter and Burning Man should eventually provide some answers.

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