Google gives San Francisco $6.8M for Muni youth program

Google made a multi-million dollar gift to San Francisco by funding the Free Muni for Youth program.
February 27, 2014 9:50:28 PM PST
Google made a multi-million dollar gift to San Francisco Thursday for free bus rides for children. This comes as the Mountain View-based company is under fire from protesters upset that Google only pays a small amount for the right to use city bus stops for its employees.

It was a victory for advocates of a Free Muni for Youth program. For years, they've been lobbying for low-income residents to ride for free and Google just donated $6.8 million to give free Muni passes to low-income kids ages 5-17.

"Families need support like this to be able to survive in San Francisco," Mission District resident Manuela Esteva said.

Many residents expressed thanks, but they say it doesn't address the bigger problem. Esteva is the last Latino family left in her building and she's now facing eviction.

"This has been caused by gentrification and the families have been replaced by tech workers and students," she said.

The tension between the community and the high tech industry has led to protests against Google, Yahoo, and other tech companies that are using public bus stops to pick up and drop off their workers.

"But where they go the rents go up even higher because they become more desirable for the tech workers," ANSWER Coalition spokesperson Richard Becker said.

But Mayor Ed Lee believes Google is making an investment in the city, and not just trying to get off the hook.

"It's the first step and it's another corporate entity that can be added to a number of corporate entities that can see the way forward to solutions," Lee said.

There are no guarantees after the money runs out, so community groups are trying to make the Free Muni for Youth program a permanent policy and possibly expand it to 18 year olds, senior citizens and the disabled. Lee believes this can lead to a lot more for the city.

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